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Beatrice McDonnell

Secretary in the War DepartmentWashington, DC

Beatrice Marie Martin McDonnell

Beatrice Marie Martin McDonnell was a secretary for the Manhattan Project at the War Department in Washington, DC. 

Born in Warrenton, VA in 1921, she was raised in Joliet, Illinois, and studied music at St. Francis College. After World War II broke out, she moved to Washington DC in March 1941 to work in the War Department. According to the attached obituary, she worked on the Manhattan Project as a secretary to the Manhattan Project’s Director.

In 1943, she moved into the Cadet Nursing Corps Program and completed a BS in Nursing Education from Catholic University, graduating in 1947. While at Catholic University, Ms. Martin met her future husband, John Chilton Horner McDonnell. She moved to Chicago to work and pursue an MS in nursing. Clinton McDonnell also moved to Chicago where he earned his MS and PhD in organic chemistry. They married in 1952.

Sworn to secrecy, neither knew of the other’s involvement in the top-secret project until decades later.

The McDonnells moved to Indian Head, Maryland in the early 1950s where Dr. McDonnell worked at the Naval Ordinance Station and Mrs. McDonnell raised 4 children.

In 1982, Dr. McDonnell retired and they returned to his boyhood home in Warrenton. Mrs. McDonnell was involved in recording the histories of the families of Virginia and Warrenton, founding the Old Jail Museum on Main Street, and supporting local historical societies. She died on August 5, 2016.

Beatrice McDonnell's Timeline
1921 Sep 15th1941 - Born in Warrenton, Virginia in 1921. Studied music at St. Francis College in Illinois.
19411943 According her obituary, worked on the Manhattan Project as a secretary to the Manhattan Project's Director at the War Department in Washington, DC.
19431947 Joined Cadet Nursing Corps Program and completed a BS in Nursing Education from Catholic University, graduating in 1947.
19521982 Married John Chilton Horner McDonnell, who earned a PhD in organic chemistry in Chicago. Moved to Indian Head, Maryland where Dr. McDonnell worked at the Naval Ordinance Station. Mrs. McDonnell raised 4 children.
19822016 Dr. McDonnell retired to Warrenton, VA. Mrs. Donnell was actively involved in historic preservation until she died on August 5, 2016.

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