Reportedly, Anna was en route across the Atlantic when the Armistice was declared on the 11th November 1918. Six days later, Anna wrote to one Mrs. Myrtle Cull of Lincoln, Nebraska stating that she was “now in France”. Anna informed Mrs. Cull that “the hundreds of packages” which she had taken back to France with her (to be delivered to Americans) had “been sent to the soldiers.” Anna was a very formidable fundraiser, as aforementioned, but sometimes she would take on individual causes and this seems to have been one of them.
Returning again to France after the Armistice (albeit before the signing of the Treaty of Versailles of 28 June 1919), Anna went into Northern France again and saw, what she later described as “an awful nightmare”. It is reported that she even had a private interview with American Expeditionary Force’s General J. J. Pershing. She knew the Pershings and had stayed with the General’s sisters in Lincoln, Nebraska. The General’s sister Anna Mae became involved with Anna’s fundraising for French orphans and would join Anna Guérin’s American and French Children’s League committee in the U.S.A.
Anna had to come to terms with the fact that conditions for the widows and children in the devastated areas of France were just as dire as she remembered and worse. In her 1941 Synopsis, Anna wrote [sic]: “I thought that my work was OVER , but having visited the North of France , in front of the devastations and seeing the pitiful state of the children in this devasted part of France , we formed a Committee called : PROTECTION OF THE CHILDREN OF DEVASTATED FRANCE , Mr Millerand – President of France – accepted to be President , Mme Millerand , his wife , being the active President . And I was choosen to take her place and to come back to the United States to lecture for the Committee and to raise as quickly as possible 1.000.000 Frs for the Committee , so those poor children could be sent in sothern South of France to recuperate their vitality.”
The creation of ‘La Ligue des enfants de France et d’Amérique’ appears to have been in December 1918. Madame Guérin founded the American branch of it ‘American and French Children’s League’. The poppy became their emblem flower. During 1919, it was often referred to as her ‘Fraternal League of the Children of France’. See Chapter 6.
Anna was obviously more determined than ever to continue her successful fundraising in the USA, to help French children. To quote from the Canadian ‘Port Arthur News Chronicle of 05 July 1921: “It was in the Spring of 1919, while watching the children of devastated France as they made wreaths of brilliant red poppies for the graves of overseas soldiers, that the idea of securing help for the poorly clad orphans children of destroyed France came to Madame Guerin.” The American Cemetery at Romagne may have been this location.
On 31 March 1919, Madame Guérin arrived back in New York on the ship ‘La Lorraine’, from Le Havre – ready to start fundraising again in April. Her last residential address had been Vendeuvre, Calvados, France. Husband Eugéne was still carrying out his judicial duties in the French colony of Sudan. Anna had left her daughters in Vallon, in the care of her mother – whom Anna gave as her nearest relative for the Ship Passenger List. Anna’s initial destination in the USA was given as her sister Juliette Boulle, who was “care of” the Lincoln Commercial Club, Lincoln, Nebraska.
The year 1919 saw Madame Guérin speaking and fundraising in U.S.A. for both the US Victory Loan and French orphans. Additionally, she was forming committees in each state she visited – for her ‘American and French Children’s League’.
In the ‘Final Report of the Missouri Council of Defense 1919’, Madame Guérin was amongst 42 people who appeared in the list of “Principal Speakers Who Made Addresses in Missouri Under the Direction of the Speakers’ Bureau, State Council of Defense.”
Accompanying this 1919 Report’s list was the following text [sic]:
No activity of the Missouri Council of Defense yielded more tangible results than the sustained campaign to carry the message of the Government and State by the spoken word.
The speaking activities of the State Council of Defense may be broadly divided under the head of the Speakers’ Bureau of the State Council and of the various counties, and of the Four-Minute Men. The work of the latter body was particularly effective in the cities and larger towns. The Speakers’ Bureau, directing the various County Speakers’ Bureaus, performed an indispensable task in conducting our people through the successive stages of education as to why we were at war and how and why the individual could best serve and contribute to the winning of the final victory.
The Patriotic Speakers’ Bureau.
The Patriotic Speakers’ Bureau of the Missouri Council of Defense was formed in August, 1917 … …
The purpose of the Speakers’ Bureau was to mobilize public opinion and stimulate patriotic service by the people of Missouri. It endeavored to do this by increasing the interest of the citizens in the appeals of the Government, both federal and state, and by official and semi-official organizations for support of specific war service. … …
Since the establishment of this Bureau in August, 1917, 300 speakers filled 2,000 engagements, addressing a million people. … …
Valuable assistance was given the Speakers’ Bureau by the Speaking Division of the Committee on Public Information at Washington. Of the total number of out-of-state speakers used during the operation of the Bureau, forty-two were obtained from the Committee on Public Information. Most of the speakers thus secured came from a selected group of speakers, and many of them had unusual advantages for the observation of war conditions in Europe.
The State Council co-operated with the organizations engaged in the following speaking campaigns: Liberty Loan, War Savings Stamps, Red Cross, Y.M.C.A., K. & C., War Camp Community Service, Salvation Army, Jewish Relief Society, Friends of German Democracy and other patriotic institutions including many of which are local in character. … …”
Thus, Madame Guérin was one of only 42 Principal Speakers … …
On 12 April 1919, Madame Guérin gave a lecture in Fullerton hall, Chicago. The Chicago Daily Tribune promoted it in that day’s edition [sic]:
“Mme. Guerin, who has been sent from France as the official lecturer of the Fraternal League of the Children of France, will speak on “A Pilgrimage in Northern France.” at the free French lecture today at 12:15 o’clock at Fulleton hall, Art institute. The women of the executive committee of the Alliance Français will give a luncheon for Mme. Guerin at the Women’s Athletic club following the lecture and at 3:30 o’clock there will be a reception for the members of the alliance in their room, 406 Fine Arts building, at which Mme. Guerin will speak on “The Fraternity of Children of Different Nations.” Mrs. Edward A. Leight will pour at the reception.”
