1876 - 1901
Louise Maass was born on June 28, 1876 in East Orange, NJ,
the first of 10 children. Her parents, Hedwig and Robert
Maass, were immigrants from Germany.
When Clara was 17, she entered
the Christina Trefz Training School of Nurses at Newark
German Hospital, only the fourth such nursing school at the
time in New Jersey and the first in Newark. She graduated in
1895, after two years of arduous training. In 1898, at the
age of 21, she was named head nurse at Newark German
She worked as an Army nurse in
Florida, Cuba, and the Philippines during the
Spanish-American War. In 1900, Maass returned to Cuba at the
request of Maj. William Gorgas, chief sanitation officer.
There she became embroiled in a controversy over the cause
of yellow fever.
A Cuban doctor, Carlos Juan
Finlay, had proposed that transmission was not by personal
contact, but instead through the stegomyia fasciata
mosquito. The test for proof was clear: volunteers were
needed to expose themselves to the infected mosquito.
Clara Maass was the only
American woman to volunteer. She contracted the disease, but
recovered. Then on August 14, 1901, she offered herself
again; ten days later she died. With her sacrifice, Major
Reed proved that the mosquito was the carrier of yellow