Clay County, Missouri Genealogy Trails

Women in World War I Effort

History of Clay County Missouri, by William H. Woodson.  Published by Historical Publishing Company, 1920 – Transcribed by Veneta McKinney


From the day that the United States entered the World War it was realized that this was to be a war in which every resource and influence must be utilized, and immediately recognition was given to the tremendous power resting in the hands of the nation’s women. Ida M. Tarbell said, “The task before us is to make women think and serve in terms of the nation as a whole; to make them, in fact, soldiers in the service of the country. * * * The accepted wartime tradition is that men must fight and women must weep. In this day and age, however, woman has her definite place and task, which is to be a national woman.”

            To utilize this great power and to co-ordinate and intensify the work of women in war service. The Woman’s Committee Council of National Defense was appointed on April 21, 1917 by the National Council of Defense. The Missouri Division of the Woman’s Committee was organized at once and county units followed. Mrs. Robert S. Withers of Liberty was appointed Chairman for Clay County. Later, to bring about complete co-operation between the men and women in the defense work of the state, Dr. F. B. Mumford, Chairman of the Missouri State Council of Defense, appointed Mrs. Withers as a member of the Clay County Council of Defense.

            The women of Clay County organized for war service in July, 1917. The first step was the registration of women on July 28th. After an intensive preliminary campaign carried on for two weeks by Mrs. Ralph Davidson and Mrs. Robert Withers during which meetings were held, speeches made, letters written and articles published, the women of the county were only partially familiarized with the need for the registration of women for war service. Over a thousand registered the first day and this thousand became the nucleus of a most enthusiastic, loyal body of workers. Later others registered bringing the number to 1,500, but many women gave freely of time and energy who never actually registered. 536 reported as trained in more than one occupation; a number registered to go anywhere for service.

            The women who led in the registration in July, a month later were leaders in organizing an active Red Cross Chapter. This work grew and prospered under the efficient direction of Mrs. Henry C. Harper.

            In the Family Enrollment Campaign which was conducted from October 28, to November 4, 1917, by the Food Administration, the Woman’s Committee was the chief worker and the women were responsible for the thorough organization which resulted in the signing of the Hoover Pledge by 8,000 men, women and children. Back in July on the day of Women’s Registration, only 384 Hoover Pledge cards were signed. This showed that the Woman’s Committee was becoming effective in its effort to spread the idea of personal responsibility in the matter of food regulations.

            Up to February, 1918, there had been no general war conference in which the women from all parts of the county could participate. Township and town chairmen had been appointed and they were doing those things suggested by the county chairman, but it was felt that it was vitally necessary that more women should understand the work of the Woman’s Committee and be interested in it. With this in mind, the County Chairman arranged for a Hoover Luncheon at the Major Hotel in Liberty on February 12th, with guests from every section of the county --a hundred in all. For the sake of future generations, the menu as arranged by the County Food Conservation chairman, Miss Grace Tickle, is given, as well as the program which was planned by the County Chairman.



Use no croutons.



For meat use poultry, rabbits, fish and sea foods. Conserve the transportable meats—beef, mutton, pork.



Grow vegetables and use them abundantly.


Corn helps us feed the world.



Use perishables. Use vegetable oils—cocoanut, olive. corn, peanut, cottonseed.


Conserves sugar, wheat, fat, and fuel. No eggs. No shortening.


Use honey, maple and other dark syrups as substitutes for sugar.


Buy a Thrift Stamp.


“An apple a day will keep the doctor away.”



Invocation—Mrs. James Love.


Purpose of Conference—The Chairman.

Toast to the Flag—Mrs. M. H. Moore.

County Council of Defense and Woman’s Registration—Mrs. RalphDavidson.

Food Conservation—Miss Grace Tickle.

Baby Bond and Thrift Campaign—Mrs. Jack Dougherty.

Y. M. C. A.—Mrs. E. C. Griffith.

Red Cr0ss—Mrs. Henry Harper.

Our County Institutions—Mrs. J. H. Mereness.

