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Monday, February 4, 2013

Types of services women volunteered to perform

Recruiting poster,
Red Cross nurse shown with wounded solider.
While nurses were a vital component of any medical department for the United States Army, women served in other groups and other capacities.

The Navy also developed a Navy Nurse Corps during the war.

In addition, the Red Cross is perhaps the most well-known of these other groups. These volunteers wore what we now know as traditional uniforms of white with a red cross donning the front of their caps.

To assist nurses and doctors working behind the lines, women enlisted in the ambulance corps. They, along with many men, drove cars and trucks, designed by Ford Motor Company and by the precursor of General Motors.  (Having had a look at these myself in the Fort Sam Houston Medical Museum in San Antonio, Texas, I must say they look like the most uncomfortable transport I have ever seen.)

Women also volunteered to serve as secretaries in General Pershing's headquarters staff. He, in fact, asked for women to serve in this capacity after he decided he could not and should not spare anyone from his Staff to do this work.

Signal Corps accepted female volunteers to work the telephones for communications all over the front, inter-Army and with American allied forces. These women had to be fluent in French and English, and were known as "The Hello Girls."

Then, too, many women traveled abroad to serve in many civilian capacities. Some worked in make-shift canteens making sandwiches and brewing coffee to serve to convalescent soldiers on their way home in mobile hospital trains. Others worked with displaced French populations. A few rescued orphans from temporary shelters and served as teachers in schools and convents.

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