On 16 April 1919, Madame Guérin was in Shelbyville, Illinois. When Shelby County came to write about their World War 1, one of the “features” mentioned in print was Madame Guérin attending as principal speaker at a mass meeting there …. at the Shelbyville Court House – in aid of the fifth and final Liberty Loan campaign:
“Features of the campaign, which went forward with ever increasing momentum until its splendid consummation in a heavy oversubscription, included a big county mass meeting at the court house in Shelby on Wednesday, April the 16th, at which the district chairman, Mrs. Guy T. Lewis of Decatur, Madame Guerin, an eloquent French woman fresh from the battle-ravaged France, and Lieutenant Frank McGlinn of Chicago, one of “Reilley’s Bucks,” were the speakers; community meetings at various points throughout the county, where returned soldiers told their stories of the war, adding their word to the appeal of the regular speakers; the visit of two aeroplanes from Chanute Field, primarily for recruiting purposes but “bombing” the city from the air with Victory Liberty Loan literature; a big demonstration for returned soldiers, Thursday, April 24, on which date a delegation of noted Victory Loan speakers, with a war relic train and big military band, visited the city and boomed the local campaign for bond-selling. These and other means were used by Chairman Walker an his organization with telling effect.”
The Decatur Herald (17 April) reviewed the event:
“Shelby Women Are Interested in Loan.
Mrs. Guy Lewis attended a meeting in Shelbyville Wednesday in the interest of the Liberty loan drive in Shelby county. Mrs. Lewis is chairman for the women’s committee of the 19th district. There were about 250 workers there, and the county chairmen, O. W. Walker presided.
The principal speaker was Madame E. Guerin, who has only been back in the United States a short time. She spent much time in the devastated region of France with the American boys, and her talk was intensely interesting. Madame Guerin came to Decatur with Mrs. Lewis, but went on to Chicago last night.
Lieut. T. Frank McGlinn, who was with the Rainbow division in France talked on his 16 months of service overseas. He had many interesting things to tell.”
The contemporaneous empathy with the poppy showed itself again, described within a long article printed in the Californian Oakland Tribune on 21 April 1919. It was headed: “NINETY-FIRST WELCOMED TO HOME STATE. California’s Fighting Heroes of Wild West Division Step Over Poppy Strewn Streets on Arrival in Sacremento.” Admittedly, the poppies were golden Californian ones but they were still … poppies …
On 22 April 1919, Madame Guérin was found lecturing again in Chicago – not actually found anywhere else since she had arrived in Chicago from Shelbyville on the 16th, it is wondered whether she had been staying in Chicago all that time. Again, the Chicago Daily Tribune promoted that day’s lecture:
“Mme. Guerin, official lecturer of the Fraternal League of the Children of France, will speak at 4 o’clock this afternoon at the College club. Mme. Guerin’s subject will be “My Visit to the American Battle Front,” illustrated with lantern slides.”
By 29 April 1919, Anna Guérin was in Hamilton, Iowa. The day before, The Daily Gate City and Constitution-Democrat (Keokuk, Iowa) reported: “HAMILTON HAS NOTED SPEAKER. French Woman Said to Be Greatest of All War Aid Orators, Will be There Tomorrow Evening. INTERVIEWS PERSHING. Has Been Decorated by French Government for Her Work for the Children of France and Has Wide Fame.
Hamilton is to have a noted speaker for the big mass meeting for the Victory loan Tuesday evening.
Madame Eugene Guerin will be the speaker. She has been called by many the greatest of all war speakers. She has just returned from the front where she had a private interview with Pershing, and is the official speaker for the Fraternal League for the Children of France.
She has been twice decorated for services to her country, and is now giving her time in the interests of the Victory loan.
Miss Valentine Dadant, chairman of the Woman’s Liberty loan committee, has charge of the arrangements for the meeting.”
On 01 May 1919, Madame Guérin was in Muncie, Indianapolis. The Indianapolis News (02 May) printed an article which described the amount of money raised after an audience was treated to Anna Guérin’s powerful eloquence:
“SUBSCRIPTIONS FOLLOW MADAME GUERIN’S TALK. $87,400 BOND TOTAL OF MUNCIE WOMAN. PLEDGES TAKEN AT DINNER. (Special to The Indianapolis News). MUNCIE, Ind., May 2.
At a dinner attended by thirty Muncie women at the Delaware hotel, Thursday night, war bond subscriptions to the amount of $87,400 were made, following a talk by Madame Eugene Guerin, who came to this country from France recently to speak for the Victory Liberty’s loan. The dinner was given by the Women’s Victory Liberty loan committee of Delaware county, and the speak was sent from the Seventh federal reserve district headquarters at Chicago.
The largest single subscription at the dinner was $38,000. Names of subscribers were not announced but it was said that this amount was telegraphed by a Muncie woman who is in New York. The place cards had printed pledges on the reverse side. These were filled out and given to Mrs. M.H. Johnston, county woman’s chairman, and only the total announced. Mrs. Johnston presided and introduced the speaker.
