Friday, February 10, 2017

Red Cross Uniforms in WWI

"The wearing of any of these uniforms is to be a mark of service to the Red Cross; the privilege of wearing them is to be carefully guarded," announced the National Headquarters of the American Red Cross in 1917.

After the declaration of World War I, the outpouring of volunteerism in the U.S. was at an all time high. Proud Americans were eager to do whatever they could to help the war effort, women especially. The women who volunteered for the Red Cross took part in everything from canteen work and fundraising to knitting garments to send to soldiers overseas.

Women wanted to wear a uniform while doing “war work”, but due to regulations and possible confusion, the volunteers could not wear the nurse's uniforms that were already being given out to women. So, in the fall of 1917, the American Red Cross announced they were granting new uniforms to women volunteers. To keep a clear distinction between the nurses and other specialized volunteers, four new uniforms were issued to women working as Corps members.

Uniforms from left to right: Supply Corps, Clerical Corps, Refreshment Corps, and Motor Corps.

The first uniform was for the women working in Supply Corps. These volunteers were in a division of the Red Cross that was in charge of preparing surgical dressings, hospital garments, and other supplies. They donned a white dress, with dark blue veil, white shoes, and a dark blue armband with a “horn of plenty” embroidered on it.

Another uniform that was introduced was for the Clerical Corps. These volunteers were responsible for the clerical work in active Red Cross chapters, like bookkeeping and video stenography. Clerical workers wore a solid gray dress with a broad white collar, a white duck hat, and white shoes. The arm band they wore was yellow with two crossed quill pens.

The next uniform was for women working in the Refreshment Corps. This division was dedicated to feeding soldiers en route to hospital or troop movement, and also making lunches for soldiers in nearby camps. Refreshment Corps uniforms consisted of dark blue and white striped dress, long white apron, white duck helmet with a dark blue veil and tan shoes. The Red Cross emblem was on the apron and helmet.

The fourth division of volunteers to receive uniforms were the women in the Motor Corps. This service included all of the motor drivers required for chapter work. The uniforms worn were made up of a long gray coat with a tan leather belt, a close fitting leather hat, riding breeches, canvas leggings, and tan shoes. Motor Corps wore a light green arm band and displayed the Red Cross emblem proudly on their hats.


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