tv American Women in World War I France CSPAN December 28, 2018 10:05am-11:03am EST
uniquely american institution. premiers wednesday at 8:00 p.m. eastern and pacific on c-span. and be sure to go online at c-span.org/senate to learn more about the program and watch originally full length interviews with senators, view farewell speeches from long serving members, and take a tour inside the senate chamber. the old senate chamber. and other exclusive locations. during the spanish-american war, the ymca initiated a program to recruit women to bring a little bit of home to u.s. troops abroad. in this program, historian kara dixon vuic talked about the women who were sent to france during world war i. she's author of "the girls next door: bringing the home front to the front lines." this is an hour. so on that, it is my
pleasure to introduce our next speaker in our symposium, dr. kara dixon vuic is the lieutenant corporal benjamin w. schmidt professor of war, conflict, and society in 20th century america, a professor at texas christian university. vuic's research focuses on the ways 20th century wars have shaped and been shaped by american society and culture. her work also examines women's military and what are time experiences and the relationship between the u.s. military and gender. she is the author of "officer nurse woman: the army nurse corps in the vietnam war," and "the handbook on gender, war, and the u.s. military." her latest book, "girls next
door," will be released in early 2019. please join had he in welcoming dr. kara dixon vuic. [ applause ] >> hi, good afternoon. thanks for hanging in there with us. i want to say i'm really honored to be here. as lora mentioned, i have a position at tcu named in memory of a tcu student, benjamin schmidt, who joined the marine corps and lost his life in afghanistan in 2011. his parents, his family, a whole host of friends, created this position because as his father says, he knows the cost of war on society. and i think on this 100th anniversary of the commemoration, the armistice, the end of world war i, i think that's a pretty profound task, and i'm honored to be here to be part of that. so i would like to start this afternoon with someone who knew a little bit about that cost of
war, a young woman named emma young dixon. on april 3rd, 1918, a young woman from montclair, new jersey, boarded a ship headed for the war in france. only 26 years old, emma young dixon was both excited and nervous about her impending adventure. her parents accompanied her as she traveled from her home to the new york city dock where they made their final goodbyes and now she was on her own for the first time in her life. feeling very lost and teary, she managed to gather her courage and board the "ss espanya." she confessed, "i buried my face in the orchids gram sent me." pining for her sweetheart, she said, "i almost wished i had stayed at home. when i could see no more between the tears and the rain, i went
to my cabin where i met my roommate." emma did not spend too much time feeling sorry for herself. she quickly developed a stalwart attitude about the dangers that surrounded her. a week into her voyage she casually remarked that four convoys had arrived to escort the ship into the harbor but wryly observed it would take a half an hour for them to torpedo it. she said, "one can only die once anyway." she was one of 3,500 women who went to france, britain, and occupied germany. most went with the ymca. about 100 of them went with the salvation army and were known as lassies at the time, perhaps an odd term today. they were hired to serve doughnuts and open canteens for soldiers in the war. this began a long history of
america sending women to entertain soldiers, sailors, and marines. that's what this is about, something that will start a long history. in world war i, these women were typically in their late 20s. they were for the most part single. and they were overwhelmingly white. there were exactly three african-american women who were sent abroad to work with about 200,000 african-american soldiers who were also sent to the war. this picture is a pretty good depiction of these women. somehow puppies seem to keep making an appearance here in world war i today. but it is quite hilarious that a lot of these group photos like this have these mascots, these dogs do make a frequent appearance. the women opened these huts where you can go, you can buy cigarettes, razors.
