Nurse Anna K. Westman, Base Hospital No. 21, Rouen.

Westman, ca. 1917.

Kansas-born Anna Katherine Westman (1880–1970) was the daughter of Swedish immigrants John and Matilda Westman and one of seven siblings. She earned her nursing credential at the Kansas City Research Hospital. Westman joined the Army Nurse Corps in May 1917, heading to US Base Hospital No. 21 (the unit from Washington University in St. Louis) at the former Champs des Courses racetrack in Rouen, France, that was led by Julia C. Stimson as chief nurse. In May 1918, she wrote a letter to her friend Grace Donnell in Twin Falls, ID:

We are not so busy as we were the latter part of March and the first of April. For two weeks we worked from 7:30 until late at night. It seems there were convoys in and out every half hour. Everything was surgical at that time, even turned medical lines into surgical. It was dreadful—one lot would come in on stretchers with their khaki on. It would take quite a while to get it off and get their dry dressing caked with mud, soaked off, after they had been fed, cleaned up and rested a little they would be sent on, and we would get another lot perhaps worse than the lot before them, with more holes and pieces of shrapnel to take out and this went on for two weeks. I had three wards, fourteen beds in each ward. Of course all one can do, is to do dressings all day long over those low beds and the anxiety was great and it seemed the Boches kept on coming nearer. How I despise even the sound of a German name. But how splendid the British stemmed the tide, and held the mean things back . . .

I am on a medical line now where we have a number of gas cases, it is worse than being wounded. We had a good many come in over two weeks ago. Eight were put on the dangerously ill list at once. The M. O. said they would not any of them recover. There is one left and he does not seem like he can last much longer. Their lungs seem to liquify and they cough up large wash pans full of pus. . . . .

A few days ago a lot of Australians came in. They had all been gassed and had bad eyes but they were a jolly lot. . . .

The best thing about this kind of work is the appreciation. . . .

I believe nothing will ever seem hard to me after this and being on a line without a drop of running water and no sewerage and yet we do all of this with perfect ease. (“Re[d] Cross Nurse in Letter from France,” Greensburg [IN] Daily News, 26 July 1918, p. 8).

Westman returned to the United States in April 1919. In July 1919, she spoke in Ottawa, KS, of her war experiences, stating that US Base Hospital No. 21 had cared for 60,428 patients. She said, “Such a life either makes or breaks . . . I’m all right but very tired and I mean to rest now for a while” (“Nursed Heroes in France,” The Ottawa Herald, 7 July 1919, p. 1)

In 1920–21, she worked for the Red Cross as a public health nurse in Cass County (MO). In 1926, she was the nurse at Stafford (KS) High School. The 1930 census in Kansas City listed her as a public health nurse.

The Over There Theatre League: Louise Wright Coffey.

Louise Wright Coffey, from her 1918 passport application

Born in Terre Haute, IN, Alice Louise Wright (1887–1961) was the granddaughter of Terre Haute grocer E. R. Wright. In 1907, she married electrician Robert Wallace Coffey. She studied commercial art at the Art Institute of Chicago and later taught art. She and her husband divorced in 1916. She became a member of the YMCA-affiliated Over There Theatre League, first singing at Camp Mills in New York and Camp Dix in New Jersey. In October 1918, she traveled to France to entertain the troops with other members of the league. According to the Terre Haute Saturday Spectator of 16 August 1919, her group of five was dubbed the “Yankee Girls,” and the group performed in Belgium; Germany; Lorraine; Switzerland, and the environs of Bordeaux, Dijon, La Rochelle, and Paris in France. She mostly sang ballads at Red Cross huts and larger venues but did give some hospital performances (the flu patients attended wearing masks). One somewhat comical episode occurred when the piano used by her troupe only had four working keys; Coffey managed to cope, and the service members still enjoyed the performance.

An 8 February 1919 article from the Saturday Spectator furnishes a glimpse of her Christmas Day 1918 via quotes from her letters:

We were taken to the big embarkation camp at noon, and had a big dinner. A band of thirty pieces played during our meal. Then I sang a few songs and Miss [Blanche] Savoy danced. The band ate while we entertained. Then the tables were cleared away and we danced for an hour. Then we were driven 25 miles to an artillery camp, and had another dinner with the officers there. . . .

