Elisabeth Lansdale DuVal, wireless operator.

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Elisabeth Lansdale DuVal, from her husband’s 1922 passport application

Baltimore’s Elisabeth Lansdale DuVal (1893–1987) earned a commercial radio license, first class, in September 1917 and was assigned to the SS Howard in December 1917 (as “junior operator,” according to Marconi Service News). The Howard, a ship of the Merchants’ and Miners’ Transportation Co., was one of those requisitioned by the US government. The Howard‘s routes were listed as Baltimore to Norfolk and Savannah to Jacksonville. According to this account, DuVal’s shifts were 1:30–8 am and 1–6 pm.

Although various accounts credit DuVal as the first US female wireless operator in sea service, the May 1918 Marconi Service News (14) lists Mrs. R. H. Tucker of the Indianapolis, Mabel Kelso of the Mariposa, Mrs. Sickles of the Roanoke, and Graynella Packer of the Mohawk as her predecessors.

In February 1918, DuVal applied to serve on a US Navy ship and was told by Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels that he would take the request “under advisement” (it never occurred, although Abby P. Morrison had previously achieved the rank of first-class electrician as a wireless operator in the Navy’s Bureau of Navigation). Although US ships were under threat by German U-boats during DuVal’s service from December 1917 to December 1918, with a number attacked and even sunk not far from the US coast, and she asserted that “my patriotism can best be demonstrated . . . aboard a United States naval vessel,” she is described rather cloyingly in this account in the 20 Feb 1918 Washington Times as “young and pretty and more than one naval officer who saw her at the Navy Department when she presented her petition to Secretary Daniels [were] hoping for her appointment to his ship” (1). She praised the Navy’s daily wireless news service, “The Navy Press,” which was sent to all ships and coast radio stations:

It keeps us from feeling that we are “out of it” . . . When we can have the daily reports of what Washington officials are doing and what is happening on the French frontier it seems as though we were closer to things that are happening in the world. (Cordova [AK] Daily Times, 12 June 1918: 3)

DuVal was a great-granddaughter of Supreme Court Justice Gabriel Duvall. Her father, Edmund Brice DuVal, was a captain in the Maryland National Guard. In 1922, she married Herman Hobelman, who had served in World War I as a private in the AEF’s 303rd Tank Center, according to Maryland in the World War. He is listed in the 1930 and 1940 censuses as involved in real estate. The 1930 census lists DuVal as a saleslady and the 1940 census as a seamstress.

Further reading:

• “Elisabeth Lansdale DuVal, Ship Wireless Operator,”  OneTubeRadio.com

Elisabeth Lansdale DuVal Hobelman Collection, Maryland Historical Society

Samantha Minerva “Minnie” Saunders Burdick, decorated Salvation Army worker.

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Minnie Burdick, ca. 1917

Wisconsin-born Samantha Minerva “Minnie” Saunders (1867–1934) married Floyd O. Burdick in December 1884, and she and her husband had three children. She was the first female matron of the Harris County (TX) jail and established the first free medical dispensary in Houston (San Antonio Express, 3 May 1919, 5).

After the Burdicks worked for the Salvation Army in Oklahoma City, Lake Charles, Port Arthur, Houston, San Antonio, Waco, San Angelo, Fort Worth, and Dallas, they sailed for France in November 1917. At age 50 (although her age was constantly listed as 60 in newspapers) and an unprepossessing 5-foot-3, Minnie Burdick was called the oldest Salvation Army worker overseas but had no problem matching the stamina or grit of younger colleagues. In a letter published in the 7 Mar 1918 [North Dakota] Weekly Times Record (but was probably written in Dec 1917, as Christmas is mentioned), “Ma” or “Mother” Burdick described some of her activities:

Last night the officers of the regiment gave a Christmas dinner and presents to all of the refugee children, and all of the children of the town were in our Hut.

After that was over the soldiers had an entertainment in our Hut. We helped in both, and you would be surprised to see how glad the soldiers are to see an American woman. Some shook hands with me and said that I was the first American woman they had talked to since they had been in France. I am glad we came.

The first Hut we went to, I went to cooking pies and cakes, with the help of the ensign in charge, and we made 50 pies, 800 doughnuts, and 18 cakes, and not a piece left by 8 o’clock that night. The next morning it was the same thing over again. . . . .

