Born in St. Paul, May Margaret Egan (1887–1976) was the daughter of Illinois engineer and railway executive John Myers Egan and his wife Susanna. She graduated from Bryn Mawr in 1911. After working as a secretary in Connecticut, she sailed for France in November 1917 to serve in Red Cross canteens in Chalon and St.-Pierre-des-Corps. In December 1917, she wrote this letter to her mother that was published in the 11 Jan 1918 Dixon [IL] Evening Telegraph:
Margaret Elizabeth “Beth” Satterthwaite (1890–1978) was born in Tecumseh, MI. Her father, John Newton Satterthwaite, operated the Satterthwaite Brothers Hardware Store in Tecumseh with his brother, E. Newbold Satterthwaite. Her brother, Joseph C. Satterthwaite, served in the army in World War I and later as US ambassador to Sri Lanka, Burma, and South Africa.
She attended Oberlin College in 1909 and graduated from the Johns Hopkins Hospital Training School for Nurses in 1915. In December 1917, she sailed to France to perform civilian relief work at l’Hospital du Chateau, Sermoize les Bains, Marne, as part of the Friends’ Unit of the American Red Cross. A letter from Satterthwaite addressed to “Dear Old Friends” appeared in the 8 July 1918 Marshall [MI] Evening Chronicle:
If I don’t hurry, your little afghans will be showing wear before you know how welcome and useful they are. They have done hours and hours of active service already. We especially like them for wrapping up the kiddies out doors. There is so much tuberculosis that we try to use every bit of sunlight and fresh air. I decided to put one … on a bed in the nursery and save the other for an especially poor child to take home but my small Paul saw it under my arm and raised such a howl … that I put it on his bed for the sake of peace. They adore bright colors after all the terror and hardships and poverty that has filled their small lives. They all know the American flags now. … Our chateau was also used by the Germans for a hospital while they occupied the town. They left in such a hurry that they left their patients and one of their soldier-nurses left his diary. …. He said that even to an enemy, these ruined towns were pitiful because you [sic] could picture the same thing same thing happening to their own dear German home towns. It makes you so thankful that little Tecumseh isn’t suffering like so many of our allies’ homes. It makes me shiver to think of Tecumseh burned and treeless, with you all living in your cellars or in new shacks, with graves of our own boys and our enemy’s boys all over your lawns and fields, and every man who could carry a gun on duty, leaving the old men and boys and women to do all the work (without whimpering or heroics) and a lot of our brothers and fathers in German prisons and no word from a lot of others at the front for weeks—and a lot of very comfortable people not owning a handkerchief—and most of our women in mourning. I’m so proud that the Stars and Stripes are taking a real part now. We have reason to believe that American soldiers are at the helm in the new offensive just starting. The old guns are booming more heavily again, and we all feel a big weight hanging on our hearts. We are not near the sectors of great activity, but we are near enough to realize part of the agony the world is going through. …. We are so glad we came and that we can be used a little, but just imagine how good it will seem to see you all again and get back on the Raisin [R]iver, and the peaceful shade of our beautiful old elms and maples, and to the fine spirit that lives there. (1)
After Satterthwaite returned to the United States in February 1919, she worked as a nurse in the Tecumseh area.
Born in Haverford, PA, in 1892, Leah Tapper Cadbury was the daughter of banker Richard Tapper Cadbury and his wife Helen, who were part of the US branch of a family famous in Britain for its chocolate. A cousin was Henry J. Cadbury, a Haverford College professor who cofounded the American Friends Service Committee and caused a stir when he wrote an antiwar letter to the editor. Leah Cadbury graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1914 and served for three months in 1916 as a nurse at American Red Cross Hospital No. 1 in Neuilly, France. She then worked in Uffculme Hospital in Birmingham, England. The Red Cross sent her to the canteen serving French servicemen in Bar-le-Duc, France, and she provided this description of its August 1917 operations in the November 1917 Bryn Mawr Alumnae Quarterly:
A very good canteen is running at Bar-le-Duc, and I worked for a week there in order to learn the details of the system…
Bar-le-Duc is a junction for troops passing to and fro, there are barracks in the neighborhood (within 15 to 20 miles) and one of the main military high roads passed through the town, so there is a steady stream of soldiers of all nations.
