Friday, March 31, 2017

Women's History Month 2017: A Bibliography

Library of Congress

Thank you so much for joining me for this month long look at our World War I era female ancestors. I hope you found something of use and are inspired to tell the story of your female ancestor's  lives. Below is a bibliography for additional resources and history.

Brown, Carrie. Rosie's Mom: Forgotten Women Workers of the First World War. Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press, 2002.

Brown, Nikki L. M. Private Politics and Public Voices: Black Women's Activism from World War I to the New Deal. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006.

Early, Frances H, and Frances H. Early. A World Without War: How U.S. Feminists and Pacifists Resisted World War I. Syracuse, N.Y: Syracuse University Press, 1997.

Ebbert, Jean, and Marie-Beth Hall. The First, the Few, the Forgotten: Navy and Marine Corps Women in World War I. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2002.

Gavin, Lettie. American Women in World War I: They Also Served. Niwot, Colorado: University Press of Colorado, 1997.

Graham, John W. The Gold Star Mother Pilgrimages of the 1930s: Overseas Grave Visitations by Mothers and Widows of Fallen U.S. World War I Soldiers. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland & Co, 2005.

Greenwald, Maurine W. Women, War, and Work: The Impact of World War I on Women Workers in the United States. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1980.

Hall, Margaret, Margaret R. Higonnet, and Susan Solomon. Letters and Photographs from the Battle Country: The World War I Memoir of Margaret Hall. , 2014.

Hayden-Smith, Rose. Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs of World War I. Jefferson, North Carolina : McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2014.

Haytock, Jennifer A. At Home, at War: Domesticity and World War I in American Literature. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2003.

Higonnet, Margaret R. Lines of Fire: Women Writers of World War I. New York, N.Y: Plume, 1999.

Jensen, Kimberly. Mobilizing Minerva: American Women in the First World War. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008.

Kennedy, Kathleen. Disloyal Mothers and Scurrilous Citizens: Women and Subversion During World War I. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.

Schneider, Dorothy, and Carl J. Schneider. Into the Breach: American Women Overseas in World War I. New York: Viking, 1991.

Steinson, Barbara J. American Women's Activism in World War I. New York: Garland Pub, 1982.

Thom, Deborah. Nice Girls and Rude Girls: Women Workers in World War I. London: New York, 1998.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Women's History Month 2017: 1920 Census

By 1920 the Great War was over and life was getting back to normal. Change was in the air and the Roaring 20's were on the horizon.

The 1920 US Census provides a look at our ancestor's life after the war and provides the opportunity to better understand their place in time.

I realize all family historians have used the 1920 census but I urge you to explore some of the books and websites below that provide analysis of census data. So many times we just use certain records without a full understanding of them. The following should help.

Additional Resources:

US Census Bureau – 1920 Overview 
US Census Bureau – Census of Population and Housing, 1920
Cyndi’s List – 1920 US Federal Census 
United States Department of Agriculture – 1920 Census Publications
University of Minnesota – Minnesota Population Schedule – 1920 Census: Instructions to Enumerators
Slate The Vault – Vintage Infographics: Where Women Worked In 1920
Facts About Working Women (1925) 
ICPSR – Puerto Rico Census Project , 1920 
Racial Reorganization and the United States Census 1850-1930: Mulattoes, Half-Breeds, Mixed Parentage, Hindoos, and the Mexican Race 
Princeton University Library - The United States Economic Census: 1920s 

The Blind Population of the United States, 1920: A Statistical Analysis of the Data Obtained at the Fourteenth Decennial Census. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off, 1928.

Carpenter, Niles. Immigrants and Their Children, 1920: A Study Based on Census Statistics Relative to the Foreign Born and the Native White of Foreign or Mixed Parentage. Washington: Govt. Print. Off, 1927.

Goldenweiser, E A, and Leon E. Truesdell. Farm Tenancy in the United States: An Analysis of the Results of the 1920 Census Relative to Farms Classified by Tenure Supplemented by Pertinent Data from Other Sources. Washington: G.P.O, 1924.

Hill, Joseph A. Women in Gainful Occupations, 1870 to 1920: A Study of the Trend of Recent Changes in the Numbers, Occupational Distribution, and Family Relationship of Women Reported in the Census As Following a Gainful Occupation. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Office, 1929.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Women's History Month 2017: Suffrage

Life, July 1915
What does having full citizenship mean? For family historians, a woman's lack of full citizenship can mean fewer records for documenting female ancestors. In the years after  the Great War, women were still fighting for their citizenship rights including the right to vote.