You would be surprised if you could see how I can make things and cook in tin pans and baking powder cans. I have a milk can for a doughnut cutter, and a smaller one to cut out the hole in the middle. I use a bottle for a rolling pin and fry eggs on a pie plate. . . .

We have been working pretty hard but if you could only see how the boys appreciate it all, you would know that it is time and strength well spent. . . . .

We have . . . a lot of pleasure doing things for the boys, sewing on buttons and lining in the coats, and mending gloves, and then once in a while, one of them is sick, and doesn’t want to go to the doctor, so a cup of hot water and a little home remedy and sympathy helps him out. Sometimes they get homesick and like to come down to the house and tell me their story of mother and sweetheart at home, and go away feeling better. (“Mother Burdick among the Boys in France” 12)

An account in the 7 May 1919 Washington Times credited her with producing 324 pies in 12 hours, setting a new record (“Pie Baker” 8). The article “Mother Burdick Stopped an Army” in the 28 Oct 1918 Carson City [NV] Daily Appeal (1) discussed Burdick’s “all night chocolate service” that involved her informing a general, “Those boys should never go to the front without each one having a cup of hot chocolate. I want to stop them in companies just long enough to fill their cups as they go by the hut down the road.” United Press reporter Frank J. Taylor noted, “The new general was not used to being talked to that way,” but he gave the order for the troops to stop and even had a cup of hot chocolate himself. Taylor stated, “They worked all night at ‘Mother’ Burdick’s hut and two other huts nearby assisted so that more than 15,000 cups of chocolate were given to the boys that night.”

Burdick returned to the United States in May 1919, with the 3 May 1919 Syracuse Journal noting that she had been gassed during her service “but continued working in her little shack until carried to a hospital” (“Premier Pie Producer Returns from War” 8). Shortly after her return, the French government awarded her the Croix de Guerre. She was the first Salvation Army worker so honored. In January 1922, the Oak Creek [CO] Times reported her involvement in hospital relief work with disabled veterans and her service as the first national chaplain of the American Legion auxiliary (“Legion Men Know Her Well” 3). She died in 1934 and lies in an unmarked grave in Hollywood Cemetery in Houston. Her great-great nephew is the artist David Bigelow.

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Minnie Burdick’s recipes for doughnuts and her invention, “Shrapnel Cake” (Pullman Herald, 12 Sept 1919: 11)

Further Reading
Doman, Robert S. “Chicago Girls Serve Coffee and Pie.” [Fort Collins, CO] Weekly Courier, 28 Jun 1918: 2. Discussion of Salvation Army workers shelled by the Germans, including Burdick.

Ensign Burdick and Family.” Houston’s Part in the World War (1919).

Ford, Bert. The Fighting Yankees Overseas. (1919). Short quotes included from Burdick such as “If I attempted to do half as much at home, I’d be ill or dead, but over here you don’t think of time or effort” (195).

‘Ma’ Burdick.” The Armies of Mercy (1920): 384, 385, 387. Harper’s Pictorial Library of the World War, vol. 7.

Salvation Army Worker in France.” Charlotte [MI] Tribune 1919, repr. from Christian Science Monitor. Burdick describes aspects of her service: “. . . I didn’t work in the front line trenches, for they wouldn’t let me get that far front, but I would have been right there if I could have got there.”

 

US female scientists of WWI.

For Veterans Day:

The Caduceus of 3 Aug. 1918 notes that nurse Marie X. Long (1886–1970) of York, PA, was the first female lab assistant at the base hospital of Camp Greene (NC), after she had undergone three years of training in laboratory analysis and served at the US Army General Hospital in Lakewood, NY. She published articles such as “The Value of the Wasserman Reaction in Diagnosing and Treating Syphilis” (American Journal of Nursing Mar. 1921: 369–75).

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Rachel E. Hoffstadt. From Marshall Univ’s Mirabilia 1914.

Jefferson County in the World War states that Indiana-born Rachel Emilie Hoffstadt (1886–1962) was head bacteriologist in the hospital’s laboratory at Camp Sevier (SC) for seven months and was an instructor of chemistry and bacteriology for the Army Nurses School. She earned a BS in science from Hanover College (IN) in 1908, an MS in science from the University of Chicago in 1912, a PhD in science from the University of Chicago in 1915, and a PhD in hygiene from Johns Hopkins University in 1923. She was the first female graduate of Hanover College to earn a doctorate, and the biographical note with her papers at Hanover College states that she developed an oral vaccine for typhoid while at Camp Sevier.