In her talk Mme. Guerin made a point of the fact that in France no speeches are required and no publicity campaigns are necessary to sell war bonds, but that the people line up and make subscriptions at places announced in the newspapers. She has made nine trips to America since the outbreak of the war, speaking in the interest of the Fraternal League of the Children of France. She wears the uniform of a French soldier, with a skirt added, and has been twice decorated by the French government.
The women are in charge of all stations today, which is Volunteer day. The city expects to reach its quota within a short time.”
On 06 May 1919, Anna Guérin was lecturing in Chicago again. Again, The Chicago Daily Tribune informed its readers (04 May): “Mme. Guerin will speak on the Fraternal League of the Children of France at a meeting of Le Cercle Français to be held on Tuesday afternoon at 3 o’clock in the Fortnightly rooms, Fine Arts building. At the members’ program at 1:30 o’clock Mrs. James Murray will read a paper on “Anti-Militarism in France.”
Whilst in Chicago, Madame Anna Guérin made arrangements to set up her American headquarters for her work for ‘The Fraternal League of the Children of France’ (La Ligue fraternelle des enfants de France).
On 13 May 1919, Anna Guérin was lecturing again in Chicago. Again, The Chicago Daily Tribune informed its readers about the event that evening: “Mme. Eugene Guerin, official lecturer of the Fraternal League of the Children of France, will speak this evening at the Oak Park club. It will be guest night, and there will be a program of French and American music.”
On 05 June 1919, the contemporaneous empathy with the poppy showed itself again – when the El Paso Herald (Texas) printed the following paragraph:
“The Wade Hampton chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy will meet at the courthouse at 9 o’clock Friday morning for the purpose of making boutonnieres for the soldiers who will be present at the home coming celebrations at Liberty hall Friday evening. These little nosegays will be distributed from baskets by the maids and matrons of the chapter during the evening. Six hundred of them are to be made.”
On 05 June 1919, Anna was in Madison, Wisconsin – as a luncheon guest at ‘The French House’. Today, ‘The French House’ describes itself as a “francophone cultural center and a private residence hall”, for the University of Wisconsin. ‘The French House’ was opened in 1918 because, during that time, students rarely had the opportunity to immerse themselves in an environment that was totally French. Anna was noted as “official lecturer for the Fraternal League for the Children of France” again.
Anna was visiting Madison, Wisconsin “… in the interests of Fraternal League of the Children of France …”. An article in 06 June 1919 edition of the Capital Times of Madison, reported on Anna’s life and why she came to the USA in the first place. The article wrote about Anna’s husband serving France in the Sudan and her two daughters being cared for back in France, by her mother. Here is the article in full, albeit inaccurate reference to married “at the age of 18 to a judge of France” and with spelling mistakes [sic]:
“FRENCH WOMAN TELLS OF NEED OF FRENCH TOTS. U.S. Must Play Big Part to Save Little Ones.
“I don’t like to be interviewed and explain about myself and my work,” declared Madame E. Guerin, the charming little French woman now in Madison in the interests of the Fraternal League of the Children of France, “but just after the signing of the armistice, I went into the northern part of France and saw the awful nightmare. Then I could no longer keep silent. No one could.”
Wed in Teens.
An interesting life is that of Mme. Guerin. Married at the age of 18 to a judge of France, she soon went to live at Madagascar, where, at the time, General Gallienne was governor and General Joffre commander of the French provincial forces. Here she did much for children, winning the title of officer of the French Academy. She has two pretty daughters, Raymande and Renee, whom she has left with her mother in France. When M. Guerin was sent by the government to Soudan, Central Africa, Madame Guerin returned to France and later went to England, where she made an extended lecture tour. At the outbreak of the war, M. Guerin enlisted and Mme. Guerin came to America, visiting universities and colleges through the entire country, lecturing in French in the interests of promoting the study of the French language. Since her recent visit to the war zone, however, she has done only war work. She has also done much speaking for liberty loan drives.
Seeks U. S. Affection.
“The purpose of my coming to America in the interests of the league,” said Mme. Guerin, “is to create a link of durable affection between the American people and the hundreds of thousands of French children, who being under the yoke of the Germans, have never received any help, and have been underfed and miserably clothes for the past four years. This organization must not be thought of as interfering in any way with the Fatherless Children of France,” she continued. “Its purpose is to help those children who have not been reached. This is a last appeal to America to help build up what she has already saved, to save in its final sense, the children of France.”
Wants Committee Here.
Mme. Guerin hopes to establish a permanent committee of the league in Madison and spoke highly of the work done by Miss Anne Parker Miner, chairman of the American national committee of the Fraternal League of the Children of France, headquarters of which are in Chicago. After interviewing city officials and a number of prominent women, Mme. Guerin feels very hopeful.
“I am not used to going out and organizing societies. I am only a lecturer,” she confided, “and I was not at all looking forward to coming to Madison for that purpose, but I have met with such kindness and real sympathy here, and I expect to return soon to give lectures.”
The fact that Anna was establishing a permanent committee for a new League and stating it “must not be thought of as interfering with the Fatherless Children of France” was very enlightening. It was surmised that this was actual confirmation that she was doing the ground-work before her ‘American and French Children’s League finally began to operate on a sound footing. The discovery of a speech given by Anna (in 1921), proved this.
On 06 June 1919, Milwaukee was staging an official celebratory homecoming for the US 32nd Division. “All officers and men who were at any time served in the famous 32nd” were invited to attend. A Milwaukee widow, Mrs. Mary Hanecy, is reported to have been a volunteer at this Homecoming event – one of a few women manning a booth selling donuts and coffee. Apparently, she had decorated the booth with poppies – it was stripped of the flowers twice by patriotic Americans who took them and left contributions behind on the counter, in gratitude. Volunteers gathered up the cash and it was used for the benefit of disabled veterans.