The canteen is always open except for one short hour in the morning, 5–6, when the “platon,” as we call the man of all work, hoses the whole place and cleans out the rubbish. The canteen undertakes to give the soldiers hot and cold food at any time….We sold at cost price, coffee (hot and cold and au lait), tea (the same), chocolate, boullion, syrups, limonade—no wines of any sort—bread in all sizes of chunks, “tartines” [toast], ragout, steak, rosbif, potatoes, salad, eggs (fresh cooked or hardboiled), ham and eggs, confitures, miscellanies such as stamps, paper, petits gateaux, tobacco, smoked meats, and chocolates.
We worked under very primitive conditions, and there were many faults in our methods, but we fed the men and cheered them a bit before they passed on. ….
Of course we often made mistakes in order of serving and some poor fellow would remonstrate. But the poilus [French soldiers] were always nice, even the drunk ones who carried off the coffee jug one night!
At rush hours we generally had three workers, one at the caisse [checkout], one at the jugs, and one at the kitchen end of the counter! As the entrance to the officers’ room was also at this end, the third worker had to look after them too! We had one woman to cook and another to wash, but frequently we had to do a bit of both ourselves. To do all the cooking, we had one feeble stove and six gas burners, two of which were always in use for coffee and chocolate. Nevertheless we fed innumerable men. ….
The night shift from ten to five was the most interesting. Only two of us worked then, with two servants. About four or five rushes of men kept us busy, you may be sure, and they were always shivering with cold. Unfortunately we had no decent dortoirs [dormitories] for them, but soon some old hospital sheds will be fitted up with brancards [stretchers] and a douche so the men can sleep and have a bath.
The day is divided into different shifts but as we were very shorthanded we had to work overtime. …. We wore large overall aprons with sleeves, dark brown preferably, to hide the dirt (!), and caps of any style, to keep our hair clean. The air is always blue with smoke. Strong, comfortable shoes are most important as one is always standing or running (never walking) about. ….
The work is hard and your hands are very soon in a pretty mess, and it’s very easy to scrap with the other workers. …. [T]he work is wonderfully interesting. You should see a man’s face light up when he hears you are American, or see the relief with which he pockets his precious sous when you ask only “2 sous” for a piece of bread instead of 10. . . . You are asked to do many queer things, bind up a dog’s foot, or a boy’s finger, or “spik Inglish, avec.” Every night gives you a variety of experiences, so that you hurry to take your turn and are slow to leave. (113–15)
From December 1917 to March 1918, Cadbury was in Naples assisting the Red Cross with refugees. After the war, she was executive secretary for the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union in Boston and served as a field representative for the Birth Control League. As Christopher Isherwood’s diaries make clear, she also was a volunteer English as a second language teacher at a Quaker refugee hostel in Haverford, and one of her students was Vienna-born psychologist Carl Furtmueller. Cadbury married Furtmueller in June 1942; he died in 1951. She passed away in 1990.
Ida Williams Pritchett was born in 1891 to astronomer Henry Smith Pritchett, president of MIT and the first president of the Carnegie Endowment for the Advancement of Teaching, and his first wife and cousin Ida. Pritchett earned a bachelor’s degree from Bryn Mawr in 1914 and a doctorate of science in hygiene from Johns Hopkins University in 1922 (her dissertation was on the pathological effects of diphtheria toxin in the guinea pig). As a laboratory assistant at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in 1917, she worked with Dr. Carroll G. Bull to develop and distribute an anti-toxin for gas gangrene, which had resulted in amputated limbs and death for many wounded servicemen. Pritchett published a number of scientific articles and eventually turned to photography. She died in 1965.
