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The Salvation Army in the USA during the First World War

Evangline Booth during the First World War  
Evangeline Booth


When America entered the hostilities in April 1917, Evangeline Booth (USA National Commander) placed the entire Salvation Army in the USA on a war-service basis.
Hostels and service centres were established adjacent to military camps and when the American Expeditionary Force went to France, Lt-Colonel William Barker was dispatched to see how the Army could best serve them. In response to Barker's request to "Send over some Lassies", Evangeline dispatched a group of eleven handpicked officers, including four single women believing that quality mattered more than quantity. More officers followed and Salvation Army huts, rest-rooms and hostels soon sprang up wherever the American troops were stationed, some right at the front line where the women as well as men were in danger from shells and gas.

In October 1917, Ensigns Helen Purviance and Margaret Sheldon, decided to lift the spirits of the troops by providing some real home cooking. With only flour, sugar, lard, baking powder, cinnamon and canned milk at their disposal it was agreed that they would make and serve Doughnuts. The dough was patted into shape by hand and fried, seven at a time, in a small pan. The tempting fragrance of frying doughnuts drew the homesick soldiers to the hut and they lined up in the rain waiting for a taste. Although the Ensigns worked late into the night, only one hundred and fifty were served. The next day the number was doubled and later, when fully equipped for the job they served up to nine thousand doughnuts daily.
The soldiers cheered the doughnuts and soon referred to the Salvation Army lassies as "Doughnut Girls" even when they baked apple pies or other treats. The simple doughnut became a symbol of all the Salvation Army was doing to ease the hardships of the frontline fighting men, the American Expeditionary Force was nicknamed "The Doughboys" and from being viewed with an attitude of scepticism the Salvation Army soon became the most popular organisation among the troops in France.
Salvation Army Lassie making doughnuts

Postcards from the First World War showing the work of the Salvation Army

Postcard in the Salvation Army Museum Basel
Soldiers receiving doughnuts
 Postcard of Stella Young with a bowl of doughnuts
Postcard of Stella Young,
"Doughnut Girl" in France
  Through the stories of war correspondents and the letters of the men "over there" the story reached America, millions learned of the spirit of the Salvation Army for the first time and the Salvation Army won not only the affection of the "Doughboys" but the respect and gratitude of the whole nation. Financial support for the Salvation Army's war program came with a rush, a plea for a million dollars, made in December 1917, was soon answered and in 1918 a further three million was donated. Several popular, secular songs were inspired by the service of the "Doughnut Girls" These included Salvation Lassie of Mine, Don't Forget The Salvation Army, and Goodbye Sally, Good Luck To You.
(Colin R. Waller, GB)
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