Our evening Christmas dinner was in an unique chateau. Everything was lighted with tall white candles and the holly was everywhere. Big grate fires were burning. Of course, being a French home, the silver, china, and service were lovely, and it was beautifully decorated with holly and mistletoe. At the “Yankee Girls” places were exquisite corsages, boxes of candy, etc. During the meal we were given toys, etc., by Santa Claus, and it was a delightful affair. (16–17)

The 8 February 1919 Saturday Spectator article provides further insight into her experiences:

We are going out to a balloon station this time. We shall have mess with the officers and give our show and return . . .

Yesterday we went to a big naval air station. . . . . Up to the present time it is the biggest theatre we have played in. It was a real theatre, seating between three and four thousand, and it was packed.

Our unit usually dances with the boys awhile after each performance and we talk with them. That is what they like. I met a few Terre Haute men lately. . . . .

Today I sang for a Y. M. C. A. banquet, and was the only one in the unit asked. I sang “The Star” and “A Bowl of Roses” and an officer down in front cried. That is the reason I object to singing the pathetic songs.

A few days ago we were sent to one of the Armour refrigerator camps on request. One of the Chicago Armours is major there and it is one of four camps receiving and storing food for the United States boys in France. A wonderful place! . . . .

We are on a southern circuit now, and shall be here for a month. We shall either go into Germany or to Nice in southeastern France. . . . .We are having a marvelous trip now. Most of our work is in the logging camps. We are also working in Canadian camps, for their entertainment department doesn’t get to them often. These Canadians are wonderful men, and hosts. They have never let anything undone for our comfort while with them. . . . .

We go this afternoon to Ponseux, about twelve miles away, and will be in and out of there for five days. On Jan. 20 and 22 we go to Bayonne and will be near Biarri[t]z. (16–17)

Wright was back in the United States by July 1919. According to the 23 February 1921 New York Clipper, she sailed to Panama in mid-February 1921 to work as an entertainer and a performer in government-sponsored films. Sometime in 1921, she married engineer James Janney Lippincott, who was working in Panama, and the couple returned to the United States in May 1923. According to the 1944 lawsuit Lippincott v. Lippincott, James Lippincott abandoned his wife in 1928. John Oliphant’s Brother Twelve indicated that he had become involved with the Aquarian Foundation, a New Age religion. The 1930 census listed Alice Louise Lippincott as an artist living in Los Angeles.

On the Armistice: Harriet May Macdonald, physical therapy nurse.

Scottish-born Cleveland resident Harriet May Macdonald (1876–?) was a physical therapy nurse in Orthopedic Unit 14 who worked in Bordeaux and Paris in 1918. In Letters from the Front (1920), she described the reaction to the armistice:

Harriet Macdonald, from her 1923 passport application

MONDAY, Nov. 11. Germany has signed! It isn’t possible to tell you how the boys have taken the news. All thoughts are turned homewards and many a tear has been shed at the thought of getting home. The wildest excitement reigns everywhere. “Vive l’Amerique!” is heard everywhere; flags have appeared as if by magic. Those sirens and whistles which used to tell of a coming air-raid are now blowing and screaming that all is over and we need have no fear now. It is all so wonderful to think that last convoy of wounded is in. Tears splash down as I remember some of my boys who have gone over in every sense of the word.

. . . . Dec. 20, 1918 . . . . Paris has been celebrating more or less since November eleventh, and that was the most wonderful day of all. None of us will ever forget that morning when the bells rang out the news of the signing of the Armistice and the French people in the hospital, from the scrub-woman in the corridor to the old French priest in the little chapel, wept tears of joy. It meant a lot to us, but very much more to them, and very soon smiles took the place of tears and many began planning to return to what once was home. Hope springs eternal in the human breast, and I do not know what we would have done in these awful days of darkness and pain if we had not had both Hope and Faith. (36, 39)

In 1923, Macdonald became a US citizen. In 1932, a bill was passed in Congress granting her compensation for her World War I service and other veteran’s benefits (as she had not been a US citizen at the time of her service).

