The original Veterans Day was observed as Armistice Day on November 11, 1918, the end of World War I. I thought you might like to know how the Smith community helped during the war. Students created the Women’s Land Unit and helped local farmers harvest their crops. They knitted socks, sweaters, mittens, afghans; they rolled surgical dressing in rooms of the Students Building (their version of the Campus Center). Smith College Alumnae organized the Smith College Relief Unit, and 27 women were sent to the Somme Valley to the town of Grecourt to help re-establish the village that was destroyed by the Germans. The Unit stayed in the area until 1929 and had to re-establish the village, not once, but twice. Students and alumnae also sold Liberty Bonds to help finance the war. On campus, Smith students, faculty and staff did their part. House mothers weighed food; students pledged not to purchase items with white sugar in it; flour was rationed. New courses were offered “Scientific Principles of Cooking” and in spring semester 1918 was added “Food and Nutrition in Relation to the Great War.” A course in auto mechanics was given in the spring of 1918–the most famous student was Amelia Earhart, living in Northampton briefly.
When the war ended, thousands of people in Northampton flooded the streets during the Peace Day Parade held on November 12th. Smith students and faculty paraded, the faculty in academic robes; students in white dresses and blue blazers and arm bands. They headed to campus where they participated in a ‘sing-in’ and heard an impromptu address was given by President William A. Neilson. The Smith community was joyful for the end of the war.
Relief work was continued by Smith women in France, the Near East, Serbia and Turkey. Women worked with the Red Cross, the YWCA and religious organizations to help those in need get back on their feet.
There is much more information about how the Smith community worked together during World War I in the College Archives. Come visit us and we’ll steer you in the right direction to learn more about the efforts of Smith during this time.