Many people have already written about Moїna Michael (not least herself) and, in telling Anna Guérin’s story, there is no intention to diminish any allegiance that Moїna Michael’s exponents may feel for her and/or her life.
The intention has been to increase awareness of Poppy Lady Madame Guérin and her achievements, after too many years of being overlooked. The aim has been to claim today, on her behalf, the credit she is due – in relation to First World War war-effort fundraising; her fundraising for French soldiers, who were medically discharged without a pension; her humanitarian work for the widows and orphans of the devastated regions of France; her relationship with the poppy; her US Poppy Days; and her ‘Inter-Allied Poppy Day’ idea.
The majority of this chapter’s content is a collection of transcribed documents and newspaper articles, in chronological order. They are all available to the public but, it is believed, they have not been publicised together in this context before. Further insight into the Poppy Day history can be gained from such pieces but it is accepted that interpretations of content are bound to differ, depending on the reader.
Some people may consider that, by highlighting these documents, they will “muddy the water” but it is hoped they will enlighten because most are contemporary with the period in question. It is felt that credible fact-based appraisals cannot be made if only half the story is disclosed … after all, for decades, the majority of the story has not been told. History deserves this.
The intention is to provide a reader with all that has come the author’s way, in order that no accusation can be made that selective documents have been with-held. That is not to say that more documentation does not exist and it would be recorded if it were forthcoming.
Surviving archived personal letters written by Anna Guérin to Hartley Burr Alexander in Nebraska (during her early Poppy Days and Drives) form part of Hartley Burrs Alexander’s Papers and are held by the Nebraska State Historical Society, Lincoln – these have been transcribed in Chapter 6. These demonstrate, to the author at least, a generous-hearted Anna because not one harsh comment is expressed by her about anyone personally.
Apart from when she was “so crossed” about the tardiness of some ladies on one occasion, in forwarding some Poppy Day collection money (which had meant a reduced $/fr exchange rate for the widows and orphans in war-torn France), Anna Guérin was always generous in her comments and compliments towards others.
If it had been her nature, it would have been only too easy for Anna Guérin to be critical of named others, thinking that only Hartley or his wife would be reading her words on receipt – but she did not do so. Certainly, she would never have dreamt that people would be reading and analysing her letters 95 years later.
As Moїna’s ‘Victory Emblem’ Torch of Liberty was entwined with the Flanders poppy, so have the lives of Moїna Michael and Anna Guérin become entwined … in the history of the Remembrance Poppy and Poppy Days.
It is wondered what these two “Poppy Ladies”, Anna Guérin and Moїna Michael, may have thought of each other. It appears the two women may have only met once and surviving letters between them are few, which suggests contact was minimal.
Considering the passion Anna Guérin possessed for the Flanders poppy emblem’s attributes and Moїna Michael for her ‘Victory Emblem’ (Torch of Liberty and Flanders poppy) initially, it could be deduced that each considered the other a poppy “ally”. Certainly, prior to Moїna Michael’s 1941 autobiography, Anna made complimentary comments about Moїna’s ‘reply’ poem (to ‘In Flanders Fields’ by John McCrae) and recited it in Paris. More often than not though, the poem Anna Guérin would recite at her lectures was John McCrae’s.
The earliest surviving contact between the two “poppy ladies” dates to 09 February 1922, when Anna wrote to Moїna – although Anna wrote in her 1941 Synopsis [sic]:
“ …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 . I saw her once at one the Convention of the American Legion. …”
From 1919, each woman seems to have concentrated on her own particular passion. For Anna, it was always her single poppy bloom – regardless of whether it was to benefit French widows and orphans or (as it was eventually) the ‘Inter-Allied’ soldiers and/or their families. Anna Guérin’s charity, founded in December 1918 (in Paris), took the poppy as its emblem. For Moїna, it was initially only her ‘Victory Emblem’ depicting an entwining torch of Liberty & Flanders poppy design – for which she had been granted a patent in March 1919.
MOЇNA MICHAEL’S ‘VICTORY EMBLEM’:
Torch of Liberty and Flanders Fields Poppy
On 09 November 1918, not for the first time Moїna Michael read John McCrae’s poem ‘We Shall Not Sleep’ (later known as ‘In Flanders Fields’) in the ‘Ladies Home Journal’ edition of this day. On this occasion, the poem appeared alongside a very emotively illustrated advertisement for Druggists ‘Bauer & Black’ – which depicted poppies “between the crosses, row on row” and fallen soldiers ascending high above the horrors of battle. She wrote a “reply” poem called ‘We Shall Keep the Faith’ (also seen entitled “Oh. You Who Sleep in Flanders Fields”):
“Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields, Sleep sweet – to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw, And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.
We cherish, too, the poppy red, That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies, That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red, Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.
And now the Torch and Poppy Red, We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught; We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.”
It could be said that Moїna had an epiphany moment on 09 November 1918 – this is when she decided to always wear a poppy in remembrance. This occurred during the Overseas Y.M.C.A.’s Workers 25th Conference at Columbia University, New York – where Moїna had been volunteering since September 1918.
Moїna was given a cash contribution by some of the men attending this Conference – in recompense for/appreciation of her creating (at her own expense) a homely environment with flower arrangements. She had the idea to provide the men with poppies. With no poppies within her work-place flower arrangements, Moїna went out to the shops and purchased some poppies with this un-associated donation. She gave them out to some Conference men later that day. She considered she was the first person to make a sale of a memorial poppy.
A personal view is many in the First World War Allied countries contemporaneously experienced the emotions that the delicate scarlet poppy evoked, as it grew on the battlefields of France & Flanders.
Militarians saw horror and poppies first-hand and wrote/talked about them; civilians at home heard about the poppies and some received freshly-picked ones inside letters from serving loved-ones.
Canadian John McCrae’s poem “We Shall Not Sleep’ (best known as ‘In Flanders Fields’ now) began immortalising the poppy as an emblem as soon as it was first published in December 1915. Unassociated Poppy Days began occurring in Great Britain before that.
As early as August 1915, in Great Britain, artificial poppies were distributed as a means of fund-raising for local hospital. Other British Poppy Days occurred thereafter for various causes, including war orphans; prisoners of war; and the war wounded.
Who is to say what reason any person had; what emotion they felt; or who they were privately remembering when they wore a poppy on their lapel in those early days?
In April 1918, New York women distributed artificial poppies – to raise funds for American doctors to go across the Atlantic to tend the wounded … and, in June 1918, some American soldiers reportedly went into battle wearing poppies around their helmets.
In September 1918, Poppy Lady Madame Guérin distributed “buttons” (always poppy boutonnières with her) at Nebraska State Fair. When Madame Guérin’s charity was founded at the end of 1918, the organisation’s emblem was the poppy.
In June 1919, people in Milwaukee, Wisconsin stripped Mrs. Mary Hanecy’s coffee & donut stall of its poppy decorations – leaving cash donations for veterans returning to that city.
… so … who dares to say who started wearing a poppy “in remembrance”, as no-one read the minds of any of those first poppy wearers. People may have worn the early poppies “in remembrance” but kept their thoughts to themselves.
Anyway, I have digressed …
On 04 December 1918, a letter (held within the Moїna Michael Papers at the State of Georgia Archives) was written to Miss Moїna Michael, from the Y.M.C.A. Conference, Columbia University, N.Y. City: “My dear Miss Michael, this is to inform you that the twenty-eighth Conference of the Overseas Y.M.C.A. Workers, at their sessions adopted the Poppy as the emblem of their organization. This was done in recognition of the brave men who gave their lives in devotion to a great cause on the Fields of Flanders where the Poppies grow. It will be a constant reminder to us that we too must give our lives unsparingly in service. Wishing you success in the effort to have other organizations adopt this emblem. I am. Sincerely yours John G. Jury, Pres. 28th Conference Y.M.C.A.” (the 28th Y.M.C.A. “Conference” is the 28th Y.M.C.A. training group of 1917/1918: Tom Michael acknowledged).
On 13 December 1918, Moїna Michael signed a contract with Lee Keedick (publicity agent) and Otho L. Ferris (Lawyer). It is held within the Moїna Michael Papers at the State of Georgia Archives, with a copy at the Hargrett Library, Athens, Ga.
It is an interesting document because it states that Moїna Michael assigned and transferred the “rights and interests” of her poem and “designs” to Messrs. Ferris and Keedick – which is why she asked Lee Keedick’s permission to include her own poem in her book. The full text of the contract is transcribed here:
“This agreement made and entered into this 13th day of December, 1918, between MORNA MICHAEL, of the city of Athens, state of Georgia, Party of the First Part, and Otho L. Ferris, of the city of Portland, state of Oregon, and Mr. Lee Keedick, of New York, state of New York, Party of the Second Part.
WITNESSETH: That whereas said Moina Michael has composed a certain poem under the subject or caption of “We Wear For You the Poppy Red,” and has invented or designated certain ideas, the same relating to using the poppy as the symbol of victory and of making or manufacturing certain designs in which said poppy would be the principal element, to consist of pins, clusters, rings, etc., or in any way whatsoever;
Now, thereafter in consideration of one dollar ($1) in hand paid upon delivery of these presents and of other considerations and agreements hereafter designated, said Moina Michael hereby assigns and transfers to said Ferris and Keedick all her rights and interests in and to said verses above described and said ideas and designs above designated, and the said Ferris and Keedick agree to launch the campaign for the adoption of said poppy as the official symbol of victory and to have designs made of said poppy and to obtain patents in the United States and other countries if possible upon said design at their expense. And the said Ferris and Keedick further agree to launch said campaign by the first of April, 1919 and to pay all expenses up to said date and the said Ferris and Keedick further agree to pay to said Moina Michael as royalty on the sale of poem and of designs what etc. above described, eight percent (8%) of the net profits derived from the sale of said poem and said design after deducting expense of manufacturing and sale and advertising, etc. It is provided that said Keedick and Ferris will make no charge for their services in this matter.
It is understood and agreed that said Ferris and Keedick will render to said Moina Michael on the first of January and first of July of each year a full and complete statement showing the amount of receipts and expenditures for the matters above described and shall within thirty days from said first of January or July pay over to said Moina Michael or any representative she may designate in writing her royalty or eight percent (8%) of the net profits thereof.
The said Moina Michael agrees to turn over to said Ferris and Keedick all her verses, sketches, etc. and everything bearing on said verses or ideas or designs and to cooperate in the promotion of the efforts of the said Ferris and Keedick.
It is understood and agreed that this contract may be assigned provided that the written consent to such an assignment shall be given previous to the said assignment by said Moyina Michael.
In the event that this contract shall not be fulfilled by the first of April, 1919, and said campaign be launched by that date, it is hereby understood and agreed that the same shall be Null and Void.
In Witness Whereof the Parties above mentioned have hereunto set their hands and seals this day and year stated.
Witness: [signed] John C Elder . [signed] H.R?. Party of First Part [signed] Moїna Michael. Party of Second Part [signed] Otho L. Ferris. [signed] Lee Keedick”
[Observation: Is this the contract which Moїna Michael refers to as her “Flanders Fields Memorial Red Poppy Idea” in later years? Designs “in which said poppy would be the principal element” is mentioned but not a ‘Poppy Day’ idea. HAJ]
On 26 December 1918, Moїna Michael applied for a patent for her ‘Victory Emblem’ badge design (Torch of Liberty and Flanders Poppy entwined). Assignors were Lee Keedick and Otho L. Ferris. There are two pages to the US Patent document for Moїna Michael’s ‘Victory Emblem’ design http://www.google.com/patents/USD53081. The content of the pages are as follows:
Page 1: “DESIGN. M. MICHAEL. BADGE. APPLICATION FILED DEC-26. 1918- 53,081 Patented Mar. 11, 1919.”
“INVENTOR Moїna Michael [signed] ATTORNEY Charles H. Wilson [signed]”
Page 2: “UNITED STATES PATENT OFFICE.
MOÏNA MICHAEL, OF NEW YORK, N. Y., ASSIGNOR OF ONE-HALF TO LEE KEEDICK, OF NEW YORK, N. Y., AND ONE-HALF TO OTHO L. FERRIS, OF PORTLAND, OREGON. DESIGN FOR A BADGE. 53,081. Specification for Design. Patented Mar. 11, 1919.
Application filed December 26, 1918. Serial No. 268,394. Term of patent 3½ years.
To all whom it may Concern. I claim: Be it known that I, MOÏNA MICHAEL, residing at New York county and State of New York, have invented a certain new, original, and ornamental Design for a Badge, of which the following is a specification, reference being had to the accompanying drawing, forming part thereof.
The figure is an elevational view of a badge, showing my new design.
I claim: The ornamental design for a badge, as shown. MOÏNA MICHAEL.
Witnesses: CHARLES H. WILSON, LEE KEEDICK.
Copies of this patent may be obtained for five cents each, by addressing the “Commissioner of Patents, Washington, D. C.”
U.S. VICTORY EMBLEMS IN 1919
In 1919, different ‘Victory Emblem’ and ‘Victory’ articles were, actually, appearing in all the American newspapers. Not only were articles mentioning the bronze and silver Government Victory Emblems, which were being given out to veterans (N.B. only wounded veterans were entitled to the silver ones), but many other ‘Victory Emblem’ projects were abound.
A Boston company designed a ‘Emblem’ flag and sent it to Mrs. Woodrow Wilson. A description of it was “Upon a field of white (hope, purity and truth) a blue disc with a white dove, bearing the olive branch of peace and plenty, in flight from the dark shadows of war toward the light of a universal and permanent peace, the whole surrounded by the laurel wreath of victory.” (The Northfield News, Northfield, Vermont. 15 April 1919).
The Abilene Daily Reflector, of Abilene, Kansas, printed this article on 22 February 1919 [sic]: “Pupils at Lincoln take new interest in History. By selling 135 little celluloid buttons showing the flags of the allies the children of Lincoln school earned enough money to send for a Victory emblem for their school. This is a silk flag surmounted by an eagle in which any of seven pictures of prominent men of the present war may be placed. The pictures will be used in connection with the study of the lives of the men they represent and the children are greatly pleased with the new plan of studying history.”
Special ‘Victory Emblems’, were sent out to all Victory Loan subscribers – buttons; flags; and posters. The poster appeared in front windows all over the States and carried the words “V. The Victory Liberty Loan. Industrial Honor Emblem. Awarded by the United States Treasury Department”.
In Philadelphia, the statue of ‘Liberty’ (complete with her torch) was taken down in South Penn Square in March 1919. A statue of the goddess of ‘Victory’ replaced her.
‘Victory Emblems’, in the form of 3 cent victory stamps were printed. The Lansing State Journal (of Lansing, Michigan) described the stamps [sic]: “… Victory is seen with the United States flag drapped behind her, the Italian and French on one side and the Belgium and English on the other. Victory has a sword in one hand and the scales in the other.”
For 1919, no trace of Moїna Michael has been discovered (to date) in newspapers online linking her to a single Flanders Poppy bloom or initiating a ‘Poppy Day’ in the U.S.A – she is only found linked to her ‘Victory Emblem’. That is not to say that documentation does not exist and it would be recorded here if it were forthcoming.
On 06 February 1919, the New York Tribune announced [sic]: “Calvary Church Adopts Flanders Victory Flag. First Organization to Accept Design Inspired by Colonel McRae’s Poem. The flag of Flanders Field, with poppies entwined around the torch of Liberty, has been accepted by Calvary Baptist Church as its “Victory Flag”. This is the first church to accept the flag, but a campaign is under way to have it generally adopted throughout the country, as America’s answer to those who fell on Flanders Field.
The flag was designed by Miss Moina Michaels, assistant secretary of the Young Men’s Christian Association overseas conference headquarters at Columbia University. Before the war Miss Michaels was director of religious and social welfare work at the State Normal School of the University of Georgia.
As soon as the Flanders Field flag is finished Dr. John Roach Stratton pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church, will have a special service in its honor. Colonel McRae’s poem, which inspired the design, will be recited, followed by some responsive verses by Miss Michael’s “We Shall Keep the Faith”.”