Aftermath: Nell Whaley, reconstruction aide.

Kentucky-born Nell Whaley (1885–1946) graduated from Transylvania University in 1906 and taught Latin at the all-female Hamilton College in Lexington, KY (which eventually merged with Transylvania University). In 1919, she taught mathematics and English to disabled service members and was appointed assistant to the head reconstruction aide at Camp Upton’s hospital on Long Island. On June 8, she wrote to her sisters about her experiences at the hospital (published in the 24 June 1919 Bourbon [KY] News).

Nell Whaley, from Transylvania University’s The Crimson (1906)

Last week we had a visit and a most inspiring talk from Major [Horace M.] Evans, of Washington, the man who is at the head of the Reconstruction Service. He gave us some interesting statistics. During one week of April, in 38 military hospitals, 88,000 treatments were given by the 700 Physio therapy aides for nerve injuries. During the month of April, in 43 hospitals, there were working 2,034 Occ[u]pational-Therapy Aides, teaching the wounded soldiers to regain the use of their muscles in the making of baskets, bead-chains, carved boxes, woven rugs and mats, belts, neck-ties, bags, and so on. In addition, this work helps wonderfully to keep up their spirits, and so is of double curative value. . . . .Major Evans stated that the women workers were up to the highest standard and graded 100 per cent, and that they, more than any other class of people, could put “pep” and the proper spirit for the future into the wounded soldiers. He said the boys should be encouraged to quit thinking and talking about the “dreadful affair,” and not let their interests in life end with their war experiences, as the majority of Civil War veterans did.

. . . . At our hospital there are about 60 Reconstruction Aides at work, teaching the boys in the wards, many of whom are flat on their backs or so injured they cannot work. It is wonderful to see the work they do with the left hand. The ambulatory patients go to K-12, the big school building, where they are taught anything from English to auto-mechanics, telegraphy, typewriting, mechanical drawing, clay-moulding, advanced English and Mathematics, Science, Psychology, in fact, any study they call for. It is interesting to note that nearly all the boys are ambitious to learn something new, or if they do go back to their old “job” they want to be ready for an advancement. They have a wonderfully cheerful and independent spirit—they object to pity and charity and there’s not one I’ve talked with who is expecting a job just because he is a returned soldier. They are having time now to do more reading and more thinking than ever in their lives before, and I think their hospital experience, where they are surrounded by companions and attended with excellent care, is the best thing possible to bridge over the gap between the horrors of war and the return to civilian life.

The hospital population here, perhaps 2,500, has plenty of amusement and attention from the Red Cross, Y.M.C.A., and K[nights] of C[olumbus]. There are good picture shows, lectures, vaudeville, athletic meets, baseball, and so on. On Sundays there are Protestant and Catholic services. The Educational Services gives a “party” at K-12 every Wednesday night, where the patients who can come (and some come on crutches and in wheelchairs) are entertained with games, plays, music, (they sing every word of every popular song that is going), and “eats.” The boys who have to stay in bed are entertained by different artists who come from New York. The Red Cross has a traveling piano set up on wheels—it goes the rounds of the wards. I have had the pleasure of playing for these boys, and you should hear them whistle and sing from their beds; they like ragtime, but best of all, the old songs. I played also at the Y. M. C. A. movies, and over at one of the Camp Hostess House. The Hostess in charge told us about how the boys amuse themselves with the Ouija Board. Their three favorite questions are: How long before I get out? Is my job waiting for me? Is my girl true to me? (1–2)

Whaley later worked for the educational division of the Red Cross and the Kentucky Unemployment Compensation Department.

A glimpse of the Smith College Relief Unit.

