Caring for children, prisoners, and refugees in WWI Turkey: Emma Darling Cushman.

Cushmanphoto-1920It was . . . a heavy problem to know what to do with the orphans and other helpless people who depended on me for life.

—Emma Darling Cushman, qtd in Basil Joseph Matthews, The Book of Missionary Heroes (1922), p. 258.

Nurse and missionary Emma Darling Cushman was born in 1864 in Burlington, NY; her family was related to Robert Cushman, an organizer of the Mayflower‘s voyage to the New World in 1620. She was a teacher before she obtained her nursing credential from Patterson [NJ] General Hospital and served as superintendent of Scarritt Hospital in Kansas City. She joined the American Board of Foreign Missions and worked at the Talas Hospital (Cesarea, Turkey) and the American Hospital (Konia, Turkey).

Cushman did not depart when foreigners were ordered to leave Turkey at the outbreak of World War I; she eventually had what was effectively the rank of consul so she could act for some 17 countries. She often worked on behalf of prisoners from many nations, including imprisoned clergy, and established a home and school for some 3000 refugee children in Corinth, Greece. She was particularly concerned with the care of women and children who had experienced psychological trauma, including those who had been in harems.

After the war she worked for Near East Relief. The Trained Nurse and Hospital Review reported in June 1921 that the League of Nations had appointed Cushman to a commission investigating the plight of deported women and children in Turkey and environs. Among her other contributions are caring for Armenian orphans, assisting in the evacuation of thousands of Christian orphans from Anatolia (aka Asia Minor), supplying services to those affected by the 1928 earthquake in Corinth, and averting disaster to the orphanage and the children in her charge when forces in the “Seventh Revolution” in Greece arrived in her area (the reader may be amused by the newspaper account at the link, in which the 61-year-old Cushman is referred to as a “plucky girl”). The honors she received include the Balkan War Medal from Great Britain, the Cross of the Legion of Honor from France, the Gold Cross of the Redeemer from Greece, and the Distinguished Service Medal from Near East Relief. She died in December 1930 in Cairo, where she had traveled to spend Christmas with some of her former charges; her death was attributed variously to black water fever, malaria, and anemia.

Her niece was home decorating expert Helen Edith Anderson Storey. Hildred Storey Geertz (1927–), professor emeritus of anthropology at Princeton, is her great-niece.

For more information:
• Excerpt from “Cooperation the Keynote at Corinth” by Emma D. Cushman, The New Near East Sept. 1926 (posted by permission of the Near East Relief Historical Society, Near East Foundation)

Cushman obituary (Niagara Falls [NY] Gazette)

• “Emma Cushman: Missionary in Turkey and Greece” (Congregational Library & Archives, Boston)

• “An Intrepid Leader” (Near East Foundation, Syracuse, NY)

Photos of Cushman (Congregational Library & Archives, Boston)

• “The Power of an American Nurse in Lawless Turkey” (The Trained Nurse and Hospital Review, Feb. 1922)

America’s WWI female codebreakers: Elizebeth Friedman, Agnes Meyer.


Elizebeth Smith, from the Hillsdale College Wolverine, 1915

Elizebeth Smith Friedman (1892–1980) was born in Huntington, IN, and earned a degree in English literature from Hillsdale College (MI) in 1915. She married cryptology pioneer Herbert Friedman in 1917. At Riverbank Laboratories in Illinois she deciphered traffic between Germany and Mexico as well as messages regarding a Hindu-German conspiracy (which resulted in defendants shot dead in a San Francisco courtroom); she also helped train individuals in cryptology. Friedman later worked for the Signal Corps; for the Treasury Dept and Coast Guard, she was particularly effective in cracking codes used in drug and alcohol smuggling. In World War II she worked on the Japanese “Purple” code and provided evidence of the pro-Japan spy activities of Velvalee Dickinson (aka “the Doll Woman”).

Audio: Listen to a 1974 interview in which Friedman discusses her World War I work, or read the transcript.


Agnes Meyer, from the 1909 Otterbein Sybil.

Nicknamed “Madame X,” Geneseo (IL)-born Agnes Meyer (1889–1971) graduated from Ohio State in 1911 and enlisted in the Navy as a Yeoman (F) in June 1918. Versed in French, German, Japanese, and Latin, she worked in the Postal and Cable Censorship Office. Her job was to examine telegrams and letters for indications of espionage or security breaches. Next, she was assigned to the director of naval communications’ Code and Signal Section, which created codes and ciphers for the Navy. After the war, she continued in this office as a civilian employee, had a stint at the “Black Chamber” in New York, and worked on an early version of a cipher machine.

Meyer married Washington, DC, attorney Michael Driscoll and taught cryptanalysis to Navy personnel. During World War II, she worked on Japanese and German codebreaking. Described as “without peer as a cryptoanalyst” by Rear Admiral Edwin Layton, she remained with the NSA until her retirement in 1959. She died in 1971 and is buried in Arlington Cemetery.

Update, 5-8-17. New book on Friedman
A Life in Code: Pioneer Cryptanalyst Elizebeth Smith Friedman

Girl Scout messenger of WWI: Eugenia Clement.


Clement Eugenia Clement, from U-Maryland’s yearbook Reveille (1926)

The 15 July 1918 Brooklyn Daily Eagle discusses Surgeon General William C. Gorgas’s use of 46 Girl Scouts as messengers so that men could be released for service in World War I. Gorgas followed the example of General Enoch Crowder, the army’s provost marshal, who employed Girl Scouts for the same purpose.

Among the girls listed and lauded for their discipline and “practical patriotism” is DC-born Eugenia Clement. Clement, aka Eugenia Clement Brooke (1906–71), was the first woman to take a course in University of Maryland’s College of Engineering and was a member of UM’s winning rifle team. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from UM in 1926 and 1927, had positions at the Naval Ordnance Lab and Goddard Space Flight Center, and worked on the Apollo 11 mission.