you can get a cup of hot cocoa, coffee, get some pen and paper to write home. but most importantly, you can see american girls from home. when conditions of the war permitted, the women operated what they called rolling kitchens. and they take their boilers out in these trucks and go as far forward as conditions will permit but also as far forward as the military will permit. and they serve hot cocoa, they pass out oranges, which were a big hit for men who didn't get fruit all that often. they move out into the field when they can. this, as i said, continues in world war ii with some famous women like marlene dietrich, more commonly women you never heard of who worked with the red cross canteens from europe to the pacific, all over the world. it keeps going in korea, again, marilyn monroe is probably the most famous of these women who went. but much more common were just
women, college graduates from home who joined the red cross, the uso, and that kind of thing. same thing in the vietnam war. they stopped serving coffee in the vietnam war because it was much too hot and started serving kool-aid. it's the same idea, we're going to send women from home to entertain soldiers, provide a brief kind of reminder of home, something different than the war to relieve that boredom and stress. we still do this, though the kinds of entertainment we send have changed dramatically. elmo did not go to vietnam, nor korea, nor the pacific theater. but given the changing demographics of the military today, many more military families, sesame street began a military tour several years ago. we're still sending the dallas cowboy cheerleaders, among other
professional cheerleaders, dancers, et cetera, to war zones all over the middle east. being a texan, i hesitate to mention this, because they'll come and find me for mentioning the dallas cowboy cheerleaders with anything less than respect, but we are still sending peop entertainment of dubious value. why does the military do this? it costs a lot of money, to get these people abroad, to manage the transportation issues you might imagine, security issues you can imagine would be necessary. this is not an easy task. it takes a whole lot of effort. it comes from the top down in the military. this isn't a bunch of gis sitting in france saying, hey, we would really like some girls from home to come over.
it doesn't come that way. this is a top-down, military and civilian organization approach. and so what does it tell us? why are they doing this? what does it tell us about world war i, what does it tell us about how the war effort in the united states at least mobimobie front? this program is about the dough boys. what can we learn about sort of military presumptions about the men and what they need through this program, what is it all about, basically, right? that's why we're here. and so those are the questions i'm trying to answer throughout the book. but to start with world war i, this is an era in which the public is changing its perceptions of the u.s. military, right? before world war i, most americans thought very differently of enlisted soldiers. officers were different.
officers came from, generally speaking, the middle and upper classes. but enlisted soldiers, most americans thought of them as kind of hardscrabble men. they did thankless work. if you think about where they were before world war i, they're primarily on the western frontier, and they're chasing poncho vila in mexico. the stories that came out of those environments are not the sorts of stories to make parents say, yeah, i want to send my kids to the military and they'll become a wholesome, upright citizen. the stories that were coming out of military camps involved sort of pg-13 level stories, right? i'm kind of cog in hniz of pg-13 level stories, right? i'm kind of cog in hniant that e on c-span so i would to give you the pg version. the stories were not great stories, right? the guys were generally thought
to be getting involved in some nefarious activities. and most americans frankly didn't care about that because they weren't their sons, right? that's somebody else's boy and those guys were doing thankless work and probably deserved to have a little bit of disreputable fun. so most americans didn't care. but as we get closer to 1917, in the united states this is the progressive era, so some religious organizations, some social welfare organizations are starting to get very concerned. they're concerned about things like public health. and so things that were going on in military camps, that was pretty concerning to these people. and what really changed is that uncle sam says i want you, right? when selective service came in, now americans who had said we don't really care what's going on on the mexican border, all of a sudden they do have to care, because now your son might be drafted and sent to one of these camps. so the average american really
starts to pay attention to what's going on in military training camps, starts to have a little bit of a different attitude. this is also part of a change in how the american military thinks about a standing military and a draft more generally, right? the last draft had been the civil war. that had not gone so well. it was very controversial. and so when the american government passes selective service act, there was a whole lot of pr behind the scenes, trying to convince the public that this would be a good thing, right? so there is a massive effort on the part of the military and the government to say military service will make your son a man, right? we will take your son, we will train him up, not just in military techniques and everything he needs to know for the war, but we will train him, we'll give him an education, we will teach him all sorts of things and make him a good
citizen. and key to all of that were these recreation programs. so organizations like the ymca, the salvation army, the knights of columbus, the jewish welfare board, all of these groups started to coordinate with the military to create programs in military training camps at home but also to send those overseas when the aef went to france. so that's part of this effort, sort of the idea of sending women abroad, serving doughnuts, all of that, was part of this broader effort to think about military service in america. and key to all of that are these women, right? progressive era reformers, military officials, all agreed that the best safeguard against sending lonely dough boys to france was women. so if you take all of the fees about what military life will do to your boy, he's always a boy,
by the way, he's always a boy, he's never a man, he's a boy in all of this rhetoric, if we're going to take your boy and make him a man, key to that was sending women. one military official sailed that the right kind of women, the right kind of women, would remind young men of their mothers, their sisters, their sweethearts, and inspire them to kind of walk the straight and narrow. another official said, men must be furnished with healthful amusement or they will turn to the first petticoat they see. when i talk to young students they all google, what's a petticoat? they have no idea. hopefully you guys understand. we have to send the right kind of women or these men will be distracted by, seduced by was more commonly the way they thought about it, these men never solicited women, they were always entrapped by them.
