This summer’s anniversary of World War I is a time to remember that the “war to end all wars” drew many people affiliated with Illinois State into service, including many women.
During World War I, most served as nurses, reconstruction aides or Red Cross workers, and one spent the entire war as a Navy typist in Washington, D.C. Their stories and facts are gathered in Milner Library’s Dr. Jo Ann Rayfield Archives online collection titled A University Goes to War: Illinois State Normal University Women of World War I.
Assembled by then-Illinois State Normal University Librarian Ange Milner, the collection was part of an organized letter-writing campaign to ISNU affiliates serving in the war. The online collection focuses on 31 women, and includes digital images of letters, completed surveys sent by Milner, news clippings, photographs and postcards.
The women in the collection represent alumni, University employees and graduates of University High School. “About half of them saw service in Europe, and at least two served in hospital units that came under fire in France,” said Illinois State Archivist April Anderson. “One was even among the 20 or so women awarded the Croix de Guerre.”“These fragile documents are each a fascinating window into the WWI experience. The women represented in the collection provide excellent examples of the roles that women played in World War I.”
The smaller online collection is part of a larger collection compiled by Milner. Files for the 685 people contacted are now held by the Illinois State University Archives in its War Service Records collection.
Hear stories from the University archives and learn more about interpretations of the causes of World War I.