“A big weight hanging on our hearts”: Beth Satterthwaite, nurse.

Beth Satterthwaite, from her 1917 passport application

Margaret Elizabeth “Beth” Satterthwaite (1890–1978) was born in Tecumseh, MI. Her father, John Newton Satterthwaite, operated the Satterthwaite Brothers Hardware Store in Tecumseh with his brother, E. Newbold Satterthwaite. Her brother, Joseph C. Satterthwaite, served in the army in World War I and later as US ambassador to Sri Lanka, Burma, and South Africa.

She attended Oberlin College in 1909 and graduated from the Johns Hopkins Hospital Training School for Nurses in 1915. In December 1917, she sailed to France to perform civilian relief work at l’Hospital du Chateau, Sermoize les Bains, Marne, as part of the Friends’ Unit of the American Red Cross. A letter from Satterthwaite addressed to “Dear Old Friends” appeared in the 8 July 1918 Marshall [MI] Evening Chronicle:

If I don’t hurry, your little afghans will be showing wear before you know how welcome and useful they are. They have done hours and hours of active service already. We especially like them for wrapping up the kiddies out doors. There is so much tuberculosis that we try to use every bit of sunlight and fresh air. I decided to put one … on a bed in the nursery and save the other for an especially poor child to take home but my small Paul saw it under my arm and raised such a howl … that I put it on his bed for the sake of peace. They adore bright colors after all the terror and hardships and poverty that has filled their small lives. They all know the American flags now. … Our chateau was also used by the Germans for a hospital while they occupied the town. They left in such a hurry that they left their patients and one of their soldier-nurses left his diary. …. He said that even to an enemy, these ruined towns were pitiful because you [sic] could picture the same thing same thing happening to their own dear German home towns. It makes you so thankful that little Tecumseh isn’t suffering like so many of our allies’ homes. It makes me shiver to think of Tecumseh burned and treeless, with you all living in your cellars or in new shacks, with graves of our own boys and our enemy’s boys all over your lawns and fields, and every man who could carry a gun on duty, leaving the old men and boys and women to do all the work (without whimpering or heroics) and a lot of our brothers and fathers in German prisons and no word from a lot of others at the front for weeks—and a lot of very comfortable people not owning a handkerchief—and most of our women in mourning. I’m so proud that the Stars and Stripes are taking a real part now. We have reason to believe that American soldiers are at the helm in the new offensive just starting. The old guns are booming more heavily again, and we all feel a big weight hanging on our hearts. We are not near the sectors of great activity, but we are near enough to realize part of the agony the world is going through. …. We are so glad we came and that we can be used a little, but just imagine how good it will seem to see you all again and get back on the Raisin [R]iver, and the peaceful shade of our beautiful old elms and maples, and to the fine spirit that lives there. (1)

After Satterthwaite returned to the United States in February 1919, she worked as a nurse in the Tecumseh area.