American aid in Picardy

American aid in Picardy

  • Anne Morgan in uniform.

    ANONYMOUS

  • Library at Anizy-le-Château (Album VII).

    ANONYMOUS

  • Miss Hughes and Miss Wilde at the Committee garage in Vic-sur-Aisne.

    ANONYMOUS

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - R. G. Ojeda

Library at Anizy-le-Château (Album VII).

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Miss Hughes and Miss Wilde at the Committee garage in Vic-sur-Aisne.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Publication date: November 2007

Historical context

When World War I broke out in Europe, many American volunteers crossed the Atlantic to come to the aid of the allies involved in the conflict. From 1917 to 1924, they will be totally at the service of devastated France.

Image Analysis

Born in 1873 in Highland Falls, New York, Anne Tracy Morgan is the daughter of banker John Pierpont Morgan. Active and independent, she refused very early on to become a "rich idiot", avoided marriage and helped found women's associations in the United States. When her father died in 1913, she inherited a considerable fortune. From 1914, she mobilized in favor of the French civilian populations and, in April 1917, she created, with her friend Anne Murray Dike, the American Committee for Devastated Regions (CARD) in order to come to the aid of the affected populations of the Aisne. , particularly affected by the destruction and the difficulties of supply.
Whether for the soldiers or for the working classes of the disaster areas, the C.A.R.D considers that the educational effort goes hand in hand with health and material assistance. Between 1919 and 1921, he created five public libraries in the Aisne. Based in Blérancourt, Vic-sur-Aisne, Anizy-le-Château, Coucy-le-Château and Soissons, they are organized by Jessie Carson, American volunteer from the New York Public Library. American librarians came to train their French colleagues, such as Victorine Vedrine, originally from Antibes, who ran the Anizy-le-Château library in 1923 and who later worked in Blérancourt and Soissons.
The effectiveness of C.A.R.D’s humanitarian aid is contingent on the existence of a substantial transport service. Indeed, the isolation of rural villages has been compounded by the destruction of roads and railways. In 1921, the C.A.R.D. is the head of a fleet of 63 vehicles, including Ford cars and small Dodge trucks. Essentially made up of women, the teams of the American Committee crisscross Picardy and transport food, clothing, blankets, kitchen utensils, agricultural tools, seeds and livestock as a priority. Recruited for their knowledge of driving, these American "chauffeurs" nonetheless retake their driving license in France before being assigned to a center in the Aisne. They must themselves ensure the routine maintenance of their vehicles: greasing, changing the suspension springs, cleaning the cylinder heads or running in the valves. In the event of a breakdown, they must be able to make simple repairs on their own. For the rural populations of Aisne, the presence at the wheel of these young foreign women, animated by a virile and courageous dynamism, does not fail to be surprising and arouses admiration.

Interpretation

From 1917 to 1924, the C.A.R.D led in the Soissonnais an exemplary reconstruction action which aimed to rebuild this territory economically, but also educational, social and moral. Indeed, American volunteers do more than just distribute food supplies and help with physical reconstruction. They also work for the moral and social reconstruction of the populations by creating a network of nurse-visitors, by opening libraries, homes, kindergartens, by encouraging scouting, by organizing parties in the hope of reweaving the social connection. They pay particular attention to promoting the practice of sport among children and adolescents. In their eyes, sports activities not only promote the physical development of young people, but they contribute to the development of moral qualities: surpassing oneself, emulation, cult of excellence and a sense of fair play. Thus, during the year 1921, many sports festivals were organized in the Soissonnais.
American aid will manifest itself again during WWII. In August 1939, Anne Morgan was in France. From September, she organized, led and chaired the American Committee for Civil Relief (C.A.S.C.), a branch of which was installed in Blérancourt, another in Revin in the Ardennes, and a third in Bellac in Limousin. During the "funny war" (August 3, 1939 - May 10, 1940), this humanitarian association functioned much like the C.A.R.D. During the German invasion, C.A.S.C. supervises the exodus of civilians to the South and helps the inhabitants of Aisne to settle in Mayenne and those of the Ardennes in Vendée and Deux-Sèvres. Anne Morgan left France in December 1940 but returned there in June 1945, at the time of liberation, accompanied by many American volunteers and nine tons of equipment and food. The C.A.S.C. continued her social and humanitarian work until the early 1950s. As for Anne Morgan, she died on January 29, 1952 in her house in Mount Kisco, near New York, but France would not wait for her death to solemnly express her recognition for this woman of action: among many honorary distinctions - Agricultural Merit, Croix de Guerre, Academic Palms -, Anne Morgan received the Legion of Honor in 1924; she was elevated to the rank of Commander in 1932.

  • automobile
  • women
  • United States
  • War of 14-18
  • American intervention
  • Anne Morgan

Bibliography

Pierre VALLAUD, 14-18, World War I, volumes I and II, Paris, Fayard, 2004.- American women in Picardy at the service of devastated France, 1917-1924- Catalog of the exhibition presented at the Historial de the Great War, Péronne, 2002

To cite this article

Alain GALOIN, "American aid in Picardy"


Video: A slice of French life in Picardy