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Introduction

Filming the Reconstruction Effort

Faces of War

The Voice of Anne Morgan

Letters from the Field

A Volunteer's Story

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Exhibitions | Online

Anne Morgan's War: Rebuilding Devastated France, 1917–1924
September 3 through November 21, 2010

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Letter from Anne Morgan to her mother, Frances Tracy Morgan
Blérancourt, 6 April 1919

Dearest Mother,

At last after having had rain almost [every] day for two months we have three of the most wonderful of spring days, and you can't imagine what joy it is to see things beginning to come out in the midst of all this desolation and destruction, the forest of Compiègne is one mass of primroses and jonquils till the whole is a yellow and green carpet.

We ourselves are more than excited for we are just beginning to plant our own vegetable garden on the piece of land we have rented to put up the American Woman's Hospital. It was a wonderful pasturage of five hectares so we will have room for the thirteen barraques that the Service de Santé has given for the hospital, and also room to pasture the cows for the village as well as all the [land] both we and the hospital need.

It is great fun to be here at such a season as this because last year it was at this same moment they had to get out, and again in May we had to leave everything we had planted in April at Coyolles. As a matter of fact, the wonderful part is that in spite of having to leave the potatoes all summer with no attention when we got back in the autumn we were able to harvest at least many more kilos than we had planted, and now we are going to be able to give five thousand kilos to the little farmers of Camelin through the wonderful old mayor on the condition that each one will give us back one fifth of the crop next autumn. They all are delighted, for of course they cost them nothing. We are all getting the most impassioned farmers, and of course are working against all kinds of odds to help our five cooperatives plant at least one hundred and fifty hectares apiece this spring. It sounds nothing when you tell it, but if you knew what it means, first to get Boche to clear the explosives, then to get the horses, then feed them, then secure the seed and the agricultural instruments with no transportation you can imagine.

Meanwhile the first railway cars containing the barraques have begun to arrive, and more wonderful than all we now have become regular contractors, building up a regular equipe of workman who are only too anxious to work but can't secure any material or tools, we now have a regular atelier, with six or eight carpenters' benches, a forge, and now we are going to install an electric saw with the groupe électrogène [generator] that the army gave us. We are recuperating all kinds of good wood from the trenches, that can be used for a thousand things, our cement and plaster & tools we get from Paris, some tiles come from the government and some we buy, and then we can do some real repairs to the houses with out the horrible delays for these poor people who come back to houses that are uninhabitable but can be repaired without real reconstruction. Of course we work through and with all the government services most of which are on paper, and things are getting done.

[On April 4, Pétain awarded the Croix de Guerre to five members of the Committee.]

Of course our great excitement this week was when we finally got news that the decoration of the five girls had gone through at last. We went down to the G. Q. G., saw [Philippe] Pétain, who told us he would like to give them himself, and that he would come up and lunch with us first. As this center is anything but installed, as we are all living in this little four-room house with at least two in a room, with a stove in the kitchen hardly large enough for a family of five, you can imagine our native cook is a wonder when we had lunch for twenty-seven. All the groups came up from Vic and Soissons and as many from Paris as could get away, but we had to let most of them lunch at home.

It really was a beautiful sight as the five wonderful girls stood before the Marechal, and one can never forget the whole spirit of it all. Of course there was no prise d'armes [military parade], as there is no longer any army here, but the group of some fifty of our own uniforms gave the color of the blue against the old stone gate, and somehow America and France seemed very close as the village people all crowded about to have the first chance of congratulating the girls who have worked all these months with such a splendid spirit of patriotism.

Your last latter this week is of March 11th, and sounds very cheerful, thank goodness. As for the income tax situation, I am delightfully ignorant of the subject, but I suppose I will hear the worst only too soon, if the worst comes to the worst they will have to sell some of my old securities, or at any rate pawn them, for at a moment like this I had no intention of saving up. If you were over here you would feel the same way, I am sure.

As to my own plans, it is impossible to say just now when it will be possible to get away, as yet they have sent us very little good material from America, and yet this month or rather next we are losing some of our very best old workers. Both Mrs. [M. C.] Lehr and Miss Latrobe as well as Rose [Dolan] and Barbara [Allen] and Mrs. [Ella] Taylor will all leave before July, and Blaggie [Miriam Blagden] may have to leave in June; on the other hand the good news is that the two Parsons [Alice and Margaret] who are doing a splendid piece of work with the Vic group have decided they love it so they can't leave before August, instead of in May as they had expected, which is more than satisfactory.

All these changes and breaking in of new workers puts more and more up to Anne [Dike] and me and is a place where we are both needed, on the other hand if it turns out to be possible we would like both to go back together in the late summer and work out a regular joint campaign. If we were both there we could cover more sides of the American situation and get through more work for the organization than either of us could do alone. On the other hand much depends on what material they can send over in the way of workers, though it is to be hoped that by the summer things will not be as complicated as they are now. At the moment there is not half a week that passes that we do not have some kind of official and government situation to meet that none of the others understand.

Well, dear, this must seem a very long letter and yet I have not told you half I wanted to, still you know that it carries no end of love to you and Blythie and all the family you are by way of seeing.

Always your devoted daughter,
Anne

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Letters from the field:

8 July 1917

18 and 20 August 1917

[9 September 1917?]

13 January 1918

19 May 1918

29 July 1918

10 September 1918

10 March 1919

6 April 1919

30 April 1919

9 June 1919

June 1919

9 July 1919


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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.