It is reported that Mary suggested to her Milwaukee American Legion Post 1 that they hold a ‘Poppy Day’ on the 1920 Memorial Day (30 May). It can be said that this was the first ‘Poppy Day’ run by American Legion members but, however, it was not “the first” ‘Poppy Day’ in the USA per se. Contemporary evidence has not been found to prove that, ahead of Madame Guérin, Mary Hanecy “originated the idea of an annual poppy day sale” – for which she was credited by the American Legion and given a Certificate of Appreciation for, in 1932. It is only years later that this claim starts to appear in newspapers. The author is happy to be corrected if proof does exist.
It is considered courteous to write a little about Mary here. Research shows that Mary was born Mary Ann Caldwell on 25 November 1861 Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Irish parents James J. Caldwell and wife Ellen P. Kerwin. Mary married John Joseph Hennessey, also with some Irish blood. The couple had one daughter Elenore (1894-1919) and three sons: Edwin J?/Joseph E. (1896-1974); Gerald John (1899-1959); and William Elbridge (1901-1945).
Fire Fighter Captain John Joseph Hennessey died on 03 January 1910 – when he and three other fire fighters were killed whilst tackling a fire at a building. One of the building’s walls fell on the men and Captain Hennessey died of a fractured skull. It would appear that, in the next ten years, the surname began to be spelt as “Hanecy”. After daughter Elenore died, the US census shows her daughter Hortense (Lewenthal) living with grandmother Mary. Mary died 11 September 1948.
On 28 June 1919, World War One formally ended with the signing of the ‘Treaty of Versailles’. This, however, did not mean an end to people’s suffering in the war-torn countries or an end to the fundraising to help ease it. Thus, Madame Guérin did not rest on her laurels and she continued in her quest to raise money for the widows and orphans in the devastated regions of France.
On 17 July 1919, Madame Guérin arrived in Detroit, Michigan – she stayed at the Hotel Ponchartrain. The Detroit Free Press printed a long article, which informed its readers that she was visiting the city to make arrangements for lectures in October [sic]:
“URGES U.S. TO AID FRENCH CHILDREN. Are Mockery of Childhood, 40 Per Cent Tubercular, Says Mme. Eugene Guerin. Woman Who Assisted Loan Drives Will Lecture Here in Youngsters’ Behalf.
To ask American assistance in restoring to health the thousands of starving and destitute children in northern France, Mme. Eugene Guerin, wife of a president of a French court of justice, has been send to the United States. She arrived in Detroit Thursday to make arrangements for lectures here in October.
Extremely picturesque in her leather-belted suit of horizon blue, the breast pocket of which is decorated with three medals awarded by the French government, Mme. Guerin spoke eloquently of her project at the Hotel Pochartrain Thursday afternoon.
She pointed with pride to another decoration which she wears beside her French medals—the medal given for service in the Liberty loan drives.
Tragedy of the Children.
“You see,” she said. “I have served your country as well as my own. I have worked for every Liberty loan drive, and for all the national drives and war relief fund the war. During the last four years the war. During the last four years I have visited America a number of times and I have delivered more than 500 lectures, in 30 states. And now I shall have a chance to tell of the greatest tragedy of my own country, the tragedy of its children and to ask your help for them.”
Mme. Guerin came to America at the beginning of the war, when her husband, who is an Alsatian by birth, enlisted. She has crossed the ocean nine times in the last four years. Each summer she returned to France and visited the men at the front, to obtain inspiration for her American lectures.
Fro her work she has received the decoration of Officer of French Academy, Officer of Public Education, and Officer of Public Education, and Officer of Nicham. The two former medals were awarded for lectures delivered in France and England, and for educational work in Madagascar, her former home, and the latter for war services.
Describes Children’s Plight.
“Now I shall be engaged in the greatest work that lies before France,” she said. “Since the armistice, the veil which lay over northern France has been lifted, and thousands of children have been found, who for four years have lived in holes, in collars, in shacks and tens, and in the ruins of what they once called home.
“These children are a mere mockery of childhood. More than 40 per cent are tubercular, and all are pitifully undersized, pathetic little figures, facing a future that is dark unless a helping hand is extended to them.
“The Fraternal League of the Children of France*, an organization 22 years old, has taken over this work. An American committee has been formed, with headquarters in Chicago, and I have been made official lecturer for the league in the United States.”
“The organization plans to establish branches throughout the devastated districts of France. A branch will be built near every new school rebuilt by the government so that we may be sure that the children receive medical attention and nourishing food. Numbers of fresh air colonies, copied from the American colonies, also will be established.”
The league, according to Mme. Guerin, was established originally by the daughter of former president Felix Faure, to halt the depopulating of France by caring for needy children. During the war, it worked under government supervision in caring for children sent in groups from the invade regions and for orphans and destitute or homeless little ones. At the head of the league is Mme. Raymond Poincare, wife of the French president.” [* La Ligue fraternelle des enfants de France]
By the end of July 1919, Anna was staying in the Spalding Hotel in Duluth, Minnesota for a few days. As representative of the ‘Fraternal League of the Children of France’, Anna was there to speak to Rotary men and to make arrangements for a “Tag Day”, which was due to take place in Duluth on Saturday, 02 August. When the term ‘Tag Day’ is mentioned in connection with Anna’s fundraising, research has shown that these days are ‘Poppy Days’.