The fight for the right to vote had been a long battle. Women had  been fighting for suffrage (since at least 1848) and after all they did for the war effort, support for their cause increased. But, there was still some more fighting to be done.

A look at the fight for suffrage in the few years after the war until women were granted the right to vote could be covered in a book or movie (and it has). Suffice it to say that US women gained the national right to vote in 1920 with the passing of the 19th amendment. However, women in US territories didn't get the vote until later (For example, some Puerto Rican women received the right to vote in 1929 and full suffrage was granted in 1935).Women in the UK received partial suffrage in 1918 (they had to be 30 years of age and either have property or university degree) and full suffrage in 1928. Starting in 1916 and continuing until 1940 women in Canada started voting depending on the Province they lived in (and various qualifications).

An important aspect of researching a female ancestor in this time period should be learning more about voting rights where she lived and extant voting records.

  • When was the first election your female ancestor voted in? Was it a local or national election?
  • Do you have any home sources that suggest membership in a Suffrage (or Anti-Suffrage) organization?

Additional Resources:
Gena's Genealogy - Women's History Month 2015: Women's Suffrage
Gena's Genealogy - Women's History Month 2016: Tip #17 When Did She Vote?
National Women's History Museum - Reforming Their World: Women in the Progressive Era

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Women's History Month 2017: Influenza

Influenza! How to avoid it! How to care for those who have it! ... What to do until the doctor comes! / Oakland Health Dept., Vault B-168, courtesy, California Historical Society, Vault_B-168.jpg.

I had a little bird
Its name was Enza
I opened the window
And in-flu-enza

According to, the Spanish flu of 1918 killed “an approximate 50 million people, nearly 675,000 in the United States alone. 20%-40% of the worldwide population grew ill.”

“Illness from the 1918 flu pandemic, also known as the Spanish flu, came on quickly. Some people felt fine in the morning but died by nightfall. People who caught the Spanish flu but did not die from it often died from complications caused by bacteria, such as pneumonia.” Mortality rates among healthy adults between the ages of 20-50 were the highest.

How did the Influenza pandemic of 1918 affect your family? Did your family have a soldier who died from the flu? What about those on the home front? Local newspapers will tell the story of how bad the flu was in your ancestor's community. Everyone knew someone with the flu and precautions became an everyday part of life. Avoiding group settings and wearing masks became routine. 

Have you thought about telling your family's influenza story?

March 11, 1918     In the morning, a soldier at Fort Riley, Kansas reports of having fever, sore throat, and headache. By noon that day 100 soldiers are ill. By the end of the week 500.*

September 28, 1918  First Alabama case reported in Huntsville.**

October 13 1918   Huntsville, Alabama left with one pharmacist and no physicians because of the flu**

October 31, 1918   “The crime rate in Chicago drops by 43 percent. Authorities attributed the drop to the toll that influenza was taking on the city’s potential lawbreakers.”*

December 4, 1918   An estimated 300,000 to 350,000 civilian deaths can be attributed to the influenza and pneumonia since September 15. The War Department indicates 20,000 soldiers have died from the epidemic.*

1919 The epidemic continues.*

Additional Resources:

Alabama Public Health – 1918 Influenza in Alabama Timeline 
American Red Cross – Red Cross Response To One Of The Biggest Disease Outbreaks In History                                                            – Pandemic Flu History                                                        
Iowa Pathways – The Great Flu 
Vermont Historical Society – The 1918 Flu Epidemic 


Barry, John M. The Great Influenza:The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History. New York:Penguin Books, 2005.

Crosby, Alfred W. America’s Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918. New York:Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Collier, Richard. The Plague of the Spanish Lady: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919. London:Macmillan, 1974.

Kolata, Gina. Flu:The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused It. New York:Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999.

Phillips, Howard and Killingray, David (eds). The Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19:New Perspectives. New York: Routledge, 2003.

*“Timeline: Influenza Across America 1918,” American Experience ( accessed 2 November 2016).
**“1918 Influenza in Alabama Timeline,” Alabama Public Health ( accessed 2 November 2016).

Monday, March 27, 2017

Women's History Month 2017: World War I's Surplus Women

Women and men in uniform, circa 1917. Center for Jewish History.

I've mentioned in previous posts that by the time the US entered World War I, its allies had been fighting for three years. That three years had taken a toll. Obviously, the number of causalities were much greater for those countries and would affect those left behind in the years after the war.

