Frances Gordon Smith, from her 1918 passport application
Born in Atlanta in August 1872, Frances Gordon was a daughter of Fanny Haralson Gordon and John Brown Gordon—Confederate general, Georgia governor, and U.S. senator. Her sister, Caroline Lewis Gordon Brown, became active in civic affairs in Berlin, NH. Her brother, Frank, served as a major in the Spanish American War. Her nephew, Kilbourn Gordon, was a Broadway writer, producer, and director (his works include the play Kongo, aka the Lon Chaney film West of Zanzibar).
In June 1888 she married lawyer R. Burton Smith, a brother of Georgia senator Hoke Smith. They had two children: a daughter, Hildreth (who married Caroline’s brother-in-law), and a son, Gordon (who drowned at age 20 in 1909 while on an engineering assignment in Panama). Dewey Grantham’s Hoke Smith and the Politics of the New South reports that Burton Smith had problems with alcohol, and Frances Gordon Smith referred to him in her 1918 passport application as her “former husband” and stated that she had not known his whereabouts for four years. (He apparently had gone overseas a year before her as a YMCA worker.)
Gordon Smith earned a credential in dietetics from the University of Chicago (she was listed as a student there in 1908). She gave lectures (such as this one in New York in 1916).
From late 1917 to February 1918, she served as a speaker for the Food Administration (headed by Herbert Hoover) on conserving food, reducing food waste, and addressing food shortages among the Allied nations. As this December 1917 Richmond Times-Dispatch article reports, she asserted that “the stark wolf of hunger is at the door of the world. . . . while conditions are bad in England, they are unspeakable in France.”
Frances Mildred Smith, from her Nov 1918 passport application
A blog reader asks about Frances Mildred Smith, as this lucky person has been given a scrapbook with photos from Smith’s 1919 service with the YMCA in France.
Smith (1886–1972) was born in New York City. Her father was realtor E. DuBois Smith, and her mother was Fannie Elsworth Smith, who was descended from a Revolutionary War soldier. Her neurologist uncle, Graeme Monroe Hammond, competed in the 1912 Olympics as a fencer, served in the Army Medical Corps in WWI, and supported the idea of women serving in combat roles. She had two brothers and two sisters. The October 2015 issue of Our Town St. James shows Smith as a child (see p. 42) and discusses her historic family homestead, Mills Pond House.
Her November 1918 passport application indicates that she was appointed a secretary of the YMCA’s National War Work Committee for a one-year term in France and Great Britain. The application also reveals that she had to name her male relatives in the war (her brother Edmund is listed as wounded, but he survived his injuries and was treasurer of the Smithtown American Legion post in 1919); she also had to attest that she did not intend to marry an AEF serviceman while in France. (One does not see male volunteers having to swear that they will not marry a war worker during their service.) She was back in the United States by November 1919 for her sister Dorothy’s wedding.
A founder of the Smithtown Historical Society, she is buried in St. James Episcopal Church Cemetery in St. James, NY (the same cemetery where architect Stanford White is buried). Her great-niece is Rev. Dorothy Miller Borden.