Liberty Loans and War Savings Stamps: How Every Clark County Citizen Could “Do Their Bit” During WWI

By Sherri Goudy

During WWI, the US Treasury Department headed by William Gibbs McAdoo spearheaded a campaign to enlist every American regardless of age, gender, or social status into the war effort.  The war was proving to be an expensive endeavor, estimated at a cost of $32 Billion.  As we’ve discussed in previous posts, the US had already shown their patriotism in conserving valuable resources in short supply and much demand.  So, if a nation was already barely making ends meet, how do its citizens contribute $21.5 Billion to the war effort?  The answer = war bonds.

In 1917, the plan to pay for the ever-increasing bill for the war was through a mix of taxation and borrowing from the American people.  Though some prominent economists said the war should have been completely financed through taxation, McAdoo was not on board with this plan mainly because there was no way to know how much the war would cost.  His plan was to create a “Liberty Loan” system in which the American people would be educated about bonds, how they would contribute to the war effort, and the importance of saving money.  He also wanted to appeal to patriotism through one of the most ambitious advertising campaigns ever conducted.  Lastly, his entire effort would rely on volunteer labor to avoid further debt.

The Liberty Loan campaign was first launched in April 1917, with 3 more campaigns in the fall of 1917, April 1918, and the last in October 1918. The first campaign promised a 3.5% rate of return, and the rate increased with each subsequent campaign. The loans were sold at various denominations, but the lowest was $50.

In order to make them accessible to families and even children who could not afford them at that cost, an installment plan was available.  People could buy War Thrift Stamps at a rate on 25 cents.

Photo 1 Feb 10 1918 pg 13

Also referred to as “little baby bonds,” after 16 were collected, they could be affixed to a special card and either redeemed after 1923 for $5.00, or exchanged for a War Savings Stamp, which was also worth $5.00.  Likewise, once 10 War Savings Stamps were collected, they could be exchanged for the $50 Liberty Bond.  This ad in the Springfield Daily News shows what the Thrift Cards looked like.

Photo 2 Jan 3 1918 pg 7

Each of the campaigns as well as Thrift Stamp drives relied on various ways to advertise.  Billboards, propaganda posters, and newspaper ads were the most common.  The following series of ads from the Springfield Daily News use a variety of methods to appeal to the people of Clark County to contribute by purchasing Stamps or Bonds.

This ad states that everyone in Clark County should buy either bonds or savings stamps, and the image depicts that while “Liberty Loans” were the “big guns” of the campaign, thrift stamps are just as important and can even be thought of as the foundation of the effort.

Photo 3 April 21 1918 pg 7

This ad from January 8, 1918 states “United We Stand, Divided We Fall” and declares that “If we are to win the war, WE MUST WIN IT AS A UNITED PEOPLE… WAR SAVERS ARE LIFE SAVERS.”

Photo 4 Jan 8 1918 pg 4

In February 1918, this ad was published: “An Idle Dollar is a Slacker Dollar, but a Dollar Wasted in War Times is a Traitor Dollar.” Slackers referred mainly to draft dodgers.

Photo 5 Feb 26 1918 pg 8

In March 1918, the story broke of a Springfield boy, Hiram Taylor, who was killed overseas. This is just one of a few different ads which demanded that Clark County “prove their patriotism” and not let Taylor’s death have been in vain.

Photo 6 March 4 1918 pg 7

“Wise Patriotism” was the headline for this April 1918 ad which stated that “without patriotism life is an empty meaningless waste.”

Photo 7 April 12 1918 pg 13

Fear of losing the war and the death and destruction at the hands of the enemy on American soil were the tactics used in this ad from April 1918.  The ad says, “if America and her allies fail it is just as certain as day follows night that America will be invaded and her homes laid in ruins.”

Photo 8 April 8 1918 pg 7

Mothers were making sacrifices by “giving their sons” to the war, so the least the rest of us can do is “lend our money.”

Photo 9 April 10 1918 pg 15

Appealing to the anniversary of entering the war, this ad appeals to those who should commemorate America’s entry “to uphold civilization and to make the world safe for democracy.”

Photo 10 April 6 1918 pg 5

This ad appeals to the religious majority in Clark County, to go to church and “pray for victory” then “but at least one $50 Liberty Bond.”

Photo 11 April 20 1918 pg 2

This ad makes its appeal to the immigrant communities in Clark county by urging them to “invest your money in liberty bonds” and are absolutely a “safe” investment “because they are guaranteed by the richest nation in the world.”