On 07 February 1919, an article about Moїna’s ‘Victory Emblem’ Idea appeared in the edition of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: upon Miss Michael’s return to Athens, GA. from her Y.M.C.A. duties in New York [sic]: “Georgia Girl Is Originator Of New Victory Emblem Idea. … Among her achievements while in New York Miss Michael counts not the least her success in launching a nation-wide movement for the official adoption of a Victory emblem “to memorialize and immortalize the valor of our heroes who won the good fight.” Getting her inspiration from the stirring poem of the late Colonel McCrea, “In Flanders Fields,” the greatest literary master-piece of the war, Miss Michael conceived the beautiful idea of having the Flanders fields poppy and the torch of Liberty adopted as a symbol to be worn by every loyal man, woman and child in the United States, and displayed from the flagpole of every public building and the window of every private dwelling. …
[… here, one verse of the ‘In Flanders Fields’ poem appeared. Thereafter, the whole of Miss Michael’s ‘We Shall Keep The Faith’ reply poem was printed …]
“… Determined that the promise given in these lines should not be an idle one, Miss Michael then started her indefatigable campaign to make the whole nation share her sentiments.
There is,” she urged, “need for a symbol or emblem, in order that each person, home, church, school or other institution may proudly, beautifully, memorialize and pay tribute to our men who have return home, and those who will sleep gloriously in the battle-stained fields of the world. A banner to tell the story at every door, a badge to tell the same on each breast.
Miss Michael’s first success came when the Y.M.C.A. Overseas Conference adopted the red poppy as its official flower. [n.b. a “Conference” is one training group in a year – they take place every few weeks – Tom Michael acknowledged].
Seeking Approval. Her next step was to try to interest the war department in her idea. The third assistant secretary of war wrote her a nice letter, telling her how much he appreciated her verses, and assuring her that “further consideration will be given to the suggestion that official recognition of the poppy be arranged by the United States government, and you will hear from us with further information at a later date.
She wrote to Mrs. Woodrow Wilson, appealing to her to lend the weight of her influence to the good cause. [n.b. see (below) a reference to this contact with Mrs. Woodrow Wilson at “18 March 1919” section].
The idea was presented to Mrs. Preston (Mrs. Glover Cleveland). The former mistress of the white house thought the idea as a beautiful one, and promptly went on record as giving the movement her cordial approvement.
Many Supporters. With this encouragement, Miss Michael addressed herself to Governor Hugh Dorsey, Congressman C. H. Brand and a host of other men and women in public life. Many of them assured her of their hearty approval and support. Among them was Dr. Talcott Williams, dean of the School of Journalism of Columbia university, who was so struck with the beauty of her suggestion that he offered to do everything in his power to help make her campaign a success. Since then people have been flocking to her support by the thousands.
The Calvary Baptist church, of New York, is strongly behind the movement. Patriotic societies and women’s organizations all over the country have indorsed her pretty idea. The mission she had set herself has practically been performed. True, the poppy and the torch has not yet been given official recognition as the emblem of victory, but the idea has taken root so extensively throughout the land that there is hardly need of official recognition any longer.
Miss Michael was wearing one of the new victory emblems when she arrived. Its striking design and beautiful coloring attracted a great deal of attention. She sympathetically pointed out this significance – that it contained the colors of all the allied flags.
“The emblem is to be brought out in the form of buttons, pins, pennants and banners,” said Miss Michael. “Arrangements have been made with the Gotham Arts company, of New York to manufacture them in great quantities. They have not been placed in the market yet – this one I am wearing is only a sample – but I hope later on to see the Flanders field poppy and the torch of Liberty entwined, worn by every person whose privilege and obligation it is “to keep the faith,” and a pennant from every American door, paying ‘silent tribute’ to the men who offered all to keep sacred the cherished privileges of American institutions.”
On 15 February 1919: The Brooklyn Eagle (19 February) reported on an event held on this day, mentioning Moїna Michael’s ‘Victory Emblem’ [sic]:
“Poppy and Torch Banner Now Seen in Brooklyn. When Col. William A. Bishop of Toronto, Canada, world’s “Ace of Aces,” lectured at the Academy of Music, Saturday night, a huge flag, the first of its kind ever seen in Brooklyn, hung above the stage. It displayed the emblem of the scarlet poppy and the torch, and at first the large audience stared wonderingly at this “banner with a strange device,” speculating as to its significance. James H. Heron, poet and orator, explained that the new flag was inspired by “another illustrious son of Canada,” the late Col. John McRae, whose immortal Flanders Field poem, one of the greatest literary masterpieces of the war, had suggested the idea of using the symbol of the Flanders Field Poppy and the Torch of Liberty entwined as a design for a national victory memorial emblem.
The credit for this idea belongs to a young Southern woman – Miss Moina Michael, director of religious and social welfare work at the State Normal School of the University of Georgia. Since the war Miss Michael has been serving as assistant secretary of the Y.M.C.A. overseas conference headquarters at Columbia University and it was while doing duty there that the need of a national victory emblem to commemorate the achievements of those who have fought and won the good fight, suggested itself to her. It occurred to her, moreover, that such an emblem ought to express America’s response to the appeal in the McRae poem to:
Take up our quarrel with the foe;/ To you from falling hands we throw/ The torch; be yours to hold it high;/ If ye break faith with us who die/ We shall not sleep, though poppies grow/ In Flanders Fields.
Miss Michael discussed her idea with several prominent men and women, among them Mrs. Thomas H. Preston (the former Mrs. Grover Cleveland), the Rev. Dr. John Roach Straton, pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church of New York; Dean Talcott Williams of the School of Journalism of Columbia University, and Clark Howell, editor of the Atlanta Constitution. They encouraged her to launch a national campaign to have her victory memorial emblem generally adopted throughout the country.
The movement has already become widespread. Patriotic societies and women’s organizations all over the United States have enthusiastically taken it up. Thousands of men and women throughout the country are wearing the emblem in the form of buttons and pins. Several churches have decided to drape their pulpits with the new Victory flag. In the State of Georgia, Miss Michael’s native State, her emblem is already as widely displayed as were the service flags and buttons of war time.”
11 March 1919 is the date of a letter held within the Moїna Michael Papers at the State of Georgia Archives – sent from Moїna to “Mrs. W.B. Rhodes; Federation of Women; Natchez, Miss.”. It is held within the Moїna Michael Papers at the State of Georgia Archives. It was written on headed writing paper: “Dept. Religious and Social Work. Moina Michael , Director. State Normal School Athens, Ga. Jere M. Pres.”. Hand-written notes (believed to be by Moїna Michael, prior to her 1941 book) appear in [bold italics and brackets]:
Hand-written at the top left hand corner of the page was [A sample of letters sent to all parts of U.S.A.] and in the top right hand corner [These were sent out Feb. & Mar. 1919]. This is the letter [sic]:
“My dear Mrs. Rhodes:- Possibly you have read in the newspapers of my campaign, inspired by the late Colonel McCrae’s immortal “Flanders Fields” poem, to have the Flanders Poppy and the Torch of Liberty entwined adopted as a national Victory Emblem – to be displayed and worn by every loyal man, woman and child in the United States as a pledge that “we shall keep the faith” and shall never forget the sacrifices of our martyred heroes.”
In the right hand side margin, opposite the above paragraph Moїna Michael wrote [Finally the Torch was disappointing].
“The idea occurred to me while I was serving as assistant secretary of the Y.M.C.A. Overseas Conference Headquarters at Columbia University. I spoke of it to Dr. Talcott Williams, dean of the School of Journalism of Columbia, Mrs. T.H. Preston (the former Mrs. Grover Cleveland), Dr. John Straton, pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church, and Mr. Clark Howell, editor of the Atlanta Constitution.
These and many other prominent men and women encouraged me to go ahead with it, and the Victory Emblem has now been taken up by the press all over the country and officially adopted or approved by many of the leading patriotic and other organizations, including the D.A.R. and the Daughters of the Confederacy of my native state [county and of Athens.]
I am anxious to see the movement develop to even greater proportions, however, and I should appreciate it very much if you would bring the emblem to the attention of the members of your esteemed organization. I feel confident that they will agree that no more fitting symbol could be devised to express the sentiment that we have caught the Torch which those heroes threw to our willing hands.
I enclose the card of a New York concern which is bringing out the Victory Emblem, to give you an idea of how beautiful the design looks when worked out.
I do not care at all about the commercial aspect of the project, nor am I at all desirous of obtaining publicity for myself, but I am very anxious to see the movement in which I am interested made as wide-spread as possible. Yours Cordially, Moїna Michael”
[Observation: The subject of the letter above appears to be Moїna’s campaign to have the “Flanders Poppy and the Torch of Liberty entwined adopted as a national Victory Emblem”. It is not a campaign for a single poppy emblem or a ‘Poppy Day’.]
18 March 1919 is the date of a letter held within the Moїna Michael Papers at the State of Georgia Archives – to Miss Michael, on the subject of her ‘Victory Emblem’. It sheds light on the aforementioned 07 February 1919 mention of Mrs. Woodrow Wilson. Attached to this letter was a clipped, undated cutting from an unidentified newspaper, stating:
“Realizing that popular acceptance of her idea was even more important than its official adoption, she worked night and day to stir up public sentiment. She sent out letters by the hundreds. She got in touch with newspapers, women’s clubs and civic organizations.
One letter she wrote was to Mrs. Woodrow Wilson, appealing to her to lend the weight of her influence to the good cause. Again a temporary setback. The wife of the President of the United States sent a response through her secretary stating that while appreciating the sentiments which surround an undertaking you describe, she feels she cannot enter this movement.
Was the little Southern school teacher disheartened? Not a bit. She just smiled that brave determined smile of hers and said to herself if she could not get a President’s wife interested in her pet project she would ?…”
This 18 March 1919 letter was sent to Moїna Michael from the Secretary to Edward A. Filene of ‘Wm. Filene’s Sons Company’, which was a department store in Boston, Mass. Handwritten notes (presumed to be Moїna’s) are written in [bold italics and brackets]:
[Mr. Filene was in Atlanta Ga. before Mar. 8, 1919 and I met him. He was going over to Paris for the Treaty of Peace], top left hand corner of page. The “1919” of the letter’s date was underlined and the word [date] was written alongside, to the right. The aforementioned clipped newspaper cutting was stuck to the top right hand corner of the page.
Stuck to the bottom of the page was another clipped cutting – it was an upside-down T shape. An image of Moїna Michael’s ‘Victory Emblem’ banner (Flanders poppy and torch design in the centre) had a handwritten [X] above it and these words printed below it: “PATENTED IN U.S. & FOREIGN COUNTRIES. These poems suggested the torch and poppy combined as a victory emblem to be worn and to be displayed on banners, stationery, cards, escutcheons, etc as a memorial to the dead and a tribute to the living who served in defence of world liberty.” Underneath was written [Dec. & Jan. 1919].
Written on the page, to the left of the banner image was: [“In Flanders Fields” was printed in here] and to the right of the banner was: [“We Shall Keep the Faith” was printed in here].
Here is the text of this typed letter: “My dear Miss Michael: Mr. Filene has asked me to acknowledge your letter of March 3 enclosing clipping and the design which you have originated.
He has asked me to tell you that he was interested in your poem and your idea and to suggest that if you could have the poem translated into French and could let him keep the button he might be able to interest one or more of the French papers in reproducing your suggestion for a national symbol. He is leaving for Europe on the 19th of this month.
Very sincerely yours, [signed __?__] Secretary to Edward A. Filene”
With reference to the above text: the word “button” was underlined, with the line extended to the right hand margin to handwritten sentence [X Emblem below is to what she refers] in explanation. This was Moїna’s ‘Victory Emblem’ design cutting.
In March and April 1919, a number of newspapers have been discovered carrying near-identical articles about Moїna Michael and her ‘Victory Emblem’ idea. One such example (from The Fort Wayne Sentinel, 13 March 1919) follows:
To date, forty one newspapers have been found carrying the article (that is not to say that other newspapers in other states did not print them too): The Corscicana Daily Sun of Corscicana, Texas (07 March); The Greenville News of North Caroline (09 March); The Indianapolis Star (11 March); Altoona Times, Altoona, Penns. (13 March); The Evening Review, East Liverpool, Ohio (13 March); The Detroit Free Press (13 March); Janesville Daily Gazette, Wisconsin (13 March); The Huntington Press, Indiana (13 March); Janesville Daily Gazette, Janesville, Wis. (13 March); The Fort Wayne Sentinel, Indiana (13 March); The Oklahoma City Times, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (14 March); The Evening Sun, Baltimore, Maryland (14 March); Palladium-Item, Richmond, Indiana (14 March); The Olean Evening Herald, Olean NY (14 March); The Star Press of Muncie, Indiana (14 March); Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, Wisconsin (15 March); The Hutchinson News, Kansas (15 March); Evening Times Republican, Marshalltown, Iowa (15 March); Dayton Daily News, Dayton, Ohio (15 March); The Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester, New York (16 March); The Ithaca Journal, Ithaca, New York (17 March); The Salt Lake Herald Republican, Salt Lake City, Utah (17 March); Great Falls Tribune, Great Falls, Montana (19 March); The Montgomery Times, Montgomery, Alabama (20 March); Butler Citizen, Butler, Penns (22 March); The Albany Decatur Daily, Albany, Alabama (25 March; The North Platte Semi-Weekly Tribune, Nebraska (28 March); The West Schuylkill, Press and Pine Grove Herald, Tremont, Penns. (29 March); The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pennsylvania (30 March); The Lancaster Eagle Gazette, Lancaster, Ohio (31 March); The Parsons Daily Dun, Kansas (01 April); The Butte Daily Bulletin of Butte, Montana (04 April); The Patriot, Glenmora, Louisiana (04 April); The Monticellonian, Monticello, Arkansas (04 April); Roanoke Rapids Herald, N. Carolina (04 April); The Monticellonian, Monticello, Arkansas (04 April); The Bryan Daily Eagle of Bryan, Texas (05 April); The Sandusky Register of Sandusky, Ohio (06 April 1919); North Carolina News, Greenville (09 April); The Brattleboro Daily Reformer, Brattleboro, Vermont (21 April); Norcatur Dispatch, Norcatur, Kansas (01 May); plus one on 07 May in The Corsicana Daily of Corsicana, Texas.
On 30 March 1919, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette printed a different article to that referred to above. It was accompanied by the same image of Moїna Michael but without the ‘Victory Emblem’ design [sic]: “DESIGNER OF VICTORY EMBLEM. Miss Michaels, a war worker in the service of the Y.M.C.A. Overseas Conference at Columbia University, New York, has designed an emblem entwining the Flanders poppy and the Liberty torch, which she offers for adoption as a national emblem to be displayed throughout the country as America’s continuous pledge that we shall keep green the memory of those who sleep in Flanders’ fields. She is a prominent social worker and is from Georgia.”
The Sandusky Register (06 April 1919) article was accompanied by an image of Moїna Michael (as above), with her ‘Victory Emblem’ superimposed in the bottom right hand corner – under the image was the title “Miss Moina Michael and her Victory Emblem. – Courtesy Cleveland Plain Dealer”. This article is referred to in a letter dated 13 February 1941, from Moїna Michael’s attorneys at law Tolnas and Middlebrooks – to Madame E. Guérin. That letter is transcribed later in this chapter.
This is The Sandusky Register article’s text – the first two paragraphs are identical to other newspapers but the Register was able to increase their article because of a plan to use Moїna’s coloured design in a local park’s flower display:
“Design of Georgia Girl Will be Used For Poppy Garden Soldier Tribute. Inspired by the beautiful lines of Col. McRae’s poem “In Flanders Fields,” Miss Michael, who is a war worker in service in the Y.M.C.A. overseas conference headquarter, located at Columbia university, has designed an emblem entwining the Flanders Poppy with the Torch of Liberty.
She offers it for adoption as a national victory memorial to be displayed throughout the country as America’s continuous pledge that we shall keep to those who sleep in Flanders Fields. Previous to her work at Columbia, Miss Michael was director of religious and social welfare work at the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. She belongs to a prominent Georgia family.
