Jump to content


Photo

WWI Female Ambulance Drivers


  • Please log in to reply
11 replies to this topic

#1 cutiger83

cutiger83
  • VOLUNTEERS
    • Member ID: 5,589
  • 7,479 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:USA

Posted 14 May 2015 - 05:21 AM

After posting a question about WWI ambulance driver insignia, and after some great information posted by Beast (Erick), I started doing some searching and reading on the internet regarding American female ambulance drivers.

 

The book, “Gentlemen Volunteers: The Story of the American Ambulance Drivers in the First World War", has a chapter regarding “Some Female Drivers and Other Noteworthy Volunteers".   I found the first paragraph in the chapter very interesting:

 

“The complete history of American ambulanciers in the Great War will never be satisfactorily told because a significant part of the record is incomplete; that involving the work of female volunteers.  American women who drove ambulances in France usually got there by sheer force of their ability, ingenuity and resolve, and yet their extraordinary work is seldom treated in detail in either public or private accounts of the war. Still, sparse though the evidence may be many women did in fact swap their stateside lives for a term of ambulancing that was largely without exhilarating moments. “

 

From what I have found so far in my searching, I agree with the above paragraph. American women were volunteers who served in various units or volunteer capacities so their service is either mixed in with foreign units or poorly documented volunteer units. American women were not accepted into the American units so they found other means of serving during the war.

 

One thing I found to support this thought process was information found while searching for information on an ambulance driver named Mary Dexter:

 

“The Hackett-Lowther Unit, was comprised mostly of British women with a sprinkling of Americans who had been studying abroad and joined up.”

 

Here is a picture of Mary Dexter with the Hackett-Lowther Unit:

 

MaryDexter.jpg

Another interesting statement in the book mentions: “British women were far more welcome as contributors than their female counterpart. Few American female drivers ever got such favorable press or respectful attention as Kauffman’s driver (British), even from other women. “

 

I also agree with this statement. Americans women were not as welcome and not as “newsworthy” as the men. The American population did not want to read about women serving overseas.

 

I did find reference to a hospital that had women ambulance drivers:

“The American Women’s Hospital, formed by female doctors who had been turned down by the all male US Army Medical Corps, had its’ own section of women ambulance drivers.  “

 

One of the drivers was Helen Douglas who later became a politician. While Helen did arrive late in the war, there were other women who drove ambulances.

 

HelenDouglasMankin.jpg

 

http://en.wikipedia...._Douglas_Mankin

 

This is from Wikipedia:

“During and after the First World War, Mankin served as an ambulance driver in the American Women’s Hospital Unit No. 1, a Red Cross unit attached to the French army in 1918 and 1919. She was there as a civilian and was not officially a military veteran.”

 

This is also from the book, “Gentlemen Volunteers”:

 

The New York Times occasionally mentioned women who were headed for France to drive ambulances.

 

“Leilah Pugh will sail for France to offer her services to the American Ambulance Corps as a driver. She is a sergeant in the Motor Corps of the National League for Women’s Service and has met the requirements of the Police Department as a motor driver.
Miss Janet Boland Sutherland, who is forming a Women’s Ambulance Unit announced yesterday that her organization is practically completed……”

 

The most interesting ambulance driver that I have found so far is Mary Dexter. Here is some more information from the book “Gentlemen Volunteers” regarding  Dexter.

 

Perhaps the only female American driver besides Amy Bradley whose experiences are amply documented was Mary Dexter, thanks to her mother’s decision to publish Dexter’s letters. 

 

Preparing for their spring assault, the Germans bombed and shelled Creil continuously from Feb 6 to 10. Dexter worked steadily through the bombardments driving her GMC – of which she had grown particularly fond- day and night. During the bomb attacks of mid-March, Dexter proved again to be indifferent to danger. She risked her life constantly in her efforts to pick up wounded and deliver them promptly to the Creil hospital.

 

On May 12, 1918, Dexter learned that her unit was finally to go to the front. Although she could specify only that she was somewhere in France, a few days later Dexter and the rest of the unit were headquartered near Com-piegne, as close to the trenches as any ambulance section.

 

Her published letters mentioned above are in the book “In the Soldier's Service: War Experiences of Mary Dexter, England, Belguim, France, 1914-1918”.

 

...Kat



#2 kanemono

kanemono
  • Members
    • Member ID: 9,487
  • 2,554 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 14 May 2015 - 06:01 AM

Kat, this is a very interesting article. Women never seem to get full credit for their accomplishments. As you stated "Americans women were not as welcome and not as “newsworthy” as the men. The American population did not want to read about women serving overseas." Thanks again for posting this article.

Dick



#3 cutiger83

cutiger83
  • VOLUNTEERS
    • Member ID: 5,589
  • 7,479 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:USA

Posted 14 May 2015 - 06:08 AM

 this is a very interesting article.

Dick

 

Thank you so much. I am glad you enjoyed reading this.....Kat



#4 BEAST

BEAST
  • Members
    • Member ID: 203
  • 10,136 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:INDIANA

Posted 14 May 2015 - 07:56 AM

Kat, Thanks for posting that. I think it is interesting that while American women weren't appreciated even by the men "over there", the British women were. I wonder if part of the difference in the attitude is the depth of involvement in the war by the British citizens. Four years of everyone sacrificing tends to galvanize the civilian and the soldier. American women, especially those that were there before America entered the war seemed to be viewed as "thrill seekers."

