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Looking Back: Bandages for victory

Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published November 13, 2018


BIRMINGHAM — On the 11th day of November 1918, at 11:11 a.m., World War I officially ended. The United States had entered the war about a year and a half earlier, on April 6, 1917.

Young men from Birmingham enlisted in the armed forces, but everyone wanted to support the war effort in some way. One popular option was volunteering with the American Red Cross. By 1918, the Red Cross had more than 8 million volunteers, and Lillian Wheldon, of Long Lake Road in Birmingham, was one of them.

There are a number of objects in the Birmingham Museum collection that relate to Whedon’s Red Cross experience. One is a card showing that she had completed the pupil’s course in standard wound dressings and was qualified as an expert worker.

Backing that up are three additional cards dating from January, April and August of 1918 showing that she had spent 164 hours that year making surgical dressings. The museum also has her notebook, with notes she took during her training and a packet of dressing patterns she used.

She also volunteered with the Bloomfield Canning Centre and the American Fund for the French Wounded, which made clothes, pillows, comfort bags and blankets for soldiers hospitalized in France. The motto for the American Fund was, “Make things that are needed, rather than the things you want to make,” encouraging American women to put their domestic and crafting skills to use for the war effort.

Whedon and other Red Cross personnel on the homefront made it possible for more than 101,000 tons of relief supplies to be shipped to the front lines during the last year and a half of the war, easing stress on the Allies’ supply lines all over Europe.

 — Caitlin Donnelly, museum assistant at the Birmingham Museum