The design shown above is the one which will be used in the Erie-co children’s memorial poppy garden. The garden, according to present arrangements, will be located in the triangular park bounded by Central-av, Jackson-st and Adams-st. Park Superintendent Roth has promised to lay out a large garden in this plot and to not only do this, this year, but to make the same arrangement each succeeding year that the children’s tribute to the soldier dead shall be perennial.
The Register has ordered from the importers, a quantity of red, yellow and white cultivated poppy seeds. These cultivated poppy seeds came from France. Park Supt. Roth, with money raised by the children, will purchase cornflower seeds, such as grow wild in the same regions in France, where the poppy thrives. The cornflower is blue and will be used as the border for the design. The garden as laid out will have the torch in yellow poppies, the flame in crimson, the field in white poppies and the poppy design will also be in red.
Use Wild Poppy Seeds Next Year. The Register has found it impossible to secure the wild poppy seeds from France in time for this year’s planting. Harry C. Hyatt, city gardener of Cleveland, however, is importing some wild poppy seeds from France, having the help of the American ambassador in this purpose. These seeds are coming direct from the battlefields of Flanders. The Register has arranged to secure a quantity of these seeds for the planting of the 1920 garden.
The actual cost of the poppy seed” … … … here, the article abruptly finishes.
Additionally, during March; April; May; July 1919, eleven newspapers have been found with identical articles “Flanders Fields Poppy and Torch of Liberty for War Service Flags by Miss Moina Michael, University of Georgia”. The articles appear to demonstrate that Moїna was setting her sights higher and broadening the scope of her ‘Victory Emblem’.
The eleven newspapers are: The Boaz Leader, Boaz, Alabama (27 March 1919); Simpson County News, Mendenhall, Mississippi (03 April); The Monmouth Inquirer, Freehold, New Jersey (3 April); The Taiban Valley News, New Mexico (04 April); The St. Bernard Voice, Arabi, Louisiana (12 April); The Kansas City Kansan (17 & 18 April); The Eagle, Bryan,Texas (07 May); The St. Charles Herald, Hahnville, Louisiana (10 May); The Natchitoches Times, Natchitoches, Louisiana (30 May 1919); and The Signal of Santa Clarita, California (04 July 1919). That is not to say that more newspapers did not carry this same article.
The articles began with one verse of John McCrae’s ‘In Flanders Fields’ poem, sitting to the left of one verse of Moїna’s reply poem ‘We Shall Keep the Faith’ … followed by:
“Out of every great event and for every great cause has come some fitting memorial. The great American organization of mercy has its red cross; the Y.M.C.A. its red triangle. For the boys serving their country on land or sea came the service star flag and pin.
The service flag met the psychological demand during the war, but now a new need has arisen. Something is needed to keep alive that thrill which we all feel now for the inspiration and the triumph of the fight for democracy. The poppy should be the victory flower, and the torch of liberty the emblem chosen by a grateful world to memorialize the devote sacrifice of men who, like the hero author of “In Flanders Fields,” gave their all to save humanity. Let us keep faith with them.
The number of men who served could be shown by the service star – of blue if they lived and of gold if they died – in the upper left-hand corner; service bars in the lower left-hand corner would tell the length of time served with the colors. The insignia of the branch of the service in the upper right-hand corner, and would stripes – if warranted – in the lower right corner would make the story complete at a glance.”
For 1920, no trace of Moїna Michael has been discovered in newspapers online linking her to her “Victory Emblem”; a single Flanders poppy; or initiating a Poppy Day in the U.S.A. That is not to say that documentation does not exist and it would be recorded here if it were forthcoming.
At some point before 03 April 1920, Moїna Michael, must have joined the American Legion Auxiliary and became an active member:
On 03 April 1920, The Daily Notes (Canonsburg, Pennsylvania) commented on “Auxiliaries to American Legion Now Becoming Active. …” The article concluded with a list of representative Auxiliary women: “On the bill for the national charter are the names of the following women representing the various states: … … Miss Moina Michael, Georgia … …”.
During 1921, a mention of Moїna Michael has been discovered in an online Georgia state newspaper linking her to the Flanders poppy – as the “Original Poppy Lady” (see 29 May 1921 below). Moїna has not been found linked to her “Victory Emblem” – [N.B. “Finally the Torch was disappointing”?] – or linked to initiating a Poppy Day in the U.S.A. That is not to say that more documentation does not exist and it would be recorded here if it were forthcoming.
If Anna’s Poppy Days/Drives were to continue being successful and if her ‘Inter-Allied Poppy Day’ idea was to become an Allied; National; and International success long-term, it would be imperative to maintain the support of all people with any empathy with the poppy.
Perhaps, with this in mind, the American and French Children’s League’s Assistant Treasurer & Secretary Isabelle Mack (Anna Guérin’s French-born associate in U.S.A.) wrote graciously on 19 February 1921 from the League’s Indianapolis headquarters, to Moїna Michael (maybe at the initiation of Anna Guérin?). Here is Isabelle’s letter [sic]:
“My dear Miss Michael. I am sure you will be interested to hear about the report of our work in 1920 up to November 1st. I am sending you Le Semeur. Your beautiful poem is quoted in it as the most perfect answer to “Flanders Fields”, so fitted and suitable in every way that one cannot separate one from the other. “In Flanders Fields”… has become the uncontested property of all Allied soldiers though your splendid expression of feeling and troth to all that is noble. Yours most sincerely Isabella Mack.”
Amongst its pages, this ‘Le Semeur’ publication contained a report/speech given by Madame Anna Guérin – under the heading “AMERICAN STAR” … “American and French Children’s League” … “The After-War Work”. The majority of this article has been quoted in previous chapters, within relevant time-line slots, and is identified accordingly. However, it is thought appropriate to quote the remaining interesting pieces – to illustrate Anna’s love of the United States of America and the generosity of the people who lived in that country.
Anna’s speech to the “French Committee and Guests Assembled in Paris, Thursday, December 9th, 1920” began [sic]: “Ladies and Gentlemen: I shall not apologize for coming before you as those soldiers who, after a long campaign, return with a shabby uniform — but with hope and strength because “over here” they felt that Victory was – approaching. . . . I am here in the same condition. After 20 months of struggle, at last I see the full success of our great work of Justice, Humanity, Fraternity and Remembrance. This great hope makes me forget all: My shabby uniform, my physical and moral fatigue – I am happy, bringing to you wonderful tidings from all our friends and supporters in the United States. … …”
“The United States, marvellous country, whose immensity, power, energy and richness would overpower you if, at each step, you did not feel its big heart throbbing with generosity, a great mind full of wonderful ideals for Humanity – France being considered a very loved part of Humanity. . . . Do not judge the United States without having been there, do not judge before knowing them as I do, for then you will understand why I love them so dearly, why I hope so much from this young, strong nation who loves France like an older sister, wounded and worthy of the most tender care. … …”
“But I do love especially the school children, the students of High Schools and Universities, all this generous new generation which seems to me the best part of America, from whom we can expect great things. Always ready to deprive themselves of their pin money, of their leisure time to help every one of the relief committees, they were my dearest friends. I wish I had time to tell you some of thing done for us by the schools of Dubuque and Burlington (Iowa) — the response from the schools of the Iron Range in Minnesota. I would like to name every one of them: Tower, Anrora, Biwabick, Gilbert, Eveleth, Virginia, Mt. Iron, Buhl, Chisholm, Hibbing, Keewatin, Nashwark, Marble, Coleraine, Grand Rapids. . . . These names are nothing to you: to me they are as sweet as the people were kind”.
Anna spoke about the poppy being immortalised in the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ and recited it to the Assembly. She read out Moїna’s poem, calling it “admirable”. Anna generously stated “Those two poems were my inspiration for the “Poppy Days”. Yes, the red poppy would finish the work – it would be the national emblem, the international one, that would allow the American and French Children’s League to carry on the work of Justice, Humanity and Remembrance. And we went from town to town having Poppy Days. … …” From its conception in November/December 1918, the poppy had been Anna’s American and French Children’s League’s emblem.
This ‘Le Semeur’ publication is held within the Moїna Michael Collection at Georgia’s Hargrett Library. Also held there is a typed copy of this same speech – its origin is unknown but perhaps Moїna created it, to make it easier to read and make notes on.
On this typed copy, Moїna made written notes on date/s unknown and the relevant extracts are reproduced below. The reason for these notes becomes evident further on in this chapter. Moїna Michael’s hand-written notes/edits appear in [bold italics and brackets]:
On the first/front page of the typed copy, Moїna wrote at the top [The article in the magazine] and, in the top left hand side margin, [This explains the beginning of the tangle. M.M.]. [On the corresponding ‘Le Semeur’ page (13), Moїna underlined dates thus: “LE SEMEUR. February, 1921. AMERICAN AND FRENCH CHILDREN’S LEAGUE. Report of the First Year, October, 1919-October, 1920, By Madame E. Guerin, Founder OF THE American and French Children’s League in the United States, to the French Committee and Guests Assembled in Paris, Thursday, December 9th, 1920.”] …
“When I arrived in April, 1919, it was to speak for the “Victory Loan” in the Middle West. I had just left the devastated regions of France; it was easy for me to explain to the people that they should buy with joy and gratitude this last loan which was to pay for ammunitions” Moїna wrote [“April 1919 X”] in the left hand margin opposite the above paragraph. [At the corresponding paragraph in ‘Le Semeur’ (page 14), Moїna underlined [“When I arrived in April, 1919 …”]. [Observation: Did Moїna believe April 1919 was first time Madame Guérin had arrived in the U.S.A.? In actual fact, she had arrived in October 1914 – April 1919 being associated with one of her return visits].
On page 3 of the typed copy: “If I have spoken at length of these, it is that at this very time, September, 1919, we 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 their 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. …” Moїna underlined the words [“September, 1919”] and [“was conceived the idea of the American Star, the American and French Children’s League”] and wrote in the right hand margin beside the above paragraph [Sept. 1919 (nearly a year after the birth of the Poppy)]. At the corresponding paragraph in the actual ‘Le Semeur’ (page 14), Moїna underlined the words [“September, 1919”].
Also on page 3 of the typed copy: “At last spring came [above “came” & “and” Moїna wrote  and drew a line to the left hand margin] 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 …” [Moїna wrote opposite the paragraph, in the left hand margin: [she arrived in U.S.A. April 1919 – she now begins her Poppy work with my Poppy Idea. More than a year and one half after the birth of the Poppy one – Memorial Poppy Idea. M.M.]. In the right hand side margin of ‘Le Semeur’ (page 14) Moїna wrote [I began Nov. 1918 and this Sept. 1919].
On page 4 of the typed copy: “Those two poems were my inspiration for the “POPPY DAYS” [above “inspiration” and “for” Moїna wrote “Spring 1920”]. Yes, the red poppy would finish the work – it would be the national emblem, the international one, that would allow the American and French Children’s League to carry on the work of Justice, Humanity and Remembrance. And we went from town to town having Poppy Days. …”. [At the corresponding paragraph in ‘Le Semeur’ (page 15), Moїna underlined [“Those two poems were my inspiration …” and above “inspiration” and “for” Moїna wrote “1920”].
On page 5 of the typed copy: “The same Resolution was adopted also by the American Legion at its National Convention in Cleveland.…” [above words “adopted … the”, Moїna wrote “In GA, in Aug 1920”. Above “American” Moїna wrote, “Sept.1920”]. “Aug. 1920” referred to solely the Georgia American Legion Post adoption and “Sept. 1920” referred to the whole of the American Legion (every State) adopting the poppy emblem after the GA resolution and after Madame Guérin had spoken on behalf of her ‘Inter-Allied Poppy Day’ idea and her Children’s League].
On 12 May 1921, via Georgia’s Atlanta Constitution newspaper, Florida’s Miami News informed its readers about the “newly inaugurated custom” of every American wearing a red poppy on his or her breast on the national Memorial Day, 30 May … “as a mark of loyalty and respect for the memory of the boys who sacrificed their lives on the fields of France during the world war. This is a beautiful custom, patriotic, idealistic and worthy in every respect.”
The article mentioned the American Legion adopting the poppy at its Cleveland convention; John McCrae and his “noble” poem; Moїna Michael’s “efforts” re the Georgia State American Legion adopting the poppy; the poppies being distributed by the American Franco Children’s league; with the proceeds going to France “to benefit those who made them.”
Given the Georgian source of the article, it is not surprising that NO mention was made of Madame Guérin; her invitation to address the American Legion on her ‘Inter-Allied Poppy Day’ idea; or her being hailed ‘The Poppy Lady of France’ by the American Legion State commanders at the Cleveland Convention.
The identical article has also been found printed in: The Albany Decatur, Albany, Alabama (20 May); TheTampa Times (21 May); The Orlando Sentinel (21 May); The Yazoo Herald, Yazoo City, Mississippi (24 May); and The Town Talk, Alexandria, Louisiana (28 May). That is not to say that more documentation does not exist and it would be recorded here if it were forthcoming.
On 29 May 1921, at a time when Madame Guérin had been getting a huge amount of well-earned publicity during the Poppy Day/Drive campaign leading up to Memorial Day, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran an article championing their Georgian Moїna Michael:
“Original Poppy Lady. Miss Moina Michael, of Athens, a member of the faculty of the State Normal school at Athens, Ga., who has proofs to substantiate the claim that she is the original “Poppy Lady of America.”
In October, 1918, Miss Michael’s suggestion was published that the red poppy of Flanders be chosen as the symbol to memorialize and immortalize the sacrificial blood of our men who fought the victorious fight in the world war.
Afterwards, claims Miss Michael, Madame Guerin adopted the poppy idea to raise money for the French children, and she has been called the “Poppy Lady of France.”
That Miss Michael originated the idea is particularly interesting at this time, Memorial day, when poppies in honor of the heroic dead are being worn all over America.”
On 23 November 1921, a letter from The American Legion Adjutant Lemuel Bolles (from Legion National HQ in Indianapolis) was sent to Moїna Michael. It is logically deduced, from the reply, that Moїna had written to the American Legion’s Commander in an attempt to get the organisation to change its allegiance back to the poppy – after it adopted the daisy as their Memorial flower. This letter was sent to ”Miss Moina Michael, State Normal School, Athens, Georgia” and is held in Moїna Michael’s Collection, at Hargrett Library, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA:
“My dear Miss Michael: I am acknowledging receipt of your letter of November 8th addressed to Commander MacNider, and concerning the adoption of the daisy as the official memorial flower of The American Legion for the reason that Mr. MacNider is with the Foch party on its western trip, and I do not know if he has had time to make you a personal reply.
We are very much interested in your letter and the clippings which you have enclosed. While I am personally delighted with the sentiments expressed in your letter, yet the action of our Convention cannot be changed at this time. For your information, I am quoting the recommendation of the Ceremonials Committee as it was adopted by the Convention:
“Your Committee has received numerous communications complaining of the poppy as The American Legion flower on the grounds that it is not an American flower; that it is not available for use except in artificial flower. Very many of these complaints have suggested the American daisy instead of the poppy. Your Committee recommends the substitution of the daisy for the poppy as the official flower of the American Legion for use in ceremonials.”
I am very glad to know of the services you rendered during the War and of the work you are doing now, and I hope to have the pleasure of writing you a more cheerful letter at a later date. Sincerely yours, Lemuel Bolles LEMUEL BOLLES National Adjutant”
Written (and unexplained) at the end of this letter: [Please return this. I shall ship back the pins & pennants in a week or two ….(unreadable)….].
That American Legion Convention in Kansas City, Missouri (31 Oct. – 02 Nov. 1921) was attended by Madame Guérin – invited to attend, she made a special trip out of Canada. Obviously, she was keen for the American Legion to keep the poppy as its memorial flower too. She fought for it but to no avail – the Legion men repudiated the action taken in 1920 and changed their allegiance from the poppy to the daisy.