On 31 July 1919, Anna Guérin gave a speech to the Rotary men. The Duluth Herald (31 July) reported on the event:
“MME. GUERIN SPEAKS TO ROTARY CLUB MEN. Madame Guerin, representative of the Fraternal League of the Children of France, and Walter J. Dacey, were the chief speakers before the Rotary club this noon at the Hotel Spalding. Madame Guerin made an eloquent plea for assistance in safeguarding the mental and physical health of children in the war-stricken areas. She pointed out that conditions are even worse at present than during the progress of the war. … …”
On 01 August 1919, Anna held various meetings at the Spalding Hotel – for the ‘Tag Day’ “captains and workers”. Duluth Herald (31 July) alerted its readers thus:
“Meeting for Tag Day Workers.
In the parlors of the Spalding hotel at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning there will be a meeting for the captains and workers who will take part in the tag day for the relief of French children on Saturday. Madame Guerin will address them and they will be given their badges and supplies. Those who are unable to come at 10 are asked to come at 12:30, or between 5 and 6:30 o’clock. If there are any young girls who would like to assist with this work, but who have not been invited, they are asked to come to the Spalding tomorrow, where they will be most cordially welcomed.”
Referring to September 1919, Anna mentioned that particular month in a speech given in Paris (December 1920, printed February 1921 edition of ‘Le Semeur’). She said that the League “felt the need of organizing an After-War-Work which would continue the splendid relief given by all these great war societies who, alas, found it necessary to close its books.* Something big, worthy of France and of America, should be built : then was conceived the idea of the American Star, the American and French Children’s League.” *One of these societies would be the ‘Fatherless Children of France’ organisation.
The page below demonstrates the scope of the work carried out under the ‘American Star’:On 26 September 1919, Madame Anna Guérin, was again in Duluth, Minnesota. She was speaking at the Central High School on behalf of the “Franco-American League”. The Duluth Herald of that day reported:
“Speaks to C. H. S. Students. Madame Guerin, who is touring the country with the purpose of establishing the Franco-American league, spoke to Central high school students this morning at chapel. She described the scenes of ruin in Rheims, Chateau Thierry and other towns that suffered at the hands of the Germans and made a plea for assistance for the thousands of homeless women and children in France.”
Madame Guérin spent the whole of September in Duluth. In her December 1920 speech, she said “Some day I shall write a book of the month I spent in Duluth and the Iron Range, and of the work of our State Chairman, Mrs. McGiffert, and our remarkable County Chairman, Mrs. A. Ouelette.”
In this aforementioned Paris speech, Anna also confirmed that the ‘American and French Children’s League commenced its operations officially in October 1919. Accounts from October 1919-October 1920 were published in that February edition of ‘Le Semeur’.
On Tuesday 30 September 1919, Madame Guérin was found 150 miles away from Duluth – at the public schools in Bemidji, Minnesota.
The Bemidji Daily Pioneer (30 Sept.) printed: “AT BIG FRATERNAL MEETING. Mme Guerin of Paris, who is in Bemidji in the interest of the French orphan children, spoke in the public schools today and was loud in her praise of the American people and soldiers from the United States who fought France’s battles.
She will be at the meeting of the fraternal delegates to be held tonight at the Bemidji association rooms, under the auspices of the Moose lodge.”
The Bemidji Daily Pioneer (01 Oct.) printed: “EXTRA LONG SESSION IN NORMAL ASSEMBLY ROOM. The Normal School enjoyed an extra long session in the assembly room Tuesday morning, when Mr. McPherson, a student of the normal school, told of his experience in the army. Mr. McPherson spent several months across the sea in the service and had many interesting and amusing incidents to relate.
A second speaker of the morning was Madame Guerin of Paris, who spoke in behalf of the destitute children of France.”
The Bemidji Pioneer (04 Oct.) printed the following few words as an update to Madame Guérin’s speech on 30 September: “HELP FRENCH ORPHANS. As a result of the splendid talk given by Madam Guerin Tuesday morning, the normal school raised a fund of $14 to be used in caring for the homeless French children.” Every small amount helped swell the coffers.
Additionally, the Bemidji Daily Pioneer (30 Sept.) promoted the events Madame Guérin should be attending on 01 October. The article was headed “Noted French woman to be honored guest at Association lunch. Meeting of the Bemidji Civic Organization Tomorrow Promises Much.” It continued:
“With a program of exceptional interest, tomorrow’s regular meeting of the Bemidji association, which will follow the weekly luncheon, will, in all probability, be one of the most largely attended sessions of the civic organization during the fall. … …” Anna would be present to “rouse interest in the welfare of French orphans.” All women members of the association were urged to attend that ‘Bemidji Civic Organization’s weekly luncheon.
On 01 October 1919, it would appear that Madame Guérin’s intended meeting with the Bemidji Civic association, on this day, did not take place – she was called away to Chicago. The Pioneer from Bemidji enlightened their readers further [sic]:
“Daughter of France Speaks.
“Soldiers of a free nation, your boys had their greatest military value in their own hearts. It was not by orders that they have been so courageous—it was to remain faithful to their ideals, to the ideals of Washington and Lincoln, to the ideals so wonderfully symbolized in the red blooded courage, the purity of purpose and the eternal hope of civilization by the red, white and blue of the Stars and Stripes.”
It was in this manner that Mme. Guerin, of Paris, prominent as the wife of one of the leaders of the French government and because of her work in connection with the Fraternal League of the Children of France, addressed those in attendance at the fraternal meeting last evening.
During the day, Mme. Guerin has delivered stirring appeals to the pupils in Bemidji schools and the normal school. She was to have addressed he Bemidji Association today, but was called suddenly to Chicago.
