World War I in Lawrence: Local Red Cross chapter grows

According to figures compiled by the Red Cross, national membership in the organization grew from 107 members in 1914 to 3,864 in 1918. The Red Cross chapter in Lawrence had formed before the U.S. entered the “Great War,” and a week before President Wilson’s announcement, a small committee chose a location for the chapter headquarters.

According to the Lawrence Journal-World of March 30, 1917, rooms in the basement of the Watkins National Bank were “fitted up as a meeting place for lectures and instruction,” with one room containing “tables on which the rolling of bandages and hospital supplies (would) be done.” To increase speed and efficiency, the tables were marked off in the various required lengths of both “hospital bandages” and “war bandages,” which had different specifications. Bolts of cloth were ordered for the work, and Dr. Grace Charles of the University of Kansas had organized a class of 25 women from KU to begin work the following week. More than 50 women later attended the meeting and “learned the art of making bandages, following instructions given by the government.” The Watkins bank had offered the use of the entire basement to the Red Cross “without charge for heat or light.” A few days later, KU’s Dr. Childe was leading a first-aid class at the University hospital building at 1300 Louisiana St.

On April 7, a day after the U.S. entered the war, the newspaper reported that several hundred people from Lawrence had already joined the Red Cross organization, and it was “the intention to keep on until practically every home in the city and surrounding country” was represented. The Journal-World regularly published a list of new members, a practice which may have aided in recruitment.