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)

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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.)

Kitty Steele Barrett Pozer, mechanic and ambulance driver.

THE EMPLOYMENT OF WOMEN IN BRITAIN, 1914-1918

Kitty Steele Barrett Pozer, right.   Imperial War Museum ©IWM (Q 30618)

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).

Further reading:
• “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.”

Audio, WWI Centennial News Podcast

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Ruth Bryan Owen,  WWI worker, member of Congress, US ambassador

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.

Go to link

 

Estelle Dixon Greenawalt, driver.

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Estelle Dixon Greenawalt, from her 1919 passport application

New Jersey-born Estelle Dixon Greenawalt (1891–1960) was the daughter of Frank Bridgeman Greenawalt, general baggage master of the Central Railroad of New Jersey, and a great-granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt De Forest, a nephew of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt. An ancestor was Col. Philip Lorenzo Greenawalt, who served with Gen. George Washington. She was educated at Moravian Seminary for Girls in Bethlehem, PA, and taught in the Red Bank (NJ) public schools. In 1918-19, she, along with her sister Constance, served as a driver for the Woman’s Motor Unit of Le Bien Etre du Blesse, which was headed by writer and suffragist Grace Thompson Seton and supported by the Women’s City Club of New York. The unit conveyed food to diet kitchens at aid stations in France, as well as transported wounded and personnel.

Seton noted that the hospital where Greenawalt was located cared for 5,000 wounded French servicemen and “a sprinkling” of Americans in a 24-hour period during the German advance. According to Greenawalt’s obituary in the Red Bank Register, she was dubbed “Mlle. Camionette” [Miss Van] by French and US wounded. In a 4 Oct 1918 letter published in the 6 Nov 1918 Red Bank Register, Greenawalt described one long day:

This morning I was detailed to drive an officer who had business up near the front. We started at seven o’clock going straight north, crossing the Marne and still north till we reached the small town which was our destination. He there found it necessary to move nearer the line and asked me if I was afraid. Can you fancy me saying anything but “No!” On we went and crossed the Vesle and up to ten kilometers (about six miles) from the front. Here we found lots of engineers making and repairing roads, putting up temporary bridges to replace those blown up by the Huns in their retreat . . . In one place where the road had been mined there was a hole in the road forty feet deep and 100 feet across. . . I noticed people stared at me somewhat and when we finally reached our destination we learned that the Huns had left there only 48 hours before and I was the first woman to cross the Vesle after they had retreated. . . . .

On our way back we stopped at our once lovely hospital where my ambulance was in use in May. The hospital people had to leave under shell fire and had to burn materials and buildings before leaving. . . . It was pitiful! It had been a 4,000 bed hospital—a model of its kind in France. We passed many once beautiful villages, now nothing but piles of stones.  The streets at best are only wide enough for a car to pass, but when they are full of huge shell holes and piles of stones they are nearly impassable. I had great difficulty but my “little jit” stood me in good stead and I got through but did not reach home till 3:00 A.M. That is all in a day’s work. We have long hours but there is lots to do and everybody goes as long as they can. . . .

We are short handed and pretty well rushed just now. I run the kitchen and dining room too, till our dietitian returns. (1)

Greenawalt received the Croix de Guerre and other decorations for her service, and later worked at Watson Laboratories in Eatontown, NJ. She married Asahel “Zale” Stuts Dillon in June 1921; he had served in the AEF’s 112th Trench Mortar Battalion in World War I and reached the rank of colonel in World War II. He also was chief of the sound effects division at NBC. The couple had four children, including David D. Dillon (1932–2007), an insurance executive and actor.

Mary K. Taylor, searcher and canteen worker.

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Mary K. Taylor, from her 1921 passport application

Born in Leipzig, Germany, Mary Katharine Taylor (1887–1981) was the daughter of Joseph Richard Taylor, a professor of Greek at Boston University. She graduated from the university with an AB in 1910, earned a BS in social work from Simmons College in 1918, and received an MA in education from Columbia University in 1934. In 1918–19, she was a canteen worker and Red Cross searcher at Base Hospital No. 31 in Contrexeville, France, and Evacuation Hospital No. 9 in Coblenz, Germany. In the December 1920 issue of the Boston University publication Bostonia, she described her duties:

“Searching” just means trying to find out from each man the exact facts concerning the killed or missing in his company. The picture that comes to mind is very clear—serious, interested faces bending over a map while some one points to the spot where the shell burst. . . “Oh, yes, I saw it happen—he was my buddy, and we were always together.” And the story is told with awful simplicity by a boy into whose eyes creeps the look that one sees only in the eyes of those who have seen unforgettable things.