Hoffstadt was on the faculty of Marshall College (now Marshall University) in 1914. In 1923, she became a member of the faculty of the Department of Bacteriology at the University of Washington. In 1929, she received the Mary Pemberton Nourse Fellowship to study at the Pasteur Institute in France. This 1946 photograph shows her as the sole female faculty member of University of Washington’s Medical School.

Further reading:

Madison’s Jewish Community: From Scholars to Politicians to the Parents of a Supreme Court Justice.” Madison [IN] Courier, 19 Aug 2017.

 

Anna Louise Tittman, head nurse in WWI Siberia.

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Nurses of Vladivostok refugees hospital and headquarters office, ca. 1919. Anna Louise Tittman is front row, second from left; Ethel Pinder (later Tuck) is third from left. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

“The dead bodies greet you at the front door.”
—Anna Louise Tittman, on the Russian hospital in Irkutsk, Russia,
Sept 1919 (oral history 129)

Anna Louise Tittman (1884–1977) earned her nursing credential from the Springfield [IL) Hospital Training School in 1906. She then did private duty nursing and worked at Johns Hopkins University, Boston Floating Hospital (originally a hospital ship in Boston Harbor and now a children’s medical facility at Tufts), and Bellevue Hospital in New York City before becoming an inspector for schools of nursing.

In May 1919, at the request of Director of American Red Cross Nursing Clara Noyes, she set off for Siberia with 29 US nurses under the auspices of the Red Cross Commission to Siberia, as some 10,000 men of the American Expeditionary Forces had been sent there by President Woodrow Wilson. At the time, Siberia was battling typhus and cholera epidemics as well as effects of the Russian Revolution. Tittman was appointed chief nurse of the Eastern Division when the previous chief nurse sustained an injury to her eye and needed to return to the United States for treatment. The History of Red Cross Nursing termed her “a nurse executive who would be particularly valuable in straightening out the organization difficulties in Siberia. She possessed a penchant for details and with it a keen and well-balanced mind” (930).

In 1974, Barbara B. Herndon conducted an oral history with Tittman, which included Tittman reading from and commenting on her diary kept during her service in Siberia. This oral history (both audio files and typed transcripts) was originally part of University of Illinois at Springfield’s Archives and Special Collections, and can be found in the Illinois Digital Archives of the Illinois State Library.

Tittman provided a sense of the colorful, mini UN that Vladivostok was at the time:

The blending of the various uniforms—the gray blue of the French and the Poles, the khaki of the United States, the Japanese with their yellowish and bright red trimmings, the Italian greenish gray, the Annamites [Vietnamese] with their flaring brimmed hats, our American sailors with white caps and blue uniforms, the Czechs with greenish khaki and violet trimming. There were also the Russians, the Chinese, the Serbians, the British and the Cossacks, the latter looking like a field of dandelions with their yellow caps and stripes shining in the sun. (111)

She continued:

I went to Second River and the Sixth Virsta Fortress with [nurses] Miss [Ethel] Pinder and Mrs. [Carrie Stallard] Cook. Large ARC barracks for refugees are located at these points. . . . . At Second River there are six large red brick buildings, built for barracks for Russian soldiers. (113)

Continue reading

Mary Fitch Watkins Cushing: AFFW driver, opera insider, dance critic.

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Mary Fitch Watkins, ca. 1918. National Archives.

Mary Fitch Watkins (1889–1974) was the daughter of Vermont Episcopal minister Schureman Halsted Watkins (who was the chaplain for the Tombs prison and the prison on Blackwell’s Island at one time) and Helen Randolph Smith Watkins. Her book The Rainbow Bridge  (1954) discusses her seven years as assistant to diva Olive Fremstad (1871–1951), who is regarded as a model for Thea Kronborg in Willa Cather’s The Song of the Lark (1915). Watkins regarded the experience as “a better education than I might have found in college and a privilege far greater than I could possibly have deserved” (Rainbow Bridge 7).

