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The Second Line of DefenseAmerican Women and World War I$
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Lynn Dumenil

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781469631219

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469631219.001.0001

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Over There

Over There

Women Abroad in World War I

(p.105) Three Over There
The Second Line of Defense

Lynn Dumenil

University of North Carolina Press

Chapter three explores the experiences of the 25,000 American women who went to Europe during World War I. It illuminates important aspects of war mobilization, but also informs our understanding of the war years as a culmination of expanding freedoms for an emerging “new woman.” Women who went abroad included Red Cross workers and the Smith College Relief Unit, groups that focused on addressing the crisis faced by the displaced population of France. A second category - employees of the federal government - was comprised of U.S. Signal Corps telephone operators, clerical workers, and nurses. A third group included the Young Men's Christian Association women, who staffed “canteens” designed to improve soldier morale and deflect them from patronizing prostitutes. This group was the only one that included African American women. A final contingent consisted of the reporters and writers who were eager to see the war, as well as the Russian Revolution.

Keywords:   Red Cross workers abroad, Smith College Relief Unit, U.S. Signal Corps telephone operators, nurses, Young Men's Christian Association canteen workers, soldier morale, African American women abroad

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