Photo 12 April 14 1918 pg 11 (2)

The Us wasn’t the only nation in the war using war bonds to finance their efforts.  This ad from April 22, 1918 gives the results of the German campaign and asks its citizens “Are you as patriotic as the Germans? Are you worthy of liberty? Buy Liberty Bonds – They are the price of Freedom.”

Photo 13 April 22 1918 pg 5

The use of political cartoons were also popular ways to encourage Springfield Citizens to do their bit.  This cartoon printed in the Springfield Daily News April 8, 1918 says, “If you can’t fight, help a fighter fight – Buy Liberty Bonds.”

Photo 14 April 8 1918 pg 6

The campaigns also relied on children to sell and buy savings stamps, using the boy scouts, ads geared specifically towards kids, and even a contest for a local child to see their picture in the paper and come to the newspaper office to receive a prize of 4 thrift stamps.

Photo 15 Feb 13 19189 pg 10

Photo 16 April 28 1918 Sports pg 14

Women of Springfield contributed greatly to fundraising and war bond efforts.  This list of signatures includes 50 women who contributed funds to the Clark County War Savings Committee was published in the Springfield Daily News with the headline “Women of Clark County Have Again Shown their Patriotism by Financing War Saving Campaign.”

Photo 17 April 28 1918 pg 2

This ad published on the last day of the 3rd Liberty Loan Campaign urges everyone to buy a war bond, with the assistance of an installment plan that even “President Wilson is Using.”

Photo 18 May 4 1918 pg 5 (2)

In total, the US government would borrow $17 Billion ($275 Billion in 2017 dollars) from all 4 of the Liberty Loan drives, and another $8.8 Billion in taxes.  Over 20 million individuals had bought war bonds, which was impressive considering that the US only had about 24 million households at the time.

Let us know what you think about this post in the comments below!  We want to know what you want to read about next, so send us your ideas for our next blog post about Clark County during the Great War.



The Coal Shortage and WWI: How Clark County Fueled the War and its Homes in the Winter of 1918

By Sherri Goudy

As we in Ohio are experiencing a more severe winter than in recent years as well as government policy as it relates to energy and coal, it is easy to imagine these same conditions 100 years ago. The winter of 1917-1918 was severe, with blizzard conditions and extreme cold hitting Ohio and other parts of the US.  Homes, schools, businesses, and industries producing goods for war required coal for heat and energy, but a coal shortage made this resource a scarcity.  There was plenty of coal being mined, in fact Ohio saw its greatest level of coal mining during 1918, but railroads and ships carrying this resource were backed up dues to poor regulations, traffic jams in the railyards on the east coast, and frozen waterways. This was the beginning of a major crisis for the United States.

To combat these issues, 2 government administrations were formed.  In order to deal with the problems of the coal shortage, the Fuel Administration was created and headed by Harry Garfield, son of President James Garfield.   Since transporting these commodities was a significant part of the crisis, it was decided that the US should nationalize the railroad and control the railways. The Railroad Administration was created and led by the Secretary of the Treasury, William Gibbs McAdoo, who also happened to be President Wilson’s son-in-law. The goal of this administration was to clear up the congestion of the railway networks and get war goods and coal moving across the nation again.

Clark County experienced this crisis as hard as any city in America.  Headlines throughout the first few weeks of the new year were filled with news about the coal shortage, especially its impact on the schools.   This headline from January 1, 1918 read “Public Schools Will Not Open – Coal Does Not Arrive and Sessions Will Not Be Resumed.”

Photo 1 Jan 1 1918 pg 2

On that same date, another headline informed readers that the railroads were working diligently to free up the congested lines, but that passengers would have to forego their planned schedules to prioritize transportation of coal and other exported freight.

Photo 2 Jan 1 1918 pg 2

The lack of coal in Springfield, the surplus of coal in the northwest, and the congestion of the railways to transport it to places like Ohio gave way to heated debates and a general unpopular feeling towards the Fuel Administration.  Back to back days in the Springfield Daily News, articles were published blaming Garfield for the shortage.

Photo 3 Jan 9 1918 front

Even Ohio Governor James Cox was playing the blame game, arguing the delay in troop movement and supplies for American troops in France was because of Garfield’s inability to lead.  But in that same article, McAdoo and the Railroad Administration were hailed as heroes to “attend to” the situation and “keep [Garfield] out of the coal business.”

