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The Dowager’s Diary – Week One Hundred and Ninety-Two

November 8-15, 1918

“Germany Surrenders!” Those words were scrawled on the top page of Kate Roosevelt’s diary dated November 11, 1918 and the next few pages echoed her enthusiasm and told a story of New York City’s celebration at the ending of World War One. She had lots to say about this historic and happy occasion. “Bells began to ring. The whistles and sirens began to blow. During the war the sirens were intended to warn the city of German air raids, should they come. Tons of newspaper was torn into shreds and cast from buildings, falling like snow and leaves and the gravel on the streets were white with it. Factories and shops closed. People poured out into the open as it was a beautiful day. Newspaper boys shouted “Extra-Extra” announcing the special editions that announced Germany’s surrender. They sold like hot cakes. We put out our flags and walked up Fifth Avenue to 42nd Street. It was a seething mass of wildly excited people.  It was reported that President Wilson was on his way to France, possibly to already there, to attend the Versailles Peace Conference. I to Social Science Lecture at Hippodrome in the evening. A rough crowd but no real disorder.” Pasted right next these words there was a clipping from the New York Times with a headline that said on “New York’s Delirium of Joy.”

Quentin Roosevelt’s Grave in France

The next day’s news as reported by Kate Roosevelt read, “Cease fire was heard yesterday on the Western Front for the first time in four years. Good news for a war weary world.”

Red Cross Canteen

Those most effected by the surrender were the soldiers and sailors who were joyfully coming home as well as those who helped win the victory, but were not coming home. Instead they remained youthful men buried in their prime in foreign soil. When Theodore Roosevelt’s youngest son, Quentin was killed in a plane crash over France during the war, the former president did not bring his body back home.  He said, “We have always believed that where the tree falls, let it lie. We are grateful that Quentin shall continue to lie on the spot where he fell in battle and where the foremen buried him.”

Red Cross Postcard from Debarkation Station

Throughout the war, Kate Roosevelt’s daughter, Dorothy Roosevelt Geer, had volunteered with the Red Cross, staffing the canteens that served hot coffee, sandwiches and donuts to the troops coming home and those leaving for active duty abroad. These canteens not only fed the troops, they also helped them correspond with family and friends. Under the caption, “Soldiers’ Mail,” Kate pasted a photo of a Red Cross postcard and explained their value. “These cards were given to the men by the canteen workers when men embarked for France. They were only allowed to write their names on the card and the name of the military organization to which they belonged. Those posted were held by the United States Post Office for ten days after the men had landed on the other side and then mailed to the address written on the front of the card. This was so that German spies could not get information which might help the submarines to catch and sink transports. Soldiers could not date them.  Many of the most splendid men, physically and particularly from the Southern Mountain districts could not read or write. Canteen workers were obliged to write for them.”

The Poppy Lady, Moina Michael

After the initial excitement was over.  Kate Roosevelt resumed her regular schedule which usually included going to the theater. “To theater to see the play Where Poppies Bloom. Walked home by way of Eighth Avenue as Fifth Avenue was impassable. The saloons were wide open until eleven p.m. as there were quantities of drunken soldiers, sailors and civilians in the street.  Everyone was rather orderly.” The play lasted on Broadway until November, 1918 when peace was declared but the symbol of the poppy is still centerstage every Memorial Day when veterans proudly hand them out. A Canadian physician, Lieutenant-Colonial, John McCrae, gave new meaning to this simple red flower when he wrote the poem In Flanders Fields after burying a soldier after a battle in Belgium during World War One. He noticed that poppies were the first flowers to grow in the churned-up earth on soldiers’ graves. In 1918, Moina Michale, a professor at the University of Georgia took leave from her job to volunteer with the YWCA. She was so inspired by McCrae’s poem, she vowed to always wear a red poppy as a symbol to remember all who fought in the war.

What an historic day for New York City, the United States and the World. Thanks to the diary of Kate Shippen Roosevelt, today, exactly one hundred years later, readers can relive it all.

Sharon Hazard’s Dowager’s Diary appears on Thursday.

On WAT-CAST, listen to Sharon talk about the series.

Photo One:
World War One:
Parade Fifth Avenue New York City, November 11, 1918
Library of Congress

Photo Two:
Quentin Roosevelt’s Grave in France
Library of Congress

Photo Three:
Red Cross Canteen
Library of Congress

Photo Four:
Red Cross Postcard from Debarkation Station
From the Diary of Kate Shippen Roosevelt

Photo Five:
The Poppy Lady, Moina Michael
wiki

The post The Dowager’s Diary – Week One Hundred and Ninety-Two appeared first on Woman Around Town.



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