Category Archives: World War 1

Digital Exhibit: Daughters of Charity in the First World War

(All images used with permission of the Provincial Archives)

Seen here is a selection of images from our current exhibit, Over There: The Daughters of Charity’s Service in the First World War, now on display through April 30.

The Call to Service
“ … Dr. Danna of Charity Hospital, New Orleans has asked us for Sisters to aid him in conducting a base Hospital. … These Base Hospitals, it seems are to be located wherever they are needed … Doctor asked for five or six Sisters to be placed as Head Nurses in the different wards … the Council agreed to send six sisters when called upon.”
—Sister Eugenia Fealy (Visitatrix, St. Louis Province), letter to Mother Margaret O’Keefe (Visitatrix, Emmitsburg Province), April 21, 1917.

The call came in the summer of 1918. when the unit, formally known as Base Hospital 102, was organized and readied to go to Vicenza, Italy. The chief surgeon, Dr. Joseph Danna, was Dean of the Medical School at Loyola University in New Orleans; he had worked with the Daughters at both Charity Hospital and Hotel Dieu Hospital. Because of his ties with Loyola University, Base Hospital 102 was also known as the Loyola Unit.

Dr. Joseph A. Danna, Dean of the Medical School at Loyola University, New Orleans and chief surgeon for Base Hospital 102

Dr. Joseph A. Danna, Dean of the Medical School at Loyola University, New Orleans and chief surgeon for Base Hospital 102

Sisters and Nurses
Ten Sisters were chosen for the Loyola Unit: Sisters Valeria Dorn, Agatha Muldoon, DeSales Loftus, Mary David Ingram, Angela Drendel, Lucia Dolan, Marianna Flynn, Florence Means, Catherine Coleman, and Chrysostum Moynahan. They came from hospitals in Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Indiana, and Missouri. They were led by Sister Chrysostum Moynahan, Chief Nurse, who brought a wealth of experience to her role, including hospital administration and service during the Spanish-American War. The Sisters supervised a staff of 90 lay nurses recruited from Daughter of Charity hospitals throughout the country. Many had graduated from Daughter of Charity nursing schools.

Daughters of Charity who served in Italy during World War I.

Daughters of Charity who served in Italy during World War I.

Sister Chrysostum Moynahan and nurses from St. Vincent Hospital, Birmingham

Sister Chrysostum Moynahan and nurses from St. Vincent Hospital, Birmingham

Sisters and nurses of the Loyola Unit

Sisters and nurses of the Loyola Unit

 

 Stories from the Front

The hospital, located 15 miles from the Italian front, accepted patients beginning in late September 1918. Medical and surgical cases treated included burns from mustard gas, pneumonia, malaria, and influenza. The hospital treated approximately 3,000 patients; only 28 died.

Base Hospital 102 - one of the wards

Base Hospital 102 – one of the wards

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Diaries kept by three of the Sisters give a day-by-day account of their experiences.

Oct. 6 —There is heavy firing going on at this Front at the present time; the booming of the cannons can be heard here with not more than one or two minutes’ intermission. Shortly after the firing of the rifles over the grave, four aeroplanes appeared over us to investigate the noise. We were all glad to get so near the Front. Saw many fields prepared for a Retreat – with back trenches and barbed wire fences.

Oct. 17 – We have now about 400 patients in the hospital, nearly all sick with the Spanish Influenza. Many civilians in the city are reported dying with it.
—Sister Angela Drendel

Oct. 18 – We have syrup for breakfast on oatmeal. Not because it is the first meal served, but because the limit has been reached. Everybody is very hungry. Unable to get food and the supply is very low. Everybody agrees with President Wilson: No not at their terms even though we are hungry and cold.
–Sister Florence Means

Armistice Day, Post-War Travels, Coming Home
The signing of the armistice in November 1918 marked the end of the war but not the end of the Sisters’ service, as Base Hospital 102 was shut down gradually over the following months. After enduring a bitterly cold winter, the Sisters received furloughs which allowed them to travel throughout Italy and France. They saw many historic churches, had a private audience with Pope Benedict XV, and visited their Mother House in Paris. In March 1919 the Loyola Unit left Italy for America. After landing in New York, the  Sisters traveled to St. Joseph’s Central House in Emmitsburg, and from there to Marillac Seminary, their provincial house in St. Louis.