We see this affect with the British loss of  an estimated 886,000 lives.* When a country has such a great loss and a great number injured, what happens? That loss affects life after the war including a gap in the availability of eligible men to marry. This gap can be seen in newspaper ads of the time for women looking for husbands and in the 1921 census which shows the gap in the number of unmarried men and women. Arguments over just how many 'surplus women' in the end don't matter as author Virginia Nicholson writes,

Whatever the case, it is beyond doubt that the war has a seismic effect on marital behaviours, that all contemporary accounts take the man shortage for granted, and that many women themselves perceived the courtship arena as a competitive background, where defeat was perdition. The press played its usual mischievous part in this, by whipping up a frenzy over the 1921 Census figures, which revealed that there were 1,720,802 more females than males in the population...Hysterical headlines about the "Problem of the Surplus Women - Two Million who can never Become Wives...' were hardly conducive to morale among the husband-hunters of the day. In the event it appears that more than a million women of that generation were never to marry or bear children.**

Women who wanted a husband and family may have had to give up on that dream. Some may have found themselves competing over a small number of single men in their village. Others may have become reluctant mistresses to men who had their pick of women. Other options included emigration or life-long spinsterhood.

Additional Resources:

The National Archives (UK) - Deaths in the First and Second World War

World War 1 Centenary - ‘Surplus Women’: a legacy of World War One?

Daily - Condemned to be virgins: The two million women robbed by the war

Nicholson, Virginia. Singled Out: How Two Million Women Survived Without Men After the First World War. Bath: Windsor/Paragon, 2008.

*The National Archives (UK) - Deaths in the First and Second World War. I've seen this number as low as 700,00 and as high as 1 million.

**Nicholson, Virginia. Singled Out: How Two Million Women Survived Without Men After the First World War. Bath: Windsor/Paragon, 2008. Page xiii.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Women's History Month 2017: After the War

We've explored many different roles women took during World War I this Women's History Month. So for this last remaining week I want to explore some of the aftermath of the war. It's my belief that in order to research your female ancestor during the First World War, you need to take a look at her life before and after the war.

What are some of the results of the war? The question of women's citizenship comes up via the fight for suffrage  and the end of derivative citizenship. Women's choices in regards to marriage, in one country, are diminished. And of course, the Roaring '20s is known for temperance, jazz, and a "new" woman.

Additional Resources:
1914 1918 International Encyclopedia of the First World War

The National World War I Museum

British Library - World War One

Library and Archives Canada - First World War

Friday, March 24, 2017

Women's History Month 2017: Gold Star Mothers

American losses in World War I were modest compared to those of other belligerents, with 116,516 deaths and approximately 320,000 sick and wounded of the 4.7 million men who served. The USA lost more personnel to disease (63,114) than to combat (53,402), largely due to the influenza epidemic of 1918.*

The United States entered the war late, nevertheless it would still feel the bitter sting of  the loss that happens with war. That loss had different consequences for each country involved. Great Britain lost a generation of men which in turn affected civilian life (more on that later).

It's not unusual for those that suffer a common loss to find each other. Those US women who lost sons and husbands during World War I were no different and their grief would be felt again and again in later wars.

Out of grief, The American Gold Star Mothers was founded. ""Who is a Gold Star Mother?" During the early days of World War I, a Blue Star was used to represent each person, man or woman in the Military Service of the United States. As the war progressed and men were killed in combat, others wounded and died of their wounds or disease, there came about the accepted usage of the Gold Star."**

You can read more about the founding of the Gold Star Mothers at their website. Some Gold Star Mothers would eventually get a government sponsored trip to Europe to see the final resting place of their son or husband. You can read more about these trips in the National Archives magazine Prologue.

  • Do you have a family member killed during World War I?
  • Have you ordered their military service record?
  • Have you conducted a search for Gold Star Mothers in the  National Archives Catalog?
  • Have you searched the newspaper?
  • Was a female ancestor a member of the American Gold Star Mothers?

Additional Resources:
GenealogyBank Blog - Gold Star Mother's Day
American Gold Star Mothers, Inc.
FamilySearch Family History Research Wiki - United States World War I Casualty Records

Graham, John W. The Gold Star Mother Pilgrimages of the 1930s: Overseas Grave Visitations by Mothers and Widows of Fallen U.S. World War I Soldiers. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland & Co, 2005.

*"War Loses (USA)," 1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War ( accessed 23 March 2017).

**"History," American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. ( accessed 24 March 2017).

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Women's History Month 2017: Searching for Her in His Military Records

Have you ordered the military records for your World War I soldier? You may be surprised at who else shows up in those records.

There are some surprises in my paternal great-grandfather's military records; he served in the Navy right after the end of World War I. Yes, his service is documented in those records but the names of three women in his life also appear.