Sometimes referred to by Fremstad as “little Miss Watkins” (she was 5 foot 3), she served as a driver for the Motor Corps of the National League for Women’s Service before taking up the same role with Anne Morgan’s American Fund for French Wounded  (see Watkins, “Anne Morgan: An Intimate Portrait,” The Woman Citizen, Aug 1927). She sailed for France in April 1918, with an item in the 18 April 1918 Barre [VT] Daily Times listing her prospective duties as driving “motor trucks carrying supplies, clothing, and building materials to the devastated villages” (3). Her 20 April 1921 letter in the New York Times, supporting one by author Owen Wister that advocated for the bodies of US service members to remain buried overseas,  provides a glimpse into some of her wartime experiences:

I was one of two women sent ahead of a relief unit into the Chateau Thierry district when it was freshly evacuated by the enemy. I turned my little truck into an ambulance and drove our wounded for ten days. . . . Our unit stayed behind in this territory after the army moved forward and I had ample opportunity to observe at first hand the care which the bodies of our fallen boys received. . . . . Well I remember a shattered little garden in the village of Vaux, where three boys fell. An old man came back to the ruins of his home and found them there. With what reverent joy he considered these graves as his especial charge.  . . .[H]e hung about the middle cross his rosary, the only thing he had saved in his flight, and we found him daily kneeling beside “his honored guests,” the tears rolling down his cheeks as he prayed for the boys who had come so far to help restore to him his beloved little corner of the earth. It has broken his heart to take this charge from him. . . . .

Can nothing stop this desecration of the loveliest fruits of that most dreadful harvest? And . . . to those mothers and fathers who want their boys back in the family plot. If you had seen what I have seen, you would not breathe the wish. (11)

She added in Rainbow Bridge, “I survived all the perils and uncertainties of torpedoes, bombs, shells, incendiaries, and Ford cars . . .” (313). Although Watkins’s tone was matter-of-fact, nurse Carrie G. Ellis of Base Hospital No. 24 (aka the “Tulane Unit”) conveyed a more effusive perspective on the driver in a 5 August 1918 letter to her mother printed in the 4 Oct. 1918 Polk County [NC] News:

I met a Miss Watkins of New York, an ambulance driver . . . I know no girl I admire more. This woman is as plucky as they make men or women. She goes right up to the front and brings in the wounded. She was the first woman in Chateau Thierry after the Germans evacuated it. (1)

She returned to the United States in January 1919 and published First Aid to the Opera-Goer  (1924) and Behind the Scenes at the Opera (1925). She contributed articles and short stories to publications such as the New Yorker, the Saturday Evening Post, and Vogue; her short story “Stolen Thunder” (1930) was the basis for the Jeanette MacDonald-Nelson Eddy film Oh, for a Man (1930). As Jennifer Dunning discusses in this New York Times article, Watkins became a dance critic for the New York Herald Tribune.

In 1926, Watkins married Brooklyn Eagle music critic and magazine editor, bookstore owner, OSS operative, and mountaineering enthusiast Edward T. F. Cushing (1903–56). Their daughter, Antonia Stone (1930–2002), was a mathematics teacher who established the organization Playing to Win (now CTCnet) that seeks to provide access to computers and technology to disenfranchised populations. Their grandchildren include Nicholas D. Stone, director of Virginia Tech’s National Capital Region Operations, and Rebecca Stone, acting chair of the Brookline [MA] Commission for Women.

New edition, The Backwash of War.

Backwash“[. . . I]n a stagnant place there is much ugliness.”
— Ellen N. LaMotte, The Backwash of War

There is a new edition of The Backwash of War, the collection of accounts by Ellen Newbold LaMotte (1873–1961) of her overseas WWI nursing service alongside Mary Borden (The Forbidden Zone, etc.), which was originally and controversially published in 1916.  This edition includes little-known essays on the war by LaMotte: “An American Nurse in Paris” (1915), “Under Shell-Fire at Dunkirk” (1916), and “A Joy Ride” (1916). Yeshiva University professor Cynthia Wachtell provides invaluable biographical details on the feisty LaMotte, who was a gay, less affluent member of the DuPont family. (Wachtell writes more about LaMotte here.)

Over There Theatre League: Rene Dietrich.

