The grainy black and white film footage from World War I tends to show men assaulting the enemy from trenches or marching along muddy roads in France — but women also played a major role.
That contribution will be highlighted during a program Saturday at Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, which has the theme “North Carolina Women Do Their Bit During World War I.”
It is scheduled at 2 p.m. on the third floor of the downtown museum and is free and open to the public. The program, part of a Spring 2018 History Talks series there, will be led by Dr. Angela Robbins, a “Road Scholar” with the North Carolina Humanities Council who delivers similar presentations around the state.
“This is an awesome opportunity to hear from an accomplished scholar on a little-known topic,” observed Sonya Laney, the museum’s director of education and programs.
“So hopefully people will take advantage of it,” Laney added.
Dr. Robbins will discuss ways North Carolina women contributed to the war effort — both on the home front and overseas during what was known as the Great War, at a troubling time in history overall.
In 1914, women across the state stood poised to offer aid to war-ravaged Europeans because they were already organized to provide resources to the needy and vulnerable in their own communities, according to information provided by Laney.
Members of women’s clubs and college students in North Carolina immediately began collecting funds and provisions to send to Belgian mothers and children and committed hours to war relief through the Red Cross.
When the U.S. entered the war in 1917, women encouraged and supported one another to “do their bit,” most often coordinating the efforts and leadership of existing local organizations with newly formed state and national groups.
They expanded their duties by assembling care packages for soldiers, growing and preserving food in the wake of severe shortages and raising funds through Liberty Bond drives.
Women also converted a Raleigh club building into a Red Cross center where they collected supplies and rolled bandages and turned a college cafeteria into a quarantine area for locals stricken with influenza.
They evaluated the importance of their wartime contributions mainly in terms of what they were able to do for others, according to historians, and emerged as stronger people in the postwar years. They were armed with the right to vote and secure in their ability to shape their world through activism, historians say.
Robbins received her Ph.D. in U.S. history from the UNC Greensboro, where she specialized in women’s history and attained a minor in Atlantic world studies.
Her presentations for the North Carolina Humanities Council Road Scholars program are based on Robbins’ dissertation research and examination of strategies employed by women in the North Carolina Piedmont to support themselves and their families in the unstable post-Civil War economy.
Robbins’ appearance in Mount Airy is made possible by funding from the North Carolina Humanities Council, a statewide non-profit organization and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Saturday’s event will be the second History Talks program at the museum with a World War I theme, which is part of statewide efforts to observe the 100th anniversary of its end.
The first presentation in the series in February focused on Gen. Henry Wolfe Butner, a native of Surry County who had a distinguished military career in the World War I era.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.