World War I coincided with the Women’s Club Movement, and in Dayton, women’s clubs played a major role in contributing to the war effort. As we’ve discussed in prior posts, women had been organizing since before the turn of the century to discuss books, music, and other cultural things. They were also joining forces to address issues they wanted to reform such as equal suffrage, labor problems, urbanization issues, immigration, migration, and corruption in the government. The Progressive Era and WWI became a huge catalyst in changing women’s role in American Society.
At the onset of war, women immediately mobilized to provide aid and support. Women enlisted as nurses, though they were met with inequality and even denied full enlistment opportunities. One organization, the Red Cross, grew exponentially during the first World War. But women contributed to the war effort beyond their contributions to the Red Cross and nursing. In Dayton, the women united under the Federation of Women’s Clubs contributed to the war effort while still retaining their other club goals.
In our last post, we discussed Marie J Kumler and her role as the mother of the clubs. One of her most significant leadership achievements was the federating of many Dayton women’s clubs into the Dayton Federation of Women’s Clubs. Organized in 1907, Kumler united 11 clubs in Dayton for “closer cooperation and efficiency in the promotion of their major interests, patriotism, education, philanthropy and civic betterment and to become acquainted as clubs and individuals and to help one another in every possible way.”
This organization was a driving force for war relief in 1918. Their annual report for work they accomplished in 1918-1919 is very revealing. Not only did they prioritize war work, but they became more organized and efficient, and maintained their literary programs while other cities, such as Springfield, Ohio, abandoned them. We want to share their annual report in full with you to read for yourself the accomplishments of the Dayton Federation. Check out the 4 images below for a look at this historic document from 100 years ago. On its pages are the passions and goals of women who led the Dayton Homefront through the end of the Great War.
We want you to be a part of our celebration of women’s history in Dayton! Our book, due out in March, will focus on women’s empowerment, and you’ll learn much more about the Dayton Federation. Sine 2002, we have put over 560,000 books into the hands of children, helping them to feel connected to the history of their community. We couldn’t do it without your support. Please follow us on Facebook and check out our website.