Photo 4 Jan 4 1918 front

Photo 5 Jan 4 1918 pg 3 cont from front

With McAdoo handling the railway situation, Garfield turned his attention to maximizing the coal already on hand.  The first plan was to close factories east of the Mississippi for certain periods, especially those industries not deemed “necessary.” Although during wartime, munitions factories and other facilities were closed for a period of 5 days in January 1918.  Only factories producing food and those requiring continuous operation were exempt from the order.

Photo 6 Jan 17 1918 front

At the same time, passenger trains continued to be annulled, including those in Columbus and Dayton, to make way for coal and other needed supplies in this part of the country.

Photo 7 Jan 10 1918 pg 16

The “coal famine” was taking its toll for both home life and with the war effort, but Garfield’s plan for closing factories was extremely unpopular. This political cartoon published in the Springfield Daily News on January 19, 1918 speaks for itself; the “Grim Dictator” called “Necessity” required a 5-day shut down in order to fill the empty coal bucket.

Photo 8 Jan 19 1918 pg 4

Yet another image on the front page of the Springfield paper showed Garfield seated and signing an order, while a crowd of “out-of-work” industrial laborers stand outside of a building.  Below, is another image of soldiers in France.  The headline read “This Man Throws These Workers Out of Work to Aid These Soldiers.” While the American people did support the war effort and wanted to ensure troops had the supplies they needed, citizens did not favor the sacrifice of being out of work.

Photo 9 Jan 20 1918 front

The opposition to the factory shutdowns was quickly replaced with a new plan that prioritize how the coal would be delivered from the west to the homes, factories, and waiting barges in New York Harbor to haul freight to the allies fighting in Europe.

Photo 10 Jan 15 1918 front

As mid-January approached and yet another cold front loomed, local industries went back to work and national “heatless Monday” was observed.

Photo 11 Jan 21 1918 front

Springfield, and the rest of the nation, continued to feel the stress of the coal shortage.  Garfield began to advocate for Daylight Savings Time, which would reduce energy consumption by scheduling more activities while the sun was shining.

Photo 12 Jan 11 1918 pg 7

DST was already in effect in Europe when the US finally passed legislation in March 18, 1918.  The next month, on April 1, the clocks would be set forward until October.

Photo 13 March 19 1918 front

This was the first of several times DST (also called “war time”) would be enacted.  It was unpopular and after the end of WWI it was repealed, then reinstated for WWII and then again in the 1960s, and finally the 1980s.  It has a long, confusing, and inconsistent history, being changed most recently in 2007.

Springfield and the nation survived the coal shortage, and although it was a critically harsh time in our nation’s history, development of railroad regulations and energy savings initiatives began out of this crisis.

Please let us know what you think!  Share your thoughts and ideas for upcoming blogs as we continue to explore Clark County during the Great War.






Building the American Army in World War I: Clark County Soldiers go to Boot Camp

By Sherri Goudy

America declared war on April 6, 1917 but the government and its citizens were completely unprepared for the mass army that would be required.  As of that date, there were about 300,000 soldiers comprising the US Army and National Guard.  President Wilson directed Congress to provide $3 billion (equal to over $62 billion today) to build a million-man Army.  Despite the desperation of the French and British to incorporate American soldiers into their own units, Wilson and the American government decided that this Army would be an independent fighting force, trained on American soil.

In order to make this happen, the 3 million American men who were drafted into service would need barracks and training facilities to accommodate them.  To function, the camps needed roads, railroad spurs, swage, barracks, mess halls, headquarters buildings, and hospitals.  These camps and cantonments were built in record times and 32 of them were located across the US to house and train hundreds of thousands of men to go to the battlefront.

In Clark County, most of the men who were drafted went to Camp Sherman in Chillicothe, Ohio.  It was the third largest training cantonment in the country.  In a matter of only a few months in the summer of 1917, over 2,000 buildings were erected.  This article from September 1919 boasted that Camp Sherman was “a modern city [built] in record breaking time.”

Photo 1 Sept 9 1917 front

As the first active and reserve members of the Ohio National Guard prepared to depart for Camp Sherman, the entire city came together for a farewell reception at Memorial Hall.

Photo 2 Sept 5, 1917 pg 1

Photo 3 Sept 6, 1917 pg 8

The headline on the date of their declared “Springfield’s Army of Freedom Sends Word to the Whole World: ‘We Are Coming!’”

Photo 4 Sept 6, 1917 pg 1 part 1

For soldiers and their families at home, keeping up with daily happenings was critical.  Journalists, including Sergeant J. George Teichmoeller serving at Camp Sherman, would write “About Our Boys in Camp” to keep everyone informed, whether about new officers, tear gas training, or recreation and morale.

