There’s a film to accompany Elizabeth Cobbs’s book on the Hello Girls, the women who served as switchboard operators in the US Signal Corps during World War I. For further details or to purchase the DVD, visit the film’s webpage.
Kitty Steele Barrett was born in Atlanta in 1888, the daughter of Rev. Robert South Barrett and noted social activist and physician Kate Waller Barrett. In 1916, she married Lt. Charles Henry Pozer of the Canadian Railway Troops, who was a nephew of Canadian senator Christian Henry Pozer. Kitty served as a mechanic and ambulance driver with the Canadian Army Service Corps for more than two years. In a 25 Mar. 1919 interview with the Sherbrooke [Canada] Daily Record, she described some of her duties:
…[W]e were under the Canadian army and as such were included in the service corps. We were . . . the only division of Canadian women who were actually under army supervision. We were busy transporting wounded Canadians from hospitals to convalescent homes, and doing other odd jobs on the side. . . . .
Our principal work was to transport those men across London . . . But we also handled work throughout London whenever a discharged man fell sick, or men coming home had to be brought from trains to their homes.
Her husband rose to the rank of major and later became resident engineer for the Southern Railway. He died in 1947. Kitty wrote a longtime gardening column for the Washington Post and died in 1981. The publication La Famille Pozer (1927) refers to her as “femme courageuse et digne d’admiration” (a brave woman and worthy of admiration).
• “Kitty Pozer Day” in Fairfax, VA, with photo of Kitty and Charles Pozer in World War I and information on Earl’s Ordinary (aka Ratcliffe-Allison-Pozer House) and garden, Fairfax Connection newspaper, 28 June-July 4, 2018. The house currently has the exhibition “The Barrett-Pozer Family in World War I.”
The audio has been posted from my appearance on the World War I Centennial News podcast, talking about some of the roles of the US women in the war. I’m on at about minute 37.15. There’s also information on an interesting documentary on the Hello Girls (the US switchboard operators who served in France) that will be part of several film festivals. As I am from New Jersey, I was happy to mention Flemington’s own Marjorie Hulsizer Copher.
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On November 13 at 7 pm at the Lyceum in Alexandria, I’ll be speaking on “‘The Glorious Undying Spirit of Pluck’: Alexandria Women in World War I.” I also will be signing copies of my book In Their Own Words: American Women in World War I (sold by Alexandria’s bookstore Hooray for Books). Tickets are $10 (including wine/dessert reception), available here.
Today is the last day to RSVP for my talk on “DC Women in World War I” at the March 16 luncheon of the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of DC (AOI), the oldest civic organization in Washington, DC. I’ll also be signing copies of my book In Their Own Words: American Women in World War I.
As part of Women’s History Month, I’ll be speaking on “DC Women in World War I” at the March 16 luncheon of the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of DC (AOI), the oldest civic organization in Washington, DC. I’ll also be signing copies of my book In Their Own Words: American Women in World War I.
The Evening Capital and Maryland Gazette noted in its 2 September 1918 edition that Yeoman (F) First Class Anna Davis McSherry, who was assigned to the Department of Public Works at the Naval Academy, had bested 25 sailors in a shooting contest at the Glen Burnie rifle range and qualified for the marksman rating. The newspaper account was quick to credit her male shooting instructor, Sergeant J. E. Given of the National Guard, although it also noted that McSherry had won a prize in a YWCA shooting contest the previous year. Another newspaper account states that in the contest at the Glen Burnie rifle range, she made 156 hits out of 200 shots at a range of 500 yards.
McSherry, granddaughter of Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge James McSherry and great-great-niece of Rear Admiral Cadwalader Ringgold, enlisted in the Navy in March 1917 and “aggressive[ly]” captained Baltimore’s yeoman (F) basketball team. In 1924, she was listed as a senior stenographer in the Maryland attorney general’s office. In Nov. 1924, she married electrical engineer Robert Tyson Greer. By 1941, she was listed as a chief clerk in the Maryland attorney general’s office. She died in 1993 and is buried in Baltimore’s Lorraine Park Cemetery. Her daughter was Anne Greer Creamer (1928–96). A relative is Maryland attorney M. Natalie McSherry.