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Rene Dietrich, ca. 1915-20. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Soprano Irene Anna Dieterich was born in Washington, DC, in April 1886 and graduated from DC’s Business High School in 1902. She studied with Otto Freytag at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Stuttgart and composed “The Teddy Bear March” (1907) in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt (listen to a recording).

Adopting Rene Dietrich as her stage name, she appeared in operas, musical comedies, and vaudeville. She met British-born Horace Wright when they were singing in “The Bohemian Girl” with the Aborn Opera Company; they married in May 1909. They sometimes appeared together as “The Somewhat Different Singers.” For Victor Records, they recorded songs such as “On the Beach at Waikiki,” “My Luau Girl,” and “Isles of Aloha.”

Along with Billy Gould, Louise Carlyle, and Gilbert Gregory, Dietrich and Wright were members of the “Yankee Doodle Five” that entertained US troops in France as part of the Over There Theatre League under the aegis of the YMCA.

Dietrich and Wright arrived in France in August 1918. A 1 Nov. 1918 letter from Dietrich was excerpted in the December 1918 issue of Variety:

We have just returned to Paris for the first time, after nine weeks’ continuous work in the field.  . . . The officers tell us a good show raises the morale of the boys 100 percent. . . .

Miss Carlyle and I always make it a point to shake hands and talk to as many boys as we can after each show, and believe me, I have had fellows actually cry with happiness when I talked to them. . . . [T]his whole experience is one which brings out the best in all of us, and when it is all over, I am sure the realization that we were able in our small way to help these fine boys right here when they needed us most, will be the greatest comfort, satisfaction and joy that we can have.

We are all having experiences such as we never dreamed of before, but the inconveniences and little hardships we always see in a humorous light and the boys’ gratitude is our sweetest reward. The only thing that troubles me is that after playing on wagon tops, under all sorts of circumstances in the open, in tents and huts–sometimes with a bum little old organ or just the ukelele for our “orchestra,” we won’t know how to act under normal conditions again at home. We have played within a few hundred yards of the lines with the Boche flying over us and on several occasions where we had to have our gas masks in the alert position and our “tin hats” on. Once in an old village we gave our show in a church, using the altar for the stage and the candles as footlights. . . . .Aside from our work with the Yankee Doodle Five, Mr. Wright and I often go through the wards of the hospitals, singing for the men who are badly wounded. And sometimes in the railroad stations or while we are traveling, I’ll get out the little old ukelele and we give the boys a few songs to brighten them on their way. (8, 18)

Dietrich and Wright continued performing after the war, especially in the vicinity of their New Jersey home, and occasionally on the radio. Wright became a car salesman and died in March 1939. Dietrich married Victor W. Mori, former rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Madison, NJ.

Other compositions by Rene Dietrich
“An American Girl for Me”
“Because of You”
“Everybody Acts Like Us When They’re Falling in Love”
“Honey Lou”
“I Heard You Singing on My Radio”
“I’m After You” (with Horace Wright)
“The Little White House with the Little Red Roof (Tucked Away in the Heart of the Hills)”
“I Love to Promenade with Madelon”
“Old Fashioned Home on the Hill” (with Horace Wright)
“Old Vienna”
“Tell All Our Friends in America” (with James Donahue)
“That Star-Spangled Baby of Mine” (with James Donahue)

The Over There Theatre League: Amparito Farrar.

The Over There Theatre League, headed by theater legend George M. Cohan and theater director-producer-playwright Winthrop Ames, formed in April 1918 to mobilize volunteer performers for entertaining US troops in France under the auspices of the YMCA. According to the 24 Apr 1918 New York Times, nearly 2,000 theater professionals attended the first meeting (but a 1 November 1918 issue of Variety signaled discord between the league and those rejected for performances in France).

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Amparito Farrar. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

According to the 3 May 1918 Variety, “No woman under 25 will be eligible as an entertainer overseas” (23). One female league participant was the 25-year-old Amparito Farrar, soprano (1893–1989, no relation to opera star Geraldine Farrar). Promoted from chorus girl to star of the 1914 production of High Jinks, Farrar sang for service members at the new base hospital at Fox Hills, Staten Island, before leaving the United States in Aug 1918 with her mother, who served as her accompanist, for four months in France. She said in the 15 Aug 1918 Musical Leader, “I want to bring them solace and comfort when they come back wounded or for first aid. I consider my work just as much first aid as the medical treatment…” (149).

