Women in the War

During the war, women were urged to join many committees and clubs in their efforts to help the war. Within Dickenson County, Big Stone Gap, and Wise there were several clubs that women joined to be involved and productive. Below is a list and description of organizations that were note worthy along with chosen articles that feature each of them.

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 The Daughters of The Confederacy

The Daughters of the Confederacy was an organization founded in the South before the beginning of the Great War. Women were allowed to join only after they accurately traced their lineage back to Confederate soldiers who fought in the Civil War. Though this committee had little to do with helping soldiers on the front lines during the Great War it is interesting to note that many women in Big Stone Gap, Dickenson County, Norton, and Wise still joined its ranks. “[The United Daughters of the Confederacy] had numerous committees including a junior committee that constituted of members between the ages of twelve and eighteen.” 1

During meetings, numerous topics important to the organization were discussed. One topic was the daily tasks supervised by sub-committees. One such committee sold Christmas seals to pay debts on monuments such as the Arlington Memorial in Washington.2 Another topic of note would be the looming shadow of “district conventions in places such as Tazwell and Big Stone Gap where [members] discussed affairs.”3 Even with all the serious debate, there was always room for fellowship among the ladies. The Post never failed to mention the historical lessons the women taught or the tasty food they shared in abundant quantities.

Even as this club did not contribute much towards the war effort it is important to mention the organization. It reflects the importance local women within Southwest Virginia placed upon their military past and heritage, even as the war soldiered on around them.


The Women’s Civic League

The Women’s Civic League, commonly called only The League, operated in the early years of the war. Under the leadership of Ms. Irvine, the local historian who would go on to write “Wise County in War Time”, the committee strove to beautify their surroundings. The members pushed for this goal by forming two smaller sub-committees. “One committee, the public school ground committee grew flowers and dug plant-beds near local schools, while the other, the cemetery committee, inspected equipment and maintained the grounds around neighboring headstones.”4

Along with maintaining their committees, the organization acted as representatives for the town and held social events to increase morale. The evidence for these actions is shown in two different articles. One, in July 15, 1914, states how the League held a social for youngsters. “In [the social] numerous games were played and splendid recitations were held that entertained all who attended.” 5 Another article, written in July of 1915, speaks of how the organization acted as representatives when, “[Members] made the decision to write to the Board of Health about the typhoid in our mist.” 6 Although the outcome of both events is not mentioned, it is important to note that the town trusted them to oversee such functions.

This organization was important because it showed that women still cared about how the home front looked, even as they strove to turn the home front into a machine for the war effort.


 The Red Cross

This organization was founded long before the Great War. However, due to massive amounts of casualties and the patriotic fever of founders, it expanded greatly in the years 1914-1920. This expansion was shown in Southwest Virginia by the numerous chapters that popped up in Wise, Big Stone Gap, Saint Paul, and Norton.

During the war, the local Red Cross chapters managed to contribute  to the war effort in interesting ways. One such event was when women in Wise sold envelope seals. “The Red Cross created envelope seals in the hopes of preventing the spread of tuberculosis. To help, women in Wise made a competition of selling as many as possible before Christmas Day.”7 The outcome of their competition was the sale of hundred of seals to their neighbors. Even if it seems odd now, it showed the women’s passionate dedication to preventing the spread of disease among the local populace.

Another way women showed loyalty to the cause was by knitting clothing for soldiers overseas, which was an occupation in which the women in Wise and Big Stone Gap excelled. This was proven by the “thank you” letter sent their way under the order of a supply cadre at Fort Lee. “I wish to acknowledge the recipient and gratitude for the 72 pairs of socks, 21 sweaters, 8 [hats], and 1 pair of wristlets…They were given to the 90th division…and are better than anything they would have been issued.” 8

In short, even though the Red Cross chapters in Wise and Big Stone Gap were not as large as the branches in Richmond, they still made numerous contributions as women showed their dedication and patriotic fever.


The Women’s Missionary Society

This group was a very religious and studious group that focused on the activities of the churches, and specifically on supporting foreign countries. The members believed that by their hard work they could have a significant impact on others. One member, Mrs. Mouser, went as far as to say that, “Mission work will surely reach the working girls in foreign lands.”9 This quote shows her faith that the organization was making a difference.  Another impact that the organization wished to make was upon their own community. “One Committee was created by [the Women Missionary Society] to greet strangers at the local churches.” 10

The Women’s Missionary Society was important within the community as it included prominent women and the majority of the local churches. As a whole, the organization labored to make the home front a more humane and charitable place.


Article Citations

United Daughters of the Confederacy Articles

“U.D.C. Meeting.” The Post, June 16 1915, Volume XXIII.

“U.D.C. Meeting.” The Post, December 19 1914, Volume XXII.

“U.D.C. Meeting.” The Post, March 15 1916, Volume XXIV.

“U.D.C. Meeting.” The Post, May 24 1916, Volume XXIV.

“U.D.C. Meeting.” The Post, August 22 1917, Volume XXV.

The Civic League Articles

“League Social.” The Post, July 15 1914, Volume XXII.

“The Women’s Civic League.” The Post, June 16 1915, Volume XXIII.

“Civic League.” The Post, March 29 1916, Volume XXIV.

Red Cross Articles                                                                              

“Red Cross Seals.” The Post, December 19 1914, Volume XXII

“Red Cross Work.” The Post, May 2 1917, Volume XXV.

“Red Cross.” The Post, September 12 1917,Volume XXV.

“Red Cross Notes.” The Post, June 26 1918, Volume XXVI.

“From Hospitals in France.” The Post, October 2 1918, Volume XXVI.

Missionary Society Articles

“Home Mission Meeting.” The Post, December 19 1914, Volume XXII.

“Missionary Institute.” The Post, December 9 1914, Volume XXII.

“Home Mission Meeting.” The Post, June 10 1914, Volume XXII.

“Home Mission Meeting.” The Post, June 23 1915, Volume XXIII.

“Home Mission Meeting.” The Post, July 23 1915, Volume XXIII.

“Missionary Meeting.” The Post, January 27 1915, Volume XXIII.

“Missionary Meeting.” The Post, March 15 1916, Volume XXIV.

 References

1. “U.D.C. Meeting”. The Post, June 16 1915, Volume XXIII.
2. “U.D.C. Meeting”. The Post, December 3 1914, Volume XXII.
3. “U.D.C. Meeting”. The Post, March 15 1916, Volume XXIV.
4. “The League.” The Post, June 16 1915, Volume XXIII.
5. “League Social.” The Post, July 15 1914, Volume XXII.
6. “The Women’s Civic League.” The Post, June 16 1915, Volume XXIII.
7. “Red Cross Seals on Pay Envelopes.” The Post, December 19 1914, Volume XXII.
8. “Red Cross Notes.” The Post, June 26 1918, Volume XXVI.
9. “Home Mission Meeting.” The Post, June 23 1915, Volume XXIII.
10.“Home Mission Meeting.” The Post, January 27, 1915, Volume XXIII.