they're very passive victims here. but key to that, we want to keep them away from all of those women, we have to send the right kind of women to france, right? and france is a big fear here too. that compound all of these fears. not only is the military and the military camps, those are scary enough, but put them in france, which was the land of debauchery and evil and sin, and it just compounded exponentially, right? but we're going to send american women and all will be fine. right? now, that seems a bit optimistic today. but progressive era folk were very optimistic, if nothing else, right? at least give them that. now, spoiler alert, it doesn't quite work out exactly like they plan. but the military, the civilian organizations, they all agree, despite the fact that it doesn't
quite work out like they hoped, they all agree at the end of the war that they cannot do without these programs and they cannot do without women. and so they will agree, all of them, at the end of the war, that we're going to do this again. so we're going to send over these women, all will be fine. and again, it does seem silly today, right? it just seems rather optimistic. but it fits with contemporary ideas of what people thought women were in 1917. and it fits with women's own kind of explanations of how they could enter politics, how they could enter public life. so the general thought by most americans at this time was that women were more moral than men, they were more religious, they would have that kind of influence on men. women were starting to say, well, if you think we're more moral and we have this motherly influence on things, then why don't you let us be involved in things like child welfare and
education, and why don't you give us the right to vote so we can clean up politics? women kind of harnessed that rhetoric to say, well, if you think we're more moral, let us participate and we'll have that influence. again, that fits the time period. but this is kind of what women were starting to say. now, not all women who went to world war i were mothers. the vast majority of them were not. but in idea of women as maternal figures helped the american public come to terms with women going to war in new ways. the american public was not very can we with women in war zones. nurses were one thing, and they kind of still had a bit of trouble with that in world war i. they weren't quite as comfortable with women as nurses, although that made sense. they were less comfortable with women in the military. they were let comfortable with women going to war zones.
they didn't quite know what to make of those women. many people feared those women had ulterior motives, suspected that they were motivated by what they called at the time khaki fever, this idea that women will be swayed by uniformed and can't help themselves. there was suspicion on the part of many americans that any woman who would want to go to a war zone must have khaki fever and we can't trust her. but if we talk about women in this kind of maternal way it justifies this, makes you more comfortable with this notion of sending women abroad even if they're not mothers. right? and so the public sees a lot of this kind of image in which women become representative of the home. women are what you fight for. women are what you want to return to at the end of the war, right? women are all that are good, and
that what you want, that's what this war is about. so that rhetoric kind of eases women's path into the war even for women who are not mothers, right? and this idea of sending these ymca huts, these jewish welfare board huts, these knights of columbus huts, all of this was kind of characterized as a home away from home. it's a home where, if you are a mother sitting at home worried about your boy who has been drafted and he's going to france, this is the image you want, right? this is where your boy goes when he has the chance. he's welcomed here by the woman at the door. this is just like home. he's going to have good friends, good influences, moralizing influences surrounding him. it's very comfortable for families, it's very comfortable for sweethearts, for wives, for the american public. again, the iveive era
people are very optimistic. this is a very comforting, reassuring image. it creates a new role for went home in war. that's why i get the title of the talk. a ymca official said, a new kind of woman is following the army. so he's referencing the fact that women have followed armies for many, many, many, many years. but he's saying this is a new kind of woman, this is a respectable woman, this is something we can all get behind, right? a new kind of woman is following the army. but try to put yourself in this position, right? so all of these organizations, the ymca, the salvation army, the military, they all talk about this work in very respectable terms. i mean, the ymca in 1917 is not just your gym, right? this is a very religious organization with religious goals in mind.