Virginia Sturges Osborn was born in 1882 to Henry Fairfield Osborn, paleontologist and president of the American Museum of Natural History, and Lucretia Thatcher Perry Osborn, a writer. She married banker Ralph Sanger in November 1904. Their only child, Fairfield Osborn Sanger, died in 1917 at age 10. Ralph Sanger was killed in a flying accident in France in August 1918.
During World War I, Sanger worked for the French Heroes Fund in Paris, which assisted French wounded and their families, as well as bought the childhood home of the Marquis de Lafayette to serve as a school for war orphans and refugee children, a medical facility for children, and a museum commemorating Franco-American friendship. Sanger also worked at American Red Cross Hospital No. 1 in Neuilly. In July 1918, she wrote a letter to President Woodrow Wilson (Wilson had been a professor at Princeton University at the same time as her father):
My work is at Neuilly Hospital and I have helped to nurse the boys, for they are mere boys, who have been brought in from the Somme, Chateau Thierry and Cantigny. With their poor shattered bodies and amazing courage in the fearful pain they are called upon to endure one is filled with a great gratitude in knowing that controlling the destinies of our people you fully understand the horrors of war and will not prolong it one hour longer, than is necessary to realize the peace which will unite the world in such a way as to make impossible a repetition of such agonies. (1–2)
She returned to the United States in September 1919. She married investment banker Robert McKay in August 1923 and died in 1955.
Born in Detroit, Marjorie Griffin Kay (1897–1949) was the daughter of Canadian-born jeweler Richard Day Kay and his wife Margaret. She appeared in Sherlock Holmes (1916, filmed at Essanay Studios in Chicago; see below) as the love interest of William Gillette’s Holmes and studied voice with Gioacchino Baralt in New York, participating in a recital of Baralt’s students at Carnegie Chamber Music Hall in May 1916. In early June 1916, Kay sailed for France intending to study languages, which she needed to pursue opera professionally. Instead, spurred by her Canadian aunt Amy Eaton, who was involved in relief work, she served as a nurse at the American Ambulance Hospital (aka American Red Cross Hospital No. 1) in Neuilly. She returned to the United States in September 1916 for a rest break, and it is unclear when she returned to France.
According to Kay’s Hartford Courant obituary, she served as a model for a World War I poster, but the title of the poster and the name of the artist were not identified. The only clues provided: she was in a nurse’s uniform, and the word give was on the poster. A candidate may be a 1917–18 poster by Albert Herter; compare it with a 1916 photo of Kay in the Library of Congress (see below).
The 9 January 1918 Jeweler’s Circular-Weekly reported Kay singing at the New Year’s 1918 open house of the Detroit YMCA. She spoke at the June 1918 meeting of the Dental Assn of Massachusetts, as the attendees were interested in learning about newly developed facial reconstruction techniques for wounded soldiers that Kay had observed as a nurse. Reported the 2 June 1918 Boston Sunday Globe:
Men were frequently brought to the hospital with their faces entirely gone below the eyes. Then it was that the American dentists went to work to reconstruct their faces.
Jaws were made from the small bones of the knees; these bones formed the sides of the jawa and were caught togther across the chin by aluminum wires, which held together composition in which the teeth, made separately, were imbedded.
She told about the making of brand new noses, in which operation the third finger of the hand was slit open and fastened upon the place where the nose belonged. There it stayed until the flesh had knit, and the finger was severed from the hand, and a presentable nose was formed. Skin, grafted from the leg, was used to form the surface of the new faces.
She saw a baby, only a few days old, who had been cut in two by a German officer and thrown at the feet of a Belgian mother. She saw babies whose eyes had been gouged out, and others with hands cut off by German soldiers. . . . .
“If I could only talk,” she said, “and could tell of the things I have seen, I should be the happiest girl in the world.” (“Ambulance Driver and Nurse” 56)
Kay enlisted in the Navy on October 22, 1918, serving as a Yeoman (F). The abstracts of World War I service for New York list her as working 20 days (Oct–Nov 1918) at the Cable Censor Office, Third Naval District Headquarters, New York. According to the Veterans Administration Master Index, she was discharged from the Navy on April 30, 1919.