Photo 5 Dec 12, 1917 2nd pg 2

Photo 6 Dec 9, 1917 pg 10

The stress and psychological toll of being away from home and the impending threat of trench warfare were concerns for the leaders at Camp Sherman.  This article published only a week after the first soldiers were sent to train states “there is an order to officers to be lenient with the embryo soldiers. Let them go home now and then and they won’t be homesick and depressed and disappointed and discontented…”

Photo 7 Sept 13, 1917 pg 7

As the holidays approached, providing entertainment and leisure for the soldiers became a priority.  Soldiers were permitted leave for Thanksgiving, and 10,000 men from Ohio and Pennsylvania went home for the holiday.

Photo 8 Nov 25, 1917 pg 12

For those men too far from home to leave, this article from December 2, 1917 described Thanksgiving at Camp Sherman.  The Gala event included dinner with all the fixings: “two hundred and twenty-three pounds of roast turkey, chestnut dressing containing two-gallons of oysters, thirty-two pounds of cranberries…, eighty pounds of mashed potatoes…, forty-five pumpkin pies…, and as a climax, six hundred cigarettes were passed around.”  The men were also treated to the theater and a trip to Columbus to see their Camp Sherman football team play against Ohio State in a special Military Carnival benefit game.

Photo 9 Dec 12, 1917 2nd pg 2

As Christmas approached, the ads and articles in the Springfield newspaper shifted to sending packages to the troops.  This cartoon states “Remember the Soldiers: Be Santa Claus to Them.”

Photo 10 Dec 11, 1917 pg 7

Political cartoons urged citizens to send socks, sweaters, and comforts to “your boy or your neighbor’s boy” and an ad for Pillsbury declared that “Our boys can win” by conserving food and purchasing alternative flours.

Photo 11 Dec 21, 1917 front


Photo 12 Dec 23, 1917 pg 16Two days before Christmas, the Springfield News Sun published this article about the changes in society the holiday season of 1917 versus previous years.  Instead of the hustle and bustle of shoppers purchasing gifts for family and lunchrooms filled with shoppers taking a break from their activities, the shopping centered around relief purchases and the lunchrooms were filled with Red Cross volunteers knitting garments for soldiers at camp and overseas.  The same red and green sparkly decorations covered downtown shops and street corners, but not with the same feel as in years past. The newspaper reads “The evening lights are not quite so bright and in place of the usual Christmas greeting, the universal question is ‘How many will be absent from your Christmas table?’” Society had modified their entertainments, and the expectation was that many families would travel to camps and cantonment towns “to be with their boys as long as possible before they are called to France.”

Photo 13 Dec 23, 1917 Scoiety front

We hope you have enjoyed our blog to enhance the Clark County WWI Anniversary Exhibit experience.  Please let us know what you think.  We will be taking a short break for the holidays, but in January 2018 we will once again be your source for chronological blogs to follow the involvement of Clark County in the Great War in 1918.






The WWI Experience for African Americans: Sowing the Seeds of Civil Rights

by Sherri Goudy

“First your country, then your rights!” With these words, W.E.B. Dubois urged blacks to support the war and that their fight for democracy abroad would surely result in democracy at home.  Although their treatment before, during, and after the war is the worst that any American soldier has ever experienced, they did not surrender their fight for freedom.

WWI’s impact on the civil rights movement is profound and continues today.  As recently as 2015, the Medal of Honor, America’s highest military honor, was awarded posthumously to Pvt. Henry Johnson whose valor and sacrifice on the French front lines during WWI had not been recognized by the American government.  He is one of only 2 African American WWI soldiers to be awarded this honor, both of whom received their awards long after their sacrifice had been made.

WWI was a momentous period for African Americans in many ways.  In 1914, as war began in Europe, the Great Migration in America of over 500,000 southern blacks to the north began. African Americans were subjected to Jim Crow segregation, political and social oppression, and countless horrific indignities in the south. Wartime opportunity gave hope to these individuals, that they would find jobs, better pay, and better treatment than they were facing in the south.

Conditions in the north did not prove to be much better.  Although there were opportunities for jobs and better pay, “separate but equal” caused bitter race relations.  Nevertheless, blacks continued to persevere and as war was declared by America in 1917, African Americans joined the effort for the “war to make the world safe for democracy.”

