Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Women's History Month 2017: Women and the WWI Draft

Library of Congress
Let's start to explore women in the World War I era by using records that involve the men in their lives.

Women leave fewer records behind. They have historically lived lives of domesticity, denied full citizenship and rights until well into the 20th century. So they have not left a multitude of official records.

However, women can be found in the records of the men they are related to. Aside from marriage records, you might find them mentioned in a military pension or a mortgage. So in order to exhaustively research a woman you need to research the men she's related to.

The genealogist's most familiar World War I resource is the World War I Draft Registration available on various genealogy websites. The Draft Registration is one of those records that we tend to just use and not study. I highly recommend the book Uncle, We are Ready! Registering America's Men 1917-1918 by John J Newman. This book was published before the WWI draft could easily be searched online but provides historical information about the three draft registrations and all the different types of men who registered (including non-citizens).

Newman begins his book with a  history of the  World War I draft and then explains that:

The means to execute the military census was through use of registration cards. These were designed to determine who was eligible for meeting draft criteria, if occupation or family situation could be cause for exemption, and to determine general physical characteristics and conditions...Men were to be chosen for military service who would impact least the family and society while at the same time proportioning those eligible to the lowest jurisdiction possible. {9}*

This "military census" was done via three different registrations and each registration had its own card. Two of the registrations asked for information on the person's nearest relative.  The first registration didn't ask for information about the nearest relative but it did ask if the man was married or single. So while the first registration provides a clue if the man was married the other two registrations might list a wife, mother, or other female relative.

Additional Resources:

FamilySearch - United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918

FamilySearch Wiki - United States World War I Draft Records

National Archives - World War I Draft Registration Cards

*Newman, John J. Uncle, We Are Ready!: Registering America's Men, 1917-1918.  A Guide to Researching World War I Draft Registration Cards. North Salt Lake, Utah: Heritage Quest, 2001.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Women's History Month 2017: World War I Work Resources

Library of Congress

I've posted some specific occupations in previous posts so I thought I'd provide a list of articles and resources for learning more about women and work during the early 20th century. This will provide a better understanding of the time period and what possible occupations your female ancestor might have had.

Berks History Center - African American Occupations in the 1900s

NCpedia - Women in the 1920s in North Carolina

Wiley Online Library - Women's work in census and survey, 1911-1931

From Mill Town to Board Room: The Rise of Women’s Paid Labor by Dora L Costa

Indiana Magazine of History - Industrial "Girls" in an Early Twentieth-Century Boomtown: Traditions and Change in Fort Wayne, Indiana, 1900—1920

Seattle General Strike Project - Where Women Worked During World War I

Australian Government - Women in wartime

Missouri Over There - US Women's Overseas Service in World War I

International Encyclopedia of the First World War - Women's Mobilization for War

Veterans Affairs Canada - Canada Remembers Women on the Home Front

Monday, March 20, 2017

Women's History Month 2017: Red Cross Nurses

Library of Congress
One of the much-needed roles that women filled during World War I was that of nurse. According to author Gary W. Clark in his book Cruel Irony: Triumphs and Tragedies of a Modern Woman*:

At the war's start, The Red Cross consisted of only 107 chapters throughout the United States; by 1918 they numbered 3,864. More than 18,000 nurses were recruited into the Red Cross, along with 4,800 ambulance drivers. The Red Cross workers provided "medical relief to combat casualties on both sides of the war."

He goes on to point out:

Massive fund drives, parades, recruiting programs, and volunteer activities promoted the need for Red Cross volunteers. Existing nurses joined the Red Cross in mass, causing shortages in hospitals around the country; the number of recruitment activities for nursing students soared.

According to the American Red Cross website:  "... the Nursing Service greatly expanded with the coming of hostilities. Its principal task became to provide trained nurses for the U.S. Army and Navy. The Service enrolled 23,822 Red Cross nurses during the war. Of these, 19,931 were assigned to active duty with the Army, Navy, U.S. Public Health Service, and the Red Cross overseas. The Red Cross also enrolled and trained nurses’ aides to help make up for the shortage of nurses on the home front due to the war effort."

Obviously, this work was not without its dangers. 400 American Red Cross workers including 296 lost their lives during their service.

  • Was your female ancestor a nurse? Did she serve in the Red Cross?
  • Have you looked at possible home sources like a uniform or photos?
  • Have you searched the available records? (See Additional Resources)

Additional Resources:

American Red Cross - World War I and the American Red Cross
Library of Congress - Health and Medicine: Red Cross and World War I - US, American Red Cross Nurse Files, 1916-1959
National Archives - Records of The American Red Cross 1881-2008

*Cruel Irony: Triumphs and Tragedies of a Modern Woman by Gary W Clark