American Committee for Devastated France

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American Committee for Devastated France
Formation 1919
Purpose Humanitarian aid
Headquarters Blérancourt, France
Region served
France

American Committee for Devastated France (1919-1924) was a small group of American women who volunteered to help France recover from the destruction of The Great War[1] (later known as World War I.)[2]

The volunteer civilian relief organization was founded by philanthropist Anne Morgan (1873–1952) and her friend Anne Murray Dike (1879–1929). In France, the organization was commonly known by its French initials, CARD (Comité Américain pour les Régions Dévastées de France).

Morgan's commanding personality and social status helped her rally potential volunteers and raise funds while traveling across the United States. Dike, a physician, organized field work in France. Headquarters were set up in the 17th-century Château de Blérancourt, less than 40 miles from the war's front.[3]

The group's efforts followed the volunteer work of the American Fund for French Wounded (1915-1919).[4]

Morgan, youngest daughter of financier John Pierpont Morgan and his second wife, the former Frances Louisa Tracy, used photographs to document the suffering in France, a nation that provided crucial help during the American Revolution. Images of ruined communities and French refugees highlighted the human cost of war.

The field volunteers left comfortable lives in the United States. Committee applicants had to speak French, hold a driver's license, and most had to pay their own expenses — $1,500 for a typical six-month tour of volunteer duty. Blue martial uniforms were required. They could be custom-made for $45, by B. Altman Company.

Anne Morgan told potential volunteers they would face hard work and devastation. "We do not want sightseers who would like to go over for half a year to view France's battlefields," The New York Times reported. The women lived in barracks and worked long hours.

Many female physicians in the United States — an estimated 6,000 during The Great War era — wanted to serve in Europe. The military medical corps would not accept women as officers, so the committee provided an opportunity to serve.

Some 350 American Committee for Devastated France volunteers served in France.[5] Among volunteers was Mary Carson Breckinridge (1881-1965). Breckinridge gained key experience in post-war Europe that helped inspire her to create the non-profit Kentucky Committee for Mothers and Babies, later known as the Frontier Nursing Service.[6]

Another volunteer was Anna Lander West McDonnell (1876-1966), youngest child of Charles and Marguerite Rode Lander West, of San Francisco, California. McDonnell and her husband, Hugh McDonnell had moved to Paris, France in 1907. Widowed in 1910, owning land in France and with no children, McDonnell served as a hospital auxiliary or nurse in Bordeaux until around the start of the Great War. She returned to the United States, but went back to France in 1918 to serve the committee.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ American Committee for Devastated France Records; 1919-1926, Public Policy Papers, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.
  2. ^ National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial, 100 W. 26th Street, Kansas City, Mo. 64108
  3. ^ American Committee for Devastated France Records; 1919-1926, Public Policy Papers, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.
  4. ^ http://www.nypl.org/archives/918
  5. ^ American Committee for Devastated France Records; 1919-1926, Public Policy Papers, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.
  6. ^ http://www.themorgan.org/exhibitions/exhibition.asp?id=36/ The Morgan LIbrary and Museum archives
  7. ^ http://knowledgecenter.unr.edu/specoll/mss/96-13.html/ University of Nevada-Reno archives

External links[edit]