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Scholars cannot fully explicate the meaning of the female form in U.S. imperial discourse without a more finely honed understanding of women's labor history. In 1898 popular rhetoric and representation fashioned a relationship between three very different border crossings: the transnational migration of a German model of nursing, which thrived in the ethnic neighborhoods of urban North America; the transplantation of one such institution from New York to Havana as part of the American Red Cross's relief program; and U.S. military intervention into the Cuban War of Independence. Politicians and the press constructed the Red Cross sister as a symbol of national purpose by appropriating a strategy that women perfected in the provision of neighborhood nursing charity, an affirmation of respectability that denied the economic nature of their work. Evocations of the Red Cross sister as the antithesis of imperial avarice expressed the period's pervasive anxiety over female wage earning.