Women in World War I

By Maureen A. Taylor

What did your WWI-era female ancestors do in World War I? On Veterans Day, we typically honor the men and women who served in the military. But what about all the women who didn’t serve, but supported the war effort?

The theme of Who Do You Think You Are Live in London next year is World War I. Next year is the centennial of the start of the war in Europe (the United States got involved in 1917).

During World War I, women:

  • worked in factories so men could enlist (and to support their families while the men were away)
  • volunteered for the Red Cross
  • worked as Army and Navy nurses
  • served the military in clerical positions
  • knit socks for the troops
  • participated in Victory Bond fundraising
  • marched in Preparedness Day parades to encourage U.S. involvement

Women also acted as recruiters to encourage men to join the service.
Young, attractive women often stood alongside male recruiters in uniform

Dora Rodriguez was one of those recruiters. At the Library of Congress, there are three images of her in uniform taken by the National Photo Company. I’m sure the sight of a woman in pants and a uniform drew a lot of attention.

dora rodriques 28170v.jpg

dora 2 28171r.jpg

dora 3 28172r.jpg

Some who served overseas as nurses and Red Cross volunteers took cameras with them. Many women kept photo albums during the war.

At the time of the 1910 census, most individuals with the surname of Rodrigues lived in Puerto Rico. A quick search of Ancestry didn’t turn up any immediate hits for her. I suspect her birth name is something other than Dora.

Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album