Category: women

’I could not stay back knowing you boys are up…

could not stay back knowing you boys are up here alone, with no one at all to
take care of you

September 1918 – ‘When the word came that the men were about to
move forward for the Saint Mihiel attack, Mrs. Fitzgerald decided to beat her way far beyond Toul, through to the battle line.

It took her five days to get there. It was well over a hundred
kilometres. She carried with her a hundred cartons of cigarettes, a big
boiler full of chocolate powder, a lot of tinned milk, sugar, and a little

the American soldiers on that road knew Mother Fitzgerald well. They remembered her kindness, her canteen, with its rows of canned peaches, its
cookies and candy, its chewing-gum and smokes — remembered her hearty:
“Go take what you want, and make your own change. The cash box is there on
the shelf before you. It’s your own money and your own home, dear — go

“That Damn Y A Record of Overseas

– Photo: September 20 1918,
Bouillonville, Meurthe et Moselle, France, Miss Fitzgerald, American YMCA
volunteer, serving hot chocolates to soldiers. Google map of her journey from her YMCA Hut in Andelot to Bouillonville, FranceThe National WWI Museum and Memorial



“What’s the sense of it?”

‘September 15 1918 – Went
to the funeral of four Americans in the little churchyard. These were our
own boys and we could not let them be buried in foreign soil
alone; so we went. It was terribly sad and I wept so hard that
Liz whispered: “For heaven’s sake stop or you’ll get me started!” But I
couldn’t stop. What’s the sense of it? Why did they have to be killed before
they had even begun to live?

It was such a
beautiful clear day with meadow-larks singing over head. The coffins were covered
by an American flag and placed beside the freshly dug grave… I watched the
boxes go down and reach the bottom.

the spades flew and the black dirt thudded on the wood,
crumbling, quickly covering the coffins.’

American nurse
at the Front in France – from the beautiful book “I Saw Them Die: Diary and
Recollections of Shirley Millard
” – Photo: 1918, France, a nurse watching the funeral of American
soldier(s). The National WW1 Museum and Memorial                                             


                                                                       The real stuff

‘I forgot to mention the English chauffeur
girls who live here and are waiting for orders.
They wear filthy clothes, short skirts, big boots, their hands are always
dirty, and yet they have fine color, white teeth, a fine sense of humor and spirit, and are the real stuff, one has driven in Russia and one in Salonica, they are hoping to
carry wounded for the French and are signed up for that work but the last six weeks they have only been
doing odd jobs… But if you ever feel too full of the hospital, go to
their tent and get a change of atmosphere!’

1918, American Red Cross Nurse in France –
“Out Here at the Front”: The World War I Letters of Nora Saltonstall
Photo: 1918, France, British ambulance drivers, The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry

“When I go to this camp, I always salute Miss …

“When I go to this camp, I always salute Miss Given
Wilson the head of the canteen and a perfect dear. It is wonderful what she
has done here. She started with a small canteen. Now
there is an officers’ mess and a nice sitting room, large kitchens and bath
house equipped with hot showers, clothes sterilizers, etc. Really, these ladies have
changed the whole atmosphere of the camp, and are doing an enormous work.”

1918, American
aviator in Issoudun, Letters of an American Airman – Photo: 1918, Issoudun, An
American Aviator saluting Miss Givenwilson, chief of the canteen of Issoudun aviation
camp in France. Library of Congress.

‘Driving down the street, what should we see b…

down the street, what should we see but the familiar

familiar and immaculate uniform of an American Ambulance boy! He stopped,
grinned, took off his hat, said, “How do you do” – If
you want to see America, the best way is to come to France, as you
certainly see men from all parts, fresh from home, and untainted by any outside
influences. They are wonderfully quick at taking in all the French can show
them, yet remain absolutely frankly American, and don’t try to be
anything else. That is really wonderful, and gives you great faith in America
as a nation.’