The 09 February 1922 typed letter (aforementioned, earliest surviving contact), from Anna Guérin to Moїna Michael, was a consequence of the American Legion reneging on the poppy (explained in Chapter 8). Anna wrote from Canada but the address she was ‘care-of’ was 32 Union Square, New York City, New York. This was the headquarters of the ‘Veterans of Foreign Wars’ organisation, which was Anna’s new partner for the 1922 U.S. ‘Poppy Day’ campaign. A V.F.W. member, Walter I. Joyce, owned the building and he allowed the organisation to use office space in it, rent-free. The ‘Foreign Service’ was a publication issued by the V.F.W. organisation.
Some quotes from the 09 February 1922 letter (3 pages) of Anna’s have already appeared elsewhere in other chapters too (in appropriate timeline slots). The original is held at the Georgia Archives (as it was but a copy of this letter is held at the Hargrett Library, Athens, Georgia. It is the copy which is transcribed below in its entirety because it bears hand-written notes (n.b. the date on the copy is incorrect and states “8” instead of “9” [sic, minus page numbers]:
“COPY. THE WINDSOR HOTEL, MONTREAL February 8, 1922
Mme. E. Guerin, c/o Mr. N.S. Hall, Foreign Service Editor, 32 Union Square, New York City, N.Y. … MY dear Miss Michael:
I beg of you, most earnestly to forgive my long silence; my great excuse is all the worries I have had and have still to put through our great idea of us, I mean by that: To see the Flanders Field Poppy recognised as the Memorial Flower of the Great War, not only in word but in fact and to see every good ally of France during the War wear it as a National on its Memorial Day. And I do want you so much to help me in the U. S. May I explain why in beginning by the beginning.
You must excuse this typewriting, I am just learning because by now, after nearly 7 years of war-work my nerves are unable to a stand any long writing letter as I used to enjoy to write. Yes before the War I used to enjoy so much to write to interesting people!
At the convention on Kansas City I tried also very often your room but nobody really had a chance to see each other in those exciting days, to do not say mad days. I was very worried because I knew it was very important to have the National Convention of the women to adopt the Flanders Field Poppy as their Memorial Flower, even if I did not know that the Daisy would be brought out. And you probably know that it is far more difficult to obtain some thing from a convention of women than from on of men when it is a sentimental Idea put forward, as strange it seems to say so.
As you know, probably, The American Legion auxiliary did adopt the Poppy s Their Memorial Flower. So I asked to speak to their executive Committee to present to them the proposition as it had been adopted already by many Allied nations: “To help a little longer the poor women of the Northern part of France buy the poppies they will make 4 cents each and let us make next decoration Day a National Poppy Day with the help of all other patriotic organizations, each town keeping for their own relief work every theing they make above the cost price. And as this year the Poppies from France will be sold less than 10 cents, which will be a great profit to every local Charity Committee.
And I said to them that their headquarters could sell the poppies throughout the country 4 cents ½ so they would have an annual source of resources for their Headquarters, quite legitimate, and which would allow them to carry on better their great work.
I told them that this Idea was worked in this Principle in Canada, in England, in Australia, in New Zealand, for Armistice Day which was the Memorial Day chosen by the British Empire. That in all those countries they were expecting this year, which was the first year of trial, great results.
At that, in Kansas City, the Executive Committee of the new women organization duly call, “American Legion Auxiliary” said they would decide that at their Annual Meeting on the 20th of January, would I wait until them. I said Yes, sure they would see the good of the Idea. Mr. Bolles, the National Adjutant of the American Legion, was quite enthousiatica about it, and He said to all the ladies that the Daisy being the official Flower for the American Legion that had nothing to do with the Poppy being the Memorial Flower anyway.
I left Kansas City full of hope and went to see how the National Poppy Days were succeeding in my other countries. It would be too long to give you all the details, my dear Miss Michael, but may I tell you that they have been a great success throughout the British Empire for all the organizations of ex-soldiers to whom I have brought the Idea and sold the poppies. Example, here in Canada, the Great war Veterans have had with 1,000,000 small poppies and 200,000 large ones $90,000 clear profit for their relief work in their different branches, and the French side will have about 80,000 dollars. I am just arrived here to settle this part. On the $80,000 the French Poppies will be paid, the expenses of the Campaign also and the balances, clear profit will go to the poor children of the battle fields; I am proud to say that my delegates, two of them, left here to do the work with the Veterans while I was in England, have done splendidly, having run this campaign for the Veterans with their help, of course, with less than 6% expenses.
In England the success was even greater, the success has been also very good in Australia. The New-Zealand Veterans have chosen as Memorial Day, Anzac Day, beginning of April. But every thing shows that it will be also a success. And the British People have taken that in the right spirit, it will go on now, every year, nationally in Memoriam, “Lest we forget”. The Prince of Wales, Field Marshall Haig, are at the head in England, the Governor Generals here and in Australia. The motto is: “Honor the dead in helping the living; buy and wear a Flander Field Poppy on Memorial Day.”
For me, as for you, those Poppies are the inheritance towards the Dead to carry on the work of Justice and Rehabilitation towards the real sufferers left behind the War; the people of the battle fields and in all the Allied countries; the disabled or the un-employed.
My deception was great on the 23rd January to hear that the American Legion Auxiliary had not taken the Idea to sponsor for themselves, the National Poppy Day of the U.S. So I am just going to ask to another ex-soldiers organization to do it. All the country will be for us and with us anyway.
As soon as I shall be through here, which will be, I hope, at the end of this week, I shall go to New York to make the plans of the Campaign. My two delegates arrived yesterday from Cuba where they have sown the Idea splendidly. They are ready to work. My plans are to do it as it had been my first intention last year, before all the troubles did start. We shall sell, in the name of the organization chosen, Poppies to each town, to each organization which will take the responsibility to hold the Poppy Day in their locality, 4 cents ½ the small silk ones, having a pin and a badge; 12 cents ½ the large ones; 70 cents small wreaths for window, and $1.75 wreaths for the graves, $3.00 wreaths for monuments.
The small poppies will not be sold less than 10 cents in the streets and 5 cents if they like in the schools. The large ones not less than 25 cents, small wreaths $1.00 and No. 2 at 60 and No. 3 at $5.00.
All that will give a great profit to the local charity works, they will not say that the profit goes to France. We shall help France in giving work to those poor women, but we shall do such more than that in keeping alive the Souvenir of France all over the world, Souvenir which will bloom once more every year in every town of the Allied countries, politic, adverse, or favourable.
Please will you help me? Will you give me the authorization to have your splendid poem published, I mean printed side by side with the one of Colonel McCrae, in all our publicity matter? Or in a Poster? 2nd. Could you find for me a person who would sell the poppies for all your State at the price above mentioned? We shall give exactly 10% of the value of the Poppies sold to this person. I mean by that, that if a person was selling, let us say: 100,000 small at 4 cents 1/2 each or $4,5000; 20,000 large at 12 cents 1/2 each pr $2,500 or TOTAL $7,000 plus about $500…of Wreaths or $7,500 the 10% of that would be $750.00.
We should send free the Stationary with all the names of the countries who have taken and hold the Poppy Day and those who are taking it for 1922; Portugal, Brazil, Argentina are the 3 other countries I am going to send delegates to. I am just expecting Col. Moffat, I had sent to Australia, last July.
We would send also free, I do hope the sashes or badges to be worn by all the girls selling the Poppies, in order to make the Day National.
Do you think, my dear Miss Michael, that by correspondence you could do the work in your State? Or could you find the exact person? We shall have 3 full months this year and no disturbance. No Poppies are to be returned; as the local committees are making so much they will be able to pay for the few they have left over and keep them for next year. At least I think that will be one of the plans but I can’t say it sure yet, perhaps we shall be able to allow the returns.
I pay you to excuse such a letter so badly typewritten, so full of mistakes as I am just learning, it is hard for me to compose in some time I am working. But my progress are fast, so I do hope that the next letter will be well presented and wittier. Please guess what I have not been able to put in these pages. Again and again, I beg of you to forgive my long silence, I have been thinking so much of you, here, in England, and all over in France. I was hoping to be able to tour the Country this time, but I do not think I can this year, as quickly the Campaign’ s plans are in the hands of an organization I shall leave for France to push the making of the poppies as I am afraid we shall not have enough, this year, they are to be so pretty ! Mlle. J. Boulle would be left in charge at the Headquarters of the organization to help them.
Will you be so very kind to forgive me entirely and to answer this letter at the I have put at the beginning. I should be so happy to have you answer next week, if possible.
Hoping for it, I am sending you, dear Miss Michael, my great admiration with the expressions of my best sentiments.
Most sincerely yours, E. Guerin Poppy Lady of France.”
At the top of this copy, Moїna wrote on a date unknown: [The Aux. adopted the Poppy at Kansas City – this left the Mad. with many poppies. She goes to the convention of V.F.W. and passed the Idea as hers. This completes the tangle]
[Observation: The above suggestion that Madame Anna Guérin was left with “many poppies” is not a logical one. In those early years, there had always been a shortage of poppies for Anna’s Poppy Days, never a surplus. In that previously mentioned February 1922 letter to Moїna, Anna had written [sic]: “as quickly the Campaign’ s plans are in the hands of an organization I shall leave for France to push the making of the poppies as I am afraid we shall not have enough, this year, they are to be so pretty!..” (See Chapter 8).
It is felt accurate to state that Madame had not been left with a poppy surplus. She needed another veterans’ organisation to take the place of the American Legion and another women’s group to take the place of the American Legion Auxiliary – to carry on her ‘Inter-Allied Poppy Day’ idea. The ‘Veterans of Foreign Wars’ and the ‘American War Mothers’ filled the vacant shoes admirably.
To date, it has not been ascertained whether or not Moїna did help Anna by writing letters to aid arrangements for the 1922 V.F.W.; ‘American War Mothers’; ‘American-Franco Children’s League’ poppy campaign, within the State of Georgia. It is thought that she probably did not because, if she was continuing to be active within the American Legion Auxiliary, her loyalty would be to them and the Legion men and not be with the ‘Veterans of Foreign Wars’ and the ‘American War Mothers’.
During 1922, no trace of Moїna Michael has been discovered in newspapers online linking her to her “Victory Emblem” or initiating a ‘Poppy Day’ in the U.S.A. That is not to say that documentation does not exist and it would be recorded here if it were forthcoming.
On 07 May 1922, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote about a Council of the Deans of Women’s colleges and Lady Principals of Georgia meeting on 29 April: “… a most interesting and valuable program and conference, Miss Moina Michael, of the State Normal, Athens, presiding. … Great appreciation of the leadership of Miss Moina Michael was expressed …”
In July and August 1922, a Poppy Day was announced each month (in near-identical articles) in relation to the National Memorial University Association fundraising, whose Headquarters was in Chattanooga. Moїna was mentioned in them, as per the following example:
One newspaper that carried the article was the Carolina Mountaineer and Waynesville Courier (North Carolina), on the 13 July 1922, under its heading “POPPY DAY TO BE OBSERVED JULY 22” and began: “As impressive as is the thought “mighty oaks from little acorns grow” equally profound is the consideration that from a simple little poppy of the field there may grow a vast Memorial University as a tribute to the men who gave their lives during the World War.”
This paragraph is specific to Moїna Michael [sic]: “The idea of using the poppy as a perpetual memorial for those who shed their blood on Flanders Field was original with Miss Moina Michael of Athens, Georgia, who was active in war work, and is known as the author of a poem considered the best answer to the famous lines of Col. John McRae, “In Flanders Fields”.
The article finished with Moїna Michael’s poem ‘We Shall Keep The Faith’ … the last verse being “And now the Torch and Poppy red/We wear in honor of our dead./Fear not that ye have died for naught;/We’ve learned the lesson that ye taught/In Flanders Field.”
An August ‘Poppy Day’ in Hendersonville (North Carolina), to benefit the National Memorial University, was held on the 19th.
After a successful May 1922 Poppy campaign by the ‘Veterans of Foreign Wars’; ‘American War Mothers’; and the American-Franco Children’s League, the reality was the American Legion rued their decision of repudiating the poppy. In ensuing months, the American Legion Auxiliary carried out Poppy Days across the country – the women had kept the poppy as their Memorial Flower but they had not agreed to support Madame Guérin in her 1922 poppy campaign. In the October, the men at the American Legion made a U-turn and repudiated the daisy and adopted the poppy again.
In October and November 1923, 20 identical articles originating in Athens, Georgia (written under different headings) were found which mentioned Moїna Michael; included an image of her; and called her “The Poppy Lady”: The Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan (09 October 1923); The Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan (09 October 1923); The Dayton Daily News, Dayton, Ohio (10 October 1923); The Muncie Evening Press, Muncie, Indiania (10 October 1923); The Evening Republican, Columbus, Indiana (10 October 1923); Muncie Evening Press, Muncie, Indiana (10 October 1923); The Post-Crescent, Appleton, Wisconsin (13 October 1923, without image); The Freeport Journal Standard (13 October 1923); The Messenger Inquirer, Owensboro, Kentucky (14 October 1923); The Wausau Daily Herald, Wausau, Wisconsin (15 October 1923); Logansport Pharos Tribune, Logansport, Indiana (15 October 1923); The Battle Creek Enquirer, Battle Creek, Mitchigan (19 October 1923); The Lansing State Journal, Lansing, Michigan (18 October 1923); The Lansing State Journal, Lansing, Michigan (19 October 1923); Battle Creek Enquirer, Battle Creek, Michigan (19 October 1923); The Tennessian, Nashville, Tennessee (23 October 1923); Wilkes Barre Times Leader, PA (24 October 1923); Wilkes-Barre Times Leader Evening News, Wilkes-Barr, Penns. (24 November 1923); The Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (28 November 1923) [sic]:
The Freeport Journal Standard’s article reads: “Blow Bugle! Poppy Lady Suggests Taps Daily for Unknown Soldier. Athens, Ga. – A bugler to blow taps over the grave of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington cemetery as sunset each day.
This is the suggestion of Miss Moina Michael of this city, known as the “Poppy Lady,” as a tribute to those who sleep in “Flanders Fields.”
Miss Michael was the first person to suggest the poppy as a war memorial flower – hence her nickname or nom de guerre. She has been an honor guest at all the national conventions of the American Legion and will be on deck when the “boys” convene in San Francisco.
She is the author of “We Shall Keep Faith,” an answer to Colonel McCrae’s “Flanders Fields”.
1924 is the last that will be reported on, with regard to this run of consecutive years – it is logical to finish here, given that the U.S.A. has said “au revoir” to Madame Guérin and the country was self-sufficient in US-made poppies now. Hereafter, transcriptions will be chronological again and relevant to the ‘Poppy Day’ history. That is not to say that documentation does not exist and it would be recorded here if it were forthcoming.
On 03 February 1924, The Courier (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) printed an article that originated in Georgia – it is American Legion-based and Moїna Michael as “original” Poppy Lady is mentioned:
“AMERICAN LEGION MEN PLAN TO OPEN WAR MUSEUM AT GEORGIA UNIVERSITY. Gainesville, Ga., Feb. 2 – Under the leadership of Frank A. Holden, author of the Legislature from Clarge County, the American Legion heads of Georgia have organized a historical commission, which will have for its purpose the collection of trophies and souvenirs of the World War, to be placed in a permanent museum at the University of Georgia, Athens, Ga.
There are innumerable trophies and souvenirs of the Eighty-second and Thirty-first Divisions, as well as the other divisions of the American Expeditionary Forces, now scattered throughout the length and breadth of this State, it was stated, and it will be the purpose of this commission to secure the loan or donation of these trophies for housing in a museum, which probably will become the nucleus of a great future State museum. The museum will be located in the Memorial Building, now being erected by the alumni at the University of Georgia.
The services of Captain John Beerworth, of the British Army, have been secured, it was announced, to gather suitable trophies from the British and French Governments, as well as a collection of trophies of Georgia out-fits throughout the United States.
Miss Moina Michael, of the State Normal School, the original “Poppy Lady,” has what is considered to be one of the best collection of trophies in the United States, and the Legionaires contemplate that she will join forces with the men making the legion collection the finest in this section of the country.”
