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The working women of World War I

By Staff | Mar 16, 2016

PHOTO PROVIDED By CAROL SHETLER/The Luminary This scene depicted on a 1918 post card differs from the reality that women were heavily involved in work during WWI.

A card dated June 1918 and postmarked at Baltimore, Maryland, was addressed to Miss Grace Sones of Benton, Columbia County, Pa. The sender, a soldier, is unidentified except in the salutation where he writes, “Dear Cousin . . . “

Amongst the pleasantries of thanks for a previous letter, the soldier reports, “The weather is awful hot. Clay is here not a mile and a half from me. I was digging trenches last night until twelve o’clock. We are leaving here soon.”

Corresponding with those in uniform has been a contribution made by women during all wars. The above post card depicts a woman admiring flowers, and in her imagination is pictured the likeness of of a WWI military man. Words inscribed beneath the scene are, “I am ever thinking of you.”

The reality was that women were doing much more. Items posted in The Muncy Luminary, suggest women donned trousers, long sleeved shirts and sturdy shoes to accomplish tasks listed.

During 1917 and 1918, newspaper columns were filled with directives issued by government, and of females filling jobs in the workplace.

The following was posted in September 1817: “The U. S. government urges women to pick wild blackberries to help the army and navy get the 11,000,000 pounds of jam they must have in view of the shortage of cultivated ones. Blackberry jam has medicinal qualities which counteract intestinal troubles, and is a welcome sweet in the diet. “

One of the few vocations for women at the time was nursing. Those mentioned included Misses Katherine and Althea Smith, daughters of Mr. & Mrs. Amos Smith. The Muncy women were at the German Hospital in Philadelphia. Mary Funston, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Harry Funston was in training in Philly.

From Chippewa, Mr. & Mrs. Henry V. Kilgus announced their daughter Lillian had arrived safely in France and was the first young lady from this area to go there. To do Red Cross work, Lillian was granted an absence from the Walter Taylor Hospital in Scranton.

More than 5,000 women worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, “They covered positions from train dispatchers to section hands,” according to a November 1917 report.

On the gentile side during a one week period, fifty Muncy women registered to work with the Red Cross. Director M. E. Reeder advised, “If there is any woman member unable to go to the rooms to sew, but would like to do laundry, she will be given sheets and pillow cases as articles must be laundered before sent to headquarters.”

Knitting parties were popular and Miss Marjory Petrikin opened her home to Mrs. Howard Worthington, Mrs. S. B. Dunlap, Mrs. Roy Lauer, Mrs. C. C. Pfleegor, Mrs. H. A. Banzhaf and Miss Louise Hess.

In October 1917, an unidentified writer penned a poem titled, “Bless Em,” lauding women’s efforts. “They’re all of them busy. Each Helen and Lizzy. The Margaret’s, Amy’s and Pearls. Hail! Uncle Sam’s knitters; His army outfitters. The never say quitters, The girls!”