Michigan-born Edna Miriam True (1888–1988) played basketball at Smith College and graduated in 1909. She sailed for France in June 1918. The following letter from True reprinted in the November 1918 Smith Alumnae Quarterly provides a snapshot of the range of duties taken on by the Smith College Relief Unit in World War I France:

Edna True, from her 1921 passport application

Early Sunday morning an S O S came from the hospital for as many of the girls as possible. I was tremendously interested and impressed by the quiet, very quick, and efficient way in which the girls rose to the occasion, for in less than an hour from the time the message was sent us, which found us all in bed, the girls were each at some important post in the hospital. Three of us had to stay out, however, Marie Wolfs to attend to the club, which suddenly was busier than it had been for several days; Cath[a]rine Hooper to look after the canteen, which not only had had two evacuating trains that day, but one of them the largest the girls had ever fed; and myself to drive the truck and keep up the necessary connection between them all.

Rotating constantly all day between hospital and club and canteen, I had an excellent chance to watch the activities in each and were I to relate in detail all the things accomplished, I am sure it would all seem too exaggerated to be true. At the hospital two of the girls were put in as nurses, doing everything from bringing men out of ether to helping in severe dressings. Another two alternated in taking histories for four surgeons; all were on duty in the operating room from eight in the morning until ten at night. Mrs. [Hannah] Andrews stepped right into a whole department in itself and brought order out of chaos by sorting the men who, as they came in from the ambulances, were just deposited anywhere around on the benches or in the first floor rooms and by keeping the order in which they were to go in to be bathed, examined by the radio[logist], and finally to be operated upon. This was not an easy task in all the confusion, and she had also to find those most in need of immediate attention and to keep the men as comfortable as possible while they waited to be taken care of. Most of the poor fellows had been wounded on the 18th (this was the 21st) and had had little or nothing to eat and practically no attention, and you can imagine that this last weary day of waiting would have seemed endless but for Mrs. Andrews. Miss [Lucy] Mather went into one of the French hospitals and remained on twenty-four hour duty, having an entire ward of Americans under her care all night.

. . . .Having taken literally a truck load of bread to the canteen in the morning, I was surprised to have more ordered in the afternoon, but when I helped Catharine [Hooper] with her train later on, I understood why there had been such a demand on supplies. Over 600 men were being evacuated on that one train and they represented practically all of the Allies and even a few Boches! . . . I was very much impressed by the efficiency and dispatch with which those train loads of men were served a good dinner followed by cigarettes which Catharine and I distributed to them.

Ten-thirty saw all our little household in bed, but I noticed as the girls returned no one seemed especially wearied or in the least depressed by the very strenuous day and the contact it had brought them into with the cruel realities of the war. (52–53)

True came down with influenza but remained in France until December 1919. She returned to France in February 1921 to assist the American Committee for Devastated France with reconstruction work, returning to the United States in December. She later established a travel agency and became active as a leader in the Baha’i Faith.

Further reading:Edna True,” Bahaipedia

Members of the Smith College Relief Unit, 1918. From left, standing: Edna True, Elizabeth Bliss, Agnes Hopkins, Anna Perit Rochester, Hannah Andrews, Dorothy Brown, and Ruth Hill Arnold. Sitting in the truck, from left: Mary Goodman Stevenson, Anne Chapin, and Marie Wolf. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Isabel Weld Perkins Anderson, author, canteener, and hospital worker.

Isabel Anderson, from
Zigzagging (1918)

Boston-born Isabel Weld Perkins (1876–1948) was the daughter of Navy Commodore George H. Perkins and his wife Anna Weld Perkins. (Another war worker, Hope Gray, was a cousin of hers). At age five, she inherited $5 million from the estate of her grandfather, William Fletcher Weld. She was educated at the Winsor School in Boston. In 1897, she married US diplomat Larz Anderson, who was related to the Longworth family of Ohio and later served as US minister to Belgium and ambassador to Japan.

During the Spanish American War, Anderson served on committees of the Colonial Dames and Daughters of the Revolution to assist military families in the Washington, DC, area. After the United States entered World War I in spring 1917, she headed the Washington Refreshment Corps for the Red Cross—an emergency canteen with a mobile kitchen that could serve a high volume of service members at army camps and train stations at all hours of the day and night.