Four Minute Men—Mrs. R. R. Fleet.

Solo—“Spring Song”, “My Rows Awry”,—Mrs. Boggs.

State Council of Defense and Woman’s Committee, Missouri Division

—Mrs. B. F. Bush. General Discussion. Announcements.


This delicious luncheon, adhering strictly to Mr. Hoover’s instructions, was served as a practical demonstration in food conservation.


The talks made by the local women about the different war activities and their status in the county gave the State Chairman of the Woman’s Committee Council of Defense, Mrs. B. F. Bush, of St. Louis, inspiration for a splendid discussion concerning the co-ordination of all the efforts of women in war work.


Our belief that such a meeting would be of value was justified and at once there was a marked increase of interest in various lines of war work. Food conservation met with greater approval, new Red Cross units were organized and more women were ready to help push new campaigns.


Following this conference in February, 1918, the Woman’s Committee organization was completed in the county with six township chairmen, twelve town chairmen, twelve county department chairmen, and one woman in each rural school district whose business it was to co-operate with her Township Chairman.


Food Conservation Work.

Work in the interests of Food Conservation was carried on most actively during 1918. Seventeen demonstrations in war cookery were given at various points by Miss Gray, District Emergency Home Demonstration Agent. Miss Grace Tickle gave the course sent out by the State Food Administration on “The Preparation of Food and Meal Planning” to twenty-seven women in Liberty, ten of whom took the examination and received certificates from the State Food Administration. The following received certificates: Mesdames T. J. Slaughter, Nolan Brasfield, S. C. True, E. E. Kirkland, E. A. Ross, C. H. Black, Mary L. Davis, C. M. Williams, J . E. Davis and Robert S. Wilthers.

            In July, 1918, the Woman’s Committee carried on a successful campaign for a County Home Demonstration Agent. The Clay County Home Bureau with over 700 members was organized with Mrs. Dan B. Field as first president. The county court appropriated $720.00 to the necessary local funds. On September 11, 1918, Miss E. Hoffman, our first County Home Demonstration Agent, arrived.

            This work, begun as a war measure, has continued in peace time and is of great benefit to the women of the county.


Many novel and interesting ways were used to keep the food situation before the public mind. Exhibits of wheatless breads and sugarless sweets were placed in store windows, war recipes were published, leaflets and War Economy Cook Books were distributed and on one occasion the advertisement of a great mystery to be solved at the motion picture theatre in Liberty drew a large audience to hear a talk on the food situation and to sample hot biscuits made without wheat and caramel cake made with potatoes.

            On November 22, 1918, the County Food Chairman, Mrs. Robert S. Withers, who had succeeded Miss Grace Tickle in the work, was called to Jefferson City together with all other County Food Chairmen to hear about the food plans for the coming year. The slogan had been “Save Food and Win the War”, it now became “Save Food and Save the World”, and the first week of December, 1918, was set aside as World Relief Week, during which the most intensive food campaign ever staged in this country was carried on.


In commenting on the work done in Clay County, Mr. Vaughn Bryant,the Educational Director of the State Food Administration, wrote, “You have sent out some unusually attractive announcements of the New Food Program and of World Relief Weekly.”


Child Welfare Work.

President Wilson said, “Next to the duty of doing everything possible for the soldier at the front, there can be no greater duty than that of protecting the children.” Many of the physical defects which caused the rejection of one-third of the men coming up for examination in the first draft are believed to date from some slight trouble neglected in early childhood.

            Recognizing the need of protecting the children from the special danger of wartime, the Children’s Bureau of the United States Department of Labor planned for a Children’s Year from April 6, 1918, to April] 6, 1919. The purpose was to save the lives of 100,000 babies under the age of five and to awaken the public conscience concerning Child Welfare. Every state was responsible for its quota of saved babies and likewise every county.

            Mrs. W. H. Woodson of Liberty -was Clay County’s Chairman of Child Welfare and with an efficient corps of aids succeeded in putting on a splendid campaign in the interests of children.