salvation army has very religious goals in mind. they think of their work as esy vas evangelizing to troops. women are there to distract the men from going to paris, right? so how do you recruit that woman? you want her to be mama and you want her to be cute enough to keep the boys from going to paris. wink, wink, right? how do you do that? how do you recruit both of those influences at the same time in one human being? you want her to be old enough that she's not swayed by khaki fever, that she can live in a world surrounded by thousands of men and not be bothered by that,
but she still needs to be young enough that those men want to go to the hut to be near her, right? so -- anybody who is in marketing, try and imagine how you make that advertisement, how do you bring all those things together. but more importantly to me, anyway, is what does this do for women who were called on to do that work? how does a woman like emma young dixon balance all of that? and so i want to use emma's experiences to kind of talk about that work for a little bit, kind of what she did in the war, how she managed that, and all of the kind of emotions of that work. now, emma is somebody i found accidentally, actually, like many things that happen in the archives. i was at the university of minnesota which houses the ymca archives. the archivist kept saying,
there's this collection you need to see. and i'm like, okay, yeah, i'm here to see the archives for the ymca, let me just get through all these documents, boxes of that. and he said, no, you need to see this collection. he put it on the desk. i open up the box and inside -- i'll come back to these pictures -- inside was this amazing collection of this woman's diary that starts on the day she leaves to go to france. her passport is in there, her photographs that she took. she has copies of letters that she wrote home. she has letters that she received from family, from friends. this letter at the top is a letter she got from the wife of a soldier who was in a hospital she worked at and she wrote a letter to his wife on his behalf because he couldn't write at that time. the wife wrote her a thank you note back. i love this card at the bottom. it's sort of the version of hallmark cards in world war i.
the standard says "to our boy," the mother scratched out "boy" and wrote in "girl." i opened it up, read the first page, said, okay, you were right. so here we are. but emma has a just fascinating background. she was born in 1891. her father, william dixon, worked for andrew carnegie's homestead plant in pennsylvania. he worked his way up through that and resigned in protest over carnegie's treatment of workers. he moved the family to new jersey where he worked for and became vice president of midvale steel and ordinance. and it's pretty safe to say that the family was financially comfortable. this was their home in montclair. it actually no longer exists. there are about three homes that are on the lot right now. but they had a comfortable existence.
emma had a very privileged childhood. she had friends and german tutors in the home. this family photo here, this is her on the left with the violin. she had private violin lessons. this is a time when most americans did not travel far from their home, and she traveled all over the place. she traveled all the way across the continent, through the west on the train. she had been to britain. she had traveled through want west indies. she had sailed through the pan had panama canal while it was being constructed. very few americans had a childhood like that. her home here, they had parties all the time. there was a group that called itself the lewellyn ensemble, lewellyn was the street name. it became the new jersey symphonic orchestra.
the parties made it to the "new york times" style section. she had a nice childhood. they were comfortable people. but they were also -- her father quit working for carnegie because of his treatment of workers. they were also kind of socially conscious and from the early days of american involvement in world war i, emma wanted to do something. and like a lot of women of that time, she took first aid classes through the red cross. she volunteered rolling what she called were eternally long bandages for the red cross. so she did what women were supposed to do at that time. but it was not enough. she said later that nearly every home in montclair had a blue star flag in its window. and she said, i think this is just an amazing quote here, and i'm getting ahead of myself, like the famous poster here, she said, i wish that i too had been
a man, to have a small part in this great conflict. and so she applied to the ymca a couple of times, they actually rejected her the first time because they said she was too young, she was 25. she applied again after doing some red cross volunteer work and they finally took her and she was accepted into the program. this is her in the front center on the ship going to france. and so she's on her way. when she gets to france, she is tasked with establishing a canteen for the 7th machine gun battalion of the aes third division. she gave a speech the first day. this is her outside the hut with one of many young dough boys who show up. she gave a speech on the opening day and she said that her task was a much bigger job than she dreamed it would be, and she felt very little and incompetent
measured up beside it. it's an interesting scene because she's standing like on a stage and there are all these high ranking officials standing behind her and she keeps referencing how nervous they're making her and she's really here to help the boys. and she says she's there to do a lot of things that your mothers and sisters would do if they only had the chance. and so her daily existence in the war was getting up early, making hot chocolate, organizing games for the men, organizing dances, which were an absolute hit across france, as you might imagine. and she played her violin. the violin in the picture i just showed you, she carried that across france and played that for the men. she knew french, so she taught the men a little bit of french here and there. frequently it was enough french to be able to ask a woman, how are you, how old are you, it was that kind of french.
