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As It Was: Red Cross Supports Families During World War I

The American Red Cross played a significant role providing services to military men and their families during World War I.

A telegram received in Medford, Ore., alerted Red Cross volunteers that men were needed as “field representatives overseas and field directors and assistants in the United States” and women were needed as “hospital hut and canteen workers overseas.”

The telegram said the Red Cross would continue collecting fruit pits and nut shells for making charcoal filters for face masks worn by soldiers in chemical warfare.

The newly assigned regional Red Cross leader, Mrs. Fred Mears, said a limited number of black armbands, known as brassards, had been received and were available for relatives who had lost family members in the war.

The 3-inch-wide brassards were worn on the left arm.  Each had an embroidered military star or more depending on the number of family deaths.  The Red Cross gave free ones to the soldiers’ parents and provided them “at cost” to other family members.

All the activity expanded the local Red Cross’ suite of rooms to as large as others in cities of 30,000 inhabitants or more.

Source:  The Red Cross Bulletin, Vol 2, No. 36, Sept. 2, 1918, Washington, D.C. “Brassards for Bereathed.” Page 8; “News from 100 Years Ago: RED CROSS ASKS WORKERS FOR OVERSEAS.” Mail-Tribune [Medford, Ore] Nov. 14, 2018. http://mailtribune.com/news/mail-tribune-100/mail-tribune-100-nov-9-1918.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.