WW1 Daybook

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The Minnesota Historical Society preserves and makes available a wide range of materials chronicling Minnesota's history and culture. The goals of the Collections Department are to collect and preserve; provide access and interpretation; and engage in education and outreach. This blog is a tool to share these stories and let people know what is happening in the department.

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WW1 Daybook

Nurses at the Front

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 2, 2018

Red Cross nurse Marion Backus sent this undated letter from France to her mother. She mentions that she has been "in on the three big drives so far this year" and that she thinks she will be on another in the future. Because of this, Backus writes about being kept busy with a high amount of patients. Based on her letters, she seems to be enjoying her work and the thrill of being close to the action.

Dear Mother,
I just got your last three letters today you forgot to put the number of the hospital on some of them so they took longer to come the latest was written Aug 21. […] I think I will be in Paris next week for a few days to get my winter clothes. I am still on night duty but like it as well as ever in the fact four weeks we have handled something 2,500 patients gas and surgical so have kept fairly buisy (sic) you see we have a personal of about 200 we have 470 beds of course a good many of them did not stay longer than one night and then were shipped on to the base. I think I have been real fortunate for I have been in on the three big drives so far this year and if there is another think I will be there. […] I am in what is called the war zone and we are not supposed to mention names of places up here.[…]
Lots of love to you and daddy

Citation: Marion Backus Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P1356

"The English Take Mount Kemmel; Peronne is Surrounded by Allies" and "The English Make Good Progress on the Entire Flanders Line" - The Daily People's Press. September 1, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 1, 2018

"Call for Liberty Meeting Urges National Equal Rights" and "Home Guards to Uniform" - The Twin City Star. August 31, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 31, 2018

"Clemenceau Visits Yanks in Battle of Chateau Thierry" and "Two Colored Draftees Ordered to Report: More Go Next Week" - Bemidji Daily Pioneer. August 30, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 30, 2018

Sabra Hardy part 4

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 23, 2018

Red Cross nurse Sabra Hardy wrote this letter home to her mother and step-father while in New York preparing to go overseas. She talks about receiving her uniform and mentions that they are not being told when the ship will be sailing. She also talks about what she misses now that she is a nurse, butter for example. Hardy is excited to recieve a dog tag that is just like the ones that the boys wear. At the top of the letter Hardy mentions that she has made a will, and that her mother shouldn't "be foolish about it". She even asks if there's anything in particular her mother would like to have. Hardy would die two months later.


I'm willing clothes to Marg + its nothing unusual to make a will so don't be foolish about it. What in particular would you like?
New York.
Aug 23-18.
Dearest Mother and Dave:-
I am here at last and I just can't wait till my gov't outfit together + my red cross suit on. They are such a good looking blue serge suit [...] We start fittings + drilling in a day or so. We have to report at Judson church every am for roll call. [...] They are making a "dog" tag to hang around our necks, same as the boys wear. There are thousands here of course + that's all I dare tell you about them. [...] We are not to know ourselves when we sail + I think I'll be O.K. The gov't will notify father of anything different + he will notify all others. [...] How I wish I had a good meal of sweet corn + butter. We have good meals here tho, but have to just beg for a little butter, but we don't go hungry. They have regular meal hour for the nurses, there are about 150 in this hotel + others scattered over the city in others and if you aren't there on time you don't get any, we've found out because they feed the nurses different than the patrons [...]
Loads of love,

Citation: "Hardy, Sabra R." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 114.D.4.3B

Observation of the Jewish Holidays

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 22, 2018

This short note was sent to the 88th Division of the American Expeditionary Force on August 23rd, 1918. It states that wherever it wouldn't interfere with military operations, American soldiers of the Jewish faith should be given the day off in order to observe the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur.


France, August 23, 1918.
1. The Commander in Chief directs that, wherever it will not interfere with military operations, soldiers of the Jewish faith serving in the American Expeditionary Forces will be excused from all duty, and where deemed practicable granted passes, to enable them to observe in their customary manner the Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement. These days are as follows:
The New Year, from sunset September 6th to sunset September 8, 1918.
Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), from sunset September 15th to sunset September 16, 1918.
(Signed) Alfred J. Booth

Citation: U.S. Army, 350th Infantry Regiment, Co. G, records 1917-1919. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. BG6/.U584/350th

"British Force Huns Back Over Two Miles in Surprise Attack and Capture Four Towns" and "Battle Front is Shortened" - The Duluth Herald. August 21, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 21, 2018

"French in Lassigny; British Capture Roye Station" and "Replacement of Men by Women Increasing" - The Minneapolis Morning Tribune. August 20, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 20, 2018

Souvenir Dresser Scarf

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 19, 2018

This souvenir dresser scarf was brought back from France by Charles Panuska as a gift to his mother, Christina Novak Panushka, who lived in Saint Paul. It was made in France out of cotton machine lace inserts alternating with inserts of silk embroidery on silk chiffon. It is 16 ½ inches long and 38 inches wide. The scarfs itself features a decorative floral pattern and blue silk ribbon bows on each of the four corners. In the center of the scarf an American flag and France flag are embroidered. Above and beneath the two flags reads “SOUVENIR/ DE FRANCE’. Many soldiers brought home gifts for loved ones and the French flag was a common motif.


Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collection, 1996.473.1

"I Have Never Seen Such Wounds"

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 18, 2018

Agnes Martin was a Red Cross nurse stationed in France with the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF). In a letter dated August 17, 1918, Martin describes to her mother and Aunt Sarah what she has experienced since arriving at the hospital in France, after traveling for nearly three weeks. Martin writes about her work at the hospital and her patients she is in charge of caring for.


Aug 17-1918
Dear Mother + Aunt Sarah
Here I am at my destination after being on the way nearly three weeks. I just wish you could see this line of nurses all sitting watching the sunset and writing first letters home. Got in last night and went on duty this am and you may know I was happy to be sent to the operating room. Did no operating today but lots of dressings and of course I have never seen such wounds but it is simply wonderful the way the [...kin] solution acts. Never saw a drop of pus and all are infected wounds. The boys all were so brave, never a whimper from one of them except an Italian who had every reason to make a fus. […]
Your affectionate,

Citation: Agnes J. Martin Letters. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P121


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