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American Women in World War I

American Women in World War I: They Also Served

Lettie Gavin
Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 310
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  • Book Info
    American Women in World War I
    Book Description:

    Interweaving personal stories with historical photos and background, this lively account documents the history of the more than 40,000 women who served in relief and military duty during World War I. Through personal interviews and excerpts from diaries, letters, and memoirs, Lettie Gavin relates poignant stories of women's wartime experiences and provides a unique perspective on their progress in military service.American Women in World War Icaptures the spirit of these determined patriots and their times for every reader and will be of special interest to military, women's, and social historians.

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-113-2
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xi)

    While the Great War of 1914–1918 put an end to the “old order” in Europe, it also contributed immensely to the world progress of what we now call the Women’s Movement. In the early twentieth century, a woman’s place was considered to be in the home, the school, the church. This philosophy was to change drastically during the course of the war, as women took over from their absent men in hundreds of new and challenging occupations, many of which had previously been considered inappropriate.

    The war, in fact, marked the beginning of a new era in the history...

  5. Map
    (pp. xii-xiv)
  6. 1 The First Women of the Navy
    (pp. 1-24)

    “Is there any regulation which specifies that a Navy yeoman be a man?” With that question to his counsel, U.S. secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels made military history. And he also solved the tremendous manpower shortage that plagued the Navy in the spring of 1917 as the United States prepared to enter the war in Europe. Navy shore stations, where activities were increasing dramatically, urgently needed help. Every bureau and naval establishment called for more stenographers, draftsmen, and other clerical help. The Navy was awash in its own paperwork, but every man was needed at sea on the hundreds...

  7. 2 Women Marines
    (pp. 25-42)

    Although the United States Navy enlisted some 11,000 women to help in the war effort of 1917–1918, the Marine Corps was not so quick to utilize the additional assistance offered by the country’s female citizens. Thus, it was not until August 1918, just four months before the end of the war, that the Corps opened its ranks to women.

    That summer, the heavy fighting and mounting casualties overseas began to sap the strength of the Corps and aggravate an already acute shortage of trained clerical personnel. As fast as men could be spared from Marine Corps offices in the...

  8. 3 The Army Nurse
    (pp. 43-76)

    Several thousand skilled and patriotic U.S. nurses went to France in 1917–1918 to tend the sick and wounded of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF).¹ Perhaps many had signed on with a romanticized notion of what nursing entailed. Popular illustrations depicted a pretty young woman wearing a crisp white uniform emblazoned with a scarlet cross, a halo cap and flowing veil covering her hair. She hovered daintily over a smiling wounded soldier sitting up in bed, a spotless bandage wrapped around his head, his left arm trussed up in an immaculate sling. He smiled gratefully at his nurse, and probably...

  9. 4 The Hello Girls of the Army Signal Corps
    (pp. 77-100)

    Soon after he arrived in France with his American troops in April 1917, Gen. John J. Pershing concluded that he could not fight the Imperial German Army while he was battling the atrocious French telephone system. That system, never very efficient, had suffered during the three years of conflict and was incapable of meeting the vast wartime demands placed upon it. The problem was humorously stated in a popular doughboy lyric of the time: “If you want to get hold of a friend to talk, the phones are there, but it’s quicker to walk!” Pershing quickly realized that he would...

  10. 5 Reconstruction Aides
    (pp. 101-128)

    Therapy in its ancient form probably originated when humanity first discovered the relaxing and rejuvenating qualities of the bath. Much later, the Chinese employed rubbing as a therapeutic measure as early as 300 B.C., and Galen, the famous Greek physician observed in A.D. 172 that “work is nature’s best physician and essential to human happiness.” But the ancients could never have envisioned the art of reconstruction, as therapy was then known, as it developed in the wake of the First World War. Few could have imagined how therapists, physical and occupational, would be able to treat so successfully those crippled...

  11. 6 The Women of the YMCA
    (pp. 129-156)

    Service in World War I was but the latest chapter in a long history of cooperation with the military for the Young Men’s Christian Association (the YMCA, or Y), an English organization that opened its doors in the United States in 1851. During the Civil War, YMCA volunteers worked beside this country’s troops (both Union and Confederate), and in 1861 President Abraham Lincoln commended Y leaders for their “benevolent undertaking for the benefit of the soldiers.” This undertaking involved establishing tents for social activities, providing stationery and periodicals, ministering to the needs of prisoners of war, and rendering other personal...

  12. 7 The Woman Physician in the Great War
    (pp. 157-178)

    In the nineteenth century, a woman who chose medicine as a career was subjected to blatant discrimination at best, scorn and derision at worst. In the early twentieth century, female physicians fared little better. Even in the face of urgent need during the Great War of 1914–1918, the U.S. Army Medical Department refused these women doctors the opportunity to serve in an official capacity alongside their male counterparts. Male doctors and female nurses on duty with the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in 1917–1918 were seriously overworked and close to exhaustion in the final months of the war, and...

  13. 8 Red Cross Volunteers
    (pp. 179-208)

    Henry Dunant, founder of the Red Cross, would have been proud, and even the stem Clara Barton, an early nursing volunteer, would have smiled with satisfaction over the magnificent humanitarian service provided by the American Red Cross before, during, and after World War I. Known the world over as a symbol of compassion, and fast, charitable action during crisis, the Red Cross was established in 1862 when Dunant, a young Swiss businessman who had witnessed terrible carnage on the Solferino battlefield in northern Italy three years before, proposed the formation of a neutral organization devoted to the care of the...

  14. 9 The Salvation Army
    (pp. 209-240)

    “I want to send my Army to France,” said the Salvation Army’s U.S. commander Evangeline Booth to Gen. John J. Pershing, who headed the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) overseas. It was spring 1917, and the United States had just entered the European conflict. “I have an army in France,” Pershing replied. “But not MY army,” Evangeline Booth shot back.¹ And thus the Salvation Army became one of the devoted social service organizations working with U.S. troops during the First World War.

    By the time the vanguard of Pershing’s two-million-man force arrived in France in June 1917, Commander Booth had been...

  15. Appendix A: Chemical Warfare and Shell Shock
    (pp. 241-244)
  16. Appendix B: For the Record
    (pp. 245-284)
  17. Index
    (pp. 285-295)