Beyond the War Relief: American Women and War Relief at the Western Front in World War I



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A significant number of American women volunteered for the war relief effort in France, Belgium, and England before the US officially entered World War I in April 1917. This thesis considers three such women, Mary Dexter, Chloe Owings, and Mary Burrage, who left careers and families behind to volunteer during and after the Great War. This work analyzes their background, professional experience, and personal beliefs to understand why American women volunteered, what shaped their decision, and their contributions to the local community. The life experiences of Dexter, Owings, and Burrage motivated them to volunteer outside the US because they understood the world to be connected, and their professional training in social work complemented their duties as war relief workers. The impact of their experiences and work in the local communities where they lived include the formation of a community of women, social work structure in France, and the feminist movement and how it differed across national lines.



Women, World War I, Relief Work, France, England, Belgium, Western Front, Social work