“The task of your soldiers was great,” said Mme. Guerin. “You sent them over there to save humanity by finishing this atrocious war. They finished it six months sooner than anybody could have hoped. Blessed be America!”
Madame Guerin told in vivid language, of a journey she had made among the towns in the devastated regions of France and Belgium just after the armistice was signed. She described what the American government has done to put new hope and new faith into the hearts of the French people in the tremendous structures built for the purposes of war, which will now be turned into agencies of peace and civilization. Then she spoke of the people who are returning to the devastated regions to take up their lives, where they left them in 1914.
“All of those martyrs are back in France now. A few of them find the bare walls, but for others nothing remains. The French government plans to give them compensation, but in the meantime they must live and aid must be forthcoming for them to provide for their children.
“We appeal to you to help us. France is mourning her youth—her millions of dead and maimed. France needs more than anything else to preserve the rising generation to rebuild the health of her children. … …”
On 03 October 1919, Madame Guérin was in Evansville, Indiana. An amusing incident occurred on that day – ahead of Madame Guérin’s lecture the next day. The Evansville Press reported it:
“Please Check Guns At Door, Ladies!
“Madame E. Guerin of Paris will speak Saturday afternoon at the Chamber of Commerce to War Mothers and club women on “France,” dropped into the McCurdy hotel Friday.
Whereupon colored waiters dropped their dishes in fright and hid behind the restaurant pilasters – for Madame Guerin had an evil-looking gun strapped to her French uniform.
Madame Guerin, who impersonates battlefield characters, should have no trouble playing her part, according to the waiters.”
Twixt 06 & 10 October 1919, Madame Anna Guérin was Baltimore, Maryland. She was there to speak to the “Gold Star” mothers, who were delegates/members of ‘War Mothers of America’ organisation. Their convention was held during those dates, at the Hotel Emerson in Baltimore.
In her 1941 Synopsis, Anna wrote [sic]: “I was lecturing at the Chamber of Commerce in Chicago when Mrs …… who had lost her only son in France , just a few days before the Armistice, asked me to go with her at Baltimore Maryland where the war Mothers who had lost their sons at the War , the widows and sisters of these Heroes were going to have a Convention and organise : THE GOD STAR MOTEERS’ organization to keep alive the Memories of the Heroes of the War . She told me also and “WE SHALL HELP YOU ALL OVER THE COUNTRY AFTER , AS THE WAR MOTHERS ARE COMING FROM EVERY STATE..”
At this convention, the ‘War Mothers of America’ members voted to change their name to the ‘Service Star Legion’. It looks like that organisation ran until 1985. On 08 October, the “Gold Star Mothers” marched through the city carrying their State flags or banners – with 1000 children at the head. The march halted at Druid Hill Park in Baltimore, ready for a ‘Grove of Remembrance’ to be dedicated. French Ambassador Jusserand and his wife were present. The next day, the Baltimore Sun newspaper described how the Ambassador “threw a spadeful of dirt upon the tree planted in memory of the dead of France.” The same action was carried by mothers at other trees – one tree for each state, in memory of American slain sons. A banquet took place at night.
It was probably the next day (09 Oct.) when Anna addressed the convention. In Michigan’s Ironwood Daily Globe 30 May 1944 edition, Anna described how she addressed that first convention of the Gold Star Mothers of Baltimore … after reading the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’, she proposed the idea of poppies being the “symbol befitting the heroes of the war”. Simply put, Anna wanted “Gold Star” mothers in every State to help her in her quest. In her 1941 Synopsis, Anna wrote [sic]: “All the speakers at the Convention presented an Idea … to find a SYMBOL IN MEMORIAM for the Heroes of the War , one of these ladies did propose the DAISY , an other a/special little flag etc .” but it was Anna’s idea that was accepted “with great emotion”.
“Plans were made” Anna said “that I should use the Flanders poppies as a means to raise 1,000,000 francs for the children of devastated France, and it was decided that in each state one of the Gold Star Mothers would be my state president of the Flanders’ fields poppy days …. Immediately, I made a silk sample of the Flanders fields poppy and we had 10,000 silk poppies made in Baltimore and two weeks after the convention we had the first poppy day in the streets of Baltimore.” In her 1941 Synopsis, Anna wrote [sic] “Mrs. Perrine ( her husband a direct descendent of the family of George Washington ) being President. It was such a success that we had many thousand more poppies made and we raised $ 5000.00 .”
She added [sic]: “I went back to Chicago , organised a Committee to help to have all the poppies necessary . Mr. Loeb , Director of SEARS ROEBUCK , gave the first $ 100.00 towards the expenses of this Committee. Mrs. Masters was named Pre Treasurer and was to forward to me all the Poppies necessary for the Poppy’s Days organised . in the states & towns of the Middle West and West. Helped by a Press Agent , the very well known Mrs O’Bryan called ‘POLLY PRY’ in the journalist world , we had POPPY’S DAYS all through the middle West and West. We were trying to make $ 10.000 in each State and often we received much more than that as The Idea was received enthusiastically every where .”
In her aforementioned 1921 speech, Anna referred to this event: “I spoke for the first time at the National Convention of the War Mothers in Baltimore when they changed their name to: Service Star Legion. Since that day, in every town the members of the Service Star Legion have helped us. The first donation of the American and French Children’s League, not quite organized, was obtained through the first “Poppy Day” in Baltimore and the tag day in Rockville, under the direction of our Chairman, Mrs. Jones.
The first State really organized was the State of Delaware under the leadership of the indefatigable Mrs. Speakman, at a big meeting at the home of Mrs. Irenée du Pont, and the money was sent immediately to Headquarters in Paris, as you know.”