He entered the service while living with his parents. Not surprisingly, his mother is listed as the next of kin and the beneficiary of his insurance. Both of his parents were alive at this time but his father's name does not appear on these records.

What other women appear on these records? While my great-grandfather was in the Navy, he met and fell in love with my great-grandmother and they married.

But her name does not appear in these records. Information about their marriage does, but not her name.

However, when it came time to be discharged he wanted to be discharged in California, where his new wife and her family lived. So he wrote a letter to his commanding officer explaining the situation. He also included a statement from two witnesses who verified that his wife lived in California and they had established a home there. The two witnesses? His wife's mother and sister.

Always get the military records. There is often information that you didn't expect to find. If you're lucky, that information may include the women in his life.

Additional Resources:

National Archives - Research in Military Records

FamilySearch - World War I United States Military Records

Library and Archives Canada - Personnel Records of the First World War

The National Archives (UK) - How to look for records of First World War

Schaefer, Christina K. The Great War: A Guide to the Service Records of All the World's Fighting Men and Volunteers. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing, 2006.

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

Friday, March 17, 2017

Women's History Month 2017: Munition Workers

The Bridgeport times and evening farmer. (Bridgeport, Conn.), 23 Sept. 1918. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
The Kaiser doesn't care who he hits, old, young -women or children- they are all alike to him. That's the kind of man we are fighting. Why don't you women retaliate? You can fight at the front and live [at] home by enlisting for pleasant easy work in the nearest munition factory. Gen Pershing wants more men, so Uncle Sam says to you "Making munitions is woman's job-will you go to work today and hasten the end of this terrible struggle? 

--A Message from the Front to the Women of Bridgeport.*

Women's work during war has included munitions work, even during the Civil War. Munitions work was seen as something women were capable of doing in the absence of men. While information and photos of British women who did munitions work seems more plentiful online, at least to me, there are some sources you can find for American women.

The best sources  in research are materials written at the time of an event or even shortly thereafter. Studies and histories are great for getting a sense of life during your ancestor's time. If you think your ancestor was a munitions worker you may be interested in Women as Munition Makers. A Study of Conditions in Bridgeport, Connecticut by Amy Hewes. Russell Sage Foundation (1917).

This booklet is an interesting look at women munition workers in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The majority (1/2) of the women interviewed were young (18-24) and unmarried. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, they reported first working at ages younger than 12 years of age. {26}

One woman interviewed for the study gave a glimpse of what it was like to do her job. "Twenty-one-year-old Nellie, even though she came fresh from a New Hampshire farm, found the eight-hour day's work on the heading machine very heavy. "The vibrations of the big machine shake your body so that after a few hours you're all tired out and nervous. There never is a day when I'm not tired at night, and I'm as strong as most."" {44} There's no doubt that the work was long and difficult. This study of 133 women found that only 35 worked less than 47 hours a week. 31 worked 55 hours or more.{44}

The book ends with reports on munition workers in England and France and some of their recommendations. The US was a late participant to World War I, American women's counterparts had been working these jobs for years. The toll on those women had been noticed and in some cases adjustments were made to add improvements to factory work.

Was your ancestor a munitions worker? One way to get a sense of that is to search the history for her locality to see if there were any munition factories nearby.

*Brown, Carrie. Rosie's Mom: Forgotten Women Workers of the First World War. Boston, Mass.: Northeastern University Press, 2002, page 150.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Women's History Month 2017: Women Streetcar Conductors

New York Tribune, June 23, 1918, Page 6. Chronicling America

Just like the railroad during World War I, other transportation companies provided women new opportunities that allowed them to make more money than they could earn doing traditional "women's work." In the newspaper article cited above it lists the pay of women conductors as being the same as male conductors in New York, $18.90/week.

Author Maurine Weiner Greenwald provides a few insights about women streetcar conductors in her book Women, War, and Work: the Impact of World War I on Women Workers in the United States*:

  • From late 1917 through the fall of 1919, women conducted trolleys in Brooklyn, New York City, St. Louis, Camden and Elizabeth, Newark, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Duluth, Cleveland, Detroit, and Kansas City. {146}

  • By 1930, the United States Census officially recorded 35,680 men employed as streetcar conductors, but only seventeen women. {184} 
While during World War I thousands of women were conductors, once the war was over, these women were encouraged to go back to their homes allowing men to reclaim their jobs. It's also important to remember that privately owned cars would have been a popular alternative to public transportation and so the need for streetcars also decreased.