Kay married Holbrook V. Bonney in November 1919. The marriage appears to have soured quickly, as the 1920 census (dated early January 1920) reports Kay residing with her parents in New York without her husband. The 26 September 1920 New York Tribune listed her as a member of the cast of the musical comedy Honeymoon Night (written by Mabel Keightley under the pseudonym M. de la Chambeaux); it played in Sag Harbor in September 1920 and in Hartford in October 1920. Kay obtained a divorce in December 1922 and relocated to Hartford, where her parents were living. She established the Marjorie Kay Studios (for theatrical preparation), the Marjorie Kay Dance Studio, and the Marjorie Kay Entertainment Bureau (a booking agency for performing artists). There is a touching letter to the editor in the 30 April 1927 Vaudeville News that mentions her kindness to a down-on-his-luck vaudeville performer.
Kay’s second husband was a man with the surname of Ford. Her third husband was William Anderson, whom she married in October 1936. She died in June 1949 and is buried at Northwood Cemetery in Windsor, CT.
Marjorie Kay paper dolls
Catherine Bancroft (1887–1966) was the daughter of William Amos Bancroft, who served as a general in the Spanish American War; as a representative in the Massachusetts House of Representatives; and as mayor of Cambridge, MA. In 1905, she married Harvard graduate William David Haviland, whose father, Theodore Haviland, founded a china manufacturing firm in Limoges after a family heritage of involvement in china. They had three children. The 14 May 1916 Boston Globe characterized Catherine as “a wholesome, sensible type of girl, fond of outdoor life and of horseback riding” (70).
During World War I, Catherine served as a nurse in a small hospital situated in the Limoges home of her sister-in-law, Renee de Luze, and a nearby apartment, with room for 40 patients. She later founded Auxiliary Hospital no. 137 in France. An account in the 4 Mar 1916 Cambridge Chronicle provides a glimpse of her experiences:
I have a new man—a baby—poor thing. His left arm was torn off at the shoulder, two fingers of his right hand are gone, and he has a huge wound which goes almost to his elbow. His lips and face were burned. He can do nothing for himself. Two of my old soldiers have been reoperated, and I have another new one with a bad wound on his back.
I had thought of stopping the ambulance [hospital]. I cannot now. I must go on until the end. I have learned so much and we do so much good in this little ambulance.
We were talking over today our Christmas of last year at the ambulance. Out of the eighteen patients there four have since been killed, two officers and two soldiers.
You cannot know what it is to work calmly and to be perfectly sure of one’s self. There is much more order than last year. The badly wounded are all taken care of near the front. More than 5,000 wounded have arrived in Limoges recently, and they have put the very slight cases in the barracks. . . . .
Three soldiers from the north came today to see me. They are leaving for the third time. Just think what that means, twice wounded and returning, and I have seen some lately who have come with six days’ permission, who have been at the front since the beginning. (10)
In 1923, William was inducted into the Legion d’Honneur (included in the same honors list as Edith Wharton), as his family’s firm had hosted a hospital in one of its factories during the war, that William stated had cared for “1,200 French wounded . . . and we served over 200,000 meals” (Supplementary Report Twentieth Anniversary Celebration, Harvard College Class of 1902, 48). Catherine, reported the 29 Nov 1919 Cambridge Tribune (“Catherine Bancroft Haviland Comes to Spend Winter Here” 8), received the silver medal of the Reconnaissance Française (awarded to civilians for service to the injured and refugees). The citation for the medal, stated the newspaper, noted her “great devotion” as a nurse.
Born in South Dakota, Evangelyn Hope Mosher (1893–1989) grew up in the Black Hills as one of five children of E. H. and Lena Mosher (as described in Longhorns Bring Culture). Her family eventually moved to California. She earned her RN credentials in 1916 from the School of Nursing of Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago and served in the Visiting Nurse Assn. In fall 1917, she sailed for France to take up Red Cross work. She wrote a letter in June 1918 to Camp Fire Girls who had sent her Christmas gifts; it was published in the 27 July 1918 Custer [SD] Weekly Chronicle:
Since coming to France my work has been with the Children’s Bureau of the American Red Cross. I was first stationed at Evian les Bains, a beautiful little town on the Swiss border, where the returning refugees from German territory are first welcomed back to France. Here we opened a hospital for children and it was very interesting work to receive the poor mistreated and hungry little waifs which came to us. Some 900 or 1,000 people a day pass through here so we were not lacking a chance to be useful.