It would be interesting to read how the French viewed the American women as their population was so devastated that I would think they would welcome all who came to help.

#5 Wharfmaster

Wharfmaster
  • Members
    • Member ID: 525
  • 4,039 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:High & Dry

Posted 14 May 2015 - 09:46 AM

Nice write up and interesting topic.

 

Britain had little choice when it came to using women for many tasks during WW1. By the time the US entered the War, many thousands of British men were dead or disabled. Also, there was a very active women's rights movement in Britain early in the 20th Century.

 

When  war was declared, the US utilized men and women having important skills that could be put to use immediately. That would include Doctors, Nurses and medical students. Many US Nurses served close to the front and qualified for battle clasps on their Victory Medals.

 

We assume men that were employed as truck drivers in civil life could/would be used immediately. Farmers that were skilled with horse teams were put to use very quickly also.

I would guess the US had plenty of men that were trained and available to drive motor vehicles. The US population during WW1 was over twice as large as Britain.

 

Last but not least, Americans had no problem with their women serving overseas during WW1. However, they did not want to read about them dying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wharf


Edited by Wharfmaster, 14 May 2015 - 09:49 AM.


#6 cutiger83

cutiger83
  • VOLUNTEERS
    • Member ID: 5,589
  • 7,479 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:USA

Posted 14 May 2015 - 10:04 AM

I wonder if part of the difference in the attitude is the depth of involvement in the war by the British citizens. Four years of everyone sacrificing tends to galvanize the civilian and the soldier. American women, especially those that were there before America entered the war seemed to be viewed as "thrill seekers."

It would be interesting to read how the French viewed the American women as their population was so devastated that I would think they would welcome all who came to help.

 

 

At first thought, I would agree with this. During WWI and WWII, the British, the Russians, the French all had female soldiers doing things that American women were not allowed to do during the war. It probably was because the front lines were in their back yards. However, this problem still exists today. American women are still trying to get into areas of the military that women in other countries have already successfully integrated.  It could be because women in other countries were allowed to prove themselves in previous wars where the American women were not. Whatever the reason, the US is still so far behind the times when it comes to equality.  



#7 cutiger83

cutiger83
  • VOLUNTEERS
    • Member ID: 5,589
  • 7,479 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:USA

Posted 14 May 2015 - 10:12 AM


Last but not least, Americans had no problem with their women serving overseas during WW1.

 

Wharf

 

 

I disagree. There was a lot of negative public opinion about women serving overseas. The women had a lot of barriers to overcome but in the end they were needed.

 

"Negative public opinion and hesitant military leaders limited women's roles, but the country needed their skills to pursue the war effort and to move male soldiers out of office jobs and onto the battlefield."



#8 Wharfmaster

Wharfmaster
  • Members
    • Member ID: 525
  • 4,039 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:High & Dry

Posted 14 May 2015 - 10:41 AM

Here you go, Yeomanette . :)

Attached Images

  • IMG_1930 (860x645).jpg


#9 cutiger83

cutiger83
  • VOLUNTEERS
    • Member ID: 5,589
  • 7,479 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:USA

Posted 14 May 2015 - 01:07 PM

Here you go, Yeomanette . :)

 

Nice medal but I am a little confused what this has to do with WWI female ambulance drivers.

 

....Kat



#10 Wharfmaster

Wharfmaster
  • Members
    • Member ID: 525
  • 4,039 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:High & Dry

Posted 14 May 2015 - 01:33 PM

 

Nice medal but I am a little confused what this has to do with WWI female ambulance drivers.

 

....Kat

 

You mentioned: " Move male soldiers out of office jobs and onto the battlefield "  :)

 

 

 

W
 



#11 Usa1918

Usa1918
  • Members
    • Member ID: 99,599
  • 313 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Colorado Springs, CO

Posted 14 May 2015 - 06:10 PM

"When war was declared, the US utilized men and women having important skills that could be put to use immediately. That would include Doctors, Nurses and medical students. Many US Nurses served close to the front and qualified for battle clasps on their Victory Medals."

While I don't have much information on the female ambulance drivers, I just did pick up a paperwork group to an ANC that had her victory medal receipt for 5 battle clasps. I do think the role of female participants (ANC, Red Cross, Salvation Army, ALA, etc) has been vastly under recognized

Keith

#12 cutiger83

cutiger83
  • VOLUNTEERS
    • Member ID: 5,589
  • 7,479 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:USA

Posted 15 May 2015 - 05:08 AM


While I don't have much information on the female ambulance drivers, I just did pick up a paperwork group to an ANC that had her victory medal receipt for 5 battle clasps. I do think the role of female participants (ANC, Red Cross, Salvation Army, ALA, etc) has been vastly under recognized

Keith

 

Very interesting. Sounds like she saw a lot in her time.

 

Thanks for saying that about the female participants. I totally agree.

 

....Kat
 




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users