During WW1 their slogan was “The greatest Mother in the world' but I don't believe they have one now”. Just weeks after World War I broke out, the American Red Cross dispatched the SS Red Cross, better known as “The Mercy Ship” to Europe bearing medical personnel and supplies. The American chapter of the Red Cross was founded by Clara Barton on May 21, 1881, and since its beginning, their volunteers have made significant contributions in all wars, both at home and abroad.
During World War I, the Red Cross established several programs to include:
Nursing Service: Its principal task was to provide trained nurses for the U.S. Army and Navy. The Service enrolled 23,822 Red Cross nurses during the war. Of these, 19,931 were assigned to active duty with the Army, Navy, U.S. Public Health Service, and the Red Cross overseas. The Red Cross also enrolled and trained nurses’ aides to help make up for the shortage of nurses on the home front due to the war effort.
Hospital Service: Many of the Red Cross nurses and well over 2,000 nurse’s aides, physicians, and dietitians served in military and veterans hospitals. The Hospital Service also secured trained medical and psychiatric social workers to help veterans with recoveries and to assist them make the adjustment back to civilian life that many found difficult to accomplish.
Hospital and Recreation Corps: This Corps began at the Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C. where women volunteers acted as hostesses and provided recreational services to patients, most of whom were war veterans. The women wore gray dresses and veils as uniforms and the soldiers affectionately called them “the gray ladies,” the name by which they became officially known after World War II. During World War I, the service quickly spread beyond Walter Reed to both military and civilian hospitals throughout the United States.
Motor Service: The Red Cross Motor Service provided transportation support to canteens, military hospitals, and camps, and was involved in the campaign against the influenza outbreak of 1918. The Service consisted almost entirely of women volunteers, most of whom used their own cars. Many enrolled in auto mechanics classes in order to be able to make repairs on their cars whenever needed. By war’s end, there were over 12,000 Motor Corps workers who had clocked a total of more than 3.5 million miles of service on America’s roads
Our History|American Red Cross History
WWI Service Flag with Red Cross enblems