The Red Cross asked for volunteers to serve overseas. As Anderson wrote in Presidents and Pies (1920), “Since few women in our corps were free to go, many of them being officers’ wives, I decided to offer my services” (214). She asked in her 1918 memoir, Zigzagging, “After all, hasn’t a woman just as much right to die for her country as a man?” (xi). She sailed for France on the Espagne in September 1917, noting humorously that the people assigned to her designated lifeboat “were far from pleasing. I did not feel like drowning with them” (Zigzagging 5).

She was first assigned to the canteen at Épernay where she worked with Emma Sterling Lansing, the sister of Secretary of State Robert Lansing. In December 1917, she transferred to Auto-Chir (meaning mobile hospital) No. 7, a Red Cross unit caring for surgical cases that was attached to the Third French Army. This was supervised by Mae Noe Daly, a “screamingly funny person,” according to Daly’s assistant Nora Saltonstall (Out Here at the Front 107). Anderson worked at the hospital at Cugny, which was approximately seven miles from the trenches. She wrote:

My first day, a handsome poilu [French serviceman] with thick black hair and big black eyes was brought in right from the trenches. He had both legs cut off, but fortunately, he did not know it. I stayed by his bedside most of the time after he came out of the ether, but he died at ten that night.

I became especially interested the next day in a little blond man who had been wounded three times and given every kind of decoration. He died that evening. After this I was so exhausted and sad that I hardly slept, and cried most of the night. . . . Indeed, I was discouraged, but kept going and didn’t lose an hour’s work. (Zigzagging 58–59)

During a vacation break from the Auto-Chir, Anderson dined with the king and queen of Belgium and met twice with General Pershing (as she had previously known him in the Philippines). She visited a friend, American-born Frances Belt Wickersham Hadfield (Lady Hadfield), who operated a hospital in Wimereux at her own expense. Amid these adventures, Anderson learned that the Germans had shot four of the Cugny physicians.

Anderson went next with her Auto-Chir colleagues to Royalieu, which featured a “cook, a returned refugee, [who] was drunk most of the time, and one night poured kerosene on the meat” (Zigzagging 183). In addition to caring for the wounded “terribly shot to pieces” (185), Anderson experienced the German bombing within a few miles of the town and visited facilities for refugee children.

Anderson headed back to the United States in May 1918. In June, she became the first woman to receive an honorary degree from George Washington University. She returned to mobile canteen work and visited wounded service members at Walter Reed. For her service, she received the Croix de Guerre, Medal of Queen Elisabeth of Belgium with Red Cross, and the Commemorative War Medal of France.

In addition to her war memoir (called by the 22 Dec. 1918 Washington, DC, Evening Star “bright, straightforward, and unpretentious” [9]), she published children’s books, drama, fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and travel accounts. Two years after her husband’s death in 1937, she donated the home they built in Washington, DC—a social, political, and cultural nexus of the time—to the Society of the Cincinnati, which has remained there to this day. After her death in 1948, she was interred in Washington National Cathedral.

Further Resources:

The Adventurous Life of Isabel Anderson,” exhibition by the American Revolution Institute, Society of the Cincinnati

Photos from the exhibition “The Adventurous Life of Isabel Anderson”

Bibliography of works by Isabel Anderson

Stephen T. Moskey, Larz and Isabel Anderson: Wealth and Celebrity in the Gilded Age (2016)

Minnie E. Blood, POW advocate.

Photo of Minnie E. Blood
Minnie E. Blood, from the 6 Aug 1915 Boston Globe

Born in Lynn, MA, Minnie Emma Blood (1863–1942) was one of eight children of Mary and Josiah Blood; her half-sister, Alice Frances Blood, became a leading professor in home economics at Simmons College. Her father founded J. B. Blood & Co., the largest grocery store in Lynn. She completed the Chautauqua home study course in 1887 and was a student at Radcliffe in 1898–99. By 1900, she was working as a stenographer.

In July 1907, she headed for Germany and remained there for eight years. Thus she was a witness to Germany’s declaration of war in 1914, which she wrote about in “In Munich, August, 1914,” which is printed in When Good Men Meet from Foe to Foe, her 1916 book of war poetry:

I stood with the people in the street,
As the war declaration was read,
And saw the faces of mothers and wives
Grow deathly pale with pain and dread.

