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Women, War, and the Home Front

This Exhibit Contains 18 Items


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Item 14805

Joan of Arc saved France, World War I poster, c. 1918

Joan of Arc saved France, World War I poster, c. 1918 / Maine Historical Society

When the U.S. entered the Great War in 1917, three years after European hostilities began, the government undertook a huge public information campaign to gain public support for the war effort.

One aspect of that campaign was an emotional appeal to Americans to buy war bonds.

Treasury Secretary William McAdoo once told a group that not buying bonds was equivalent to supporting the Germans.

Some broadsides were aimed particularly at women.

 

Item 15108

The greatest mother in the world, World War 1 poster,  ca. 1917

The greatest mother in the world, World War 1 poster, ca. 1917 / Maine Historical Society

Women's roles in the war were not limited to buying bonds. The importance of Red Cross nurses also was promoted in government posters.

Note that women were depicted not in military uniform or even at the front, but in their more traditional role as mother.

 

Item 15692

Jane Jeffrey, 1919

Jane Jeffrey, 1919 / Maine Historical Society

Jane Jeffrey (1881-1960), a British citizen and registered nurse who had been living in Massachusetts caring for a sick relative, volunteered in October 1917 as a Red Cross Nurse.

Jeffrey was sent to Bordeaux, France, where she served before being transferred to a military hospital in Jouy-sur-Marne.

She found difficult conditions. Tents housed the hospital wards. There was no plumbing. Wounded soliders arrived in large numbers, strainiing the ability of doctors and nurses to treat them.

 

Item 15695

Distinguished Service Cross case, 1919

Distinguished Service Cross case, 1919 / Maine Historical Society

During the second battle of the Marne, in July 1918, Germans fired on the military hospital.

Jeffrey was seriously wounded by shrapnel in her back and doctors determined that her injuries were too serious to warrant help from the over-taxed surgical staff.

She demanded -- and received -- treatment.

 

Item 15693

Jane Jeffrey Distinguished Service Cross, 1919

Jane Jeffrey Distinguished Service Cross, 1919 / Maine Historical Society

While recovering in Auteuil, France, Jane Jeffrey was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross -- an unusual honor for a woman.

Congress created the Distinguished Service Cross July 9, 1918, and awarded them to World War I military personnel for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an armed enemy of the United States.

 

Item 15691

Jane Jeffrey citation, 1918

Jane Jeffrey citation, 1918 / Maine Historical Society

Jeffrey received further treatment in an American convalescent home. While there, she was offered a job as a nurse at the Poland Spring House by E.P. Ricker, proprietor of the resort.

At Poland Spring, she met Ricker's brother, Alvan Bolster Ricker. The two were married.

Jane Jeffrey Ricker was active in the Poland Spring community and her bequests provided funds for a library building bearing her husband's name.

Note that the certificate was intended for men and the "him" and "his" have been crossed out to make it appropriate for a woman.

 

Item 9817

MCS in front of Local Red Cross Office

MCS in front of Local Red Cross Office / Margaret Chase Smith Library

Some women also volunteered to help the Red Cross at home.

Here, in 1917, Margaret Chase, age 19, stands in front of the Skowhegan Red Cross office, where she worked as a volunteer collecting medical supplies for
the troops.

The young volunteer, later known as Margaret Chase Smith, was a U.S. Representative, then U.S. Senator from Maine, where she worked on military matters.

 

Item 15105

Oh, boy! that's the girl, World War 1 poster, 1918

Oh, boy! that's the girl, World War 1 poster, 1918 / Maine Historical Society

The Red Cross was but one form of service for women in World War I.

Another was the Salvation Army. This poster honored Salvation Army "lassies," who provided support services to soldiers.

 

Item 14774

Navy plea for binoculars, 1917

Navy plea for binoculars, 1917 / Maine Historical Society

Americans who did not volunteer for the Red Cross or military duty still could help the war effort.

As this Navy poster suggests, the military needed binoculars and other equipment. People were asked to loan the equipment to the Navy -- but told they might not get it back.

 

Item 14414

U.S. Navy letter concerning donation of items, ca. 1918

U.S. Navy letter concerning donation of items, ca. 1918 / Maine Historical Society

Loaning items to the government for the war effort was probably the most unusual home-front activity undertaken during the Great War.

As a loan -- or possible purchase -- payment, the government sent participants in the program checks for $1.

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Item 14406

Letter of appreciation to Elizabeth Aageson, 1918

Letter of appreciation to Elizabeth Aageson, 1918 / Maine Historical Society

Elizabeth Aageson, a music teacher in Portland, responded to the plea for telescopes, binoculars, chronometers and sextants.

In January 1918, she received a letter of acknowledgment from Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt.

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Item 13952

British Naval and Merchant Telescope, ca. 1850

British Naval and Merchant Telescope, ca. 1850 / Maine Historical Society

Aageson loaned this telescope to the Navy.

Attached to the telescope is a metal tag that reads "Donated to U.S.N. by Miss Elizabeth Aageson 436 St. John Street Portland Me. 1808."

 

Item 14403

Letter concerning return of telescope, ca. 1918

Letter concerning return of telescope, ca. 1918 / Maine Historical Society

Aageson's telescope was returned to her at the end of the war.

There was no documentation of how -- or whether -- the telescope was used.

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Item 14408

Eyes for the Navy Certificate of Acknowledgment, ca. 1918

Eyes for the Navy Certificate of Acknowledgment, ca. 1918 / Maine Historical Society

The image of the blindfolded sailor at the top of the certificate Aageson received was used throughout the public information campaign on posters and other materials to encourage Americans to donate their optical and navigational equipment to the Navy.

Transcription

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Item 8597

Women employees, Portland Company, 1917

Women employees, Portland Company, 1917 / Maine Historical Society

Women workers also aided the war effort.

At the Portland Company, women helped to manufacture the 108-millimeter brass howitzer shells used in the war. These women are posing in front of the shipping and receiving doors at the Portland Company in 1917.

Women worked in a variety of other wartime industries in Maine and elsewhere.

 

Item 15116

Food--don't waste it, World War 1 poster, c. 1917

Food--don't waste it, World War 1 poster, c. 1917 / Maine Historical Society

The government's Committee on Public Information supplied pamphlets about the war effort, speakers called "Four-Minute Men" who discussed the war and what civilians could do, and a variety of other advertising and propaganda to garner public support.

Another thing households -- and particularly women -- could do was conserve food so that the larger stores of provisions could go overseas.

 

Item 15109

Be patriotic - sign your country's pledge to save the food, World War 1 poster, ca. 1918

Be patriotic - sign your country's pledge to save the food, World War 1 poster, ca. 1918 / Maine Historical Society

Patriotism often took the shape of a woman. This was another plea to women to conserve food for the war effort.

Women were asked to sign a pledge to save food.

 

Item 14796

Book solitication poster, ca. 1917

Book solitication poster, ca. 1917 / Maine Historical Society

One other way to support the war effort was to save books that could be sent overseas to soldiers.

This poster encouraging book donations uses a theme of military signals to spell out "s-e-n-d b-o-o-k-s."

 

 

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