Daughters of Charity Mother House in Paris

Daughters of Charity Mother House in Paris

Pope Benedict XV, with whom the Sisters had a private audience.

Pope Benedict XV, with whom the Sisters had a private audience.

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Newsclipping showing the Sisters' arrival in New York in April of 1919.

Newsclipping showing the Sisters’ arrival in New York in April of 1919.

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Exhibit “Over There” to open January 26

On Monday, January 26, the Provincial Archives will open a truly exciting new exhibit. The Daughters of Charity’s service  during the Civil War is well known, but this exhibit brings to light a part of their military nursing service that is virtually unknown – the experiences of a group of American Daughters who nursed with the U.S. Army close to the Italian front during World War I. Entitled “Over There: The Daughters of Charity’s Service in the First World War,” the exhibit tells their story through images developed from a glass negative collection that came to Archives from the former St. Louis province. These amazing photographs are supported by excerpts from the diaries of three of the sisters. In addition, Associate Archivist Carole Prietto has created a video presentation which features several of the Villa sisters reading excerpts from these fascinating diaries. Curated by Carole and Sr. Patricia Endres, D.C. this exhibit is one that you will not want to miss. The exhibit is scheduled through April 30. It is open to Sisters and Associates of the Emmitsburg Campus during our normal operating hours, 8:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. The general public is welcome on Wednesday afternoons from 1:00 P.M. to 4:30 P.M. The video will be posted on the Provincial Archives Vimeo site. A virtual exhibit with selected images from the exhibit will be available on the “Online Exhibits” page of this blog. We will post announcements on our Facebook page and blog when the virtual exhibit and video are available. For additional information, contact the Provincial Archives at archives@doc.org

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Veteran’s Day: Remembering those who served

Base Hospital 102, Loyola Unit

Daughters of Charity, nurses and medical staff of the Loyola Unit (Used with permission of the Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives)

On Veteran’s Day, we remember all who have served in the armed forces, as well as the American Daughters of Charity who served during the Civil War, Spanish-American War, and World War I. Below is an account of an American soldier who died during the First World War. The account of his death is taken from the diary of two Sisters who served in Base Hospital Unit 102 (Loyola Unit) in Vicenza, Italy.

(Passages from the diaries of Sister Angela Drendel and Sister Catherine Coleman used with permission of the Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives)

Sunday, Oct. 6, [1918]. – An American Soldier from Brooklyn, N.Y. by the name of Holden, who died here was buried today. He was a member of the Ambulance Corp. About 40 of the Ambulance Corp. came down for the funeral. They followed the remains in their ambulances. About 40 of the Sisters and nurses followed in two large trucks.

According to the U.S. Military customs, the body is carried in an ambulance, the coffin is covered with a large American Flag and flowers. The boy was buried in the British graveyard, about 10 miles from here, on the side of a beautiful hill. Not far from the Front. The coffin was carried to the grave by six of the Soldiers. Immediately after the coffin was lowered, the eight armed men who were standing in attention at the grave, fired over the grave three times. After this, the bugle was blown over the grave. The funeral Service was conducted by the Y.M.C.A.
–Sister Angela Drendel

An American boy from New York by the name of Holden died of Pneumonia. He leaves his parents and a brother and sister in New York. He was baptized before his death. When asked what message he would like to have sent to his people, he said that is a hard thing to have to talk about, and asked Sister what she would say. The subject was dropped for the present, and as he grew weaker, he was asked the second time and he said: Tell my people I have fought hard against death, but it must be. Tell them I am glad to die for my country. He was a lovely boy, just 21 yrs. Old. While in New York he posed for the Arrow collar for three years. Many remembered having seen his picture in the papers wearing the Arrow Collar. His Regiment took charge of the body. He was taken from the hospital to the cemetery. Six of the Sisters and a number of Nurses attended his funeral. His body lies at the foot of the Alps on a little mound, a very beautiful spot. He was buried with Military Honors. One of his comrades read the burial services at the grave. Sister Chrysostom wrote his mother a gave her an account of his death, also pressed one of the flowers from his grave and sent it in the letter.
–Sister Catherine Coleman

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