Oct18

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I still have several posts sitting in my “to publish” queue that were to begin my blog by defining the intent of my search and then meandering through the last several months of work chronologically. But, it has become quite apparent that I need to relax my editorial rigor mortis and step well out of my tent.

NBC Newsletter - WWI

NBC Comforts Committee of the Navy League during WWI. May Egan is in the middle row, 2nd from right. (Click any image to view larger.)

To get things moving, here is some initial information I’ve found when researching the Comforts Committee of the Navy League.

My reason for looking into this organization is the image at left, which is a portion of a National Biscuit Company newsletter my grandmother, May Egan, saved from her time working there in the 1910s.

In addition to working on this committee, she also met her future husband, John Tierney there. (Hmm, that name sounds familiar.) The caption on the photo is:

“This group of girls employed in the Egg and Fruit Departments of Tenth Avenue Factory, New York, are proud of the fact – and justly so – that they have become an organized unit (No. 128) of the Comforts Committee of the Navy League. They have been appointed to fit out the men of one of Uncle Sam’s submarines with sleeveless jackets, mufflers and wristlets. The picture shows a complete set made by the girls.”

NBC Newsletter - WWI

Knit a Bit Poster on Flickr.

The NBC building they worked in is still around and when refurbished as the Chelsea Market the architects kept quite a bit of the original building in place, which is very interesting to see.

In fact, the upper floors contain standard office space and several months ago, before I realized that my grandparents had worked there, I had reason to attend a meeting in the building and found it fun to walk through.

The 1918 book American Women and the World War by Ida Clyde Clarke and the November, 1917 issue of Popular Mechanics both provide some more insight into the Comforts Committee as excerpted below.

NBC Newsletter - WWI

Comforts Committee Call to Needles in Popular Mechanics.

“The Navy League was an outgrowth of the Spanish American war and was organized in New York in 1902. It was soon after the organization was perfected that Miss Poe a newspaper woman of New York and her sister asked permission to form auxiliaries which was granted to them and thus the Woman’s Section of the Navy League came into existence. The women have assisted in the various phases of work undertaken by the Navy League but have centered their interests largely in knitting garments for the soldiers, and in working in the camps. When war was declared their work in all lines was intensified and extended and inspired by the new and larger duty, they set about to increase their membership and their usefulness.

The Comforts Committee of the Navy League, which has done so many things for the men on the battleships, originated with a sewing party at the residence of Mrs James Carroll Frazer of Washington, D.C. in March of 1917. Only twelve women were present at this little sewing party but the seed of a great work had been sown, and very soon after that the Comforts Committee of the Navy League was organized with Mrs Frazer as chairman. Since that date over $500,000 has been furnished and more than 300,000 women have worked in the interest of the organization. Garments have been furnished to the Army and Merchant Marine as well as to the Navy. This Committee equipped the first destroyers, and furnished two thousand seven hundred sweaters to the first marines who went abroad — and this in ten days after they received the order. Wool has been furnished to women who intend returning the finished garments to the Committee at sixty five cents per hank, and to others at one dollar per hank. The Committee has a very efficient office system, all material being indexed as it is received and consigned. It is estimated that the amount spent in the work of this Committee approximates $1,000,000. The Daughters of the American Revolution Colonial Dames and other large national organizations of women have cooperated in the work.”

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