From the middle of June 1924, newspapers around the States began printing an untitled, isolated paragraph: “The credit of having originated the idea of celebrating Poppy Day in aid of disabled veterans is given to Miss Moina Michael, a member of the faculty of the State Normal School at Athens Ga.” That is not to say that other newspapers do not exist and, if discovered, they would be recorded here.
The newspapers were: The Marion Star, Marion, Ohio (18 June); The Orlando Sentinel, Orland, Florida (19 June); The Eau Claire Leader, Eau Claire, Wisconsin (20 June); The News Journal, Mansfield, Ohio (22 June); The Great Falls Tribune, Great Falls, Montona (23 June); Wausau Daily Herald, Wausau, Wisconsin (25 June); The Times, Shreveport, Louisiana (28 June); The Escanaba Daily Press, Excanaba, Michigan (29 June); The Bridgeport Telegram, Bridgeport, Connecticut (30 June); and The Greenwood Commonwealth, Greenwood, Mississippi (05 July).
History was beginning to be changed …
On 29 May 1930, Moїna Michael’s poppy anchor was written about (which she may have made a tradition from 1919). The Postville Herald wrote: “An anchor of memorial poppies, ten feet long, will be dropped into the sea on Memorial Day as the American Legion Auxiliary’s tribute to the men who lost their lives at sea during the World War. The huge poppy anchor will be dropped from a naval airplane flying from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. The poppies are being supplied by the Georgia department of the Auxiliary and the anchor is made by Miss Moina Michael of Athens, Ga., originator of the idea of wearing poppies in honor of the war dead. The ceremony will take place at the same hour as the Memorial Day services at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Arlington Nation cemetery.” Likewise, the Veterans of Foreign Wars organisation carried out this tradition.
In 1939, as part of a government oral history program at the end of the Depression called ‘American Memory’, Moїna Belle Michael gave an interview to Mrs. Sadie B. Hornsby entitled [“The Poppy Lady”], which took place in the February. At the time, Moїna Michael lived in Room 523, Georgian Hotel (Fifty Fifth floor) in Athens, Georgia. The edited typed draft follows and is as near accurate as a transcription can be, given the restraints of reproducing it in type-form (http://www.loc.gov/resource/wpalh1.12081212/?sp=1) [sic]:
“I entered the Georgian Hotel walked through its spacious lobby to the clerks desk and asked him if he would call Miss Michael’s room, and find out if it was convenient for me to come up. She told him she was expecting me, as I had made an engagement the day before to visit her.
When I got on the elevator, to go to the fifth floor, I must admit I was a little nervous, I got off at the fifth floor walked down one long empty hall-way except for the carpet on the floor, and turned into a nother, a few doors down I found the number, knocked upon the door, a voice within said: “come in.” I opened the door there stood Miss Moina Michael, she extended her hand to me saying, “welcome into my living room, library, office, dining room, kitchen and bed room. This is the only place I have to invite visitors. Do you know as much as I have done for the world they don’t even so much as to five give me paper and stamps to do my letter writing in answer to the thousands of answers , and stamps to mail them with. Right now I am preparing a speech to give over the raido radio in New York, in the spring. That means new clothes, an evening dress to wear while I am giving my talk. The thoughts of all that makes me sick. You know I haven’t been well for some time. One thing I simply don’t like to do is pack for a trip.
“Now what is it you want? A story of my life, why that is very kind of you to think my life history is worth mentioning, but I am always doing things like that I have thousands of questions asked me every day. Why, I am just like a little wren just as simple as simple can be. My sister once said to my, ‘why, Beckey you are just too simple for words.’ That’s why I remind myself of the little wren, just a simple little common place person. People will write the best things about me when I am gone.
Her room is neatly furnished, a walnut chest of drawers, which serves as a dresser on this sits a toilet set of blue glass. A large mirror hangs over the chest of drawers. A single bed with low square posts serves as a divan, a tapestry cover is placed spread over the bed and several large pillows are covered with the same material, are arranged upright across one end and around the back of the bed. A screen drapped with harmonizing material is placed to obscure from view the desk, typewriter, hot plate and other articles used for house keeping aid. Miss Michael was wearing a blue crepe dress trimmed at the neck with a carochet collar of a delicate pattern caught with a gold pin of full blown and buds of poppies bordered with pearls, perhaps a gift for some noble work she has done in regard to the work to immortalize “Poppy Day.”
“Where do you want me to begin, way back to my childhood days.? Well I was born in Walton County, just a short distance from Good-Hope, between Monroe and High Shoals, August 15, 1869. I was the oldest daughter, my mother was Alice Sherwood Wise and married John Marion Michael. I am of French Huguenot lineage, and borned in a cherry log cabin with a log floor, on the spot where the first cabin was built on which was the first clearing in that county. When my father built a better house the log floor was taken up and the building used for a smoke house. Often I was called from my playhouse to put oak chips on the fire when my parents were curing their meat; mother would say; ‘Beckey run and put just three chips on the fire.’ It didn’t mean anything to me than, oh, the mistakes I have made if I could call those times back, I could be of more service to the world.
“During the war the ashes were raked off the top of the ground in that smoke house the earth was run through an ash hopper and the salt from the meat that had dripped on the ground was extracted from it and used to season food. Oh, what a time people had in those days, I think it was remxxka remarkable how my grandmother carried on after her father died she was the youngest of nine she herself was only eighteen, how she took the plantation over and managed it successfully. He was a large land owner and had many slaves. But ‘Shermean’s March through Georgia’ changed all that. I think that the things in Margaret Mitchell’s book ‘Gone With The Wind’ were true, I am sure it was that way around Atlanta or she would never have written it. To my mind Meloney was the true type of Southern Character. When I was a child and saw those stately men and women so noble and fine it never occured to me a bad person ever lived.
“Everyone in that community turned out on meeting day, we had two meetings each month one Sunday we went to the Baptist church and the next we went over to the Primitive Baptist. I can see them now, those good women and those grand old men with long white beard, praying and singing in church.
“I went to school at Braswell Academy in Morgan County, and also attended Martain Institute from 1883 until 1886 however, I did not graduate. My parents were not able to send me to school the next term. The first week in June of 1885 I left school and went home. The next day I met the children of school-age of the neighbourhood in a one-room, vacant negro cabin, on the hill, and launched my crude canoe on the educational sea. My immaturity, ignorance, guilness and my mother’s faith in me, together with her anxiety concerning the children younger than myself and the neighbors’ children, was a cargo of this frail bark. I have taught in county schools in rural one-room house, in town schools in larger buildings, in church schools, Bessie Tift College, state schools with big enrollments and large and ancient buildings , fifty-four years.
“South of my home on the old family plantation, some two miles distant across the fields, hills, woods and Indian Creek, was the little community, with the country post office, where went got our mail every Friday afternoon. There was a vacant chestnut log structure which had been the Robert Hale store. It had shuttered windows and front and back doors, an open fire-place, I taught school five months at this building in Good-Hope. I received eight cents per day for the sixteen children in school for the five months. It was paid to me January 1886. I used $20.00 of it for dental work. The other I gave to my father.
“The same year I taught at Liberty, in Greene County in a one-room school building it also was used for a church and Sunday School, one Sunday in a month. I boarded with Mr. and Mrs. Watt Wray. Their young son, Willis, went to school with me each day. This “Old Wray” place is a dream place with me; the original forest which made had tremendous groves boardered flower garden and the strutting pea-cocks beyond the paled in yard and beyond this grove. Big vegetables gardens with real paper shell pecan trees which was immense. It is said of this old place that the owner used to fertilize his cotton rows with hog lard. But this generation of Wray’s was living through “the relics of former grandeur,” as the rest of us southerners were after, “The Surrender.”
“I taught four 4 years in the Baptist Orphan’s Home; two 2 years in its Courtland Street School in Atlanta and two 2 years after it was moved to Hapeville. I got Sickness overtook me and had to go home. when I was strong enough xxxxxxxxxxxx I went back to the school room, I taught this time at Apalachee it was at this place that I conducted a funeral That was in 1897. A little girl in that community had been died from the result of burns. burned to death. I told my school children to bring flower to the funeral the next day to put on the grave. When the cortage arrived we were waiting on the outside of the building waiting. In those days there were no hearses, so that casket was placed across the foot of a buggy, accompanied by two men, back of them was the family in a spring wagon every one in those days turned-out to a funeral. A runner was sent for the pastor, only to find learn that he was conducting another funeral at that time. Joe [?] was attending court at High Shoals. who was the only other preacher living nearby that they could think of was attending court at High Shoals. Turning to me crying, her mother she said: ‘miss Moina I simply can’t bury my child without a funeral, can’t you do it for me?’ I couldn’t denigh deny her so I said a few words, had my children sing; ‘When He Cometh To Make Up His Jewels,’ and I closed with a prayer. There wasn’t a man there, that didn’t feel comdemned, they couldn’t even pray in public, and had to get a little country school teacher to preach the funeral, that was forty years ago.
She laughed and said smiled as she continued: “I have had to pinched-hit at a funeral and wedding too. When I was at Columbia University, a friend of mine was marrying my cousin, Congressman Walter Wise, of Fayetteville, Georgia. At the last minute, Walter wired the girl he was to marry. ‘Best man is sick, get Cousin Moina to act as best man.’ She asked me and I accepted agreed to the plans. Walter arrived on the day of the wedding, which was also my friend’s graduation day, my friend was dressing for her wore her wedding dress under the traditional graduation dress and after after that exercises were over we rode over Central Park. At six 6 o’clock we drove up to the Baptist Church. It was all very homely, no fuss about it, after the wedding, the witnesses had to sign ever so many papers, there were ten of us in all. The pastor, his wife, secretary, clerk and etc. When it came my time, to sign, I signed it wrote Moina Michael, best man, everyone laughed. Walter has taught his children to cut out every picture of me and paste it in a scrapbook and write underneath it ‘Daddy’s best man at his Daddy’s wedding.’
“I was house-mother at Winnie Davis Memorial Hall when war was declared our country entered the World War. I gave all each of the boys I had taught a some little remembrance to take with them him. Back at Apalachee, I had the brightest boy in school he beat at spelling in his lessons and in every game the boys played had that rarely found ability that enabled him to excel in studies and athletics too. He would run to me, and say: ‘miss Michael I won that game.’ I would say to him reply, ‘yes, Louie you have won your spurs.’ He was among the last to come by to say bid me good-bye. I told him, “Louie , I want to give you something as a little remembrance to take with you.“ He had joined the Calvary Cavalry so, I told him, ‘I am going to give you a pair of spurs,’ he said, ‘Oh, Miss Michael I was hoping you would say that, I have everything but those spurs.’ We tried to get them in Athens however but we but couldn’t find them. So I gave him a five dollar $5 bill. I don’t think I ever saw anyone as happy, he got bought them spurs in Atlanta on his way to Fort McPherson. He told me he was going to write a note saying: ‘I am wearing the spurs given me by Miss Moina Michael. in war, no matter what happens to me in this war, whether I die of a natural cause or am shot down on the battlefield, I want them sent back to her.’ Louie was in the first victorious battle fought in France, he was one of the men who kept the wires from being cut. It was a heavy-fight, but when that battle was over he sent a message to his commanding officer saying, ‘we won the battle everything is O. K. signed Louie. ‘That message was flashed over the world. When the war was over He brought those spurs to me. I took them patted him on the shoulder, saying to him, ‘Louie you won your spurs’. “She showed them to me, also with the spurs was a whistle: “This” she said “was the last whistle blown in France that to announce the ended of the war.
“I was in Europe when Archduke Ferdinand Ferdinand was killed, and I hurried home with the other Americans tourists to keep out of the war, but I soon discovered that our country would have to join in the hostilities. I will never forget that afternoon in April when I learned that [?] the United States had entered in that great war. I waited impatiently on the steps at Winnie Davis Hall, where I was housemother, for the paperboy, after getting it the papers I went to my room to read every word. I took a leave of absence from the Normal school, now the Co-ordinate College, and went to the Y. M. C. A. training Conference of at Columbia University in New York. // It was there the final step in the generation of the poppy idea came, for it was there I read a challenging poem.
“I met with a notable difficulty, a French woman, Madame E. Guerin, took up the poppy cause for France, and brought poppies to this country. The result was competition for the disabled American veterans, who were fashioning the poppies in government hospitals for one cent each. I proved that I was the first to originate had originated the idea. She gave up her the work here and later took her poppies, made by the French war widows, to Earl Haig and in England. The memorial poppy has gained wide circulation, and created our annual poppy day in May, 30.
“I promised a mother whose only son went down at sea on a transport, that those who went down at sea soldiers whose bodies had found a watery grave should have their definate floral tributes as well as those whose graves were on the land. So a poppy anchor is placed on the waves at Savannah of the Atlantic Ocean on each Memorial Day.
“I saw no reason why the beautiful new bridges built in Georgia since 1918 shouldn’t be dedicated to our World War men who died to keep civilization on the highways alive. Through me, the Teachers Teachers’ College, established its own chartered Red Cross Chapter, the only first school in the United States to have such a chapter.
“My foreign services were was done service was in Rome, Italy, where I assisted the Embassy and the Consulate in handling the difficulties created for American turists tourists by the war. The headquarters of this commitee were in the Hotel Royal. I was presented one of the two distinguished Service Medal’s which have been awarded in the United States. Haig’s Legion of London, England has adopted the Memorial poppy idea, which brought a total of over $20,000,000.00 profits on Poppy Day since 1921.
“I was a war worker assistant secretary to Dr. Irwin, President of the Y. M. C. A. in New York, and it was in Hamilton Hall our quarters in the basement of Hamilton Hall that my idea of the memorial poppy was worked out. I think the greatest thrill I ever had was when Columbia University celebrated its one-hundred and seventy-fifth anniversity. I was the only woman mentioned in their report of that great and gigantic institution with thousands of students scattered all over the world. I was too sick to get a thrill when the state unveiled a bust of me in the State Capitol however, I don’t think it was so much in honor of me as it was just a record of the state’s achievements.
“Just think what I have caused the world to has realized from the sale of poppies each year! just seventy million dollars. yet the world don’t donate one penny toward my support and I have barely enough to buy actual necessities. I have a letter asking for a donation toward the World World’s Fair. I think they ought to be ashamed of thenselves as much as I have done all ready to ask me for cash . However, I am going to New York to give a talk sometime during the Fair. I told them I wanted to make it to give my speech as near Poppy Day as I possibly can. My expenses will be paid for that trip. Requests come to me daily from people are always who asking me for donations , I get them every day. I donated gave $750.00 to help put over the Georgia Bi-Centennial. I do appreciate all the nice things said about me. Someone said of me: ‘Betsy Ross is Uncle Sam’s most famous seamstress and Miss Moina is his most celebrated gardener, for she planted the Memorial Poppy in the heart of the English speaking world.’ I also have a medal from Serbia, brought to me by Dr. Rosalie Mortan in 1930.
“One day last week I had a letter from a mother in New Jersey, asking me; ‘what in the world is wrong with the University of Georgia’ I wrote my son in college there and asked him if he had met you he wrote replied that he had not. I told him to go to see you right away.’ I wrote her the University of Georgia didn’t owe me anything and they knew where to find me if they wanted their out-of-town students to know who I am. that I live very quietly here at the hotel, that everyone here knows where to find me. Why, don’t I don’t feel important, and why should anyone want to know who I am? What I did, and am doing was is no more than any other person would have done. I only thought of it first. Everyone has some good in them, all they need is a little get up and get about them to put over what they want accomplished.
“I have earned every dollar I have had since I began working, back in my young days. I began work to educate my younger sisters. I supported helped support my parents, and paying paid all my subsequent expenses for my own educational advantages the years of misfortune had left my family penniless. I moved my them into town and when I taught in the school at Monroe. One of my brothers married and died very only then died. a short time my other brother died a very young man. Father’s health was bad. I, being the oldest, had to support my our family. When my sister, Nell Colquitt, now (Mrs. J. W. Chambley Chamber? graduated at the University she was the first woman who had ever spoken on from that stage at graduation platform at that institution.
