Minerva Crowell, suffragist/WWI reconstruction aide.


Minerva Crowell, from Smith Class of 1901 Classbook

Update: Dennis Historical Society Archive links seem to be back up.

In the digital archive of Cape Cod’s Dennis Historical Society is correspondence from Minerva Evelyn Crowell (later Wexler, 1877–1966), a reconstruction aide with the AEF who served at Base Hospital 114 (Beau Desert, France)—”a camp in the rough,” as she wrote to her brother, Edwin, in July 1918. A 1901 Smith College graduate, she was active in the suffrage movement, participating in a 1912–13 march to Washington, DC, and the turbulent March 1913 suffrage parade that followed. She earned a physiotherapy credential from the Posse Gymnasium in Boston (a school founded by Swedish baron Nils Posse and his wife, Rose, that offered a progressive approach to physical education, prepared teachers and masseurs, and taught gymnastics to adults and children).

Crowell wrote to her mother in July 1918:

“We do most of our work early—starting before six, regular time, or eight as they reckon it. We have a free hour while the boys eat & after our own lunch we work for an hour or two. At first it seemed light but after a while find we need the afternoon to relax in. . . .Yesterday Miss MacDonald gave a birthday party to one of her boys. He has his leg hung up on pulleys as a shell drove his jacknife into his hip in 13 pieces. It is a double ward of 48 patients some bedridden & some hobble around. She made an immense cake & we made a quantity of fudge in the hospital kitchen. You see She can always get anything she wants anywhere. We made iced tea. The boys sang a little which was very touching. Then a few came in in wheelchairs to bring congratulations, & two friends ready for the Front came in to tell him goodbye. . . . Our unit serves to furnish a little entertainment, for the boys as well as treatment. I have the bone ward —broken legs etc. The girl who had it was the first one set to work & when she got sore throat she asked if I could take it for her. Now she is going away and I am to keep it. I like the work & it is all easy except hurting them & keeping all kinds of records. When we get to our own hospital next Fall we shall have books etc for it.”

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