From Evian I was transferred to Paris where I was one of the first nurses to give home nursing care. It is not quite well under way and the Americans are having courses for the French, teaching them our methods and trying to improve sanitary conditions.
I am now in Blois, one of the oldest cities of France. It is a town of 20,000 people and one that has suffered more than its share from war conditions. I came here four months ago with a lady doctor. We have opened a dispensary and seen and given care to 1,000 children. Our staff has now increased to five—another American nurse, a French nurse and two social workers besides a good deal of volunteer help. Besides our work in the city, which consists of the dispensary, home nursing, and a great deal of relief in food and clothing, we have now opened a summer home in an adjoining town where we are sending our sick babies for convalescence. It is a beautiful spot with a large garden and play space and well supplied with toys and good things to eat and we expect to have wonderful results from it. Practically all the children of France show the effects of the war and suffering in their faces and by being thin and undernourished. . . . [I]t is well worth seeing the sparks of fun and life bubble up in them and also to note their change in appetite. They have become so used to living on a piece of bread and a piece of chocolate or something of the sort that they didn’t know how to sit down and eat a meal. But they surely put the food out of sight after being there a few days. (1)
In Jan 1919, she returned to the United States. From Sept 1919 to early 1921, Mosher served as the traveling school nurse for the Sterling and Rock Falls [IL] chapter of the Red Cross. In March 1921, she married Montana resident Charles A. Disney, whom she had met in France. They had three children.
Russell Johnson, curator of the History of Medicine and Sciences at UCLA Special Collections, will give a virtual presentation on “Building a Collection: Personal Narratives from the 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic,” which will cover firsthand accounts of the flu pandemic and its impact on life and death in the military and at home and discuss collecting, writing styles, handwriting, genealogy, digitization, and other topics.
The presentation is scheduled for August 18, 6-7 pm ET. This free event is sponsored by the New York Academy of Medicine Library, but a $10 donation is suggested. To register: https://www.nyam.org/events/event/building-collection-personal-narratives-1918-1919-influenza-pandemic/
New Jersey-born Dorothy Cordley (1892–1976) was one of three children of merchant-inventor Henry Greeley Cordley and his wife Alice. She attended Mount Holyoke College as part of the class of 1914. In November 1918, she sailed for France to take up work in Vic-sur-Aisne with Anne Tracy Morgan and Anne Dike’s American Committee for Devastated France. An extract from a letter by Cordley was published in the 16 March 1919 Lima [OH] Daily News:
If any one thinks this life in the region of the Devastees is an easy one tell them to think it over. From 8 o’clock in the morning until 11 at night every one is working and one feels ashamed to take a half hour for oneself, when there is so much to do. I never felt better in my life. I am a bit thin[n]er but never ate so much. A meat and vegetable dinner both non [sic] and evening for we must stoke up for our work. We live out doors and get more exercise than I ever dreamed of in 24 hours, but I love it and what a work it is.
Saturday morning I had a bitter, cold trip delivering supplies and we did no[t] get back until long after 2 o’clock. I never felt anything so cold as those wind swept plateaus where you feel you are above the world. The thermometer must have registered low and there was no sign of thaw in the brilliant sunshine. Just try five minutes in an open Ford with no windshield, curtains or floor board. Today I had on a heavy sweater, heavy wool underwear, wool undervest, shirt wai[st], sleeveles[s] army sweater, leather coat, and I am almost frozen. I never will complain of my cold bedroom at home.
My room is huge and to be sure has a large fireplace but what good does that do when a long French window refuses to close. I don’t blame anyone for not taking baths; anyone doing so should be awarded a Croix de Guerre. (19)