“Now I am too old to do much work now, I was housemother at Winnie Davis Memorial Hall twenty-five years. I am not even well enough to do my own work, such as sewing and darning. A woman came to me with a pitiful tale. she didn’t have work, owed a large doctors bill and the drug stores were pushing her for their money. I let have the money and asked her to come to my room and fix mend my clothes for me she promised anything until she got the money, now she won’t come near me.
“Did you read in Lucian Lamar Knight’s book what he had to say about me? It is very good, but when he wrote it he sent the manuscript to me to read for my approval. In a note sent to me he said, ‘I have only given Rebecca Felton ten 10 pages xxxxxxxxxx allowed twelve 12 for you.’ I wrote him a letter and quoted what a very distinguished person said about me when he introduced me to an ordinance audience before I gave an address. He said, ‘Rebecca Felton belongs to Georgia, Martha Berry, belongs to the mountains, Milly Rutherford belongs to Lucy Cobb, but Moina Michael belongs to the world.’ Now I told Mr. Knight, ‘decide for yourself if I am worth twelver whole pages xxxxxxxxxx in your book.’ When I received a copy of it he had twelve pages the book it had it contained twelve whole a 12 pages designated to me sketch of my life and work. I thought it was very nice to be in ‘Who’s Who’ in America from 1932-1933.
“I have a busy day ahead of me. I am expecting an out-of-town guest, and have just bought some lovely roses for her room. I wish I had the money to maintain a little home so I could have my friends, but this is the only home I can afford. I am not afraid here, the manager is awfully good to me they do my laundry and I don’t even have to buy soap. I down go with you for my mail. Every time you ask one of the helpers to do something for you they expect a tip You feel like you must tip the help for errands like that. So I try every way I can to save my nickels. I am glad you came, and don’t consider yourself under no any obligation, it is just like I going to your office and you coming to mine. I am always glad to help when ever do what I can. Some day I hope to be well again so I can have take care of a place large enough to display some of the many lovely gifts that are presented to me.” We rode down on the elevator together, and I left her in the lobby of the hotel.”
- When Anna “brought poppies”to America (for the 1920 Memorial Day poppy campaign), it is accurate to state that no organisation of American veterans was making poppies … thus, there was no competition with veterans. However, for May 1921, some US veterans made poppies for the American Legion Poppy Days in Connecticut (and perhaps elsewhere). For 1922, the Veterans of Foreign Wars sold Anna Guérin’s French-made poppies. For the 1923 poppy campaign, US veterans alone could not make enough poppies and both the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars sought a supply of Anna Guérin’s French-made poppies. It was not until 1924 that the U.S.A. had 100% American-made poppies (see Chapter 8). Additionally, Anna Guérin had been using the poppy as an emblem since at least September 1918 and other women since April 1918.
- Anna had not given up (re “She gave up …”), in the defeatist sense of the phrase – she just moved on, to take her ‘Inter-Allied Poppy Day’ idea to the other First World War Allies, including Empire countries (now Commonwealth) – having successfully persuaded American Legion men to adopt her poppy idea at their 1920 convention. See Empire chapters.]
… and so time moved on and, in 1940, Moїna Michael’s thoughts turned to writing her autobiography – it would be called ‘The Miracle Flower, The Story of the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy’.
In a letter dated 24 December 1940, Lee Keedick (“Manager of the World’s Most Celebrated Lecturers”) replied to a letter from one Stella S. Center – in preparation. Stella was a friend of Moїna – they had shared accommodation together. Stella S. Center was born on 09 January 1878 Forsyth, Georgia. She was daughter of Retail Merchant (Groceries) Charles Wesley Center and his wife Emma Hill. The Hill ancestry meant that Stella belonged to the ‘National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution’.
Stella became a Public School Teacher and was author of several books: ‘The Worker and His Work: Readings In Present Day Literature Presenting Some Of The Activities by Which Men and Women the World Over Make A Living’ (1920); A Course in Secretarial Correspondence: Divided into Thirty Lessons (1921); ‘Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson, Ll.D.’ [by Jms Boswell (Author) and Stella Stewart Center (Creator): pre-1923]; Elements of English Composition (1934); ‘Exploring Books: Workbook for Readers’ (1938); ‘Elements of English’ (1941); ‘The Art of Book Reading’ (1952).
Lee Keedick gave answers to 3 questions asked of him. He wrote to “Miss Stella S. Center 70 East 96th Street New York, New York”: “Dear Miss Center: I have recently returned from a very long trip through the West. Answering your communication December 21, I may say that all my records pertaining to the poppy were destroyed by fire, and I can only answer your questions from memory.”
(1) I have no objection to Miss Michael’s re-printing in her book her poem, The Miracle Flower.
(2) If she has a copy of the poem by the Canadian poet, Heron, I am sure he would have no objection to her printing that also.
(3) Colonel Bishop lectured in Carnegie Hall, New York City, on February 14, 1919, under my direction, and as I recall, the Boy Scouts did sell the Memorial Poppy that night.”
[Source: Moїna Michael’s papers held at the Hargrett Library, Georgia].
Moїna had underlined the words “February 14, 1919” on Lee Keedick’s type-written letter (written “from memory”) and had written in the margin “date first poppy sale”. Reading other handwritten notes of Moїna’s on other documents, it is deduced that these notes were written with the same intention – to help establish dates in support her timeline, ahead of her autobiography.
Colonel William A. Bishop did indeed give a few lectures, in New York City, during February 1919 and one was, indeed, on 14 February in Carnegie Hall. Colonel Bishop was a famous Canadian flying ace: “The Ace of Aces” – Lee Keedick was his Manager/Agent and had obviously organised the tour. Reviews/promotions for the lectures appeared in newspapers but none were discovered that reported on poppies and/or boy scouts.
On 31 January 1941, Moїna Michael typed a letter to “Mme E. Guerin, Mme J. Boulle” at “686 Lexington Ave., New York City”. From “Athens, Georgia, University of Georgia” (copy held by the Hargrett Library, Georgia). Moina asked Anna Guérin’s permission to quote from Guérin letters and articles and from some of her associates:
“Dear Friends of Long ago: So many things have happened since we corresponded back in the 1921-1924 era.
It has been a tedious search to find you again and just by accident Adj. Frank Samuel of American Legion found your address from the former Adj. Lemuel Bolles.
The years have flown by. This year of 1941 places me in my seventyieth-second year….. I am on borrowed time. I can not tell you from whom I am borrowing it, unless we guess it is “Father Time”. I am leaving it at that and am trying to make the interest in getting my house in order. And in this enterprise it brings me back to you.
The main labor of these passing years has been in responding to the requests about the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy. Therefore, the first duty in “getting my house in final order” is to write the history of the Memorial Poppy. This I have completed.
The history could not be told without including in it how you helped broaden the horizon of the service of our sacred symbol.
Therefore, I am writing you and Mme Boulle for permission to quote from your letters and articles to me back in those days when we were working so hard to educate the public in the meaning of the Memorial Poppy. Also I would like your permission to quote the first letter, whiched announced to me your work and said letter written by your secretary Isabelle Mack.
My tribute to you in acknowledging your immense success in aiding the Memorial Poppy work is as “The Princess who brought the beautiful Baby (Mosesf) out of the bulrushes into the Palace” for a larger destiny.
You will do me and the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy another great favour if you will permit these quotations to be used in the true sequence of the development of the use of our Memorial Symbol, the little REP POPPY of Flanders.
I hope you are well. I can not be happy with OUR world in its tragic throes. So I can not believe you can be either. So I can not say “I hope you are well and happy”. But I pray that we all who have enjoyed the Christeianized civilization of La Belle France and “across the Channel” may soon be happy by the victory of Democracy and then, I pray, “that all may be well and HAPPY!
Please let me hear from one of you at least as soon as possible. I shall greatly appreciate this favour.
Most Sincerely, [space for signature] Moina Michael”
Any amiable relationship the two women may have shared with each other, up until that time, must have started to decline when Madame Anna Guérin received Moїna’s letter. Perhaps, Anna became suspicious about what Moїna Michael might claim in her book if she was only getting a credit for helping to “broaden the horizon of the service of our sacred symbol”. Anna had heard rumours of Moїna’s intention but she had “thought it was a joke”.
Anna quickly replied on 09 February 1941, from 686 Lexington Avenue, New York City (held in Moїna Michael’s Papers, at Hargrett Library, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA and Moїna Michael’s Papers at the Georgia Archives, 5800 Jonesboro Road, Morrow Georgia) – enclosing a Synopsis. This is Anna Guérin’s reply [sic]:
“Dear Miss Michael, I have just read your letter (I was out of town) and I cannot express my surprise , I am dumbfounded.
Please will you read the synopsis I am enclosing , which is self explanatory.
I am going to start a great work for England which will , very probably, take me to all the places I have been lecturing from 1914 to 1922 , to many American Legion’s Posts and I know that I shall be received every where by the Chambers of Commerce , the American Legion’s Post , the Clubs , Universityies , Colleges etc as “Mme E. Guerin the Originator and Founder of the National Flanders’ Field’s Popy’s Days” in the U.S. and in all Allied Countries of the last War . It is like that, I am Known.
I have written and typed myself this Synopsis in a hurry, excuse the poor English , but I am going to assemble all my dates, letters, records of Convention, records of Courts etc and give them , with ott many other explanations to a well-known writer (American) for him to write for me THE HISTORY OF THE POPPY’S DAYS and I shall send it to all the State Newspapers and others papers and to all the Posts of the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary (about 10,000 of them) as I am the only person to whom they gave the list of them when I was working at their Headquarters for the first POPPY’ DAY.
No , please , do not use my name or the name of one of my organizer , Mrs. Mack, until I know more about what you wish to write.
I am going to ask immediately in Indianapolis the records of the adopted resolutions at the Convention in Cleveland, officially, and I shall gather all the affidavits necessary. They had written to me in France about your claiming to be the Originator of the Flanders Poppy, but I thought it was a joke and I had not paid any notice. I shall have the HISTORY, my HISTORY published before next Decoration Day.
In everything official I am doing , I use my FLANDERS’ FIELDS’ POPPY paper. Enclosed a copy of an Official letter written by me.
Will you , please let me know if you have received the synopsis and if you want more explanations . I am , Miss Michael , very truly yours . E. A. Guérin”
The author has deliberately not read Moїna Michael’s autobiography ‘The Miracle Flower: The story of the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy’ nor any other poppy-related book, even though three were purchased at an early stage in research. Archived newspapers online were found to be such a valuable, contemporary research resource, it was decided not to be swayed by any other person’s view and arrive at a personal opinion.
The late Mrs. Nancy MacFarlane (the Canadian lady who is credited with enticing the author into the world of Madame Anna Guérin) had read the ‘The Miracle Flower’, however. In March 2015, Mrs. MacFarlane made these two simple comments about it: the book was self-promoting (which, in a way, is perhaps what many autobiographies are) and Moїna could not bring herself to mention the Guérin name.
The latter observation may be one noted by others who have read ‘The Miracle Flower’ but the reality is explained by the existence of the aforementioned phrase of Anna’s: “… No , please , do not use my name or the name of one of my organizer , Mrs. Mack, until I know more about what you wish to write. …”.
Anna did not give Moїna an out-right refusal … she wished to know exactly what Moїna planned to write and/or claim before she made a final decision. It is deduced that Moїna did not convey, to Anna, what she intended to write (certainly, there is no evidence that she did) and, without Anna’s permission, Moїna could not use Anna Guérin’s letters etc or name.
Anna Guérin hoped her hastily written Synopsis would prove her position as she knew it to be … as the “ORIGINATOR and PROPAGATOR” in the U.S. and all Allied Countries of National Poppy Days.
Apart from the first paragraph and a short section at the very end (which are Anna Guérin’s personal observations on the subject in hand), the Synopsis has already been quoted in the relevant chapters/timeline.
Madame Anna Guérin’s Synposis, written for Moїna Michael, follows in full [sic]. A copy is held in Moїna Michael’s Papers at the Georgia Archives, 5800 Jonesboro Road, Morrow GA:
“SYNOPSIS OF THE HISTORY OF THE INTERALLIED FLANDERS’ FIELDS’ POPPY’S DAYS
By the ORIGINATOR and PROPAGATOR in the U.S. an all Allied Countries : Madame E. Guerin from France and New-York City.
Mme E. Guerin writes :
It is absolutly preposterous to think there is 2 originators of the NATIONAL POPPY’S DAYS. one for the United States and one for the ALLIED as THE FLANDER’S FIELD’S POPPY’S DAYS started in the U.S. at Baltimore, in 1919, after the First Convention of the Gold STAR MOTHERS
But here is the story :
I came in New-York on the 9th of October 1914 on the LUSITANIA as a lecturer. As the U. S. were neutral I could not call myself a WAR LECTURER and could not speak about the War in public places , but I lectured in Universities : YALE, HARVARD, CHAMPAIGN – Ill ATHENS – Georgia – etc etc in many Colleges : Bryn maur, Wellesley, Vassar, Mount Hollyoke etc and many private schools and Seminaries and Convents. After the French lecture I was making an appeal for the French and Belgium refugies and the money collected for them was sent directly to THE SECOURS DE FANCE in Paris .
But when the U. S. entered the War, I became a War lecturer, and lectured for the Red Cross throughout the Country. I was in Lincoln Nebrask the guest of the Town and of Miss Pershing, in September 1918 when the epidemic of Influenza stop all gatherings , so I decided to return to France , in order to gather new material for other lectures .
And we were in the middle of the Ocean when ARMISTICE was proclaimed .
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. This CommI
I arrived in New-York in May 1919 and 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.
I went with Mrs ….. to Baltimore . All the speakers at the Convention presented an Idea in Memoriam to their Faternity 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 .
In my speech I was quoting the poem of Col. JOHN MC CRAE : IN FLANDERS FIELDS THE POPPIES BLOW etc etc and all at once I realised that the Flanders Fields Poppies were THE SYMBOL befitting the Heroes of the War as many of them were sleeping under THE CROSSES ROW AND ROW in Flanders Fields .
I proposed the Idea and it was accepted at the Convention with great emotion . Plans were made that I should used the Flanders’ Poppies as means to raise the 1 million Frs for the Children of Devasted France , and it was decided that in each State one of the WAR MOTHER Gold Star Mother , would be my State President of the FLANDERS ‘ FILEDS POPPY DAYS and would send the money raised by these POPPY’S DAYS direct to Mme Millerand , the wife of the President of France .
Immediately I made a silk sample of a Flanders Fields Poppy , and we had 10.000 silk Poppies made xx in Baltimore and 2 weeks after the Convention, we had the first POPPY DAY in the street of Baltimore ; 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 .
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 , Ixtx we had POPPY’S DAYS all through the middle West and West xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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 Salt Lake City the President of the Mormon delegated one of the President of the Women’s club, Mrs. Marriot of Ogden, to accompagn me in every town , until the $10.000 would be made . I spoke in the Momon Temple* to present the Idea and was the first woman who had , until then , spoken in their Temple. (*Tabernacle not Temple)
The Poppies forwarded to us from Chicago were made in papers , and however they were making a touching sight in a town when in the evening every man , woman and child was wearing one of those poppy , as it was very often the case in the small towns.
The Chamber of Commerce of Nebraska had given me their able Secretary ( who is still there ) to plan the campaign in Nebraska to raise the $ 10.000 with the help of the Gold Star Mothers . We made more than the $ 10.000 in Nebraska . By that time I had taken the habit to speak in each school of the town where we were planning to have the POPPY’S DAY , and each school was sending us girls and boys to tag with the Poppies – We had so many volunteers that it is why those tags days were such a success and ther SYMBOL emploid , “the Flanders’ Popy” was so endearing to the heart of the people that they began to call me every where the POPPY LADY and the Flanders’S Fields’ Poppy was considered everywhere and by every one THE BEST SYMBOL which could be found perpetuating the memory of the HEROES of the WAR .
This what were saying the State Newspapers and local papers of all the States of WYOMING South Dakota – Montana – Washington – and California . I have all these newspapers .