As men came forward to enlist for service, many African Americans were denied entry or leadership positions for physical reasons.  Colonel Charles Young had a bright future as a military leader, serving many of those years at Wilberforce University where he taught Military Tactics and Technology courses.  At the outbreak of WWI, he was medically retired by the government.  He asked for reconsideration and upon being denied, he set out on a historic 500-mile horseback ride from Wilberforce, Ohio to Washington, D.C. Though he had proven his physical stamina and capability to serve and lead troops, the decision of his retirement was not reversed.  He was however kept on an active duty officers list and served in Ohio recruiting and training black soldiers.

Photo 1 ColChasYoung1919

In Springfield, Alfred Howard wanted to enlist to serve.  Standing 6 foot 7 inches tall, he had “difficulty in passing city draft board” due to his height.  Though one physician passed him due to his “splendid physique” another doctor denied him due to his height.  In this local article dated August 8, 1917, he is shown standing next to Clarence Smith who stood 5 foot 4 inches tall who had no problem passing the physical requirements.

Photo 2 Colored Giant Aug 8, 1917

Over 400,000 African American soldiers enlisted or were drafted into service by the government which denied them so much.  Most of these men were segregated and put to work in labor units.  Half of these soldiers were sent overseas, and 40,000 of them became part of 2 black combat divisions – the 92nd and 93rd.  The 93rd Division was further divided into 4 regiments, one of which was the 372nd Infantry which included Black soldiers from the Ohio National Guard.  On November 10, 1917 the Springfield Daily News reported that 218 black men from Springfield, Ohio enlisted and were sent to Camp Sheridan. All but 65 of these men went on to serve with the 372nd in France.

Photo 3 Two Hundred and Eighteen Colored Boys are in Camp

One of the men who served with the 372nd was Springfield resident Willard Gilmore.

Photo 4 Pvt Willard Gilmore

He told the Springfield News Sun in 1982 that he voluntarily enlisted because “We loved our country. Although things were not good for us, it was still our home… I didn’t need anyone to force me to protect my home.”

Photo 5 Gilmore 1982

Pvt. Gilmore kept a scrapbook about the 372nd, which is part of the Clark County Historical Society’s collection.  In it, are newspaper clippings about the men that he served with, many of them from Ohio: PVT. Elmer Underwood, PFC. Maceo Burns, CPL. Lee Freeman, PVT. Homer Lawson, PVT Charles Hamilton among others. Some of these men wrote letters home to their families, which were published in the newspapers.  In a letter from PVT Robert W Smith, he writes about the conflict and the progress they were making, “We have gained quite a number of miles on the Huns and the boys have captured thousands of them, also big German guns.  We have got them on the run and are holding them there… German soldiers call us “the black Devils of Uncle Sam.”

Photo 6a Pvt Smith letter

Photo 6b Pvt Smith letter

Photo 6c Pvt Smith letter

In another letter, Gilmore himself wrote home to his father and told him about Thanksgiving in the trenches. “For my Thanksgiving, I had bread, beans, and coffee. Some dinner, but very glad to have that.”

Photo 7 Willard Gilmore letter

In France, he and the other men of the 372nd, faced combat situations for 13 months, the longest of any soldier, black or white, during WWI.  They fought gallantly and were recognized and honored by the French with the Croix de Guerre (France’s highest military honor).  There was also a monument erected in France dedicated “In memory of the Members of the 372nd US Infantry killed in action.”

Sadly, the US Government did not properly recognize or honor these men during or after the war.   Willard Gilmore did not receive any recognition from his home country until 1982. On November 5, 1982, PVT Willard Gillmore and 5 of his comrades were honored by the State of Ohio with the Ohio Distinguished Service Medal “for gallantry in action.”

Photo 8 Willard Gilmore recognition

Photo 9 Willard Gilmore recognition 2


Photo 10 Willard Gilmore recognition 3

African Americans showed their patriotism despite segregation and oppression during WWI.  The role that blacks served in WWI is often overshadowed by the Civil War and WWII.  However, this period in history could be described as one of the most pivotal for blacks because it changed so much of their experience.  They asserted their right for citizenship and equal treatment on a level never seen before in American history.  The civil rights movement was born out of this era, and the true potential of the United States and what it stands for was never demanded less.

Let us know what you think.  And join us for our next blog about Camp Life for the soldiers from Clark County preparing to go Europe.


Women and WWI: Organizing, Serving, and Working for a Cause Part 2: Serving and Working for the War

by Sherri Goudy

A century ago, as America pledged allegiance to join the bloody battlefield already in motion, the men of this country prepared for war.  They left their homes, farms, jobs, and towns to join the 60 million men already fighting across the sea.  Over 5 million American men joined and fought in WWI, and in their absence women had no choice but to fill the gaps.  Women went to work on the home front and overseas, and forever changed the labor force in America.

