By 1895 organized groups for women who wanted to help those in need beyond their own immediate circles included the well-known Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), the Woman’s Club and the less well known Universal Peace Union, the Women’s Republican Association of the United States, the National Association of Loyal Women of American Liberty and the National Association of Women Stenographers.* Another group, open to both men and women, was the American Red Cross. Initially called Relief for the Wounded, the members worked in hospitals helping to care for casualties of the Civil War. As time passed it became an arm of an international organization and was renamed the American Red Cross.
While few women from Fairview, or even Erie County, were aiding in hospitals during the country’s next war (the Spanish American War in 1898), generally, men and women from other areas of the country performing as members of the American Red Cross proved its worth. As a result, Congress passed a charter for the American Red Cross, thus recognizing its value during that war. Recognition also meant official status.
As the American Red Cross matured three purposes emerged: to offer aid in disasters; to offer aid in armed conflict; and to offer aid in health crises. Many disasters arose that did not include armed conflict so membership continued in peace time.
Categories for aid were established that included a Home Service Corps who were volunteers that visited individuals and veterans who were not ambulatory but were still living at home; Gray Ladies who visited individuals, especially veterans, in hospitals; the Production Corps were women who knitted gloves, made hats, bandages, etc., to be used in disasters; the Nurse’s Aid; the Fundraisers division; the Motor Corps, etc. Women and men too, could belong to any of these categories and feel they had served their country while helping others affected by disasters.
In Erie County women supported the Red Cross by organizing chapters in every borough, every municipality and with auxiliary chapters in churches, businesses, schools and organizations such as the PTA, the Rebekahs, etc.
Fairview had a membership of 70 by 1917 then added 37 new members when the U.S. joined in the World War. These dedicated (and mostly) women canvassed house to house for clothing. The goal was 1½ tons from the district, which they met, and the clothing was sent to Europe for civilian relief. Fairview women conducted fundraisers such as ice cream socials, bake sales, sponsoring band concerts, and more.
And so, today’s salute goes out to those women who were Red Cross Volunteers from the period between the turn of the century (1900) to the First World War. They worked in peacetime when the excitement of what they were doing was diffused. Yet they persevered. They aided when needed. Participation in the World War inspired even more to join.
No individual name(s) has emerged to salute, but these Fairview women represented the entire township while performing this important work. They were outstanding!
*These organizations were a few of many whose representatives met for a conference in Philadelphia in 1895 for the purpose of discussing women’s activities to help humanity. The event was reported in the Erie Dispatch, February 16, 1895, page 1.