Marion Gregory, translator/entertainer; Alice Gregory, surgeon.

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Marion Gregory, from her 1917 passport application

During World War I, Fannie Marion Gregory (1874–1923) served as a YMCA entertainer/canteen worker and a translator with the American Women’s Oversea Hospitals (sponsored by the National American Woman’s Suffrage Assn) that counted her sister, Dr. Alice Gregory (1876–1953), as a key staffer before Alice resigned to serve in the French Army medical corps. The Gregory sisters had a few notables in their family tree: their paternal grandfather was Dudley S. Gregory, the first mayor of Jersey City, NJ, and a NJ congressman; and their maternal grandfather was J. Marion Sims, dubbed the “father of modern gynecology” and recently the subject of statue controversy.

Marion recounted her experiences in Memories of Service in France (1918). She left the United States on the Espagne on 3 Nov. 1917 and remained in France for seven months. She stayed at first with her widowed aunt, Eliza Sims Pratt, who had a house in Paris. She wrote:

One had to try to get used to seeing maimed men everywhere. At first it was heartrending for the newcomer, but it was beautiful to see the care and devotion shown the returned mutiles by everyone. (9)

She had firsthand experience with the large German gun called Big Bertha and air raids:

The night raids were horrible. No words can convey the sickening sensation of hearing the explosion of a bomb. The firing of the defense is nerve-racking, but when the horrible bomb comes one’s heart is cold at the thought of what it means. (11)

Marion next went to Labouheyre—a village near Bordeaux—with American Women’s Oversea Hospitals staff to care for civilians and provide medical assistance to nearby US Army engineers. She worked with refugee families before she moved to YMCA service as a singer and canteen worker (noting that she was unable to cope with the climate of the hospital’s locale).

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Dr. Alice Gregory in WWI uniform. National Archives

Her sister Alice graduated from Cornell Medical College in 1902 and was on staff at the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, along with fellow Cornell Medical College alums Caroline Sandford Finley and Anna von Sholly. Her WWI service began in early 1915, when she was part of the medical team for approximately five months at a French military hospital headed by Dr. Percy Turnure and located in Chateau de Passy, about 60 miles southeast of Paris. In 1917, Alice set off for France with the American Women’s Oversea Hospitals staff (including Finley and von Sholly). Her matter-of-fact, often wry account “Work at a French Army Dressing Station” (Women’s Medical Journal, Jan. 1920) describes day-to-day life close to the front as a first lieutenant in the French Army medical corps. Stated Alice, “we averaged 1000 wounded every 24 hours” (3). Her 21 Apr. 1953 obituary in the New York Times noted that at this station, “it was not unusual for her to perform forty-two operations in eight hours,” and her account indicates that these procedures were not minor—”infected compound fractures, chest wounds, cranial injuries, and amputations galore” (1). Alice received the Croix de Guerre for her service.

Marion and Alice are buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

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Dr. Alice Gregory, left, fences. From Around the World with a Camera (1917)

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Frances Noyes Hart: WWI translator and canteen worker; mystery author.

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Frances Newbold Noyes, from the 14 Jan 1920 Washington Herald

Born 125 years ago today in Silver Spring, MD, Frances Newbold Noyes Hart was the daughter of Frank Brett Noyes, the publisher of the Washington Star and president of the Associated Press. She published her first book, Mark, in 1913. From 1917–18, she was a translator for Naval intelligence, then went to France as a YMCA canteen worker ca. April 1918. My AEF—A Hail and Farewell (McClure’s Dec 1919; book publication 1920) provides a look at her experiences in France:

There were very few things we didn’t try together. I’ve served you everything from soup to doughnuts; sold you everything from [cigarettes] to postage-stamps. I’ve given you everything from ice-cream to good advice. . . . I have been in hospitals with you when you were dying, and I had to smile at you. . . . I’ve written your letters for you when you hadn’t any fingers to write with, or you hadn’t any words, when you had been so brave you couldn’t tell them about it, or when you had been so weak. . . . I couldn’t bear to think of you, so young, so heartbreakingly young and so mortally tired, going whistlingly back through the darkness into that hell. (pp. 3, 5, 12)

trialShe received second prize for her short story “Contact” in the O. Henry Memorial Prize competition in 1920 and provided a spirited rebuttal in “The Feminine Nuisance Replies” to Joseph Hergesheimer’s assertion in the July 1921Yale Review that “literature in the United States is being strangled with a petticoat.” She married lawyer Edward Henry Hart in January 1921 and had two daughters. Her novel The Bellamy Trial (1927) is based on the Hall-Mills murder case in New Jersey and appears on the Haycraft-Queen Cornerstone list of essential mysteries. Called “probably . . . the greatest mystery story written this century” by Herbert Carter in the American Mercury, the book was adapted as a silent film in 1929 (now considered lost) and as a play in 1931.

Her other novels include Hide in the Dark (1929), Pigs in Clover (1931), and The Crooked Lane (1934).

Given that Hart’s mother was a Newbold, a logical question that arises is about Hart’s possible connection to Edith Wharton (aka Edith Newbold Jones, who also was involved in war work). They are only related by marriage. Wharton’s uncle was Thomas Haines Newbold (spouse of her mother’s sister, Mary Rhinelander Newbold, and cousin to Hart’s great-great grandfather, Caleb Newbold).

Hart died in 1943 and is buried in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, DC.

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Grave of Frances Noyes Hart in Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, DC.  Photo by Elizabeth Foxwell