In San Diego was the American Legion Convention when we arrived there for our Poppy Day . And as I spoke at their State convention the American Legion men told me that I must go to their National Convention in Cleveland to present the Idea , that it would be surely accepted enthusiastically as it was just a symbol like that the American L Legion Organisation was looking for . And they told me to write to Colonel Galbraith who was to run for National President .
I knew him and wrote to him explaining my Idea . He wired me THAT HE WAS MAKING A RESERVATION FOR ME AT THE HEADQUARTERS OF THE LEGION IN CLEVELAND AND THAT HE WAS WITH ME WITH ALL HIS HEART . I knew he was with the FLANDERS’ POPPIES as he was a great friend of France.xxxxxxxx thought that a NATIONAL FLANDERS’ POPPY DAY would be , each year , the Best MEMORIAM given to their comrades who had given their live for Humanity . I have his telegramm .
I wrote back to him telling that on my way from San Diego to Cleveland I should stop at Indianapolis to speak to the ENCAMPMENT CONVENTION of the G A R and THE SONS AND THE DAUGHTERS OF THE G A R to ask them the permit to use the DECORATION DAY – 30th of MAY – for the ANNUAL FLANDERS’ POPPY DAY of the American Legion Men.
I spoke to the ENCAMPMENT explaining to them that not only there would be a NATIONAL POPPY DAY each year ON DECORATION DAY but also that DAY the graves of the Heroes of this last War would be decorated with a wreath of POPPIES while the old graves would be decorated with the flag. That was my Idea and it has been done during many years in many places.
The ENCAMPMENT endorse the Idea and it is with their approval that I arrived at the Convention in Cleveland . I was received amongst the guests of Honor they had ; MARSHALL PETAIN – ADMIRAL BEATY – GENERAL DIAZ and it was a wonderful Convention . The Flanders’ Fields Poppy Idea was adopted first by the Committee of the 48 States Presidents, to whom I spoke presented by Colonel Galbraith , Colonel Parman of Chicago and General Haufman of Oklohama . It was accepted unanimously by them, as later on, it was accepted by the Convention from the platform . And when all the speeches by all the Officers , by the President of the GOLD STAR MOTHERS and by the Guest of Honor were over , just before the election was going to take place . General Hoffman came in front and showing me in the loge , near the platform , said : WE CANNOT CLOSE SUCH WONDERFUL MEETING WITHOUT HAVING A FEW WORDS FROM MADAME GUERIN – OUR POPPY LADY WHO HAS GIVEN US THE FLANDERS’ FIELD’S POPPY Symbol in Memoriam for our Heroes.
Without leaving the loge I said few words and the ovation I received from that 5000 American men and their guests is a Memory never to be forgotten . After the Convention I was nearly carried on shoulders and Colonel Galbraith and Marshall Petain told me that THE FLANDERS’ FIELDS’ POPPY would make an other lien between France and the U. S.
After the Convention was over I gave few more lectrures to complet the million frsa I had promised to the Committee Of the Children of Devasted France : in Cleveland , Toledo , Detroit , always making Tags DAYS with the Flanders’ Poppies , always continuing to spread the Idea.
I was hurrying as it had been decided after the Convention that the first NATIONAL POPPY DAY ON DECORATION DAY would be for the benefit of the CHILDREN OF DEVASTATED FRANCE and would be made with the aid of the American Legion.
IN November 1920 accompanied by an American lady Mrs Marie de Mare from Denver – Colorado, we left for France – the million of francs had been completed and we went directly to the ELISEE PALACE to see Mrs Millerand the wife of the President of France to explain to her the march on of the Fanders’ POPPIES .
She had followed it by my letters and all the letters she had received during our Campaign, from Governors or influential people of the different States , who were sending the money collected , directly to her , on my request . And I had had a letter from Mrs Millerand published in many State papers saying : “We thank you infinitely and all those who are helping you in your Flanders’ Fields’ PoppyS’ Days . We have just received money from Delaware , Maryland , Colorado , South Dakota , Wyming , Minnesota , Nebraska and other states are writing that they will send other money very soon . I pray you to tell to all those you are soliciting their help how urgent and immence is our task of rehabilitation . Express to them our gratitude for the fraternity they are showing indefatigably towards our Country. Let the Flanders’ Fields’ poppy be the voice of the poor children of the Devastated France were only the Poppies are blooming amongst the ruins . etc .
When Mrs. De Mare and myself explain to the Committee in Paris that we must have at least 5 millions of silk Poppies made in the orphanages of France ready to be shipped in April to the American Legion for the First National Flanders’ Poppy’s Day on Decoration day , the Committee found that not one cent of this million Francs could be used for the fabrication of the Poppies , even in view of the large sum of money that the Poppy day would bring to the poor children . The statuts of the Committee were irrevocable : every cent sent from the U. S. was to be used for the welfare of the poor children and only for that.
As Originator of the Poppy’s Idea , and the sponsor and knowing how philantropic this Idea could become , I ordered , on my own responsibility not 5 but 3.000.000 of silk poppies . And I arrived in March 1921 in New-York with these 3 millions Poppies . The Customs’ duties were so high that I went in Court (of the Customs) as the Originator of the Idea explaining the purpose of this coming campaign in such a way that the Government refunded me $ 12.000 of duties , sending them to Mme E. Guerin the Founder of the National Flanders’ Fields’ Poppy’s Days. This judgement is recorded at the Customs’ Court.
We started the Drive from the Headquarters of the American Legion in Indianapolis . Colonel Galbraith – then National President of the American Legion had givenus giving us all the help possible as Major Colonel Lemuel Bolles . the National Adjudant.
I had choosen 6 ladies as organio to travel throughout the Country to lecture and organise the States with the help of the American Legion Posts. I myself was going from one State to the other to help them.
Mrs Irenee Du Pont from Wilmington , Delaware, had accepted to be the National President and did a lot to help us in every way.
As this drive was taking a tremendous development and as , at that time , the Headquarters of the Legion was not very large , it was decided that we should come to New-York and would put the Drive in the hands of a very important Corporation used to make such National Drives. Mr. Jenkins was put in charge and thousands and thousands of pamphlets were sent out sSaying : Mme E. Guerin – Originator and sponsor of the National Flanders ’ Fields ’ Poppy ’s Days has brought back from France millions of silk Flanders Poppies etc etc . Colonel Moffat , the right hand of Mr. Hoover (while he was feeding Europe) arrived at that time from Austria and joined us in our work.
I ordered – on my own responsibility, 3 millions more of those silk poppies , as we were running short , to Angelo Alpi Co. in New-York and the Poppy’S Days was a great success . Hundreds od thousand of dollars were sent to Mme Millerand by the treasurer of the American Legion Colonel Bolles and Mrs. Irenee du Pont. At that time – – Colonel Lemuel Bolles received the Legion of Honor from France. Meanwhile the Idea had grown and Colonel Galbraith who was very much interested to create the FIDAC*, “the Association of the Veterans of all the Allies”, told me to go and organise the Allied Countries with the Flanders’ Poppies . that he would follow after to organise them as the FIDAC.
It was thus decided that I should go first to Canada and Colonel Galbraith gave me a letter for the National President of the Canadian Veterans introducing Mme E, Guerin – Originator Of the National Popy’s Days etc etc .
I organises (with 2 of my ladies) Canada , left them there to go to England, Belgium, Italy myself , while I was sending Colonel Moffat to South Africa (Natel) , to Australia and New-Zealand .
before to leave for Europe I went to the National Convention of the American Legion , in Kansas , where I had been invited as Marechal Foch was to be there . In Kansas City THE AMERICAN LEGION AUXILIARY was formed and while the American Legion Auxiliary was adopting the Flanders ’ Poppy as Symbol , at the Convention of the American Legion they had repudiated it to take the DAISY .
Colonel Bolles (Colonel Galbraith had been killed in an automobile accident by now} and all my friends gathered around me to ask what was to be done . It had been This resolution had been passed so swiftly that they had realised that it meant too late .
I said That WE WERE TO FOLLOW THE IDEA OF COLONEL GALBRAITH : CARRY THE FLANDERS POPPIES TO ALL THE ALLIED COUNTRIES , organise for them , for the benefit of their Veterans organisations and in MEMORIAM of their Heroes , a National POPPY DAY each year on Armistice Day (as the other countries had no DECORATION DAY , in each Country and continue them in the U. S.
I left Kansas City for Canada and from there went to London , where the English Veterans’ Organisation was in the great need . Field Marshall Haig , the President , called a meeting where I explain the Idea which was adopted immediately , but they had no money in the Treasury to order their Poppies . It was September and the Armistice day in November .
I offered them to order their Poppies in France for them , so my own responsibility , that they would paid them after . Gladly they accepted my offer . Sir Francis went to Paris with me and we made the arrangement , we ordered for 1 million flowers of silk poppies.
Their first National Flanders ‘ Poppy day was an enormous success and it has developed so well , so big that for the past 15 years the ENGLISH EMPIRE was selling 25.000.000 flanders ‘ Poppies on Armistice day , poppies made by the disabled soldiers in a factory near Birmingham.
I went to Belgium , to Italy and had also their Poppies made for their first year . In these 2 countries they have discontinued their National Poppy’s Day some years ago.
But Colonel Moffat , meanwhile was doing a very good work in Australia and New-Zealand as was my Organiser in Canada .
When I arrived in New-York I was in time to be on Armistice day in Monteal and Toronto where I had a tremendous reception as the ORIGINATOR OF THE FLANDERS ‘ FIELD’S POPPY’s DAY. I sent my Organiser to Cuba and went back to New-York and Indianapolis . And as at the Headquarters of the American Legion they had not yet been able to straighten between the Poppy and the Daisy. I carried the Idea and the POPPIES to the VETERANS OF FOREIGN WAR ‘S ORGANIZATION in New York . A very small and poor organization at that time, and the National Poppy’ Day of 1922 was a great success for the Veterans of Foreign Wars , such a success that their Officers went to Paris with me to deposit a wreath of large Poppies on the Unknown Soldier’s grave under the ARC de TRIOMPHE . A banquet was given to them and they received the Legion of Honor , at my table , as the banquet was given by me.
In fact of this success of the VETERANS OF THE FOREIGN WARS at the next Convention of the American Legion the Flanders ‘ field’S Poppy was readopted and the American Legion asked to me to have 2 millions of silk Poppies made in France for them . What I did , I brought them in March 1923 , but already the Flanders ‘ Poppies had been commercialised and it is why the NATIONAL POPPIES ‘ DAYS have never had the tremendous success that they have had in the ENGLISH EMPIRE .
That is the synopsis of the history of the National Poppy’S DAYS for Decoration day . Here, I do not speak about the law suit that a Mrs. Mac Allister (which had been chosen erroneously as the President of New-York State for the first National Poppy Day ) made to The Ambassador of France – Mme R. Guerin Originator of the Popy’S Days Bishop Manning of New-York and Mrs. Irenee Du Pont, law suit that she lost naturally , but in which , at the Court they called me Mme E. Guerin , the Originator of the National PoppY’S DAYS in the U. S. and Allied Countries .
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 . I saw her once at one the Convention of the American Legion.
And I was surprised when Colonel Bolles – ex-national Adjutant of the American Legion wrote to me that Miss Moina Michael was claiming that she was the Originator of THE NATIONAL FLANDERS ‘ POPY ‘ DAYS . I had many other letters about it . Truth is truth and cannot be not recognised when explained .
As I think now it will be necessary to explain it , I shall give these notes and many others with all letters and papers pertaining to the FLANDERS ‘ FIELDS ‘ POPPY ‘ S IDEA to a well known American writer , to write, simply, the real history of it and I shall send it to all State Newspapers and others in the Country and to the 10.000 Posts of the American Legion and American Legion Auxillary , as I am one if not the only person who has this list of addresses of the Post I shall have all the records of the Conventions, of the Courts, of the different States, etc.
YES THE POPY ‘ S DAYS were originated by me : Mme E. Guerin from France & New York
TO HONOR THE DEEDS OF THE GREAT WAR IN HELPING THOSE WHO WHERE SUFFERING .
and In Memoriam”
This Synopsis was a missing piece of the jigsaw, when scans of Moїna Michael’s Papers held by Hargrett Library were obtained by the author. It is held within Moїna Michael’s Papers at the State of Georgia Archives but was kindly sent through on behalf of Michael family members (along with other papers from this same collection), after Madame Guérin’s site went ‘live’ online on 06 November 2015. Apart from a copy of a cheque relating to the Lee Keedick contract, all have been reproduced within this chapter … without fear or favour.
Virtually everything that is held within this Guérin Synopsis had been discovered through research and documented independently in the chapters before receipt of it. Quotes have since been added at appropriate time-line positions, giving verification to the initial findings.
There were only a few surprises i.e. it was known that Anna Guérin had held a ‘Poppy Day’ in Salt Lake City, Utah (1920) at some point but the Synopsis provided clues to achieving exact dates; it was not known that Anna had visited Belgium and Italy (although this has yet to be further investigated); and it was not known that Colonel Moffat may have visited South Africa (en route from Australia and New Zealand).
Also enlightening was the passion seeping from the sentences (felt by the author at least) – which, it is believed, Anna Guérin was clearly feeling when she wrote the document (and its accompanying letter).
On 13 February 1941, Moїna Michael’s attorneys at law (Tolnas & Middlebrooks of 414-15 Southern Mutual Building, Athens, Ga.) wrote to Madame E. Guérin at 686 Lexington Ave., New York City: “Dear Madame: Miss Michael has asked us to write you this letter acknowledging receipt of your letter of February 9, 1941 enclosing your synopsis.
We have examined your synopsis very carefully and also the many documents in the possession of Miss Michael to come to an understanding so that both you and she may continue without conflict, the separate work that each of you are doing.
We note with interest that you were doing a great deal of lecturing in the United States prior to the entry of the United States in the World War and collecting money to be used for the children of devastated area of France and that you discontinued this work when the influenza epidemic made it impossible for lectures to be held.
We also note with interest that you suggested at the Convention of Gold Star Mothers in Baltimore in ______ 1919, that Poppy Days be used for the purpose of raising money for the children of devastates area of France.
(Her claim is that she came to the U.S.A. in MAY, 1919 to sell Liberty Loan Bonds)
Miss Michael conceived the idea of using the Poppy from the fields of France as an emblem of the sacrifices made on the Battlefields of France by the American Soldiers earlier than December 4, 1918 (the Memorial Poppy Idea was originated by her November 9, 1918) , which is the date of the earliest document, and she has documents after documents from Presidents of Organizations, Congressmen, and newspaper articles accumulated by her while making her campaign to have the Poppy IDEA adopted in this Country as an emblem memorializing the sacrifices made by our soldiers and while Miss Michael did not stress the commercial feature of the Idea she has a document dated March 11, 1919 (before Mme E. Guerin had arrived in the U.S.A.) in which the thought of the commercial value of the Idea was expressed in writing and it is a known fact that Mr. Lee Keedick suggested that the use of the Flanders Fields Poppy for a Poppy Day long before the Convention in Baltimore mentioned by you.
Miss Michael wished to use quotations from your letters and published articles , which were sent to her by you and your Secretaries in 1921 – 1924 in order to make a complete chronological narrative of events. But as she can no doubt dispense with the use of these, it occurs to us that what is most important is that you accede to Miss Michael without controversy the facts which are proven beyond doubt by the documents she has, copies of which she would be glad to send to someone in New York for your inspection. For instance, Mr. Lee Keedick, Miss Michael’s Publicity Agent for promulgating the Memorial Red Poppy (contract dated Dec. 13, 1918) at 475 Fifth Ave., N.Y. Or Dr. Stella S. Center, Seventy East 96th Street, N.Y. City, with whom Miss Michael lived when she began her Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy campaign, Nov.9, 1918, while she was in the service of the Overseas YMCA Headquarters ,Hamilton Hall, Columbia University, N.Y.City. Miss Michael wishes to give you credit for everything that you have done in using the Poppy Idea to further your idea of Poppy Days for collection of funds for the benefit of the children of France.
We enclose an incomplete synopsis of Miss Michael’s work and copies of a few documents.