As you can imagine these women were not welcome with open arms by the male conductors and their story has been told in various books about women's employment. Women would go on to work in public transportation during World War II and beyond in places that still used streetcars. One of the more famous female conductors was writer Maya Angelou (you can read her story here). 

  • Do you have photos of your female ancestor in a uniform or posed by a streetcar?
  • Have you searched the history of streetcars, trolleys and bus service in the place she lived?
  • Did she later apply for Social Security? Do you have a copy of her application?

Additional Resources:

ArchiveGrid (search for the name of the company she worked for or the city she lived in)

WorldCat (search for books on women working during World War I)

Chronicling America

May 11, 1918: Women Hired as Streetcar Conductors (Duluth)

How A 1919 New York Law Enacted To Help Women, Ended Up Costing Them Their Jobs

*Greenwald, Maurine W. Women, War, and Work: The Impact of World War I on Women Workers in the United States. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Women's History Month: She Was Working on the Railroad

Women railroad hostlers, Eng. Library of Congress

World War I era women had to step in to the jobs men left to join the military. While some of the work they did were jobs we would expect to see women engaged in, some of what they did was non-traditional which gave women the never before opportunity to work for higher wages.

According to Maurine Weiner Greenwald in Women, War, and Work : The Impact of World War I on Women Workers in the United States:

Had women been asked during the First World War which industry offered the most favorable wages and working conditions, they surely would have chosen railroad work....All wage earners were granted an eight-hour day, decent wages, a well-designed grievance procedure, and a seniority system for regulating promotions and layoffs...The war emergency provided the stimulus for a national policy of equal pay for equal work under which women could gain entrance into unconventional employment, enjoy occupational advancement within the ranks of railroad labor, and gain trade protection as well. These benefits attracted tens of thousands of women to the industry.{87}

Greenwald goes on to provide statistics gathered by the Railroad Administration. The data from January 1918 and October 1920 showed that women's employment increased 47.2% from 61,162 to 90,052 women railroad workers.{93} Obviously, women held railroad office jobs during this time period but they also did non-traditional jobs like welding.

  • Did your female ancestor live close to a railroad depot or hub?
  • Do you own home sources that suggest she worked for a railroad?
  • Did she apply for Social Security in the 1930s? Do you have her application?

Additional Resources:
I posted previously about researching railroad ancestors, including women. You can find more links here.

Interail Incorporated - Rail Life Blog - Women’s History Month – Women and the Railroad Industry

JSTOR - Women Workers and World War I: The American Railroad Industry, a Case Study

"One Family's Railroad Story" and "Family Lines" in Trains magazine. April 2017 (Although this is focused on men who worked for the railroad, there's some great information).

* Greenwald, Maurine W. Women, War, and Work: The Impact of World War I on Women Workers in the United States. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Women's History Month 2017: Where Did She Work?

Library Company of Philadelphia via Flickr

This week I want to concentrate on "women's work" during World War I. We've taken a look at researching employment in the classifieds but do you know what kinds of  jobs women worked during this time? Let's take this week to explore a few examples and where records may be found. 

Do you have a World War I era female ancestor who worked during the war?

  • Have you sent for her Social Security application (If she lived past 1936 and applied for Social Security payments)?
  • Have you searched the newspapers?
  • Have you looked for home sources that might show evidence of work like a photo of her dressed in a uniform or posing with co-workers?
  • Have you searched city directories?

Additional Resources:
FamilySearch Family History Research Wiki- US Social Security Records for Genealogists

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Women's History Month 2017: Daughters of the American Revolution in WWI

Add caption
As I've been researching sources describing women during World War I, I've found so many wonderful items online on websites like Internet Archive. Yesterday's list of women's organizations and groups reminded me that I had focused on obvious groups like The Salvation Army or the Red Cross. I forgot that one needs to look at the work of groups whose members might have assisted in the war effort as part of their overall benevolent works. So today I thought I'd mention the Daughters of the American Revolution.

During World War I, DAR members stepped up to the plate and provided various types of assistance to aid in the war effort. They did everything from supporting French orphans, collaborating with the Red Cross, providing funds,  educating members about conserving resources, and encouraging members to volunteer. One of their projects included providing chickens to France. "Daughters collected dimes and quarters for the cause and in return gave contributors buttons reading "I have a chicken in France.""* The DAR magazine reported on these efforts in columns like "Work of the Chapters." Know what chapter your DAR ancestor was a member of? These columns can provide a look at what they were doing for the war effort.

This particular issue's column (September 1918) includes page upon page of work done by chapters including photos of members. This issue also provides more details of war work in the column DAR War Service Department . 

