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Underappreciated and Under Fire


On this date in 1918, the Hope Pioneer reported on the meeting of the Woman’s National Council of Defense in Sherbrooke. The Council was an American organization formed during World War I. The purpose of the group was to support the war effort by coordinating resources, promoting financial support for the war, and supporting public morale. The North Dakota Council organized in April of 1917. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the Order of the Eastern Star, and the State Suffrage Association were already well organized, and agreed to lend their support to the Council.

The seventy-five women present at the Sherbrooke meeting represented townships and women’s societies across Steele County. After participants sang “America the Beautiful,” the heads of committees gave their reports on such things as cooperating with the Agricultural College to encourage citizens to plant vegetable gardens; and drying and canning demonstrations that had been given to 751 women. Junior Red Cross chapters had also been organized, and the Council was active in promoting Liberty Loans.

One of the most important efforts of the Council was to organize nurses. A plea was made at the 1918 meeting for a county school nurse, which, it was said, would make Steele County one of the most progressive counties in the state. But the Council also recruited and organized nurses for the military. Thirty-six Steele County girls had signed up for the nurse reserve. The county quota was only four.

Over 22,000 nurses answered their country’s call and served in the Army between 1917 and 1919. Military authorities originally planned on keeping women far from danger, but they realized that lives would be saved if wounds could be treated immediately at the front. Over 10,000 nurses served on the front lines, working with the American, British, and French armies. New York nurse Beatrice MacDonald was honored by Britain and France for staying at her post during a bombing, caring for the sick and wounded until seriously injured by shrapnel, losing sight in one eye. Refusing orders to return home, MacDonald remained on duty in France until after the armistice.

That dedication was apparent among many of the nurses who served, despite hunger, fatigue, and physical danger as they cared for the wounded. 148 North Dakota nurses in the Army Medical Corps were among their ranks.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


Hope Pioneer. Women’s Council of Defense Met at Sherbrooke Last Tuesday.” Hope, ND. 17 October 1918. Page 1

Ida Clyde Clarke. “American Women and the World War.” "https://net.lib.byu.edu/estu/wwi/comment/Clarke/Clarke00TC.htm" https://net.lib.byu.edu/estu/wwi/comment/Clarke/Clarke00TC.htm Accessed 22 September 2017.

American Experience. “American Nurses in World War I.” "http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/the-great-war-american-nurses-world-war-1/" http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/the-great-war-american-nurses-world-war-1/ Accessed 22 September 2017.

North Dakota Studies. “The Great War.” "http://ndstudies.gov/gr8/content/unit-iii-waves-development-1861-1920/lesson-4-alliances-and-conflicts/topic-11-great-war-1917-1918/section-2-military-front" http://ndstudies.gov/gr8/content/unit-iii-waves-development-1861-1920/lesson-4-alliances-and-conflicts/topic-11-great-war-1917-1918/section-2-military-front Accessed 22 September 2017.