Women at home kept the farms and factories running. New jobs popped up as the formation of munitions factories and other war-based industries arose, and women filled those jobs as well. They maintained their household duties and spent full workdays outside of the home.  Women became single heads of households in unprecedented numbers.

In Springfield, women were seeking opportunities to learn about automobiles and the possibility of driving trucks for the war effort. In April 1917, women attended a class at the YMCA about how to “Master Mysteries of the Automobile.” The article states that one participant of the class said, “that all women who can and should be prepared to help in the case of war.”

Photo 1 April 15 1917 pg 10

Articles were published over the next few months asking women to take jobs on the railroad.  The article makes sure to mention that women “will be paid the same wages as men.”

Photo 2 April 25 1917 pg 15

In August, a photo of a woman working on the Railroad in Jersey City was published in the Springfield Daily News.  Although the tone seems to mock the woman being photographed, it is certainly a common attitude for this time.  The caption under the photo reads “This happy and husky woman railroader has just finished giving the engine a thorough inspection when the photo was taken.  She looks a bit olly, but she doesn’t mind at all, for she knows she is doing her bit for Uncle Sam.  She is one of the many thousands of women who are going to keep American industries going while the men are away to war.”

Photo 3 August 20 1917 pg 6 photo also

Regardless of the tone with which women stepping up to the call of duty had to contend with, they embraced their new role and opportunities to prove themselves.  Mary Gore, secretary to the Springfield city engineer declared “You cannot stop the women.” Her progressive thoughts are well laid out in this article where she discusses women’s role in handling issues from the unique perspective of being a woman.  “Opportunities await the women on every side today… They are being recognized and are being better paid because they have proved that they can do the work just as well as men, and can be depended upon.”

Photo 4 May 6 1917 pg 14 part 2 of 3

Photo 5 May 6 1917 pg 14 part 2 of 3

Photo 6 May 6 1917 pg 14 part 3 of 3

In October, as the men of Springfield who had been drafted were preparing to go to training camps, a plea was published in the Springfield Daily News, for 1 million women to go to work.

Photo 7 October 10 1917 pg 9

While women were filling the holes left in the workforce at home, women also began to serve in the military.  As already discussed many women served as volunteers in the Red Cross and as nurses.  They also drove ambulance and supply trucks directly on the battlefield. Although the army refused to officially enlist women, the were permitted to volunteer.  The Army Signal Corps recruited more than 200 women, most of whom were bilingual to serve as telephone operators.  These “hello girls” were trained by the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) to operate switchboards and enabled communications within the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and the allied forces.  Although they were serving the military, were subject to military discipline, and some were even praised by their male comrades as “Soldiers of the Switchboard,” they were denied military titles, status, and benefits by the United States Army.

There were women, however, who did enlist officially in the military.  The Marine Corps and Coast Guard admitted women into their ranks.  But by far, the largest number of women who enlisted and received benefits were part of the Navy.

After war was declared in America and military branches needed to increase their ranks, the Navy remained critically shorthanded. The number of ships increased from 200 to 1000, but there were not enough people to man them.  Due to vague language in the Naval Act of 1916, the Naval Reserve force was to consist of “all persons who may be capable of performing special useful service for coastal defense.” This gave the Navy a new resource and 13,000 women joined the ranks, freeing men who once served in clerical and administrative positions to serve aboard ships.  The female Naval service members were called Yeomen, and they served by carrying out operations which included radio operators, stenographers, nurses, pharmacists, messengers, chauffeurs, mechanics, truck drivers, cryptographers, fingerprint experts, chemists, telephone operators, and munitions makers.

Across the US, women were asked to join the Navy, and propaganda posters like this one appealed directly to them.

Photo 8 Woman navy recruit poster wwi

WWI left an incredible legacy for the world, the United States, and its citizens.  There was no such thing as “getting back to normal” once the war was over.  Life was changed forever, and this is clearly exemplified by the evolution of gender roles that really started to change during this time. Women demonstrated their abilities to lead and handle “man’s work” in the face of total war.  They would continue to see ranks and positions open to them in the workforce and military.  And in 1920, the 19th Amendment secured their right to a political voice. Although not without tension and conflict, the movement for women’s equality was fostered and began to see success because of WWI.

Next time we will discuss the contributions of African Americans during WWI.

