The Red Cross in June 1917 was preparing for its first national war fund drive (held June 18-25, 1917). The U.S. goal for the week-long drive was $100 million, with Douglas County pledging to raise $35,000 of the total. Kansas organizer Prof. J. N. Van der Vries told a Journal-World reporter at that time that the entire state was “responding to the appeal for support. Even in the western counties where crops have been poor, people have been coming up to the mark.” In Lawrence, a fleet of automobiles was mobilized by two campaign leaders. Henry Asher and Ralph Spotts were “captains of transportation and speakers for the all-week drive” and had “obtained voluntary use of sufficient motor cars to carry on the Red Cross organizing work […] and to carry the speakers to the sixty meetings that will be held throughout the county next week.” Ten meetings per night were scheduled to be held in “practically every church and school in the county,” with bells to be rung for half an hour before each meeting to remind residents to attend. Organizers appointed “captains” in each Red Cross district, with only one appointee receiving his duty “other than with enthusiasm. That one instance was in the case of a venerable farmer who has been unable to get sufficient help to carry on his farm work. ‘I’m working from 4 o’clock in the morning until 9 o’clock at night,’ said the veteran in declining to become a Red Cross captain. ‘I’m for the Red Cross and will give my share gladly, but I can’t give work. We can’t get farm help and every minute I must give to the farm. I’m not getting enough sleep even because of farm work.’”
World War I in Lawrence: Red Cross prepares for war fund drive
June 14, 2017
Editor’s note: As the U.S. marks the 100th anniversary of its entry into World War I this year, local writer Sarah St. John will compile newspaper reports of what it was like to be in Lawrence at that time.