  • Do you have a DAR member in your family tree? Were they a member during 1917-1918?
  • What chapter did they belong to?
  • Any home sources that document their DAR membership?
  • Have you tried reconstructing their life as a DAR member?

Additional Resources:

Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine on Internet Archive
Daughters of the American Revolution
Google Books

*"At the Ready. Daughters Aid in War Recovery," Daughters of the American Revolution ( accessed 12 March 2017).

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Women's History Month 2017: Groups and Organizations

National Library of Medicine via Flickr the Commons

I've mentioned some of the groups that were around during World War I and what women were doing as part of those groups. As I was reading the book I mentioned yesterday in the Published Sources post, I went through the index and jotted down just some of the women's groups mentioned.

Look in the histories and directories of your ancestor's hometown and see if these groups were part of her community. Maybe she was a member?

Society of Colonial Dames
Navy Comforts Committee
Young Women's Christian Association
Centennial Club
Housewives League
Federation of Women's Clubs
Army Comfort League
American Red Cross
National League for Women's Service
Girls' Patriotic League (National League for Women's Service)
Women's Committee, Council of National Defense
Kiwanis Club
Fatherless Children of France Society
Liberty Loan Campaign
Daughters of the American Revolution
United Daughters of the Confederacy
Council of Jewish Women
The Ladies' Heritage Association
Salvation Army
Equal Suffrage Association
Council of Catholic Women
Circle of King's Daughters
Independent Daughters of  Confederacy
Women's Christian Temperance Union
American Legion Auxiliary

  • What groups were your female ancestors a member of?
  • Consider that multiple generations of women may have belonged to the same group.
  • What home sources (photos, correspondence, ephemera, memorabilia, jewelry) suggest membership in a group or organization?

Additional Resources:
Internet Archive - World War Women (search results)

Friday, March 10, 2017

Women's History Month 2017: Published Sources

Davidson County Women in the World War 1914-1919 via Internet Archive. Page 201

I'm always amazed at what gems exist in libraries, archives, and digitized book collections. I find items and think "who knew that such a treasure of names existed?" So today I'm suggesting that you concentrate on printed sources for your ancestor's hometown.

Consider this great book titled Davidson County Women in the World War 1914-1919 by Rose Long Gilmore. This Tennessee book is a huge directory of women's names and images.

In the Foreword the author begins:

The title chosen for this volume is "Davidson County Women in the World War," although it is a very complete record of World War work done by women's organizations throughout the State of Tennessee, inasmuch as the State headquarters of all patriotic organizations was located in Davidson County. 

She continues with:

The "Distinguished Service Cross" merited by the women of the Advisory Council is the satisfaction that they have passed on to future generations a record of the part their ancestors played in the first war known in history where women were drafted into service. Not one woman whose name appears in connection with the compiling or publishing of this volume, which required months and months of labor, has received any compensation for her services.

Let me just say, this book is fabulous. It has tons of names but it also provides images. Categories list women who were involved in all kinds of work including the seemingly trivial like "Excellent Knitters" and the youngest and oldest knitter. There's even photos of babies born while their dads were fighting overseas! You will most likely recognize many of the organisations mentioned in this book including, the American Red Cross, Colonial Dames, and the Kiwanis. And just a note, while this book is largely about white women, there are a few pages about African American women and their contributions.

Even though you may not have Tennessee ancestors, the campaigns, committees and organizations involved will provide you with ideas about your own female ancestor.

Seek out digitized book websites, and libraries local to where your ancestor lived (public, academic, state) and see what you can find written by those who lived through the war.

  • Have you searched for histories for the place your ancestor lived for the years 1914-1920?

  • Have you identified all the libraries and archives where she lived?

Additional Resources:

Philadelphia in the World War
Gold Star Honor Role (Indiana)
Twin Falls County in the War (Idaho)
North Carolina Women in the War

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Women's History Month 2017: Help Wanted Female

When people think of women working to help the war effort, most conjure up Rosie the Riveter and the work of women during World War II. Factory work, driving ambulances, building ships and planes, working to help the home front while the men were fighting.

If you take the same image of women working over 20 years earlier, you have the American home front during World War I. Yes, women were doing the same types of jobs during World War I as their daughters would later do during World War II. Let's be clear, women have always had to work outside of the home. Not all women were able to tend to only home and families. Lower income women, immigrants, and women of color have always worked. But during wartime, even more women work. During World War I the message was clear, work until the boys come home.