i'm not sure that, you know, the goal was being met by this program, initially. but that was her kind of existence. and she was very timid at first. she talked about how she was kind of nervous. but she really quickly adapted, and she came to like going into the fields very much. whenever they had the chance they would take the hot chocolate out into the fields. and she really, really came to like that. and like many women, she quickly started to see herself as having this camaraderie with the soldiers. and like many women, they start to chafe against what they think are very old fashioned rules about what women can and can't do. so in her case in particular, the third division, as we heard earlier this morning, goes near or is ordered forward to chateau thierry against the last german offensive. she complains when they go that
she can't go too. you can see in her diary, the news from the front is terrible, this mr. stewart is one of her supervisors, and she talks about how the news is that the 7th machine gun is now under fire. i hate this watchful waiting, why can't we help too? so picture back this young girl crying for her boyfriend on the boat, and being very nervous, and now she's complaining that she can't go forward to what she knows is a very dangerous situation, right? now, for her, fortunately for her, maybe not fortunately for her, she was one of about 50 ymca women who were allowed to go forward. the rule was that women couldn't go forward beyond the brigade headquarters without the commander's permission. and so once this started and they started to set up field hospitals, they sent some of the ymca women forward to work in the hospitals. emma had had no training as a
nurse, she probably couldn't have told you the difference between a band-aid and anything else. the thought was, they're women, they'll be fine, they'll be comforting to these men. they ended up writing lesser for wound soldiers, bringing them things they needed, that kind of work. the thought was, they're women, they'll be comforting, right? think back to 1917, 1918, this is the presumption about what women do. but working in this hospital was profoundly disturbing for emma. she wrote a lot about just how hard it was to see the patients. there was a group of prisoners of war that were brought through the area and she saw them and wrote a lot about how that really affected her. she saw a lot of gassed patients, and that was deeply disturbing to her, to see patients who had been gassed in the hospital. so she's writing in her diary about how horrific these experiences are and kind of
trying to come to terms with that herself. she's 25, 26, away from home, lonely. she's going through all of the same emotions that any of these folks are who are away from home and trying to reconcile all of that. but she -- you know, she characterized herself as a substitute for the men's mothers and sisters. but then you turn the page and there are photographs like this in her diary as well. and so this is a common kind of entry. she says here, about 9:30, captain sweeney came around and said he wanted to tell me something. i wasn't aricrazy to hear it bus long as he was on his way to the front, he might as well get it off his chest. i kidded him along and said i was entirely too busy to get married right now. jack came to say goodbye and i hate to think i may not see him again.
on one hand, it's kind of sweet, right? he's going to the front, he wants to propose again. on the other hand, she says she's heard it a thousand times, right? he's not the only one who's proposed marriage to her. but put yourself in her shoes. why does she hear him out? because he's on his way to the front, right? she knows he may not come back from the front. so she feels it is her job as a representative of the ymca, as one of these canteen women, to hear them out, to sort of allow all of these men to propose marriage to them, over and over and over, even though she's tired of it, right? now, in the beginning of the war when she got there, she's young, right, she had a boyfriend at home, she probably missed him, it might be fun to have captain sweeney and this guy, whoever he is, and some other guy from kansas city, they all come tell you, you know, they're just
swooning and they like to be around you. that was probably fun for a while. for a while. and then after a while it got really old. but as a canteen woman, you cannot ever let him think that it got old, right? he's on his way to the front. you've got to let him propose marriage, again, right? so what is that like for a 25-year-old woman away from home for the first time in her life? here is another picture of another ymca woman and two love-smitten doughboys. this entry really makes me laugh. she says, after supper, marine lieutenant palmer and lieutenant peck took helen and me for a walk and we sat by the river. it is a most romantic spot so we didn't linger long. they've kind of figured it out, right? and i think that's a really
interesting -- i mean, just the sentence there, it's really interesting to show how these women have learned to deflect that attention. you're not going to tell lieutenant palmer and lieutenant peck, i'm too tired and i don't want to go for a walk by the river again. you can't. you cannot tell them that, that's not what you're there for. but you can learn that you can't stay there long, because they're going to get i guess the reverse of khaki fever, right? they're going to get ymca girl fever, i guess. but they've got to deflect that kind of attention without making the men feel upset, without being rude, without doing any of that. and what i find really interesting about this too is that this work calls on these women to absolutely reverse all of the social conventions that they have been raised to expect and to do, right? so 1917, it is never, never are
