Monday, November 14, 2022

Records for Women Serving in WWI??

From the Mail Bag

We love our women ancestors. They were proactive in war efforts and served when they could. Keep in mind that during WWI women were barred from voting in the USA; and, could not serve in military combat roles. However, they did volunteer toward the war efforts and provided support on the front lines: nurses, translators, dieticians, and even drivers. We must give them credit for paving the way for today's women to think bold and big. Be sure to enjoy the video.

You provided two great clues when you included this nuggets: 1) May be Red Cross 2)  her service was "close to the end of the war. We know the dietitians began serving with the Army in 1917. 3) she served at "Camp" Dix. 

We hope you saw this article which included at least one new dietitian, Miss Marion Peck:

This article proved the following: 
1) the word "dietitian" in this research must be done with its popular misspelling "dietician" or use a wildcard "dieti?ian"
2) in your search efforts remember dietetics vs dietitian may be used (i.e. hospital dietetics)
3) although we love saying Fort Dix, we need to search it as "Camp Dix" especially for WWI research. The name change was 1947.
4) Camp Dix had a double issue - the War and the
1918 Influenza Epidemic.  Did you know one dietitian died after contracting the disease while on duty in 1918?[i].

[i]  The Influenza Epidemic at Camp Dix, NJ, 30 Nov 1918; Jama Network

The Basic Research
You didn't provide a name for your ancestor, or her location, so I'm assuming your grandmother was in America, not England or Canada, overseas, etc. With that in mind, let's also assume you already checked the following:

Still a Brickwall?
The Army Nurse Corps definitely hand women dieticians. As many of these dietitians traveled overseas, we are able to uncover passenger lists. The following list found, on Fold3, is actually quite extensive.
Let's also turn to academic papers and professional journals knowing now that female WWI dietitians must also be researched within the Army Nurse Corps collections. Here's just one American Journal of Nursing that list those who served in the Army Nurse Corps at Camp Dix March 1918[2] 
Adlin M. Wagner and Loretta M. Pratt, Olga Sletten, General Hospital No. 26, Fort Des Moines, Iowa. Ethel M. Collins, Pearlena V. Soles, Mary E. Spare, Ellen Brady, Amy Reed, Kathleen E. Murphy, Edna L. Bailey, Matilda Blackberg, Eleanor J. Menah, Ruth Ardron, Marie R. McManus, Alice N. Hemingway, Helen Canty, Sadie E. Houston, Agnes C. Peterson, Alva Tomlinson, Marie S. Fordham, Regina H. Conroy, Edna Cubbi- son, Elsie M. Botdorf, Mildred K. Magee, Agnes S. Dalton, Mary M. Bittner, Margretta Hibert, Edith MacMahan, Lulu A. Brennan, Isabella J. H. Aitken, Grace I. Richards, to U. S. Army Base Hospital, Camp Dix, N. J

[2] Nursing News and Announcements, The American Journal of Nursing, Dec 1918, Vol 19. No 3, pg 206-252, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; :

Digging Deeper
Well, this may not be a brickwall, but a brick skyscraper! Here are a few other places to peruse:

  1. Government Civilian PersonnelIs it possible your grandmother served as a civilian for the military? Civilian records are at the National Personnel Record Center in St. Louis.  Here is a link:  
  2. Here is another place you can get started with the Records of the American National Red Cross, 1881-2008, search term: Red Cross Dietitian:
  3. Local Newspapers. Many of these honored Red Cross assignments were posted in local newspapers: 

Republic County Democrat, Belleville, KS. 

Suggested Reading:

For More on Women Serving in WWI
Video Provided by WWI Museum, Smithsonian, KCMO

Kathleen Brandt
Be Historically Correct
Accurate Accessible Answers

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