It would be a good idea to write a little bit about “Gold Star Mothers” here. It has been discovered that it is not a government or official term, but a public one. It originates from the family tradition to hang the US service flag (also known as the ‘Blue Star Flag’) in windows of homes, where family members were serving in the military. The flags were home-made and had a number of blue stars sewn on – relevant to the number of family members who were serving in the armed forces.
If one of these family members was killed one blue star was covered up by a gold star – hence, the name. Every American family could choose whether to have their loved one repatriated or buried in Europe – the government paid for either option. Around one third of “Gold Star Mothers” loved ones were buried within American cemeteries in Europe.
On 22 October 1919, Anna spoke at a luncheon on the roof of the Emerson Hotel in Baltimore. It was given by the Advertising Club. The Baltimore Sun (23 Oct.) reported that she had “been in the city for several days” and “in the country to create a Franco-American Children’s League”.
25 October 1919 was Anna’s Poppy Day in Baltimore. She referred to her Poppy Day in Baltimore as being “two weeks after” the convention – she was near enough right. The Baltimore Sun edition of 23 October reported:
“Tag Day For Children of France.
A national campaign to aid the destitute children of devastated France will be started in this city Saturday with a tag day for the Franco-American Children’s League, of which Mrs. T. Parkin Scott is national chairman and in which many prominent women of the city are interested. Branches of the league are being organized through the country by Madame E. Guerin, three times decorated by the French Government for her war work, who has been in this city for several days. With a corps of American women and girls who have been in France and seen the need themselves. Madame Guerin will work under the supervision of several local patriotic societies.”
Anna was probably in Baltimore onwards from the Convention until at least the Poppy Day – she had to monitor the manufacture of her poppies and make arrangements for distributing them on the streets.
On 18 November 1919, Anna Guérin was in Wilmington, Delaware. She gave a lecture entitled “Her Visit Through Liberated France”, at the Washington Heights New Century Club there: “… first time on the Atlantic coast …”. Wilmington’s ‘Morning News’ had given notice of the lecture on 13 November.
Wilmington’s ‘New Journal’, on 15 November 1919, had also notified its readers about the forth-coming lecture:
“New Century Club. Current Events Class. The Current Events Class of the New Century Club will hold an especially interesting meeting next Tuesday, when Madame Guerin will appear for the first time on the Atlantic coast to speak on her visit to liberated France, which comprises those portions of France occupied by the Germans and held without devastation. It is of the children of this country the noted French woman will speak to the New Century Club members, and great interest is expressed in her visit, which is due to the sound judgment of Mrs. William Speakman, who is chairman of the Current Events Class for the month. Mrs. Speakman’s acquaintance with all matters pertaining to France render the November meetings at the club of marked interest to all persons who admire the wonderful courage and ability of the French people, and their name of course, is legion.”
The day after Madame Guérin’s visit to the New Century Club (19 Nov. 1919), the Wilmington Morning News reviewed her lecture there [sic]:
“MAKES PLEA FOR FRENCH CHILDREN. Madame Guerin Tells New Century Club of Tiny Tots in Liberated France. 1,000,000 ARE FATHERLESS. Women and Children Living in Dugouts Abandoned by Troops, Speaker Declares.
An impassioned plea for the children of liberated France was made by Madame E. Guerin, official lecturer and general organizer of the American-Franco Children’s League, before the Current Events class of the New Century Club at its weekly meeting yesterday. The speaker drew a pitiful picture of the suffering of the women and children of France not only during the war but even after the armistice was signed. Much credit was given to the Americans not only for their many acts of kindness while they were in France by Madam Guerin.
According to the speaker there are in France at the present time one million fatherless children. A pitiful picture of roofless houses, with men, women and children living in the dugouts abandoned by the troops and subsisting on what scavengers would avoid, was portrayed by Madame Guerin. Many of the children are paralyzed and Madame Guerin stated she had seen hundreds of the tiny tots, emaciated after years of hunger and famine, being removed from the north of France to the south to be placed in sanitariums, where they would be treated for tuberculosis.
German propaganda, the speaker declared, was responsible for the false impression being fostered in this country concerning the attitude of the French towards this country. She told how the Government had established a bureau to aid the American women who came to France seeking the graves of their loved ones and related other instances of purely voluntary cooperation and good-will between the two nations.
Mrs. Raynor, president of the New Century Club, and Mrs. Speakman, interested in France and all things French, followed Madame Guerin with a hearty indorsement of her project to have a branch of the American-Franco Children’s League established in this country.
Miss Helen L. Kurtz played two piano solos, Schubert’s “Impromptu” and Ole Olson’s “Serenade.” Miss Gertrude Blodgett, chairman of home economics for the State Federation of Women’s Clubs, closed the session with a few remarks on “Textiles,” telling of the enormous advance in price and asking for more intimate knowledge of the subject on the part of the members to enable them to purchase goods more intelligently.”
In this same aforementioned 1921 speech, Anna mentioned her work in 1919. She said she returned to “speak for the “Victory Loan” in the Middle West. I had just left the devastated areas of France; it was easy for me to explain to people that they should buy with joy this last loan which was to pay for ammunitions unused – happily – this loan was, in fact, the price of the men saved by the Armistice. The wonderful response I was met with is proved by the letter from headquarters in Chicago, stating that my work stood out as among the very best done along the line of speaking service during the various Liberty Loan campaigns. . . . . But when I started my campaign for our unhappy children, I realized a reaction was taking place; yes, they loved and admired France – but the majority wanted to forget the war.