On Veterans Day, it’s good to remember that veterans come from many different backgrounds. Such a veteran is Sister Chrysostom Moynahan (1863–1941), a member of the Daughters of Charity religious order that has a long history of caring for the sick and vulnerable. Its record includes distinguished service during the Civil War by American Daughters of Charity and during World War I by some 15,000 French Daughters of Charity and the only U.S. nuns to work in the European theater.
Born in Ireland as Hannah Moynahan, Sister Chrysostom immigrated to the United States with her parents in 1879, and they resided in Massachusetts. According to the History of American Red Cross Nursing, Sister Chrysostom, after graduating from the seminary of the Daughters of Charity in 1889, was sent to Carney Hospital in Boston. Sister Chrysostom then entered the Daughters of Charity’s school for nurses, graduating in 1894. During the Spanish American War, she cared for the Spanish who were injured after the Maria Theresa attempted to run a U.S. blockade and was fired upon. She had subsequent assignments at Fort Thomas (KY), in Evansville (IN), and in Birmingham (AL). In Birmingham, she served as administrator of St. Vincent’s Hospital and founded the hospital’s school of nursing—the first nursing school in Alabama. In 1916, Sister Chrysostom became the first registered nurse licensed in Alabama. In 1918, she was appointed chief nurse of Base Hospital 102 (aka the “Loyola Unit” or the “New Orleans Unit” because the personnel mainly was from Loyola University in New Orleans) and set off for Italy on the Umbria from Baltimore in August. Along the way, the Umbria rescued survivors of the torpedoed oil tanker Jennings, who received medical attention from the hospital staff. Said Sister Chrysostom in the El Paso Herald prior to their departure:
We are all registered nurses and are anxious to go across and get to work. . . .We will have charge of the operating rooms and hope to do our full duty to bring the American boys back to health and happiness. . . .The sisterhood feels keenly the desire to be of the utmost service in caring for the soldiers of Italy or any of the other Allies of America. War makes its demand upon the woman power of America as well as upon the man power, and all who can do so, no matter what the sacrifice, should serve the interest of America’s part in the war.
The Herald account noted that the nuns were unaccustomed to having their photograph taken and only consented so “they might serve as an example for others to follow.” The Daughters of Charity nurses were permitted to wear the garb of their order but also wore a device and a cap while on duty to indicate that they were members of the Army Nurse Corps (see The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War 297). From September 1918 to the end of March 1919, Base Hospital No. 102 in Vicenza cared for a total of 3,000 patients, which included nearly 400 Americans. Twenty-eight deaths occurred. The Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives blog notes that the hospital was located 15 miles from the Italian front, and its cases included burns from mustard gas, pneumonia, malaria, and influenza. Sister Florence Grace Means, one of Sister Chrysostom’s colleagues, provided some harrowing glimpses into their environment in her diary, describing stoves that “blow up at regular intervals” and 2000 lying wounded and dying at a field hospital that had only 10 nurses in attendance. A 21 June 1919 Literary Digest account of the unit’s work at the front provided equally sobering details on air raids, lack of heat, and patient conditions, and stated:
The entire detachment, including the nurses and officers, was also mentioned in the order of the day issued to the Sixth Army on December 12, and awarded the Italian service ribbon with the Monte Grappa medal commemorating that memorable campaign… (76)
Sister Chrysostom returned to the United States in April 1919, going on to administer hospitals in St. Louis, St. Joe (MO), and Mobile. When she died in 1941, she was accorded a funeral with full military honors and was buried in Mobile’s Catholic Cemetery. Sister Chrysostom was inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in October 1982.
“Super-sensitive people should not come here.”
—Margaret Hall, on the suicides of her colleagues Dorothea and Gladys Cornwell after their service in France (see Letters and Photographs from the Battle Country)
Although there has been recent coverage about the health care needs of U.S. female service members, it is not a new matter. In 1923, the American Legion called attention to disabled American women who had served in World War I. In 1931, Rep. Edith Nourse Rogers (R–MA), the first congresswoman elected from New England who had served in France and at Walter Reed, asked President Hoover to open homes and hospitals specifically for female veterans.
Accounts of U.S. women who served in the war and had their lives cut short tend to be deeply sad, not least because often little of their story is known. The following are some examples.