Monthly Archives: March 2013
The military put out a call for bilingual women during WWI, recruiting them to run switchboards in France during the war effort. Among the 100+ women who answered the call was 16-year-old Oleda Christides from the Thumb area of Michigan.
According to the Army Communicator’s website, a survivor of the “Great War” described the hazards she and the other women endured. Duty assignments at the switchboards, she said, were sometimes for 72 hours straight. The women, she said, carried on in spite of enduring the “constant noise from shelling and bombs, (under a) sky black with planes.”
Like the WASPs after them, these women were not recognized for their contributions until far, far after the fact. For more information about these amazing women, please see the following links:
by Heather Harris-Brady
Like a surprising number of Michigan women, Sarah Emma Edmonds (Flint) played an active combat role in the Civil War. Women were drawn into service through various ways – sometimes they would enter with a husband, brother or boyfriend; sometimes for the higher pay rate; and sometimes just because they felt it was their patriotic duty.
Sarah/Frank Thompson went in as a nurse April 25, 1861, volunteering for spy duties when a call went out from McClellan’s command. After some intense study she aced the interview and won the position. She used various disguises and completed 11 spying missions behind enemy lines in all.
Women who did not take part in combat supported the effort in other ways, raising funds for the soldier’s provisions and medical care through Sanitary Fairs.
by Heather Harris-Brady
Nancy Harkness Love started out life as Hannah Lincoln Harkness in Houghton, Michigan. Born on Valentine’s Day, 1914 her life as the well-educated daughter of a wealthy physician could have taken a very different, more sedate path. But by the time she reached Vassar she was already a pilot.
When her husband was called into duty in 1942 the stage was ready. She, on a parallel path with Jacqueline Cochran, advocated for a women’s piloting branch in the military to help ease the shortage of pilots. Love headed the WAFS, an original group of 25 women who ferried planes from factories to airfields. In 1943 this group merged with Cochran’s group, the Women’s Air Service Pilots (WASPs). Often these women had to move planes that needed repair, and would sometimes have to fly without radios or other necessary equipment.
The squadrons disbanded in 1944, and were not recognized for their military service until 1977. Sadly, Love didn’t live to see it, she died the year before in 1976.
PBS aired an excellent documentary on the WASPs (both radio and TV), and there are several wonderful websites of information. I hope you’ll join me in helping our young people appreciate the amazing contributions of these female squadrons. Happily, there is getting to be a nice proliferation of info on the web in just the last few years.