One place to learn more about what jobs were available to our female ancestors during World War I is to read the local newspaper classified ads. During war time you may notice that the types of jobs available change and that women or girls are specifically marketed to. Remember that during this time Help Wanted classifieds are sorted by gender.

  • Did your female ancestor work during WWI? (Remember this could mean any woman over the age of 16 years)

  • Do you have photos of her working or in a uniform?

  • Any home sources that include work paperwork?

  • Did she later sign up for Social Security? Do you have her Social Security application?

Additional Resources:

Chronicling America

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Women's History Month 2017: Salvation Army's Doughnut Lassies

What's the connection between The Salvation Army, women, and World War I?

The Salvation Army, founded by William Booth, began its ministries as the Christian Mission in England in 1865. The name was eventually changed to the Salvation Army to reflect their somewhat military style. The Salvation Army’s theology was radical. Booth believed that people who were homeless and poor needed the gospel of Jesus Christ but churches did not welcome these people in, so Booth decided he would. The Army was introduced in 1879 to America when teenager Eliza Shirley held the first Salvation Army meeting in Philadelphia.  Her father, who had previously immigrated to the United States, had written her about the need in America for the Army due to the ungodliness found here.

World War I

"During World War I, the Salvation Army sent approximately 500 volunteers to Europe who helped with everything from teaching Bible classes to playing music, providing meeting space for religious services, and cooking and serving food. These men and women followed the soldiers to the battle front and were often in danger as they served."*

Those women in the Salvation Army met a huge need on the front lines in Europe. Not only were they nourishing the soldiers with food but they were providing a friendly face during a time when many thought they would die. This was hard work the Salvation Army Lassies did. Yes, they were serving doughnuts and coffee but they were on the front lines, making doughnuts and coffee day and night. 

Researching Salvation Army Ancestors

I spent some time researching my paternal 2nd great-grandfather who was a member of the Salvation Army. One of the more disappointing pieces of news I learned as I was researching my ancestor is that the Salvation Army was not as diligent about membership records as other Christian traditions. It was common for individual Salvation Army churches to throw away records when a new officer took over. So if your ancestor was only a member and not working on becoming an officer, you may find little to nothing. But if you ancestor traveled with the Salvation Army or was trying to become an officer, you may have better luck.

The Salvation Army Archives and Research Center in Alexandria, Virginia holds records, periodicals, and photographs documenting the history of the Salvation Army in the United States. While they don’t hold membership records for all of those involved in the Salvation Army, they do have some. They also have the official Salvation Army periodical, The War Cry.  Microfilmed copies of The War Cry dating back to 1884 are available through interlibrary loan. This periodical may not mention your ancestor, but it can provide you social context. 

The Salvation Army’s Southern Historical Center located in Atlanta, Georgia is a museum and research facility that showcases the work of the Salvation Army in the Southern Untied States. The research library and the services offered through that library can help the family researcher possibly learn more about their ancestor.  Periodicals, both current and out-of-print, records and photographs are part of this archive.

Don't forget newspaper research. In an article I wrote for the GenealogyBank blog, I found numerous mentions of women passing out doughnuts and coffee for the Salvation Army in Europe. Make sure to search on keywords "Salvation Army" since some of these articles may not mention individual women. 

  • Was your ancestor a member of the Salvation Army?
  • Have you tried using Salvation Army resources?
  • Do you own any photos of her life during WWI?
  • Have you searched for her in the Passport Collection?

Additional Resources:

Salvation Army- Original Salvation Army Donut Recipe & Video

Hallelujah Lads and Lassies: Remaking the Salvation Army in America 1880-1930 by Lillian Taiz, published by the University of North Carolina Press, 2001.

Women in God’s Army: Gender and Equality in the Early Salvation Army by Andrew Mark Eason, published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2003.

*"World War I Articles Recall Memories of Doughnuts & Lassies," GenealogyBank Blog ( accessed 8 March 2017)

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Women's History Month 2017: What Was She Reading?

US National Archives. Flickr the Commons
We've discussed women on the home front taking part in activities like gardening and knitting. I am a big believer in learning about a time period by reading period materials. It's when you take the time to do this that you learn more about what your ancestor was experiencing.

For many of our female ancestors, their faith was an important part of their lives. Faith helped them carry on with their day-to-day lives in an uncertain time. And their faith documented their lives in the form of various records, depending on the denomination or religion. Their faith community may have also been the place where they gathered with others for benevolent works or to prepare to meet the challenges of the day.

So I was curious about some of my female ancestors and went to Internet Archive to see what my Mormon grandmother and great-grandmothers may have been reading about during WWI in the Relief Society Magazine. I was surprised by all the information they would have learned including war news updates, information about charity work with groups like the Red Cross and of course plenty of recipes and instruction regarding food, cooking and preserving.

