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American Women: What they have done to bring peace to the world

From time immemorial, the part of woman in war has been the hardest. It has been her lot to send her loved ones away as sacrifices on the altar of her country and to remain at home, torn by all the emotions that rend the spirit of mothers, wives and sweethearts. She has been forced in the ages past to await with fearful forebodings the news from the scenes of conflict; she has suffered the pangs of sudden bereavement, and has borne the consequent burdens in the future years.

Our collection, America and World War I: American Military Camp Newspapers, addresses a topic and period that continues to be of the widest interest and importance to scholars, students, and the general public – America in the World War I Era. Camp newspapers make important original source material—much of it written by soldiers for soldiers—readily available for research.

The success of any nation’s arms has been due largely to the fortitude of its women. What we of the present day know as morale and which is maintained by large organizations in and out of the army, was just as important a factor in the years that have gone as it is today. But then there were no well organized bodies to see to it that our soldiers were kept in good spirits and guided in the right paths. The burden of the task lay with the women of our country.

It was their bravery at the parting, their cheerfulness in adversity, their fortitude in bereavement, their happiness in victory which inspired men to do or die, and which has demonstrated that “they also serve who stand and wait.” The ancient Spartan mother said to her son when he left her to do battle for Sparta, “Return with your shield or on it.” Human nature has not changed a great deal in the last two thousand years, and although the mother of today does not say so in so many words to her son, when he goes forth to battle, “acquit yourself honorably or do not return home,” she teaches him from childhood the value of bravery and the wretchedness of the coward.If he is spared by the God of Battle and comes back to her wounded or crippled for life, he is received with the same tenderness that she gave him in the first years of his earthly existence. If he does not return she consoles herself with the thought that he has done his duty as a man should, and looks forward to the time when she shall meet him where there shall be no more strife and where they can together enjoy the reward for their sacrifices.

Within the past few decades, there has been a wonderful change in the attitude of society toward woman. When our forefathers were struggling with a tyrant for the independence of their adopted homeland, and when our country was in the throes of internecine strife, the women who were at home were of the type that we have come to know as “the clinging vine” species. That is to say, they had been led to believe by hundreds of years of precedent that their place was strictly in the home and that the affairs of state, which included war, were entirely the interests of the sterner sex .

The presence of a woman in a military camp fifty or a hundred and fifty years ago was prima facie evidence that the woman concerned was not a desirable character. Men had not yet learned that both sexes are capable of doing the same kind of work to a large extent. Men had for so long shielded the women that their assistance in the business of war was considered negligible. The home was the proper sphere for woman, and if she sallied forth from the home she not only disgraced herself but insulted the capability of man to take care of himself.

Hundreds of thousands of veterans of the present war are ready and willing to testify that the women who followed our armies to their training camps and even across the ocean did as much toward winning the war as did the men who actually fought on the front.

The American Red Cross has just despatched to Serbia a group of nurses and doctors whose efforts will lie in saving children in that country from the present scourge of typhus. The photograph shows the medical unit on board the S. S. President Wilson just before the ship sailed.

Nurses Sail For Serbia To Nurse Children

Nurses Sail For Serbia To Nurse Children

When the final accounting for services rendered shall be made the Army Nurse will find a wonderful balance on the credit side of her account. The sacrifices of the specially trained women who went wherever our soldiers went and ministered to them in their illnesses with tender hands, and in soft voices spoke to them of home and mother, is one of the bright and shining marks which shall stand out forever in the history of the great war. Thousands of these brave women went overseas and many of them, falling victims to the insidious diseases which beset the war-torn country in which they labored, shall never return. They sleep in simple cross-marked graves beside the men to whom they ministered and who blessed them with their last breath.

Source: The Merritt Dispatch, August 8, 1919

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