respectable women to kind of make the first move or to go talk to a strange man you've any met before. never, never, never. that's not what you do. this work demands that you do that, every day, all day long. and so a lot of women talk about how they were so uncomfortable with that. and they had to learn how to kind of get out of their skin and be uncomfortable and walk up to people you've never met before, people you would never associate with at home, right? this is a very stratified american society. these are, all but three of them, white women. several of these women, they write home about -- and you can kind of see them teasing their parents in these alerletters to one woman writes about this new friendship she has with an irish boxer and she writes her dad, probably not the smartest idea she ever had, but she writes her dad and she says, imagine if i
started associating with an irish boxer at home, right? she's kind of like, you can't do anything about it, on one hand, right, but he's an irish boxer. she's not writing her dad saying, i'm associating with some of these african-american soldiers who are here in the war, right? there are very diviniefinite li to what these women will embrace. you have to keep all of that swirling in the back of your head when you think about these programs. but i do think it's a fun exercise to kind of put yourself in their shoes and imagine what that daily life is like for these women. so the war ends. the allies win, the war ends. and like all of these women, they are bound by no contract. they could have left at any moment. so while she's very relieved that the war is over and she wants desperately to go home, she kind of decides, i'm not going to go home because these
men aren't going home yet, right? remember, they have to get on boats and it takes everybody a long time to get home. so she decides that her job and her allegiance should be with these men, to stay there and wait for months after the war to go home with them. all of that changes, however, when dad sends a telegram and says, unless you're urgently needed, we think you should come home. and so she came home. she had been there for a little over a year. a few months later she got engaged to graham. he later said he was not the first or only man to propose marriage to her, but he was the last. they got engaged a couple of months after she came home. they got married. they had two sons and a daughter. in world war ii, her daughter followed her mother's service and joined the navy waves. she's buried now in montclair, new jersey beside graham.
i think her story is an interesting one. in terms of historical record, it's an interesting one because we know what happens to emma after the war. for most of these women, they kept diaries during the war, they went home, and they stopped keeping diaries and we kind of lose them to the historical record. emma's case is unique in that she kept a lot of records. her daughter, who became a wave in world war ii, really got interested in her mother's story and went back and found a lot of things and collected it and donated it all to the university of minnesota. and so we really have a nice collection there. the archivist was right. if you ever go and the archivist is like, no, no, you really need to look at this, you should probably listen, they know what they're talking about. again, what does it all mean, right? what can we learn from women like emma, what significance does this have beyond the war? in the case of world war i, this links women's wartime work to
popular understandings of what women did and what was acceptable work for women. and it creates a new kind of wartime role that allows women to go to the war in these new ways, have these new experiences, that ultimately profoundly shaped all of their lives. they talk a lot about how this has deeply influenced them and changed their perspective, even if they go home and move back into what was considered sort of conventional women's lives like emma, she went home, got married, had kids, didn't work outside the home for wages. she did a lot of what women of her social class did. but she still talked about how the war had profoundly shaped her life and her perspective. so we can learn things like that. but i think it's almost important that remember that this is a critical moment for american women, right? women's suffrage had been moving
along as an effort for a very long time. but in the years prior to world war i had started to have some more success, and really became a popular issue sort of beyond the suffrage movement and something that the public got behind because of the war. so when you have women who are serving in the war to make the world safe for democracy, it becomes a little harder to deny democracy at home. when president wilson spoke to the senate and encouraged it to vote for enfranchisement, he cited women's service in the war as justification. he said, this war could not have been fought either by the nations engaged or by america if it had not been for the services of women. services rendered in every sphere. not merely in the fields of effort with which we had been accustomed to seeing them work but wherever men have worked and upon the very skirts and edges of the battle itself.
he compared women's service to that of soldiers and said that if soldiers had been denied the suffrage, we would give soldiers the right to vote. and so just as soldiers have the right to vote, women should as well. he said that the nation had depended on their service and the nation then owed them the suffrage in exchange. now, that was not an argument that made all suffragists happy, right? because a lot of women were simply saying, we're human beings and we deserve the right to vote because we are human beings, right? wilson is saying, they served in the war, therefore they deserve the right to vote, right? so it wasn't an argument that made everybody happy. but it worked. it worked, suffrage passed. so in large ways and small ways, i think the war changed these women. i think women changed the war, they certainly changed the ways the military thought about how it sent soldiers abroad.
