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Nation Building and Rebuilding: The American Red Cross in Italy During the Great War1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 November 2010

Julia F. lrwin
Affiliation:
Yale University

Abstract

During World War I, hundreds of Americans traveled to Italy as volunteers for the American Red Cross (ARC). Through their relief activities for Italian civilians, these individuals served both diplomatic and social-reform agendas. They packaged medical and social aid with a clear message of American alliance, presenting the ARC as a vanguard of the U.S. military that was prepared to assist Italy's war effort in the absence of American troops. Emphasizing American methods, expertise, and alliance, ARC representatives also enacted reforms with the ambition to mold Italy into their vision of a modern western nation. This article argues that international humanitarian aid buttressed U.S. international involvement, both political and cultural, during the Wilsonian era. Further, by examining the connections between social politics and foreign relations in Italy, it demonstrates that the boundaries of the transatlantic progressive community extended beyond the North Atlantic.

Type
Essays
Copyright
Copyright © Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 2009

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References

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8 Emily Rosenberg has called the Red Cross and similar organizations as “chosen instruments,” which she defines as “governmentally favored private companies, informally designated to carry out national security functions”; , Rosenberg, Spreading the American Dream: American Economic and Cultural Expansion, 1890–1945 (New York, 1982), 13Google Scholar.

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16 And for good reason. In the early twentieth century, the ARC reorganized and began to hire many of its leaders from charity-organization societies, health and welfare philanthropies, and prominent schools of nursing and social work. In 1908, the ARC recruited Ernest P. Bicknell, general secretary of the Chicago Bureau of Associated Charities, to become its national director. During the war, many notable progressive reformers worked for the ARC in Italy and elsewhere in Europe, including Edward T. Devine, director of the New York School of Philanthropy; Homer Folks, secretary of the New York State Charities Aid Association; Paul U. Kellogg, editor of the Survey; and Jane Delano, director of the Bellevue Hospital Training School for Nurses. The ARC must be understood as a product of this intellectual milieu. For the scientific-charity movement in Chicago, New York, and nationally, see Recchiuti, John Louis, Civic Engagement: Social Science and Progressive-Era Reform in New York City (Philadelphia, 2006)Google Scholar; Friedman, Lawrence J., ed., Charity, Philanthropy, and Civility in American History (Cambridge, 2002)Google Scholar; Bremmer, Robert H., American Philanthropy (Chicago, 1988)Google Scholar.

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24 Grayson Murphy to Henry P. Davison, Nov. 11,1917, CMB, folder 28, box 4.

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28 Gorham Phillips Stevens, Report to Carl Taylor, “Report on Sardinia,” CMB, box 4, folder 28.

29 B. Harvey Carroll, memo, Nov. 11, 1917; Alexander Lambert to James H. Perkins, “Trip to Italy, November 9th to 29th, 1917,” ARCCI, box 880, 954.06.

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31 Edward Hunt, Report to Grayson Murphy, Nov. 16, 1917, CMB, box 4, folder 28.

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33 This guess was certainly accurate. For one example of criticism on spending, see correspondence between Howard E. Wurlitzer and F. P. Keppel, Nov. and Dec, 1919, box 884, 954.91, ARCCI.

34 For this argument, see Elizabeth Frazer, interview with Murphy, Grayson M.-P., “With the Red Cross in Italy: The Story of the Big Retreat,” Saturday Evening Post, Feb. 9, 1918, 2737Google Scholar.

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36 B. Harvey Carroll to Edward Hunt, Report, CMB, box 5, folder 56.

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41 Mabel Boardman, secretary and de facto chief of the ARC since 1905, scaled back her own participation at the outbreak of the war. In 1915, she convinced her good friend William H. Taft to take over executive responsibilities and become the chairman of the Central and Executive Committees. With Woodrow Wilson's 1917 appointment of the War Council, female leadership was relegated increasingly to activities considered suitable for women, and executive decisions were reserved for men involved in business or professional charity work. See letters exchanged between William H. Taft and Mabel T. Boardman, Mabel T. Boardman Papers, Library of Congress, boxes 7 and 8,.

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66 Approximately 64 percent of these funds went to the Department of Civilian Affairs, 13 percent each to the Department of Medical Affairs and the Department of Military Affairs, 7 percent to administration, 1 percent to the Department of Tuberculosis, and the remainder to miscellaneous groups. Account Ledger, CMB, box 1.

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71 Commission officials budgeted most of their money to feed, clothe, house, and employ refugees and the families of soldiers and to provide hospital supplies, ambulances, and material relief to the Italian military. Account Ledger, CMB, box 1.

72 American public-health reformers began increasingly to introduce sanitary reforms and wage campaigns against epidemic diseases throughout Europe and globally during this period. See Farley, John, To Cast Out Disease: A History of the International Health Division of the Rockefeller Foundation, 1913–1951 (Oxford, 2004)Google Scholar; Stern, Alexandra Minna, “Buildings, Boundaries, and Blood: Medicalization and Nation-Building on the U.S.-Mexico Border,” Hispanic American Historical Review 79 (Feb. 1999), 4181;Google ScholarPubMedAnderson, Warwick, Colonial PathologiesGoogle Scholar; , Birn, Marriage of ConvenienceGoogle Scholar.

