Marian Baldwin, canteen worker.


Marian Baldwin,  from her 1917 passport application

“…[T]heir souls shine through their eyes.”
—WWI canteen worker Marian Baldwin on U.S. servicemen she encountered in France (Canteening Overseas 78)

Daughter of Elbert Francis Baldwin (1857–1927), editor of the Outlook (read William H. Rowe Jr.’s ode to Baldwin), and resident of Lakewood, NJ, Marian Baldwin (1895–1972) sailed for France in June 1917 on La Touraine, headed for canteen service in Paris with Anne Morgan’s American Fund for French Wounded. In Canteening Overseas, 1917–1919, she refers to “Frank Sayre” on the ship with her; this may be Francis Bowes Sayre, son-in-law of President Wilson, who was en route to France to serve with the YMCA.

Once in Paris, she helped out at a new YMCA canteen operated by Adele Verley of Providence, RI,  and Eleanor Butler Roosevelt, wife of Theodore Roosevelt Jr. A graduate of Miss Porter’s School, Baldwin could speak French and German (although she was not very confident in her French-speaking ability and described herself as “a lady with moods … who has been spoiled all her life” [88]). She provided reactions from the crew of the Alcedo, who previously had rescued the men of the Finland and the Antilles before a German U-boat torpedoed their ship.

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Duluth News-Tribune on WWI nurse May MacGregor.

In “Near the Front Lines,” the Duluth News-Tribune highlights the service of Bemidji resident May Olive MacGregor (1889–1980), a nurse at Mobile Hospital No. 1 in France (which worked near Chateau Thierry and in the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne areas). In an often harrowing account, nurse Ida M. Anderson stated that during the hospital’s period of active service, it conducted more than 6000 major operations and had 413 deaths.

Further reading:
Nurse Cared for Wounded as Airplanes Dropped Bombs.” Bemidji Daily Pioneer 16 Apr. 1919.

Citations Won by Bemidji Nurse on France Battlefields.” Bemidji Daily Pioneer 17 Apr. 1919.


Mobile Hospital No. 1, Fromereville, France. Nat Lib of Medicine.

New book features WWI nurse Madelon Battle Hancock.


Madelon Battle Hancock. Bisbee [AZ] Daily Rev., 27 Dec. 1919

North Carolina and the Great War is a new book by Jessica Bandel published by University of North Carolina Press, which draws on the collections of the North Carolina Museum of History and other institutions. It includes the experiences of Asheville-born Madelon Battle Hancock (1882–1930), who earned her nursing credentials from New York’s Presbyterian Hospital, served with the British Red Cross in Belgium, and received numerous medals. Her father was Samuel Westray Battle, a Navy surgeon and physician to the Vanderbilt family. Wrote Hancock in September 1918:

I am on Night Duty again and alone and we get 39 and 49 in a night all to be washed and their dressings done besides treatment for most of them and by morning I am like a ressurected [sic] corpse, I really never was so tired in my life[.]

Further resources:

Letters from Madelon Battle Hancock to her family
Medals of Madelon Battle Hancock

Cora Elm, Native American nurse in WWI France.


Cora Elm, 1916.

Born in February 1891 in Wisconsin, Cora Elm was a member of the Oneida Nation and identified herself in her account “Life, Belief, and the War” (1942) as “a very firm Episcopalian” (Oneida Lives [2005] 290). Her father, a farmer who understood the benefits of education, first enrolled her in 1906 at the Carlisle Indian School (which athlete Jim Thorpe attended), but she left the school for a time and did not graduate until 1913. With her grandmother well known as a midwife, she trained as a nurse at the Episcopal Hospital in Philadelphia with the financial help of her father and her wealthy employers. She graduated in 1916 and stayed on as supervisor of wards at the hospital. A March 1917 newspaper item indicates that she participated in a suffrage demonstration at the White House.

It appears that Elm sailed for Liverpool on the Leviathan on December 15, 1917, and reached France on Christmas Day. She and her fellow nurses of Base Hospital No. 34 (aka the Episcopal Unit, as the personnel came from the Episcopal Hospital) first were split among three hospitals as the base hospital was readied; it opened in Nantes in April 1918. The unit history states that the hospital admitted 9100 patients in nine months and had a death rate of 1.3 percent. Elm wrote the section on the YWCA in the unit history. She says laconically in “Life, Belief, and the War,” “My life overseas was not very easy. Although I was in a base hospital, I saw a lot of the horrors of war. I nursed many a soldier with a leg cut off, or an arm” (295).

Her February 1920 passport application indicated that the Red Cross was sending her to Russia, Latvia, and Lithuania for nursing service. In January 1921, the American Journal of Nursing reported that Elm had married James E. Sinnard. Her son, James Jr., was born in 1926. She served as ward supervisor in several veterans hospitals, including Wood Veterans Hospital in Milwaukee. The 1940 census lists her as divorced, nursing in a private hospital, and living with her widowed sister, with her son as residing with her ex-husband. Elm died in June 1949.