World War I in Lawrence: Women encouraged to register for war service

Following the compulsory military draft of young men nationwide, the state of Kansas attempted a voluntary registration of women for war service. As explained in a Lawrence Journal-World article in early August, “There is nothing compulsory about the registration of women…. They are merely asked to tell the government just what they can do to help win the war. Every line of service is regarded as useful, be it housekeeping or stenography, nursing or school teaching.”

The date for registration was set by the governor’s proclamation for September 5 for all women over the age of 16. It was again emphasized that “the registration is voluntary and made solely ‘for the purpose of discovering definitely what each woman can do for the greatest advancement of her country and herself during the war.'” Running concurrently with this program was the “Hoover food pledge card” drive, backed by federal food administrator Herbert Hoover, which was explained this way: “There is not enough food in the world to go around. That is why the government wants the housekeeper to conserve in her own home. By doing this she will leave that much more food for the starving allied nations. Unless she does this hundreds of thousands of men, women and children will perish this winter.”

In spite of reassurances that both programs were voluntary and that the object of the government was simply “to know where the women can be found when they are needed,” Douglas County women were reluctant to sign up for them. Only 15 percent of the eligible females participated on registration day. According to news reports, this was “not taken to mean that the women of the county lack patriotism but that they did not realize the importance.”