THE NEWCOMB RELIEF UNIT
1918-1919

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During World War I, many young women expressed a desire to help the soldiers overseas, through medical assistance, ambulance driving, or running a canteen (a place for soldiers to relax). These girls flocked to the Red Cross, where they were trained and eventually sent overseas. Several Newcomb alumnae were involved in this effort, but an official Newcomb group was considered financially impossible until July 1918, when Dr. Dinwiddie, the president of Tulane at the time, discussed the idea with Anna Many. Dinwiddie was enthusiastic about the idea, and advocated starting the unit up immediately. Dr. Dixon, then president of Newcomb, also agreed, and the efforts began in earnest. The Red Cross accepted the unit soon after, and supplied the following guidelines: The Newcomb unit was to be a ten-member group consisting of a leader, business manager, doctor, nurse, dietitian, and social or agriculture workers; French speakers preferred. Before the Unit could be activated, the Red Cross required a total of $20,000 dollars to be raised. By July 22, 1918, the fundraising was underway. Trinity College, North Carolina, asked if the Newcomb girls would be interested in participating in a Southern Women's Unit, but Dixon replied that all of Newcomb's efforts were strictly for the formation of its own Unit. By the end of July, $10,000 was raised.

In August, the New Orleans Association of Commerce approved Newcomb to solict funds for the Unit from local businesses. Wellesley, Smith, and Vassar sent tales of their own Units' experiences to help the Newcomb women prepare. There were a lot of applications for the Newcomb Relief Unit, but not enough funds. On August 21st, a list of members and alternates was made. On September 23rd, a scant two months since the creation of the Newcomb Relief Unit, the needed $20,000 was raised. Fundraising continued to assist the members who would not be able to pay their share of the expenses. The group, meanwhile, suffered some internal problems. On the 24th, the doctor whom agreed to go with the Unit backed out, opting to leave with a group from Washington D.C. Most of October was spent trying to get another doctor for the unit. Finally, with the help of Mrs. Conger at the American Women's Hospital, they got in touch with Dr. Poage from Cincinnati, Ohio. Dr. Poage agreeed to join them, and plans continued on schedule.

On November 11th, 1918, the Armistice was signed and the Great War ended. However, there was still a great deal of clean-up work and aid work to be done in Europe. The Unit was patiently awaiting orders to depart, when Dr. Poage wrote them, warning that she had heard that the Red Cross was cancelling all Units going abroad post-Armistice. The Unit received official confirmation of this "rumor" on December 4th. Quickly, Caroline Francis Richardson, leader of the Unit, wrote to the American Women's Hospital and to the YMCA to offer the services of the Unit. Both accepted within a matter of days, but the YMCA promised swift induction. The group accepted by the YWCA consisted of Nettie Barnwell of Memphis, Edna Danziger of New Orleans, Edith Dupre of Lafayette, Celeste Eshleman of New Orleans, Anna Many of New Orleans, Marion Monroe of New Orleans, Mary Palfrey of New Orleans, and Caroline Richardson of New Orleans.

On December 15th, the Unit left for New York's Barnard College, where a training conference was held for the YWCA groups. According to Caroline Richardson, the schedule there was grueling. The women rose at 7:45, ate a heavy breakfast, performed an hour-and-a-half of vigorous physical exercise, the spent the rest of the day attending lectures, touring aid facilities, doing canteen work, and doing interviews until the 10 pm lights out.

On January 8th, 1919, the Unit set sail abroad the Carmania, landing in France on the 23rd. Once there, the Unit was scattered. Dupre and Many went to Rome; Monroe and Eshleman to St. Nazaine; Palfrey, Barnwell, and Danziger to Brest; and Richardson to Paris. Monroe and Eshleman eventually were sent to Vannes. Richardson left the YMCA group in March to move to the countryside near Beaune and work at the American E.F. University. In July, Dupre requested and received orders to go to Foyer des Soldats, France. Members of the Unit spent from 4 months to one year in France, and all eventually returned home.

In 1920, the YMCA sent a final accounting of the time and money the Unit put into their work, and it was discovered that there was $6000 left over. With that $6000, the Relief Unit established a scholarship in 1921-1922.

Two of the women involved with the Newcomb Relief Unit were also very important to the post-War life of Newcomb College itself. After her return from France, Caroline Richardson became the college's first Counselor to Women. She was an associate professor of English for many years, and continued teaching up unto one week before her death in 1932. A dormitory named after her was built in 1939, and demolished in 1957. The Newcomb Food Service Building built shortly thereafter was then named Caroline Richardson Hall, and that building now houses the Newcomb College Center for Research on Women and the Women Studies Program. Anna Many succeeded Richardson as Counselor to Women and eventually became Newcomb's first woman dean. The lounge in Caroline Richardson Hall is dedicated to her memory.

There is .05 linear feet of documents about the Newcomb Relief Unit in NCCROW's archives. For more information, contact Susan Tucker

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