Miss Michael was decorated by the National American Legion Auxiliary with their Distinguished Service Medal at their Nat’l Convention in Boston, Mass., Oct.6, 1930. And the Nat’l Legion awarded to her its Distinguished Service CITATION at its Nat’l Convention, Boston, Mass., Sept.24,1940. Both Awards name her as the ORIGINATOR OF THE FLANDERS FIELDS MEMORIAL POPPY . (See copies of their information in their announcements)
The National Executive Committeemen of the Nat’l Legion reviewed in 1940 Miss Michael’s historic data and established her Authorship and first claim to the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy IDEA.
AMERICAN LEGION AUXILIARY history, published in 1934, gives Miss Michael the credit for originating and promulgating the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy. The press of the U.S.A. carried this extensively in February and March 1919. The NEW YORK and BROOKLYN papers carried it splendidly. She has the original editions. April 6, 1919, (before your arrival in the U.S.A. (according to your announcements: “MAY, 1919) the Sandusky, Ohio*, carried a two column article and a large picture of Miss Michael giving an extended summary of the Memorial Poppy and the author of the Memorial Poppy Idea.
Miss Michael originated the FLANDERS FIELDS MEMORIAL POPPY IDEA and we feel sure that you cannot fail to concede this once you have examined the many documents in her possession. I beg to remain, Very Respectfully, TOLNAS & Middlebrooks”
[Observations by HAJ:
“… the Poppy IDEA …” = the crucial conception period in question regarding Poppy Days must be considered as 1919 & 1920: letters and newspaper articles discovered and forthcoming from this period were promoting Moїna Michael’s ‘Victory Emblem’ not a single poppy bloom nor Poppy Days.
“… document dated March 11, 1919 (before Mme E. Guerin had arrived in the U.S.A.) in which the thought of the commercial value of the Idea was expressed in writing …” = was that “March 11, 1919” document, the letter of the same date which has been reproduced previously in this chapter? If it was, is the claim that “the thought of the commercial value of the Idea was expressed in writing” valid? That letter refers to the “Flanders Poppy and the Torch of Liberty entwined adopted as a national Victory Emblem” idea not “the use of the Flanders Fields Poppy for a Poppy Day”;
“… it is a known fact …” = is there written proof “that Mr. Lee Keedick suggested that the use of the Flanders Fields Poppy for a Poppy Day long before the Convention in Baltimore”?;
“… promulgating the Memorial Red Poppy …” = there is no word of Poppy Days in the Ferris and Keedick “(contract dated Dec. 13, 1918)”;
“… Sandusky, Ohio …” = this article has been reproduced earlier in this chapter and refers to the ‘Victory Emblem’ and not a single poppy bloom nor Poppy Days.
The mention of the ‘Victory Emblem’, within the afore-transcribed 1941 letters from Moїna Michael and her attorneys, is conspicuous by its absence.
The following transcription is of a typed, undated document written by Moїna Michael (held within the Moїna Michael Papers at the State of Georgia Archives). It is assumed that it was one of the “few documents” referred to in the letter from Moїna Michael’s attorneys at law Tolnas & Middlebrooks to Madame E. Guérin (dated 13 February 1941). Later handwritten edits are written in [bold italics and brackets] [sic]:
$1.00 Invested In The RED CROSS. It was December the thirteenth, nineteen hundred and eighteen in New York city.
One month and two days after the Armistice of the World War.
One month and four days after the birth of the Flanders Fields Memorial [Red] Poppy Idea.
I had been to the office of Lee Keedick on Fifth Avenue to meet with him and him and Otho Ferris together with Attorney John Clifton Elder (Forsyth, Georgia) to sign a contract with Keedick and Ferris entitailing them to launch my Flanders [Fields] Memorial [Red] Poppy Idea.
This contract cost me one hundred dollars but paid to me, cash down, $1.00 to make the contract legal. The only dollar from then until 1938 ever paid to me in aid of promulgating the Memorial Poppy Idea. (The Georgia Auxiliary to the American Legion began in 1938 to aid me in buying a new type=writer and to help pay for my stationery and stamps for the Poppy work).
Otho Ferris was impatiently walking the office floor in fear of missing his steamer for Overseas. He was all new from bootts to cap in answer to General Pershing’s call for trained YMCA Secretaries to help entertain and teach our boys during the waiting period of debarking the AEF.
As soon as the business was completed I started towards my apartment near Columbia University, The Poinciana, with my Georgia friends, Misses Stella and Augusta Center.
Hurrying for a Riverside [Drive] bus, I ran into a woman serving on the Red Cross drive.
Dollars were very scarce with me them, as ever, but I put a little prayer with that first [Red Poppy] dollar, and only one I had, invested by another person in the Memorial Poppy Idea, and joined the Red Cross under a bridge where a Red Cross woman stopped me and asked me to join.
She pointed to a poster: A majestic woman with a wounded, young doughboy in her arms. The slogan beneath the poster: “The Mother of Humanity.”
I hastened to catch the bus, climbed to the upper deck, alighted near Grant’s Tomb, walked there, climbed the steps, turned to the left, seated myself on a balustrade, looking out over the Hudson River. [. . . . . for contemplation and prayer.]
The steamers were bringing our boys home, the sun was sinking low, the statue of Liberty was majestically holding her Torch high, welcoming our boys home!
I sat in quiet prayer for them, for the Mother of Humanity, for the hoped-for possibilities of my “spirit child”, the Flanders Fields Memorial [Red]Poppy Idea, and visualized a wreath of crimson Poppies entwined with the Torch of Liberty . . . . . . the Light of Freedom and the Remembrance for those who had saved it for the world in 1914-1918.
AND THAT [Red Poppy] RED CROSS DOLLAR?
The emorial Poppy Idea goes around the world pleading for Peace, for Remembrance of those who brought and bought it for the world. . . . . challenging us to keep faith with them.
AND OTHER DOLLARS?
The [Red] Poppy Day sales since November 9th , 1918 [have] has made millons [millions] of dollars in the English-speaking world [in] aid [to] the Red Cross in its helping-hand for humanity.
Will you invest in the Red Cross? Even if it takes you last dollar? IT WILL PAY.
Signed Moїna Michael”
[Observation: The mention of Moїna’s ‘Victory Emblem’ within the afore-transcribed letters from Moїna Michael and her attorneys is conspicuous by its absence. HAJ]
It would appear that Madame Anna Guérin did “fail to concede”, because Moїna Michael did not receive permission to use the Guérin name in her book. Moїna Michael was fortunate with the timing of her book, inasmuch as the U.S.A. was still functioning normally and publishing books as usual – the country did not enter World War Two until December 1941.
At the end of May 1944, long and detailed articles appeared in several newspapers which suggest an already-known long-standing poppy lady rivalry. The story originates from New York and appears to have been written 29 May 1944 “on the eve of another Memorial Day”.
The prompt for running such articles may have been two-fold: Memorial Day was held on Tuesday 30th and Moїna Michael had died earlier in the month.
Three newspapers found with the near-identical articles are: The Daily Times / The Florence Times 30 May (page three), with “Originator of Poppy Sale is Still Disputed. Controversery Goes on 24 Years After American Legion Adopted Program”; St. Petersburg Times, 30 May 1944 (page 3), with “Originator of Poppy Sale is Still Disputed. Who Started Poppy Day? Three Women Claim Honour”; The Tuscaloosa News, 31 May (page eight) with “Origin of Poppy Still Misty. Several Women Claim Creation of Idea”; The Ironwood Daily Globe (Michigan), 30 May (pages 1 & 2), with “Controversy Continues Over Poppy Originator”.
This is the transcription of The Ironwood Daily Globe article [sic]: “The Controversy Continues Over Poppy Originator. New York – Twenty four years after the American Legion adopted the red poppy of Flanders as a memorial flower for the World War dead a controversy still persists over who originated the idea.
The Legion’s records show, on the eve of another Memorial Day, that several women have sought recognition as the original “Poppy Lady.” All but three of the claims have been discounted.
They are those of Miss Moina Michael of Athens, Ga., who died May 10 at the age of 74; Madame A. Guerin of New York, a French woman who lectured in the United States at the outbreak of the war, and Mrs. Mary Hanecy, Milwaukee, Wis., mother.
Officially, the Legion never has taken a stand on the matter, but it has paid tribute to Miss Michael and its records indicate she generally has been recognised by the Legion and the auxiliary.
Mrs. Gwendolyn W, MacDowell, national secretary of the auxiliary, says that group has not entered the controversy because it began before the auxiliary took over sale of poppies in 1925. However, at its national convention in Boston in 1930, the Auxiliary presented to Miss Michael the distinguished service medal, its highest award.
Auxiliary presented to Miss Michael the distinguished service medal, its highest award.
Whoever may have conceived the idea first, there seems to be no argument that the inspiration for it came from Poet John McCrae’s famous lines: “In Flanders fields the poppies blow “Between the crosses, row on row –“
Miss Michael, who fixed Nov. 9, 1918 as the birthdate of the Flanders field memorial poppy idea, said she largely was inspired by the poem.
Madam Guerin, president of a French antique company in New York, said the idea came to her while she was reciting the poem in an address before the first convention of the Gold Star Mothers of Baltimore in 1919.
“All at once,” she recalled, “I realized that the Flanders fields poppies were the symbol befitting the heroes of the war . . . I proposed the idea and it was accepted at the convention with great emotion.”
At that time, Madame Guerin said, she was lecturing in the United States, representing Madame Millerand, the wife of the president of the French Republic, and raising money for the rehabilitation of French children. Madame Irenee Du Pont of Wilmington, Delaware, was the president of the committee in the U. S.
Means of Raising Money.
“Plans were made,” she added, “that I should use the Flanders poppies as a means to raise 1.000,000 francs for the children of devastate France, and it was decided that in each state on of the Gold Star Mothers would be my state president of the Flanders’ fields poppy days . .
“Immediately I made a silk sample of a 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.”
A historical booklet on the poppy published by the Legion auxiliary in 1936, gives this version:
“The first instance of wearing poppies in honor of the war dead occurred in New York City, Nov. 9, 1918, when Miss Moina Micahel of Athens, Ga., who was serving on the staff of the Y.M.C.A. overseas branch, distributed poppies to men attending the 21st conference of the Y.M.C.A. The first poppy was sold publicly on the streets of Milwaukee in connection with the reception of the 33rd Division, in June 1919. . .
“At the inspiration of Miss Michael, the poppy was adopted as the official memorial flower by the Georgia department of the American Legion in August, 1920. Georgia delegates were instructed to present a resolution to the Legion’s national convention in Cleveland that fall to make the flower the official memorial flower of the national organization.”
The Legion’s records show the Georgia department’s resolution was adopted after tabling of a similar one presented by the American and French children’s league, with which Madame Guerin was associated.
The Legion’s records also show that Madame Guerin attended the convention and addressed the delegates following adoption of the poppy as a memorial flower.
She was invited to the conclave, she said, after she had spoken at the Legion’s California state convention.
“They told me to write to Col. Galbraith who was to run for national president,” she said. “I knew him and wrote to him explaining my idea. He wired me that he was making a reservation for me at the headquarters of the Legion in Cleveland and that he thought a national Flanders’ poppy day would be, each year, the best memoriam given to their comrades. . .
“The Flanders’ fields poppy idea was adopted by the committee of the 48 states presidents to whom I spoke. . . It was accepted unanimously by them as, later on, it was accepted by the convention from the platform.
Later, at the suggestion of Legion officials, Madame Guerin said, she went to Canada and later to Europe to popularize the poppy day in Allied countries.
Original Poppy Lady.
“Regarding Mrs. Hanecy’s claim, a letter written Jan. 27, 1940 by Frank E. Samuel, then national adjutant, to Adjutant G. H. Stordock of Wisconsis, said in part:
“The national executive committee by resolution in November, 1934, endorsed Miss Michael, ‘The Original Poppy Lady,’ for the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Foundation award for ‘meritorious service to democracy and welfare.’ . . .
“In 1932 a resolution prepared over the signature of the national commander and the national adjutant said: ‘Whereas, in the year 1919, a Milwaukee mother . . . conceived the idea of the manufacture and sale of paper poppies on the streets preceding Memorial Day, and that from this suggestion the first poppy day ever held in the United States was conducted in Milwaukee, Wis., Saturday, May 19, 1920. . . Resolved that we do hereby convey upon Mrs. Mary Hanecy of Milwaukee, Wis., this certificate of appreciation.’
“Summing it all up, from our records, you may note that while Miss Michael is generally credited with originating the poppy as a memorial flower, Mrs. Hanecy is likewise credited with originating the idea of the annual poppy day sale.”
Over time, Moїna’s reputation gathered momentum in the USA. The country and the American Legion developed a special relationship with her (understandably) – Moїna was, after all, one of their own and their histories have remembered her. Moїna received much official recognition in the United States of America for her work with poppies and veterans.
Moїna died 10 May 1944. Articles/notices of her death appeared all around the world, too numerous to quote. However, the Gaffney Ledger of South Carolina (16 May 1944) informed its readers in quite a poignant way [sic]: ‘Poppy Lady’ Dies After Finishing 300 for Anchor. “Athens, Ga., May 15. – Death has stilled the nimble fingers of Georgia’s famous little “Poppy Lady,” Moina Belle Michael, who originated the Flanders Field memorial poppy and through the years made tens of thousands of them for the benefit of veterans of the First World War.
She died at the Athens hospital just two weeks after she had campleted work an 300 paeper poppies for the huge anchor to be launched at the naval academy, Annapolis, on Memorial Day, May 30.
“This may be my last poppy anchor,” the 75-year old little lady had declared from her wheelchair as she completed the poppies with hands stiff and aching from neuritis.
The launching is an annual custom in memory of soldiers and sailors who died at sea in the last year. It was originated at Savannah and later adopted by the navy.”
So …. what of Madame Anna Guérin?
From the 1941 correspondence with Moїna Michael, it is known that Anna kept up with some special friends made in the American Legion (during all her ‘Poppy Days’) but her official relationship with the Legion organisation itself had, perhaps (?), waned somewhat after the poppy/daisy debarcle and Veterans of Foreign Wars success with their patented ‘Buddy Poppy’ – the American Legion’s new-found relationship was with Moїna Michael.
It is deduced that Anna spent the World War Two years in New York. After the war was over, she is known to have left the U.S.A. in July 1945 and she is found arriving back in New York on 29 November 1945. She had left Le Havre on the ‘Edmund B Alexander’, on 21 November. She gave her occupation as “Lecturer”; her last permanent address as “New York City”; and she was joining her sister Juliette at “257 3rd Avenue, New York City”. (See more in “Chapter 9: Life after the Poppy Campaigns” and the Guérin Timeline).
Perhaps the Second World War halted Anna Guérin’s promise to publish her version of the poppy story … time marched on and it never happened. Her proposed “great work for England” remains a mystery.
After the years of tireless fundraising for French widows and orphans; World War One war effort charities; Poppy Days/Drives; and ‘Inter-Allied Poppy Day’ campaigns, Madame Anna Guérin had retreated from the public gaze. When the Allied countries had said “au revoir Madame Guérin”, Anna could catch up with herself. For too long she had been so very selfless and had been ‘late for her life’.
Madame Anna Guérin had been a remarkable woman who must have greatly valued publicity during her campaigning decade … but that was for the sake of the widows & orphans in the devastated regions of France initially and then, later, the Allied veterans.
No public notification has been found to date, that notified anyone in the world that Madame Anna Guérin had died on 16 April 1961. Perhaps in death, as in life, publicity had never been about her personally and her family was aware of that? Furthermore, by 1961, the world might have exclaimed “Madame who?”
It is a sad irony that the media of the British Commonwealth countries (“Empire” originally) began mentioning and crediting Moїna Michael with their Poppy Days onwards from her death in May 1944, when logically she had not been mentioned beforehand … many forgetting Madame Guérin, who had been the real person responsible for introducing the ‘Inter-Allied Poppy Day’ to them.
It is hoped the contents of all these chapters will prove a few points in favour of Madame Anna Guérin – “The Poppy Lady of France” … and it is hoped that history will consider her worthy enough to be remembered rather more in the future.