As the 2 Oct. 1918 New Era noted, Farrar stated:

I have sung in motor camps, ‘Y’ and Knights of Columbus huts, Salvation Army bakeries, Red Cross hospitals and even at the bedsides of the boys, one at a time, everything from grand opera to ‘Tickle Toe’ [probably a song from the 1917 musical Going Up]. I even dance a little” (9).

She further reported in the 28 Nov. 1918 Musical Leader:

I have looked over the German line as far as the Rhine. . . . Last week I was in a very beautiful part of the country, singing every night, being forced to ride from fifteen to twenty miles every day to do so. . . . In the afternoon I went with one of the ‘Y’ men to see a track meet for a negro regiment arranged by white officers. After it was over they all gathered around a little bank of grass, over 3,300 of them, and I sang many songs to them amidst cheers and yells of delight. (“Amparito Farrar Writes from France” 521)

In June 1919, Farrar married surgeon Goodrich Truman Smith, who had treated her in France for influenza.

Listen to Farrar sing the World War I song “Madelon.”

The Connecticut Trio: WWI entertainers.

The Connecticut Trio was composed of Nutmeg State performers Carolyn Washburn (violinist and an industrial secretary of the YMCA in Hartford, 1880–1967), (Annie) Irene Richards (a dancer who graduated from Oberlin in 1913 and physical training director of the YWCA in Hartford, b. 1891), and Norma Lelia Smith (voice teacher, accompanist, and singer, b. 1893). Signing up as YMCA entertainers, they left for France in January 1919, but their path was not a smooth one. According to a letter from Washburn in the 2 June 1919 Hartford Courant, she was questioned by the British before her departure about her activities over the past four years and about a Baron Koff (possibly Baron Sergei Korff, who became a professor of international law at the University of Georgia). It is possible that the British believed she was related to war correspondent Stanley Washburn (1878–1950), who reported from the Russian front and was connected to US diplomatic missions involving Russia.

In addition, the ship of the Connecticut Trio, the Lapland, sprung a leak due to previous torpedo damage “and let in eight feet of water, more than the machine could possibly pump out, then a three-day storm came up. . . .The old steamer listed on one side constantly, giving us a most unwelcome view of the fifty feet waves tossing over and under and around until all were desperate” (“One of Conn. Trio Mistaken for Spy” 3).

After their arrival in Liverpool, the trio gave a concert in Lincoln and were requested by the British YMCA to perform in Plymouth, Winchester, and other British locations before proceeding to France. Washburn told of a lack of heat and lodgings in French ruins where “if we were fortunate enough to draw the second floor we climbed up a step ladder to enter” (3). She wrote:

Each night at 7 o’clock . . .we are called for by some sort of vehicle—Ford or Red Cross truck. . . At 7:30 o’clock we are several kilo[meter]s away performing in our best clothes in a hut or tent; maybe an American organ, possibly a piano with no ivories, no stage or one made out of a piano box, but always an audience. The attendance averages 900. Often we play for 2,000 in one group. . . . . We have been through 200 miles of battlefronts and shelled roads, trenches, barbed wire; have seen lost families and lonely women everywhere rebuilding their ruins, families moving back in two-wheeled carts with a feather bed and a dog behind their only property.  The roads are depressing to travel, crosses all along the sides marking the graves of some ally or enemy, also a lonely cross now and then against the outline of the horizon, with trenches, maddening barbed wire and shell holes, dugouts with deserted ammunition marked in German script, all forming a horrible foreground. (3)

Washburn’s brother Wilford A. Washburn Jr., who had enlisted in the Canadian infantry, had died of wounds in Amiens in August 1918, and Washburn visited his grave. The book Jefferson County in the World War states that the Connecticut Trio also performed in Belgium and Holland. Smith returned to the United States in July 1919, and Washburn and Richards in September 1919. Smith sang in vaudeville under the name Norma Grey. Washburn was listed on the faculty of the Hartford School of Music in 1922–23 and opened her own studio in 1924.

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The Connecticut Trio: Norma L. Smith (seated, left), Carolyn Washburn (seated, right), and Irene Richards