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79 Gardner, Mary S., “Report of the Commission for Tuberculosis, American Red Cross in Italy: Supplementary Report of Nursing Section,” 1919,Google Scholar ARCCI, box 879, 954.08.

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87 William Charles White, future chair of the National Tuberculosis Association of America, headed the organization. His co-chair was R. H. Bishop Jr., public health commissioners of Cleveland and founder of the antituberculosis movement in Ohio. Other notable names included John H. Lowman, a U.S. physician, Douglass, Stephen A., superintendent of the Ohio State Tuberculosis sanatorium, and Paterson, Robert G., secretary of the Ohio State Antituberculosis League. “Tuberculosis Unit Reaches Italy,” Red Cross Bulletin (Italy, ed.), Oct. 1918Google Scholar.

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90 Women volunteers staffed many canteens and rest houses or oversaw Italian women workers, but the ARC nursing school and Child Health Bureau were the only sites in which female American professionals possessed significant autonomy during war. As they worked to prove themselves to Italian women, U.S. nurses strove to prove their strength to men at home. Mary Gardner, for example, wrote to the U.S. head of ARC nursing that she had recently asked for a reduction in salary to help with wartime conservation, but only after three months at a higher salary, necessary to establish “the precedent that a woman's work was of equal value with a man's.” Mary S. Gardner to Jane A. Delano, Dec. 30,1918, ARRCI, box 881, 954.11/08.

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98 “Report of the Children's Health Bureau,” Jan. 15, 1919,Google Scholar ARCCI, box 881, 954.11/08. Rural public-health, and nursing education in Italy mirrored contemporary introduction of“scientific mothering” in the United States, where ARC home hygiene departments and health and social-work professionals reached out to women to instruct them on modern mothering techniques. For “scientific motherhood,” see Apple, Rima, Mothers and Medicine: A Social History of Infant Feeding, 1890–1950 (Madison, 1987),Google Scholar and Vitamania: Vitamins in American Culture (New Brunswick, NJ, 1996)Google Scholar; Grant, Julia, Raising Baby by the Book: The Education of American Mothers (New Haven, 1998)Google Scholar; Ladd-Taylor, Molly, Mother-Work: Women, Child Welfare, and the State, 1890–1930 (Urbana, 1994)Google Scholar; Leavitt, Sarah A., From Catharine Beecher to Martha Stewart: A Cultural History of Domestic Advice (Chapel Hill, 2002)Google Scholar.

99 W. C. White to E. O. Bartlett, re: “Continuation of the Tuberculosis Work in Italy–Nursing Division,” June 2, 1919, ARCCI, box 881, 954.11/08Google Scholar.

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102 Chadsey, Mildred, “Work Started by American Red Cross in Italy Lives on Today,” unpublished ms, 1919,Google Scholar ARCCI., box 880, 954.101

103 “War Orphans in Italy,” Junior Red Cross Project No. 12, Oct. 12, 1919,Google Scholar ARCCI, box.

104 For the new focus on the “normal child,” see Patricia T. Rooke and Rudy L. Schnell, ‘“Uncramping Child Life’: International Children's Organisations, 1914–1939” in , Weindling, International Health Organisations, 176202.Google Scholar For playgrounds, see Cavallo, Dominick, Muscles and Morals: Organised Playgrounds and Urban Reform, 1880–1920 (Philadelphia, 1981).Google Scholar For health education, see , Tomes, The Gospelof Germs.Google Scholar For city planning, see , Rodgers, Atlantic Crossings. professionalization of social work in this period, seeGoogle ScholarEhrenreich, John H., Altruistic Imagination: A History of Social Work and Social Policy in the United States (Ithaca, NY, 1985)Google Scholar.

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106 “Red Cross Must Continue to Represent the Heart of America,” Red Cross Bulletin (U.S. ed), Nov. 18, 1918.Google Scholar

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108 Many historians have written about Wilson and the “Adriatic Question” over Italian territories at the Paris Peace Conference. See , Nigro, New Diplomacy in ItalyGoogle Scholar; , Rossini, America Riscopre I'ltalia; Saiu, Stati Uniti e Italia nella Grande GuerraGoogle Scholar.

109 William Charles White to Edward Hunt regarding “Continuation of our work in Italy,” May 20, 1919,Google Scholar ARCCI, box 881, 954.11/08.

110 , Snowden, The Conquest of Malaria, 140–41.Google Scholar

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112 Edna Foley to Clara Noyes, Dec. 9, 1919; H. H. Jacobs, Address to the Milwaukee Chapter of the American Red Cross, Mar. 18, 1919, ARCCI, box 881, 954.108.

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