Let us know what you think and what you want us to write about!


Women and WWI: Organizing, Serving, and Working for a Cause Part 1: Organizing the Homefront

By Sherri Goudy

World War I coincided with a phenomenon that was already in full force in the United States – the Women’s Club Movement.  Women had been organizing since before the turn of the century to discuss books, music, and other cultural things.   They were also joining forces to address issues they wanted to reform such as equal suffrage, labor problems, urbanization issues, immigration, migration, and corruption in the government. The Progressive Era and WWI became a huge catalyst in changing women’s role in American Society.

At the onset of war, women immediately mobilized to provide aid and support.  As we discussed in the last blog, the Red Cross grew exponentially during the first World War.  But women contributed to the war effort beyond their contributions to the Red Cross and nursing.

In Springfield, the newly formed Local Chapter of the League for Women’s Service elected officers and committee chairs to begin a publicity campaign.  The local paper wrote of their motivation for such action: “Love of country and a desire to render what assistance they can, if called upon in the present war crisis.”

Photo 1 April 12 pg 5

The next day, the paper published another article was published about the large number of women who had joined the group.

Photo 2 April 13 pg 10

Within a month, the Committee on Women’s Defense Work was formed by the Council of National Defense.  The committee consisted of women who represented various organizations across the country including the President of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs and the President of the National American Women’s Suffrage organization.  These women would determine what role women and the home front would play during the war, particularly efforts for the mobilization of industries and resources.

Photo 3 May 5 pg 2

The Women’s Defense League asked women to conserve resources for the war effort.  However, women were warned “don’t go to uncomfortable extremes in your zeal for the cause.” This interesting article from the Springfield News Sun tells women “don’t wear dowdy clothes just because the nation is at war… nobody wants mi-lady to forgo her fall or winter outfit, or to go about in the left-overs of the style of 1916 or earlier.” It seems that even in war, and with supplies in short supply, the womenfolk should not deny themselves a little vanity and they certainly should “keep cheerful, for one can economize, retrench and do any of the hundred and one duties that war time exact, to so much better advantage with a smiling face.”

Photo 4 August 19 front

Photo 5 August 19 front

Locally, women were organizing to support the war effort in various ways. They organized to raise war funds to aid the families who might be sent away to the war.

Photo 6 May 19 pg 8

The Women’s Clubs in Springfield who often dedicated their time to self-education in cultural subjects, decided to give up their literary studies for war relief work.  They wanted each of their members to assist them in this goal, without alienating anyone.  The local paper published this statement “The idea is to hold the entire membership intact and to have membership in the club obligation to lend a hand with whatever branch of national aid is taken up.”

Photo 7 July 15 front

By the end of the summer, the local women’s organizations were making surgical dressings, sewing clothing and other items needed in war torn France, and providing supplies directly to the Red Cross.

Photo 8 August 26 pg 7

Photo 9 September 2 pg 4

Whether women were formally organizing or simply supporting the war from home, the Homefront was crucial for the success of the war effort, especially where food conservation was concerned.  Women were asked to think of soldiers while canning goods and doing their grocery shopping.  The local paper dedicated one section of the news to “Winning the War at Home” through food conservation.  On October 7, 1917 the front page of this section published the “Honor Badge of the Housewife” which was a window display card for women to display in their home to show they were a member of the United States Food Administration and had signed a pledge card to conserve food for the war effort.

Photo 10 October 7 pg 11

In mid-November, women on the Homefront also began to wear a small service flag to show their support for the men in the army and who were at camps preparing for service overseas. Many Red Cross workers also wore the service flags in support for the men serving on the front.

Photo 11 November 11 pg 10

So many local and national organizations which had formed because of growing concern for Progressive Ideas contributed greatly to the war effort. Black women also formed groups specifically to support black soldiers, and they did so separately due to segregation.  However, not all groups supported the war.  Some suffrage activists, who would finally be successful in their fight for equal voting rights for women in 1920, vehemently opposed the war.  Regardless of motivation or position, all women regardless of class or conviction were networking to get things done in America.

During WWI, while women mobilized on the Homefront to support the war, others went overseas. They staffed medical units and served in the military. Of the women who stayed in the US, many engaged in wage work in industry and agriculture.  Please join me next week for more about women’s role in work and service.