I saw the public automobiles
All filled with soldiers riding free
To their affairs, or taking once more
A pleasure drive, as it might be.

I saw the handkerchiefs wildly waved,
And children hang over balcony bars,
And girls and gray-haired men bring out
Bouquets and boxes of cigars.

I saw the guards by the station gates,
And heard the wistful farewell cheers
Of the departing soldier boys,
The while my eyes ran over with tears.

I thought of all the good and brave
Who must perish in the fearful game,
And my soul cried out in agony,
Oh, who—who—who is to blame! (3)

Continue reading

The McAllister sisters: Salvation Army workers in France.

[. . .W]hen we took the patient out, we found his head had been completely severed from his body by a large shell fragment.
— Alice McAllister, The Doughnut Sweethearts

Coming from a family deeply involved in the Salvation Army, the Virginia-born Salvation Army captain Violet McAllister (1891–1939) and her lieutenant sister Alice (1892–1980) sailed on the Rochambeau in March 1918 to undertake relief work in France. Their duties included frying doughnuts, preparing hot chocolate, serving lemonade, preaching, playing guitar, singing, and attending to the wounded and the dying. Stated Alice in “The M’Allister Sisters Who Went to the Front” (Naugatuck Daily News, 15 Jan. 1919, p. 7):

[. . .T]hree days after our arrival we were at the front in the Cantigny Drive, about five kilometers from the firing line . . . We slept in a cellar, for the town was shelled every night, and the following day chose a suitable old house and set up a canteen for serving food and hot chocolate. . . . .We were shelled out of there at midnight and walked, it seemed, miles until a wagon picked us up and carried us two or three kilometers back. Here airplanes dropped bombs over us every night.

The McAllister sisters were at Roulecourt before the St. Mihiel campaign and at one point were believed dead or captured by the Germans (see San Diego Union and Daily Bee). Alice continued:

[. . . A]t 10 o’clock the loud naval gun went off, Violet and I hurriedly put on our gas masks, helmets, and we had our rubber boots on, and then the shelling began on Montsoe. It looked just like a volcano with all the spurts of flame, and on the front as far as one could see for twenty-seven miles, there was a din and hub-bub, and the flashes of guns. One shell struck the German ammunition dump and this set the city on fire. . . . We asked to go up to the front and were sent with three tons of supplies. We finally came to Nonsard, which had been occupied by the Germans only twenty-four hours before. . . . . Here we slept in a bomb proof dugout. As soon as our sign was out at 7 in the morning the boys simply swarmed around . . . . we made sandwiches, you can imagine how many, because we used about 800 cases in two days, and served over 10,000 men . . .

The sisters returned to the United States in October 1918. In 1919, they headed overseas again to assist French refugees, returning in September 1919.

In June 1920, Violet married fellow Salvation Army captain Harry Hesketh Booth, and they had three children. In July 1927, she was one of the Salvation Army representatives selected to attend the American Legion convention in Paris. She died in March 1939 from a cerebral embolism. Alice left the Salvation Army after her marriage to electrician Frank Baugh in March 1927; they had two children.

Further reading:
The Doughnut Sweethearts: The Diary of Alice McAllister during World War I (2012; read excerpts here and here)

Hamilton, Mildred. “Doughnuts and Guitars on the Western Front [interview with Alice McAllister Baugh].” San Francisco Examiner, 8 May 1977, p. 79.

Below: Violet McAllister (left, 1918–19, National Archives). Alice McAllister, from her 1918 passport application

Mary E. Gladwin, Red Cross nurse.

Photo of Mary E. Gladwin, ca. 1920
Mary E. Gladwin, ca. 1920.
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Mary E. Gladwin (1861–1939) was born in Stoke-upon-Trent, England, and emigrated with her family to Akron, OH, becoming a naturalized US citizen in 1874. She graduated from Buchtel College (now University of Akron) in 1887 and taught at Norwalk (OH) High School. Gladwin then earned a nursing credential at Boston City Hospital and was superintendent of Beverly Hospital (MA) and Woman’s Hospital (NY). She served as a Red Cross nurse in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, in the Philippines during the Philippine-American War, in Japan during the Russo-Japanese War, and in Ohio after the 1913 flood.

