Elizabeth Claghorn Potter: Refugee and canteen worker, Intelligence Service secretary.

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Elizabeth Claghorn Potter, from her 1918 passport application

From April 1917 to March 1919, Elizabeth Claghorn Potter (1894–1985) worked as a staffer in Paris for Duryea War Relief, which assisted refugees; as secretary to Lieutenant Colonel Cabot Ward, chief of the U.S. Intelligence Service; and as a Red Cross canteen worker in St. Pierre-des-Corps. The daughter of Harvard librarian Alfred Claghorn Potter and cousin of author Conrad Aiken, Potter graduated from the Winsor School in Boston.

The Overseas War Record of the Winsor School 1914–1919 reprints part of a letter on her canteening experiences. In one moving passage she writes:

I have been called out to an American hospital train to sign for the effects of a boy of nineteen who died from gassing while I was in the interpreter’s office calling for an ambulance for him, and seen the pitiful blanketed figure put out on the platform in the warm sunlight . . . . Instead of retiring to cry, one dashes back to the canteen, puts on another record, pours more coffee, swallows one’s tears, smiles the eternal canteen smile, and hands out the snappy back talk over the counter. (77)

In May 1921, Potter married Stedman Buttrick Hoar (1893–1961), a Harvard graduate and World War I veteran who turned to canning grapefruit and orange juices in California.

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