Library Notes: Poppies for Remembrance

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 5, 2022

By Gretchen Witt
Rowan Public Library

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month — as a child I remembered hearing this phrase and liked the repetition, which helped me learn this important date. After four years of global conflict and over 14 million dead — 9 million soldiers in combat and 5 million civilians — the world was ready for peace.  The Armistice was celebrated around the world but particularly in countries that were allies in WWI; the U.S., the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and France. Although in many countries Remembrance Day was observed the following year on Nov. 11, 1919; in the U.S., Armistice Day was not a federal holiday until 1938. This day is also known as Poppy Day as a red poppy for remembrance is worn or displayed. It was not until after WWII and the Korean War, that Armistice Day became Veteran’s Day to commemorate all service personnel.

WWII has overshadowed the First World War for a long time. Not as many Americans have relatives who fought in the “Great War” as in World War II and it has been over 100 years ago since WWI ended. The History Room has several resources that can be used to trace an ancestor who served in the Great War. The service records of all soldiers as well as nurses from North Carolina can be viewed on microfilm. Ancestry and Fold3 are also excellent sources for draft or service information on your family member. The History Room has Clark’s “The Second Infantry Division in World War I: a History of the American Expeditionary Force Regulars, 1917-1919,” “Torch Bearers of Democracy,” which looks at the role of African-American soldiers, and “United States Army Shoulder Patches and Related Insignia” as well as Forty’s Historical Maps of WWI.

If you are interested in the stories of the war and the human interaction rather than specific ancestors, consider reading Wendy Moore’s “No Man’s Land” which tells the story of suffragette doctors Flora Murray and Louisa Garrett Anderson who founded the military hospital at Endell Street in London. These women were at the very cutting edge of medicine and saved thousands of soldiers’ lives running a hospital with almost entirely female staff. Their work became so respected that the army began to recruit female doctors and many medical schools previously closed to women welcomed them.   

These books and materials as well as many others that share the changes and challenges brought about by the “war to end all wars” are available for use in the library or for check out. The library will be closed on Friday, Nov. 11, in observance of Veteran’s Day.

Gretchen Witt is supervisor of the Edith M. Clark History Room at the Rowan Public Library.

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