            The first step was the registering, weighing and measuring of all children under school age. 1,450 children under six years of age were weighed and measured. Diet changes were recommended in some cases. One baby was actually saved through the Committee’s providing the proper artificial food.

            The Children’s Year Program was kept before the public by an exhibition of Child Welfare posters and by helpful bulletins published in the county papers. The Rights of Childhood became the topic for sermon talks.

            A Better Babies Conference took the place of the usual Baby Show at the September Home Products Show in Liberty. Extensive preparations were made and with the co-operation of the women of the town and a number of the physicians, the event was a great success. Over a hundred babies from over the county were enrolled and seventy-seven were given thorough physical examinations.


The Children’s Year Program has been continued since the war, the weighing and measuring has been taken into the schools in some localities and a constant attempt is being made to lessen the number of malnourished children.


Work of Training Camp Activities Committee.

With a camp of our own, the Army Motor Mechanics School at North Kansas City, Clay County’s Training Camp Activities Committee, under the leadership of Miss Ethel Sparks, of Liberty, was very active. Our work there began with the sick and ended with them, though in the meanwhile entertainment was provided for the well, too. Magazines were contributed to the Y. M. C. A. Hut. On one occasion, 300 girls were gathered together for a big dance and on another the women provided a treat of sandwiches and strawberry shortcake for 400 soldiers at Wainnwood Lake.

            At first there was much illness among the men and no hospital facilities. It was our work to, supply these garments, dressings, suitable food and other comforts.

            Later the government fitted up a hospital. The Woman’s Committee evolved a system whereby a basket of dainty food was sent to the hospital each day of the week, each day’s needs being filled by a different community. Jellies, fruit, custards, soups and ice-cream were contributed. In addition, the hospital was supplied with dainty muslin curtains, a reading table, numerous games and magazines.


War Savings and Liberty Loan Campaigns.

The women of Clay County worked in the War Savings and Liberty Loan Campaigns under the direction of the County Chairman of the Woman’s Committee Council of National Defense who was also appointed County Chairman of the War Savings and Liberty Loan Committees.

            In February, 1918, a publicity campaign for War Savings Stamps was carried on by telephone, almost every home in the county being reached. A special campaign for the sale of Baby Bonds was conducted in Liberty on the first Monday in March. Sergeant-Major Mitchell of the British Recruiting Mission came over from Kansas City and made a talk.


He was with the Canadian forces at Ypres and had seen seventeen months’ service at the front. The women sold about $500.00 worth of bonds but did much more for the publicity of this particular war work.

            The most spectacular effort made by the War Savings Committee was a campaign put on by the women during the first ten days of May, 1918. The women of the county were asked to buy W. S. S. with all the money collected from the sale of eggs during that time. The reports showed that $5,000.00 worth of W. S. S. were bought by the women in this drive and banks reported a great increase in the number of subscribers. This “Egg Drive” caught the popular fancy and an account of it was published in Thriftology, the War Savings publication, for June, 1918.

            In the first and second Liberty Loan Drives, the Woman’s Committee took no part. The material did not reach the Committee at all in the first and not until the close in the second.

            The history of the women’s part in the Third Liberty Loan may be introduced with the following clipping from The Bond Bulletin for April 20, 1918: “A barrage of patriotic meetings in the schools of Clay County, Missouri, on the night of April 12, preceded an intensive campaign in that county for the Third Liberty Loan. The plan was formulated by the Woman's Committee. approved by the Chairman of the Men’s Committee and proved to be a tremendous success as a means of arousing the enthusiasm of the people for the success of the campaign.

            Meetings were held on the same night at thirty different points. In a number of places several schools combined, so that practically every rural district was reached. The very best speaking talent was secured and in addition to the Liberty Loan talks, patriotic programs were provided. In most cases children contested in four-minute talks on “How to Win the War”. Thrift Stamps or Baby Bonds were given to the winners. At no other time had so many communities been reached simultaneously and the results were far-reaching. Not only was the Liberty Loan promoted but each succeeding drive was made easier by this campaign of education.