“Answering hospital inquiries” was another duty the thought of which brings back the registrar’s office at night—blinds tightly closed, for fear of air raids, and noisy typewriters pounding out the new lists of wounded. I search through thousands of cards in the files, looking to see if any of the hundreds of names on the daily list sent out by the Red Cross are among the hospital records. These names all represent anguished appeals to the Red Cross for news of men who have been reported wounded or killed. (“The American Red Cross” 108–09)

Taylor provides illuminating excerpts about her job from her “four worn notebooks full of strange little scribbles” (108):

“Bed 31, Ward E-2, wants razor blades.”

“New man in end bed, surgical 3, wants letter written. Urgent.”

“Ask Red Cross Captain whether to give writing-paper to wounded Germans.”

“Nurse in pneumonia ward wants Blackjack gum.”

“Tell Major Black New Orleans Red Cross has just cabled that his wife is dead.”

“Y. M. C. A. man in officers’ ward wants long distance call sent to Colombey to find out whether doctor at Field Hospital knows where his trousers are.”

“John McCarthy’s last words: ‘Tell mother the weather is fine, and I will be home soon.'”

Taylor’s 29 Oct. 1918 letter to the mother of Edward Grant Holt, who died after being gassed, can be found on Cow Hampshire, a New Hampshire history blog. She wrote:

My dear Mrs. Holt . . . You have undoubtedly received by this time the sad news of your son’s death . . . He was badly gassed and immediately developed broncho-pneumonia . . . he was very patient and was anxious not to give trouble to anyone. . . he spoke once of wanting to see his brother, but talked very little and was unconscious at the end . .  . you may be sure that every possible effort was made to save your son’s life.

After returning to the United States in summer 1919, Taylor served as associate field director of medical social work at the Army Hospital of Camp Devens (MA). The Red Cross sent her to France and Britain in 1921. She later headed the social service department at Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, served as director of the social service department of the Washington University Clinics of St. Louis, and was active in the journal Medical Social Work.

Charlotte L. Read, ambulance driver/nurse/entertainer.

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Charlotte L. Read, from her 1918 passport application

Manchester, MA-born Charlotte Louise Read (1892–1970) was the sister of geologist and mountaineer Norman Hatfield Read, who endowed the Norman H. Read Trust in Salem, MA, which supports science education initiatives in the town. It appears from her 1918 passport application that she originally intended to work with the American Women’s Oversea Hospitals (given a telegram from Dr. Alice Gregory). Instead, in World War I France and Germany, she worked in YMCA entertainment as well as the British Hackett Lowther Unit (an all-female relief unit  established by journalist Norah Desmond Hackett and fencer/tennis player May “Toupie” Lowther, which included US drivers and was attached to the French Third Army). In The Overseas War Record of the Winsor School, 1914–1919, she described some harrowing experiences:

We drove our ambulances (Fords) up at 8 am. We were within a mile of the Germans with only a small hill between the French trenches and us. Our poste (P.S. 112) was at — (Longeuil Annel), on a cross road in the direction of — (Ribecourt), in a ramshackle farmhouse where the wounded were brought in by stretcher-bearers over the hill from the trenches, given first aid in the cellar, which served as a dressing station, and then put in our ambulances for us to rush back to a first line dressing station, where they were changed into other ambulances, to be sent still further back.

The poste, at our arrival, was under heavy fire, the Boche having discovered our battery and tanks in the woods back of us. It was the most continual and deafening noise you can imagine. We were too new and ignorant to be afraid. The boom and scream of the shells overhead didn’t even make us realize that we could very easily be hit.

They kept it up all morning, and at about noon, while we were eating our usual mid-day meal of canned sardines, horse meat, and French war bread, there was a terrific crash and the whole corner of the house went down.

. . . . I never knew that anyone could run as fast and steadily as we did. . . . I went flat three times but save for a couple of scratches on my tin hat, I wasn’t touched.

It was not until I was in the middle of nowhere . . . that I realized they were shelling what I was running for—The Red Cross Dressing Station. In cold blood they aimed and one after the other hit its mark.

There were fifty yards of open space between where they were shelling and me. I hesitated for one second, took a deep breath and made one wild, desperate dash across that open space and slid on my stomach into our hole under the bricks as a shell hit outside the entrance—missed by less than a second. (82–83)

The members of the Hackett Lowther Unit received the Croix de Guerre. Read returned to the United States in May 1919. After meeting American Ambulance Field Service driver Henry Hollingsworth Stringham during her service abroad, she married him in New York on July 4, 1922. The marriage ended in divorce, as Read had returned to using her maiden name by 1936, and Stringham remarried that same year.

Further Reading:
Un oeuvre de preservation morale au front” [work to preserve morale at the front], Le Monde Illustre 7 Sept. 1918: 78. Article in French on the Hackett Lowther unit.

In the Soldier’s Service: War Experiences of Mary Dexter—England, Belgium, France 1914–1918. Dexter was a member of the Hackett Lowther Unit.

Hackett Lowther driver Maud Fitch of Utah

Toupie Lowther: Her Life by Val Brown