A group of well dressed people line up for food from the War Bread Wagon, organized by the New York City Food Aid Committee. If I understand correctly, the truck was not handing out food aid but rather fund raising to provide assistance to war refugees in Europe.
Category Archives: WW1 Homefront
These days it has become fashionable in the United States, especially among conservative media, to mock France as a nation of surrendering cowards who lack any sense of bravery or military toughness. This unfounded image is rooted somewhat in the French defeat during World War 2, but its roots are primarily in the fact that France wisely refused to join in the invasion of Iraq, and this angered During the height of the anti-French hysteria and backlash many conservative media personalities urged renaming French fries, “Freedom Fries” presumably because the disloyal French were not worthy of having their name associated with an American junk food stable.
But it was not always like this. There was a time, especially during the First World War, that Americans loved France and French culture. American politicians and the public acknowledged the debt they owed the French for helping them throw off British rule during the American Revolution. And so when France needed help, they volunteered, donated and fought to save France.
The poster above is for a charitable organization called the American Committe for the Devastated French Regions. This committee was formed by the youngest daughter of the American financier Jp Morgan, Anne Morgan (1873–1952) and her friend Anne Murray Dike (1879–1929), a medical doctor.
The organization worked hard to repair the severe damage done to France, which bore most of the fighting on its territory during the entire war. Armies of American volunteers were organized into a semi military organization. They lived in barracks, wore uniforms, and worked long hours. Volunteers had to pay their own expenses, typically about $1,500 a year ( a considerable sum back then).
Despite the rigors and hardships of serving in the Committee, thousands of Americans volunteered, including as many as 6,000 female doctors, who wanted to serve the war effort but who were not allowed to join the American armed forces.
With so many men dead, wounded or away at the front – women were needed to run the factories and take over what had been traditionally male jobs. Here a group of women can be seen practicing evacuating people from a building using a ladder.
Today, a woman working as a firefighter is not longer unusual, so much so that the use of the word fireman has fallen into disuse in favour of the more inclusive and gender neutral “firefighter”.
The women in this picture were definitely trail blazers, but I can’t help notice that even though they were doing non-traditional jobs, these women were still saddled with traditionally female clothing. The women are all wearing long skirts and large platform shoes. Imagine trying to rescue someone from a burning building in these outfits. They would be likely to trip or even catch fire because of all of the excess fabric flapping dangerously around.
Still, World War 1 did much to break down gender stereotypes and free women in the west from being pigeon holed into traditional occupations.
A French woman returns to her home after the Germans have been driven out, only to find that everything has been destroyed. She sits crying amid the rubble of her home, with all of her possessions in a sack made of tied up bedding. Scenes like this were repeated thousands of times as the French peasants living along the Western front found themselves dispossessed of their homes and their fields turned into trenches and killing fields.