            Actual sales reported by the women amounted to $9,600.00. This small showing was due to the fact that the women did not take credit for the many bonds sold at the school house meetings through their efforts.

            For the Fourth Liberty Loan, Mrs. Robert Withers was again appointed County Chairman. The Woman’s Committee was thoroughly organized early in the campaign. In fact the only county meeting held in connection with that drive was the one called by the Woman’s Committee for the first day of the campaign, September 28, 1918, at Liberty.

The summing up of the results of this campaign showed that the women sold $343,975.00 worth of the Fourth Liberty Loan Bonds or 41% of the whole. Mr. Hugh Wilhite, County Chairman of the Men’s Liberty Loan Committee. had the following to say concerning the work of the women: “I want you to know that it is appreciated and the splendid assistance is recognized. I should say that one-half of the work has been done by the women, either directly or through their influence.”


Miscellaneous Activities.

Other committees were active as the need arose. Patriotic Week was observed in April, 1918, with special efforts along the line of patriotic education and Americanization. Miss Louise Nardin, :1 member of the State University Faculty and Chairmam of the State Committee on Patriotic Education, addressed three meetings in the county. The one at the Christian church in Liberty on the evening of April 21st took the form of a patriotic demonstration. There were great speeches and great music. Miss Nardin spoke on “Anglo-American Relations”. Dr. J. P. Greene, of William Jewell College. gave a stirring talk on “What is Patriotism”.

            One work which was carried on by the Woman’s Committee will mean much to the history of Clay County’s part in the World War. This was the collecting of the War Service Records of the soldiers, sailors and marines of the county. Mr. Edgar Archer, Clerk of the Draft Board, was able to provide the names of those men who entered the service by way of the draft and did so before the order came from Washington to not give out these lists. There was no possible way to secure the names and branch of service of those who volunteered or were in the service before the draft went into effect save through the most painstaking research in every part of the county.

            This was undertaken by the women with the school district as a basis and resulted in locating over 300 men who entered the service by ways other than the draft. These lists were all sent to Mrs. Robert Withers who had them published in the Liberty Tribune. With the addition of the Draft Board’s list of 700 men, Clay County’s Service Roll went over 1,000. This list was afterwards published in book form by G. A. Puckett under the title "Clay County Soldiers and Sailors”.

            In addition to compiling this list of all men in service, Mrs. Withers corresponded with the families and secured the correct data concerning the nineteen men from Clay who died in service and whose names form our Gold Star Roll of Honor. This made it possible for the Woman’s Committee to provide a correct list for the Honor Roll placed February 22, 1919, by the Alexander Doniphan Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution at the court house ii Liberty, as a memorial to those who died in service.  Very soon after the close of the war, this work on soldiers’ records proved of invaluable service. Adjutant-General Clark, in endeavoring to compile the history of Missouri’s part in the World War, asked Mrs. Robert Withers to secure the War Service Record and brief biographical sketch of each soldier, sailor and marine from Clay County. So much had already been done along this line that the work was completed by June, 1919, and though a few may have been missed, Clay County can feed proud of the record kept of her fighting men as well as proud of the number she sent into service.

            The work of the Clay County Woman’s Committee ended in January, 1919, with the dissolution of the state organization. It would not be possible to mention the names of all the women who aided materially in carrying on the Woman’s Committee work in Clay County. The following outline will serve to name the leaders and show the scope of the work.

County Chairman  - Mrs. Robert S. Withers, Liberty

Township Chairmen:

1. Platte  - Miss Martha Snail, Smithville

2. Kearney  - Mrs. George H. Smith, Kearney, R. F. D.

3. Washington  - Mrs. Sanford Moore, Lawson, R. F. D.

4. Fishing River -Mrs. D. E. Brand, Excelsior Springs

5. Liberty  - Mrs. Lee B. Soper, Liberty

6. Gallatin  - Mrs. Campbell Davidson, Randolph. R. F. D.



1. Smithville  - Miss Martha Snail, Mrs. Harry Gordon

2. Holt  - Miss Irene Smith, Mrs. H. L. Tadlock

3. Kearney  - Mrs. Price Hall

4. Excelsior Springs  - Mrs. D. E. Brand

5. Missouri City  - Mrs. Hal Grubbs, Mrs. George Mereness

6. Liberty  - Mrs. Cecil Wilson

7. Birmingham  - Mrs. Lelia Shaw

8. Avondale - _Mrs. R. N. Swiger

9. North Kansas City - Mrs. O. H. Lienhardt, Mrs. John Frazier

10. Gashland - Mrs. G. W. Clardy

11. Nashua  - Mrs. Allen Thompson

12. Paradise  - Mrs. Ben McDaniels


County Departmental Chairmen:
1. Organization.
Publicity under direct supervision of County, Township and Town Chairmen.

2. Registration—Mrs. Ralph Davidson, Liberty.

3. Red Cross--Mrs. Henry Harper, Liberty.

4. Food Conservation—Miss Grace Tickle, Liberty.

5 .Child Welfare—Mrs. W. H. Woodson, Liberty.

6. Patriotic Education and Americanization—Miss Cenia Marr, Liberty.
7. War Savings—Mrs. Robert S. Withers, Liberty.

8. Liberty Loan—Mrs. Robert S. Withers, Liberty.

9. Courses of Instruction—Mrs. Ernest Davidson, North Kansas City.
10. Training Camp Activities-—Miss Ethel Sparks, Liberty; Mrs. H. H.

Boggs, Liberty.
11. Existing Social Agencies—Home Charities—Mrs. G. H. Mereness, Excelsior Springs.
12. Speakers--Mrs. R. R. Fleet, Liberty.


Certain other women served most helpfully on the main Department Committees :


Food Conservation:
Mrs. B. W. Thatcher, Smithville.
Mrs. W. O. Greason, Holt.

Mrs. W. R. Klepper, Kearney.

Mrs. Campbell True, Liberty.

Mrs. Dan B. Field, Liberty.

Mrs. Charles Bigham, Avondale.

Miss Constance Crockett, Excelsior Springs.
Mrs. Lee Kelsey, Randolph.

Mrs. Cam Stean, North Kansas City.


Child Welfare:

Mrs. E. R. Stroeter, Smithville.

Mrs. W. A. Cravens, Excelsior Springs.
Mrs. Hugh Wilhite, Excelsior Springs.
Miss Ella Parrott, Liberty. .

Mrs. George W. Clardy, Gashland.
Miss Rita Crews, Liberty.

Miss Blanche Maddeira, Holt.

Mrs. Woodson Groomer, Kearney.


Red Cross:
Mrs. S. J. Williams, Smithville.
Mrs. Jesse, Excelsior Springs.
Mrs. John Frazier, North Kansas City.
Mrs. Hal Grubbs, Missouri City.


Liberty Loan:

Mrs. J. C. Wright, Smithville.

Mrs. George Mereness, Missouri City.
Miss Mayre Francis, Kearney.

Mrs. David Endicott, North Kansas City.
Mrs. Alta Westhoffer, Avondale. '
Mrs. Harry Taylor, Randolph.

Mrs. W. Epperson, North Kansas City.
Miss Alice Pickett, Holt.

Mrs. Floyd Bandy, Liberty.


Training Camp Activities:
Mrs. J. J. Kirschner, North Kansas City.

Mrs. J. R. Hubbard, Avondale.
Mrs. Taggart, Excelsior Springs.


Patriotic Education and Americanization:

Mrs. J. B. Woods, Smithville.

Miss Nellie Rider, Holt.

Mrs. S. W. Henderson, Excelsior Springs.
Mrs. McGee Evans, Antioch.

Mrs. Everett, North Kansas City.

Mrs. Fred Cooley, Avondale.


Registration :
Mrs. S. W. Henderson, Excelsior Springs.
Mrs. Rudolph Schroeder, North Kansas City (rural).
Mrs. A. Schroeder, North Kansas City.



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