it changed the ways the military thought about how to mobilize men, how to make mobilization palatable to people at home, and it expanded the ways women could participate in the war and public life. so i would be happy to take questions that you might have or to think about this in new ways. [ applause ] >> i'm curious if, of the 3,500 women, if there were any casualties or injuries that occurred, if they did, what did it do to the program, and how
would the american public take to that? >> yes, so the question was were there any casualties among these women. and there were. most of the time, it is something like you get influenza, very common. one case in particular, there was a woman, wynonna stevens, who sailed to france and had told her family and friends that she knew the war would be dangerous and she was willing to risk the danger, and actually never made it to a canteen. she got bronchitis on the ship on the way over and was sent to a hospital in france as soon as she arrived, and the hospital was bombed. and she died in that bombing. and what i found really interesting is the way sort of the question was about how the public dealt with these casualties, how was the public going to think about women who were killed in war, right? they're still not sure what they think about sending women to war, what happens when they die
in a war? but the ymca praised this woman's service. they said she died a soldier's death, right? and i think that phrase is really interesting. she died a soldier's death. they gave her as much respect as they could give her, they said that she was a symbol of women of the spirit of the dough boys and talked about her as being equal in service and i think that is a really interesting way in which these organizations talked about that. so there were some casualties. hers is the one that most people would have heard about because of the way that it was covered in the press. so, yeah, good question. thank you. >> hi. how is the homefront and issues like this addressed in the military today and how do you see it playing out in the future with more and more women being involved in the military service?
>> yeah. another great question. how do we take this up to today and what did it look like with women in the audience, the picture of the dallas cowboy cheerleaders and a good people in the audience are women. so the short version of the answer to that question is that entertainment has changed quite a bit. we don't have programs like this that just send women as symbols of home any more. the entertainment that the military gets today is primarily through the uso and through the armed forces professional entertainment office which sends groups, musical groups, theatrical groups that most of us have never heard of but trying to make it big. there has been some discussion, probably not enough, about what kinds of entertainment in terms of how women are presented. so again, you have everything from women authors going to visit, women comedians, women
actors. all of the sort of things in the press today alongside very scantily clad suggestive dancers. and i think the conversation about how that should look in a military that includes a whole lot of women but also includes a whole lot of older men who are fathers. the demographics are changing. this is not -- we're not sending women abroad to entertain and distract the 20-year-old single boy from being seduced by paris any more. our military includes a whole lot of those 19-year-old single boys but also includes a whole lot of dads and fathers and a whole lot of mothers and so i think we're getting to the point where we really need to think about what kinds of entertainment we're sending as a representative of home. we still want to send home. we still have organizations that do that. but we might want to think harder about what that means. and i'll say entertainment is
different, too, in today's environment because you could skype home at any moment. home is right on your phone. and so it is very different than previous wars where you are waiting on letters and that kind of thing. home means something very different today as an ideal but also a reality. another great question. >> gerald fitzgerald, and you talked about the trauma they went through and what do they bring back to the country. it seems like they are role-playing and living a different life than the men are and how does that affect when they go back to the country and are they disappointed when they go home? >> another great question. another moment where i wish women would keep journals after they go home. because there are fewer accounts that would help me answer your question more extensively. emma is one of the few cases we have of women who we can follow through the historical record.