Serving the United States and Clark County: The American Red Cross in World War I

By Sherri Goudy

Imagine you’re a solider fighting for your country.  A battle has just ended and you’ve been injured.  Your arm is bleeding.  You’re hungry. It’s raining and your socks are wet.  You don’t have another pair.   As you sit on a tree stump under a makeshift canopy made from your jacket, you see a woman coming towards you dressed in white, with a dark cloak wrapped around her shoulders.  She asks you to show her your injuries and proceeds to bandage your arm.  She has a ration pack and you’re so hungry you immediately tear it open and devour its contents. She also has a package for you with socks and a sweater, soap and toothpaste, and even a pack of cigarettes. Would you assume this woman was a nurse?  Or perhaps even an angel, sent to care and comfort you in the hell of your present location.

During the Civil War one such woman was nicknamed the “Angel of the Battlefield” for this very reason.  Clara Barton was a former school teacher and clerk for the US Patent office when she decided to collect and distribute supplies to soldiers during the Civil War, as well as providing nurses aid on the battlefield.  Her experience led her to advocate for war-injured soldiers through the ratification of the Geneva Convention. She is  most famous for founding the American Red Cross in 1881.  It was one of the first humanitarian organizations in the US, and the only one congressionally mandated to provide aid to victims of disasters and war.  But it wasn’t until World War I when the Red Cross began its transformation from a small organization with limited staff and insufficient funds into a massive, globally influential institution.

With the outbreak of war, the Red Cross expanded in many ways.  Its numbers grew from 107 local chapters with 17,000 members in 1914 to 3,864 local chapters with 31 million members in 1918.  During World War I, the public contributed $400 million in funds and materials to support Red Cross Programs.  And the organization recruited 20,000 registered nurses to serve the military during the war, and additional nurses came forward in 1918 at the outbreak of the influenza epidemic.

In Clark County, women became a part of the Red Cross and its campaign for action from Wilson’s declaration of war.  In early April, the headline read “Springfield Girl is Now Red Cross Nurse.”

Photo 1 April 13 1917 pg 10 nurse

Part of the Red Cross campaign was to collect bandages and surgical dressings for wounded soldiers overseas.  In Springfield, 77 Clark County citizens, mainly women enrolled in a surgical dressing class to bolster supplies for the Red Cross.  The classes were organized by the local chapter of the National League of Women Services.

Photo 2 May 7 1917 pg 3

In order to contribute to the fundraising efforts for the Red Cross, Springfield was divided into 4 districts “to facilitate the work of the campaigners.”  The newspaper provided a map for readers to see where their contributions would be counted.  It was set up like a competition among the quadrants as to who could get the most funds.

Photo 3 June 17 1917 2nd section pg 2

Ads flooded the newspapers, urging citizens of all ages to be a part of the Red Cross and its campaign to send aid overseas.  This particular ad pulls at the heartstrings of children, pleading with them to help the boys and girls overseas who don’t have enough to eat and whose papas are fighting “in an awful war” and that “we are in that war too.”

Photo 4 June 19 1917 pg 3

Full page ads urged women to join the Red Cross as nurses, and citizens to join as members to support the war effort.

Photo 5 Large June 17 1917 pg 11

Photo 6 Large June 18 1917 pg 7

Photo 7 Large June 23 1917 pg 8

The ad campaign was successful and by mid-June, the goal of 30,000 Red Cross members was expected to be exceeded.

Photo 8 June 20 1917 pg 1

The headlines for June 21, 1917 read “Six Donations of $5,000 Each received by Red Cross” and “Thirty Thousand Dollars Netted in Hour Thursday.”  The central district for the Red Cross campaign for memberships provided a photo of the young girls who were soliciting for the Red Cross, wearing their white uniforms and recognizable white cap with the cross on it.

Photo 9 June 21 1917 front

In preparation for the cold months, the Red Cross accepted donations of knitted garments for soldiers.  On August 26, 1917, the Springfield newspaper published an article stating that “it is necessary that the Red Cross have one thousand sets of knitted articles.”

Photo 10 August 26 1917 pg 5

In less than 4 months, Springfield and its surrounding rural towns were exceeding expectations with the number of members and contributions to the Red Cross.

Photo 11 August 26 1917 pg 7 exceed records

In the first months of the war, the Red Cross grew exponentially. The membership expansion, nurses who joined, knitting goods, supplies collected, and every citizen young or old, regardless of background contributed to this growth, and were led by the women of Springfield and women across the country.  For the first time, women had an incredible opportunity to show their patriotism in the public sphere and were recognized for it.

Next time, we will discuss other ways women served their country by joining the military and work force.

Let us know what you think! Leave us a comment about what you’ve read and what you’d like to see us write about next.