In World War I, Gladwin first went to Belgrade, Serbia, as reflected by her three letters dated from November 1914 to February 1915 in the 3 May 1915 Norwalk [OH] Reflector-Herald. The letters were carried by individuals and therefore did not pass through a censor:

Our big hospital is on the banks of the Sav River, and we look over into Ziemlin and Austrian territory. The town of Belgrade has been shelled every day since August 1. The big Austrian searchlights play all night. . . . . The big guns boom every night, and the other night as Dr. [Edward] Ryan and I stood on the steps, we heard one shriek quite plainly. It is a curious sound to hear, one going through the air. Shriek is exactly the word to describe it. (2)

Amid Gladwin’s accounts of tea with eminent people such as Lady Paget (the American-born Minnie Stevens), Sir Thomas Lipton (creator of Lipton tea), and Harry James (a son of philosopher William James who was working for the Rockefeller Foundation’s War Relief Commission) were some sobering details and evidence of her sang froid:

In one day, just before the Austrians left, 9,000 wounded passed through these hospitals, 6,000 being here for a few hours, then going to Zemlin [Zemun], 3,000 remaining here. Last night there was a sharp engagement. I awakened to see the flash of the cannon on my white wall, and then in a few seconds heard the report. However, it takes more than that to keep me awake. (2)

Gladwin also wrote in a 25 May 1915 letter to Buchtel College president Parke Kolbe:

Then the coming of the Austrians. They seemed to number like the sands of the sea as they marched and rode down the street past the hospital. After a few days the wounded began to come; at first dozens, then by the hundred, then by the thousand. The beds were soon all filled, three men in a bed; wounded under the tables and in every corner. There was very soon only a narrow lane down our broad hospital corridors. We literally walked over the dead and the dying. . . . .

At two o’clock one morning, when we had been doing dressings for thirty-six hours without stopping, one of the doctors came to me with: “If I should pour cold water over coffee could a man drink it?” He had a man on the table who, wounded, had lain in the woods . . . nine days . . . shot through the chest, with neither food nor drink, and with frozen feet. I shall always be glad to remember that I took time to do an unnecessary thing—to make him a cup of coffee over an alcohol lamp—and that somebody fed it to him a teaspoonful at a time. (Fifty Years of Buchtel [1922] 392)

Gladwin also cared for patients in the typhus epidemic. She returned to the United States in January 1916 and was called as a witness at the trial in Akron of Austrian Peter Fabian for the murder of Joseph Ferguson in November 1915; the prosecution wished to show that racial hatred was the motive (the victim was Romanian with Austro-Hungarian citizenship; the defendant was quoted as saying that he had “killed a Serbian” [see Fabian v. State]). According to the 4 Mar. 1916 Norwalk Reflector-Herald, Gladwin testified that she had seen battles between Serbian and Austro-Hungarian troops, as well as battles between German/Austro-Hungarian troops and those of England, France, and Serbia. The newspaper noted, “her testimony was deemed conclusive” (1). (Fabian was convicted of first-degree murder, served 13 years of a life sentence, and had his sentence commuted in December 1931.)

Next, Gladwin headed for Salonika (now known as Thessaloniki), Greece in December 1916 to care for refugees. Her memoir, “The Red Crosser,” describes bureaucratic snafus in Britain over her visa that required the intercession of Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low and US ambassador Walter Hines Page, and conveys worry about friends and patients from her Serbian days who had been taken prisoner. She contracted meningitis in Greece in March 1917 and recuperated at a convalescent home for British nurses. After her return to work, a fire left 80,000 people homeless, and a blockade prevented any aid from Athens. Gladwin housed displaced men from the Athens School of Archaeology and the American Legation, and the American Red Cross organized soup stations in the city and refugee camps outside of it, with the British providing kettles, firewood, and soldiers to staff the stations.