what i found is that most of these women, because of their social class, so most of these women are not as comfortable as emmy, let's say, but they are women who are able to go to war because their families didn't need their wages at home. these women were paid for their work, but if you were lower middle class, you weren't going to do this. you needed to work in a job where you could work more hours and your family got your wages. so these women, when they come home, they generally move back into that kind of middle class, upper middle class and even wealthy life and for most of the women that meant going back into your community and getting married and getting involved in women's causes. some of them form an organization, because they are not veterans, they are not in the military, they are not veterans, but some of them do form an organization the women's
overseas service league that kind of lobbied for attention to their service for people to recognize what they had done and moving forward as more and more women serve in the military in a pushing for greater access to those roles and for the doors to open to women's military service. so even if they are moving into kind of conventional women's work, they're still advocating for increased opportunities for women in wartime in particular. >> our next question. >> with the segregated army at the time, what was the chances of an african-american soldier seeing that giant vat of hot chocolate or being invited to one of those huts and what was the experience of the three african-american women in this program? >> yeah, another great question. so by enlarge the ymca -- well it depends on the situation. the ymca generally segregated
huts. sometimes it operated huts that it would allow african-american soldiers to come into. but what you often see happen in those cases is that the military finds out about it and comes in and segregates it, closing it down to african-american soldiers. so the three women -- the three women who were tasked with serving donuts and hot chocolate to african-american soldiers, to put it mildly, were overwhelmed. one of the best books about this is by two of the women who wrote a very detailed and great account of their service. and they talk about, through the men, lining up around the building and waiting and waiting. but also feeling like they are there as representatives of all african-american women in the united states. and really feeling that weight in a way that white women didn't talk about that. they don't write in their diary, i feel the burden of
representing white womanhood. they don't feel that. it is thein visibility of race for them. for the african-american women, they really see sort of the ways in which these african-american soldiers are treated and all of the hardships they face and they feel even more profoundly that they want to help but are overwhelmed to put it mildly. but also recognize that, hey, i've come here to fight for freedom and democracy, too. and one of the women rides home on a segregated ship and becomes even more determined to fight that when she goes home and gets involved in organizations and fighting for civil rights. so that again is one of those unique cases where you can see that kind of influence later. >> our next question comes from dr. jeffrey warro. >> just a question, because in my research they sent the ymca and some of the other groups, the salvation army, to
discourage vice, the prostitution and they said the french army had a million men at any given time suffering from venereal disease and the british army had the equivalent of several divisions of infantry suffering from a disease so they sent the groups to discourage these kind of pursuits and yet the dough boys, they were -- they were paid so much more than the french and british were constantly having to resort to prostitutes and that is the one piece that is missing -- and i'm wondering if you cover that? >> yeah. this is the pg version. >> because with all of the refugees by the french retreats, all of the refugees, there is just this pool of women behind the lines and the americans are paid so highly and i just wondering if you could talk about that. >> and the military keeps very -- as you say, they keep very detailed records of the number of man hours they're losing because the guys were laid up in a hospital sick. and that is their -- that's
their -- one of the big concerns in world war i is that this is not just about -- you want to make the american public feel like your boys are not doing this sort of thing, involved in these shenanigans, but also concerned about pragmatic issues. you can't fight a war if they are all laid up in a hospital with syphilis. and that convinced pershing to get behind the programs because pershing on the mexican border had regulated brothels for soldiers and thought it was the most pragmatic solution to what he said was a big problem. and so this marked a departure for the military in saying, yeah, we need to be concerned about keeping them away from the prostitutes. but -- or being seduced by the prostitutes. the men, they never seek this out. we know. but again they're optimistic people. it doesn't quite work out like that but they keep very detailed
records about how many man hours they're losing and what it is costing them in terms of military man power to -- what they are losing in that. that concern shifts over the course of the century. by world war ii they are not as concerned about losing man hours because they could just give you shots and so the concern about losing man hours goes away. and they deal with those kinds of questions in far different ways. >> so i hear that our last question is going to take less than 15 seconds to ask. >> it will be very quick, i promise. amanda eagles, school of advanced military studies. you mentioned at the end about wilson's justification for supporting voting rights and i'm curious if you found any evidence to support his reasoning behind that in terms of the way in which the progressive era starts changing the way we think about citizenship. >> yeah, i think there is a really great book that just came
out, the second line of defense that runs through american women's roles in world war ii and i think wilson, on one hand he's getting tired of these women talking about it, and he's trying to -- to also mobilize women's efforts and he knows he needs women working in factories and he needs women getting behind the war effort more generally speaking and he kind of comes around to this to say, women have served in the war, we're going to give them the suffrage, but again that is limited. this is wilson, who resegregated washington, d.c. wilson does not have the same argument for african-americans who have also served in the war. so he's limiting that and hedging his bets. but again, great question. >> so ladies and gentlemen, if you do not want the pg version, but the pg-13 version or beyond, i would suggest you pick up dr. dixon vuic's book and also that
you remember her call out to everyone in the audience and watching online, don't ignore your archivist. we would welcome you to go downstairs to our edward jones research center, our archivist is not here today but he will be here tomorrow and you could grab his card outside or find his online. ladies and gentlemen, if you will join me in thanking dr. kara vuic dixon. [ applause ] when the new congress takes office in january it will have the youngest most diverse freshman class in recent history. new congress, new leaders. watch it live on c-span starting january 3rd. historian and author robert laplander presented a talk, the true story of the lost
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