Some examples of what they may have read include this idea for a knitting bee and a cake recipe that is eggless, milkless, and butterless but does have at least one cup of sugar.

Relief Society Magazine. February 1918, page 85.

This February 1918 issue goes on to provide information about "War Economy in Dress" and where to find Red Cross knitting patterns. In the next month's magazine a pattern for a sleeveless sweater is provided. I could go on and on but suffice it to say that the magazine changed with the needs of the home front. Yes, there were still religious articles but there were was also the addition of special columns devoted to the war and what women could do to help.

  • Have you identified the religious periodicals your ancestor would have read?
  • Have you researched religious records to learn more about her life?
  • What benevolent groups did women from her denomination participate in? Any archival records from 1917-1918 available?  

Additional Resources:
Internet Archive
Google Books
Hathi Trust

Monday, March 06, 2017

Women's History Month 2017: Women's Land Army

I've mentioned in the previous post that when men leave for war, women worked to fill in the gaps. Jobs that were previously believed  not suitable for women were suddenly available to them because of the war. Public transportation, factory work, and agriculture were just a few of the nation's needs to be met. Agriculture was one vital area because we were not only feeding our soldiers and citizens on the home front but also the starving civilians and allied soldiers in Europe.

The Women's Land Army was a civilian group that replaced male farm laborers.
"From 1917 to 1920 the Woman's Land Army brought thousands of city workers, society women, artists, business professionals, and college students into rural America to take over the farm work after men were called to wartime service. These women wore military-style uniforms, lived in communal camps, and did what was considered "men's work"-- plowing fields, driving tractors, planting, harvesting, and hauling lumber."*

The Women's Land Army was modeled after the British version where the young women were referred to as Land Girls. In America they were referred to as "farmerettes" meant to be an unflattering  term stemming from "suffragette." These working women were not initially embraced by male farmers but eventually they received the respect they deserved. Though they worked just as hard as the men they replaced, their jobs were seen as only temporary.(Note that the poster above states "until the boys come  back.")

Women's Land Army of California. Library of Congress. Flickr the Commons

The Women's Land Army didn't just serve during World War I, the next generation of young women also volunteered for farm and timber work during World War II.

  • Do you have photos that suggest your ancestress participated in the Women's Land Army?
  • Have you checked newspapers?
  • Have you checked for job related documents via NARA? Remember this would have been a federal job and NARA archives federal records. One collection I found for the Women's Land Army in Nebraska is found at Kansas City in RG 183

Additional Resources:
My posting about the book Fruits of Victory: The Women's Land Army of American in the Great War

National Archives - Prologue - To the Rescue of the Crops

Smithsonian - World War I 100 Years Later Before Rosie the Riveter, Farmerettes Went to Work

*Elaine F Weiss Fruits of Victory (

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Women's History Month 2017: National League for Woman's Services

Like any war, when the men are called to fight, the women fill in the gaps. Life has to go on at the home front and support services for families and soldiers need to be administered. One of the groups of women that assisted with the war was the National League for Woman's Services.

According to Ida Clyde Clarke's book, American Women and World War,

The object of the National League for Woman's Services is to coordinate and standardize the work of women of America along lines of constructive patriotism; to develop the resources, to promote the efficiency of women in meeting their every-day responsibility to home, to state, to nation and to humanity; to provide organized, trained groups in every community prepared to cooperate with the Red Cross and other agencies in dealing with any calamity-fire, food, famine, economic disorder, etc., and in time of war, to supplement the work of the Red Cross, the Army and Navy, and to deal with questions of "Woman's Work and Woman's Welfare."

I highly recommend reading the Ida Clyde Clarke book because she devotes chapters on what women were doing in each state.

The League worked on all kinds of projects including assisting with the Red Cross knitting effort, training women to be wireless operators, working in motor pools, and staffing clubs and canteens for the soldiers. Women were also trained to take over jobs that men would be leaving in order to join the military. These women worked in the United States and overseas and in some cases wore a military uniform.

  • Was your ancestor a member of the National League for Woman's Services?
  • Have you found a photo of her wearing a military uniform? Here's an example from the US Militaria Forum that includes a pin. 
  • Is there someone in the family that you can interview about your female ancestor's activities during the war?
  • What home sources exist (correspondence, journals, newspaper clippings)?

Additional Resources:

National Archives Unwritten Record Blog - Hidden Women: The Art of WWI Camouflage (Photos)