Gladwin returned to the United States in January 1919, going on to serve as president of the Ohio Nurses’ Assn, director of nursing education at St. Mary’s Hospital (Minneapolis), and director of the school of nursing at St. Mary’s Hospital (Rochester, MN). She wrote Ethics: Talks to Nurses (1930). Her service medals included the Order of St. Sava, the Royal Red Cross, and the Cross of Charity (Serbia); the Ribbon of St. Anne (Russia); the Order of the Golden Crown and the Royal Red Cross (Japan); and the Florence Nightingale Medal (International Congress of the Red Cross). The chapter of the Women’s Overseas Service League in Akron was named the Mary Gladwin Unit in her honor, and the College of Health Professions at the University of Akron is housed in Mary Gladwin Hall.

Further reading:
Gladwin diary 1914–15 (Ohio Memory)

• Gladwin’s digitized scrapbook with photos (Ohio Memory)

Fabian v. State (1918), Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of Ohio, Vol. 97

Margaret Rowland, Red Cross worker.


Margaret Rowland, from her 1918 passport application

“I knew the world was crashing over my head.”
— Margaret Rowland, 1918

Margaret Elizabeth Rowland was born in Phillips, WI, in 1892, the daughter of attorney, insurance executive, and Racine County public administrator John D. Rowland. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1913 and attended a nursing course in New York. Rowland headed overseas in April 1918 to take up Red Cross work.

She was assigned to a French evacuation hospital as a nurse’s aide. An excerpt from a letter she wrote to her brother, David, was published in the 26 Aug. 1918 Racine Journal News:

You see all of the wounds when they come in . . . they are huge gouges just filled with livid, bright, green matter and are the vilest smelling things. The men are so brave, not only the Frenchmen but the Americans too. . . . .

Tuesday morning at 3 o’clock the train came in with four hundred poor wounded things. We all got up and flew to our places, I in the operating room, and there we worked until 12 o’clock that day. . . . .

We started again at 4 o’clock and worked until 8 that night. We fell into bed awfully tired expecting to get some sleep. I did go to sleep when suddenly I sat up in bed with the queerest of sensations. It was horrible. I knew the world was crashing over my head. Everything was shaking like a leaf and the most horrible roar rung in our ears. Then out of all the chaos I heard “burr-burr-burr” of a German plane and I knew we were being bombed.

It is an awful sensation. You know you are in danger and yet you really are not afraid. You become a perfect fatalist. . . . Three bombs dropped within half a block of us.

. . . . I heard my name shouted outside of my door to dress immediately and go to the operating room—another train had come in. Well, we worked again without any food until 12 o’clock that noon—cutting great hunks of shrapnel out, sawing out pieces of fractured bone, amputating, sewing up ghastly looking face wounds and trying to fix up some absolutely fatal cases as comfortably as possible so the poor fellows could die in peace. . . . .

We had to stop for a few hours while the Boche flew over us and dropped a few bombs. . . .[T]heir bombs dropped on their own men, on a prison camp of Boche, a few kilometers from here. They killed about 110 and wounded a good many. The French are really awfully good to them and take care of the poor fellows but it must be sort of a shock to be bombed by your own people. (23)

Later, Rowland served with the Red Cross Motor Corps in Paris.

After a six-week courtship, she married John Bradley Washington Delehanty in Paris in April 1919 (see the wedding invitation at the National World War I Museum and this account of the wedding in Stars and Stripes). Delehanty’s sister Frances, an artist and occupational aide with the Red Cross, was in attendance. Bradley Delehanty, a descendant of George Washington’s brother Samuel and an architect, was a captain and operations officer in the AEF’s 308th Infantry who played a role in the relief of the famous “Lost Battalion.”

The couple lived in New York and had two children. Cornell student John Bradley Delehanty Jr. (1922–40) died in a car accident. Patricia Delehanty Hildt (1920–77) became an artist. Rowland passed away in 1962. One grandchild, John Bradley Hildt, served in the Peace Corps in Uganda, and another, Anne Hildt Geddes, is an interior designer.