We cannot blame them. . . . . Their sons were home. This wonderful patriotic spirit which had swept them from North to South, from East to West, had not lasted enough. . . . .
In 1917 the United States were ready for the supreme sacrifice: had the War lasted 3 or 5 years more, the world would have witnessed the greatest example of abnegation and devotion that any nation could give. You remember: formidable with energy, man power and money, they rushed to us with irrestible [sic] force – and they finished the war six months at least before any one could expect. . . . . Splendid men they were. Unfortunately for them and for the good of their country the trial was too short, the wounds too few or too light; so few of them to compare with ours – so few of them, in their rapid crossing through Flanders’ fields could measure the depth and the breadth of our disasters. . . . . so few had occasion to know and understand us, in our suffering and our silent pride.
From the beginning of December 1919 (for “a week”), Madame Anna Guérin was in the State of Iowa. The Des Moines Register printed a long, informative article on 02 December:
“SAYS FRENCH TOTS SMILE NO LONGER. Wife of Paris Jurist Here Asks Aid for Starving, Laughless Kiddies.
Cotton skirts and low priced shoes are good enough for the wife of the minister of finance of France.
The wives of members of the French chamber of deputies are economical to the extreme these days. For the annual salary of their husbands has lost most of its purchasing power.
Further, Clemenceau, the Tiger of France, the grand old man of the nation, will be the next president of France.
In Iowa Before.
All this, according to Mme. E. Guerin, wife of a French jurist, organizer for the American and French Children’s league, who wears three war work decorations as she visits Des Moines. Mme. Guerin comes to spend a week in Iowa to organize a state auxiliary for the league which will have for its mission the relief and protection of French children in the war devastated area in France.
Mme. Guerin is known to some sections of Iowa. During the war she engaged in war work in this country, and spoke to audiences in the northeastern section of the state. Now she comes to confer with war work leaders in Des Moines.
She will probably speak before the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary club and the Grant club if engagements can be arranged. She will also inaugurate a local chapter in the state league for relief which she hopes to create in Iowa.
Mme. Guerin is pretty. She is eloquent, and a French accent fits in well as she replies to questions. Like many of her countrymen and countrywomen, she is a maker of epigrams. Through the medium of epigrams she evokes interest, sympathy or smiles.
“The league of nations – what did France think of it? Ah, monsieur, we of France hold with ‘Le Tigre.’ Clemenceau, who said three weeks ago in the chamber of deputies, ‘Fear not if America should not sign. With or without a signature or treaty, America will never stand aside when justice calls.’
America With Just.
“We feel that way about America. I left Paris just three weeks ago, and we all know whatever may arise, America will always be found with the cause of the just, signature or no signature, agreement or no agreement.
“Clemenceau will be the next president of France. If not he in person, then someone named by him. You understand?
“Did France want America to sign the agreement that your country would come to our aid in the event that Germany should again attack? Ah, oui. The feeble, are they not always ready to accept aid from the strong?
“To live in France – is it high? Certainment, monsieur, mais attendez vous! The wife of the minister of finance thinks it well enough to be economical. She is satisfied with the skirt of cotton. Not silk. The wives of the deputies, they with an income of 15,000 francs, find that this has lost much in purchasing power.
“We must build again in France. Wanton destruction was the rule of the retreating German army. Devastated areas in France have a problem for your generous Americans to solve with us.
Forget to Smile.
“We want Iowa to help aid and protect the homeless, fatherless, sick children of the devastated sections of France. They are underfed, scantily clad, hungry, and ave forgotten how to smile. Non, mon ami, they cannot laugh.
“Our organization has as its honorary president, the wife of the president of France, Mme. Raymond Poincare. In the United States, Mrs. T. Parkin Scott of Baltimore is national president. Associated membership in the league costs $1. Sustaining membership, $5, and foundation membership, which I seek in Iowa most of all, costs $10; life membership, $100.
“All money received is expended through the aid and help of the French government. All is expended to relieve the suffering of the little children. We must save them this winter, next winter will be too late. For that I come to Iowa. Voila! Will you help?”
Mme. Guerin has been assured of the co-operation of the state public schools. P. E. McClenahan, state superintendent of public instruction, gave Mme. Guerin this assurance when she visited him yesterday.
Mme. Guerin is proud of the war work decorations which her government bestowed upon her. She is prouder, however, of the pictures of her two daughters. One, a girl of 18, and another of 17 years, are in England attending school.
“They resemble you, madame,” she was told. “Non, non!” Mme. Guerin retorted. “They, why – t-h-e-y, my daughters, are bee-aut-i-ful!”
We are enlightened by Anna’s 1921 speech again at this point: “… the organization went on seriously, methodically – but the winter was so long and so hard that the financial part of the work did not give quickly the desired results; and that I was doubly sad because the letters from France told of dire need.
At last Spring came* and once more I thought that the poppies of Flanders would help us. Dear Red Poppies, red as the pure blood given for humanity, which through the war had covered the battlefields with their brilliant shroud.” *Spring 1920.
In her 1941 Synopsis, Anna Guérin wrote “I ought also to say that in 1919 some one had given to me a post card on which was printed a poem answering to the poem of Col John Mc Crea IN FLANDERS FIELDS entitled WE SHALL KEEP THE FAITH and having a Flanders Popy on it . They had given me this card for that* and this Mr. L …. gave me, in same time, the address of the author of this poem Miss Moina Michael . Atlanta . Georgia . I wrot to her to compliment her about her poem .” *Whoever Mr. L. …. was, he obviously knew of her long association with the Flanders poppy.