Margaret Richards Millar, relief worker.


Margaret Richards Millar, from her Dec 1918 passport application

The university archives at the Catholic University of America features the story of Vermont-born Margaret Richards Millar (1858–1947), who was a member of the Committee on Special War Activities of the National Catholic War Council (NCWC, later the National Catholic Welfare Council). From summer 1918 to fall 1919, she organized and operated clubs for service members in France. In May 1919, she was the only U.S. Catholic delegate to the International Congress of Women in Switzerland.

In a forthright March 1919 letter to Rev. John J. Burke (the head of the NCWC), Millar described the facilities of the Etoile Service Club in Paris for enlisted soldiers and sailors of the AEF:

We have books from the [American] Library Association and quite a number have been given us by different people so we have a fair library. We have all the magazines. There are always cigarettes on the tables and stationary [sic], and evenings each boy has a good cigar and either candy or chocolate. There is always someone to welcome him as he enters and someone to grasp his hand as he goes out. There are games and generally music. . . .We have had two really beautiful dances with music from the military headquarters’ band[.] (1–2)

Millar listed the serving of a total of 431 breakfasts and 2–6 gallons of soup or cocoa each night over the course of a month. She told of her “serious and intelligent” female workers’ activities in visiting military hospitals and planning sightseeing excursions for servicemen (2). Millar also noted, “I personally am visiting our U.S. Military Prison, seeing the men in their cells[.] There are between 250 and 300 there” (3). A list accompanying the letter noted the distribution to prisoners of 1500 cigarettes, 100 toothbrushes, 6 boxes of chocolate, and 493 doughnuts, among other items (5).

Millar told Father Burke, “We are wanted, needed and asked for on all sides. . . . Mr. [Harry Emerson] Fosdick [a Protestant chaplain] appeals to us to go into the leave areas. . . .This club is a success, an absolute success, but we should be doing a far greater work…”