WW1 American lady ambulance driver in France – Back of the Front in France – Photo: WW1, somewhere in France, two American ambulance
drivers chitchatting.  Harvard – Schlesinger archives

          Nurse Beatrice MacDonald, the first …

          Nurse Beatrice MacDonald, the first known woman to be awarded
the Purple Heart

the night of August 17, 1917,  Chief Nurse MacDonald and her unit were
assigned to work at a British Clearing Hospital, in Belgium, when the Germans bombarded the
hospital tent where MacDonald was on duty. During the course of this raid,
Miss MacDonald was gravely wounded and lost an eye. She eventually recovered and
insisted upon returning to duty, claiming, “I’ve only started doing my bit.”


National Purple Heart MuseumHarvard Library. Here Miss MacDonald’ scrapbook

“We all looked at one another, someone laughed…

“We all looked at
one another, someone laughed, and we all joined! There are occasions in life
when it is wise to laugh.”

WW1 British
Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse in France – Olive Dent, A VAD in France – Photo:
WW1 British VAD nurses laughing. The St Edmundsbury Chronicle


There’s nothing I don’t
know about Fords by now.” 

“My Ford has a temperamental disposition, poor dear, and
we can never tell what she will do next. She has really been awful
to my nerves during this last month, as I have driven her every day, and
every day she has done something. There’s nothing I don’t know about Fords by
now. First, her carburetor leaked perpetually for a week, so we changed the
carburetor. Then she had three tire-changing fits, so we got new ones. You’d think that would be enough, but no, we took
her all to pieces and cleaned out the carbon, for the second time in two weeks,
and put her together again. She wasn’t a bit grateful, and the next day dropped
off her gasoline pipe for me. I must say to her credit that she had the sense
to do it in the garage doorway, and not at the Place de l’Opera or the Champs Elysees
or the Arc de Triomphe – why add insult to injury ?”

WW1 American lady ambulance driver in Paris, France “Back of the Front in France: Letters from Amy Owen Bradley”
Photo: 1918, France,  American ambulance drivers working on a Ford – Radcliffe
Institute – Harvard University

‘In my maintenance work, Pussica is a great he…

‘In my maintenance work, Pussica is a great help at engine cleaning: when I slip a long rag or mutton
cloth through his collar, he goes in by the floor boards, under the dash
and out by the engine which gives me a chance to get the engine fly-wheel casing really
clean! Pussica has his little basket in a space between the right hand brake and the side of
the cab and often comes out with me for the run. Just a whistle to let him know
I am starting and he pleases himself!’

WW1 British lady, ambulance Driver in France – From “War girls: The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry
in the First World War”

July 5th 1918, in Chateau du Fayel, Oise, France – British ambulance driver,
probably Miss Toupie Lowther, working on her car with ‘the help’ of her kitten – On
that day, Toupie, and  all the members of
her ambulance unit “The Hackett Lowther” (awesome photos here) were decorated with the French Croix de Guerre Bronze Star
for their incredible bravery during the German Spring Offensive. Note the fanion (a small flag) depicting the Croix de
Guerre medal on the side of the ambulances. Toupie Lowther: Her life



Every day hot chocolate and cigarettes

was quite a life in that little town. No water, unless we walked three-quarters
of a mile for it along a shelled road, and then we
had to boil every bit we drank. One afternoon I
made fifty-five gallons of fudge! Another time it was candy out of corn syrup, with canned butter from the quartermaster.
Almost every day it was cookies, and every day hot chocolate and cigarettes. The
boys were so happy over everything we could do. I made enough for every
boy in the battalion and all
the soldiers coming through!”

lady volunteer working in a mobile military canteen in France in 1918  – The Literary
Digest, Volume 60
– Photo: 1918, American lady volunteer  working in a mobile military canteen
distributing hot chocolate to American, French, Italian, &  all soldiers passing by – Archives du Ministere de la Culture, France