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Y Girl: 1919

Y Girl: 1919

Washington, D.C., 1919. "Frances Gulick, Y.M.C.A. girl." Frances, a Y.M.C.A. welfare worker attached to the First Engineers in Europe, was awarded a citation for valor and courage during the aerial bombardment of Varmaise, France, where she operated a canteen. Harris & Ewing glass negative. View full size.


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My Hero(ine)

What a woman! She embodies the old saying "Courage is not the absence of fear, it is the mastery of it."

A little silver star

Miss Gulick wears what looks like the ribbon for the World War I Victory Medal, with 2 bronze campaign stars and 1 silver citation star (though the ribbon may be a YMCA award). Other than the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, or the Navy Cross, valor awards were recognized with a silver star attachment to the ribbon and service medal. The little silver star would become the Silver Star Medal in 1932.

Plus, she has 3 overseas service stripes on her sleeve, representing 18 months service.

The Big Red One

On her shoulder, Miss Frances is wearing the patch of the fabled First Infantry Division -- "The Big Red One" -- hard to believe that would happen in this era.


My heroine! What an inspiration! I am making my daughter of the same age read about her.

WWI Women

I love these active gals from WWI - they always look so comfortable and competent. Consider the layers of clothing worn just 10 years before this picture and look at the practical uniform Frances is wearing. "How you gonna get them back in tight corsets and long skirts after they've run a canteen in Varmaise!"

What a Gal!

From "That Damn Y: A Record of Overseas Service" by Katherine Mayo

Dorothy Francis and Marjory Skelding, Charlotte Hand, Mary Arrowsmith, Frances Gulick, Gertrude Ely, and the rest served through their apprenticeship of warfare with a steadiness that put their case beyond dispute and that clinched with unshakable strength the earlier link between the First and its Y.

Frances Gulick, for example, made her little canteen like a cozy sitting-room at home. Her stove was always busy, cooking for the boys, and the boys always swamped the place. Sometimes you found her reading aloud to them. Sometimes telling stories to the crowd, while she mended blouses or sewed on new-won chevrons. Sometimes just cooking, and singing to them while they waited for the "party" to be ready to devour.

And nearly every day that very town was shelled. Every fair night for five weeks running it was extra-smashed from the air.

"Oh, I'm all right!" she would laugh, day after day, when they urged her to rest, steadfastly refusing to quit the post.

Later came a time when they put her on a camionnette, to deliver newspapers. She could not only drive a car, but repair it too, you see; which latter attainment was more than desirable in that line of work. For the newspaper service to the Front, like the carrying-up of ammunition, and the passage of Y supply trucks to the forward canteens, was wholly night business. Moreover you had to drive without lights.

And the roads were full of shell-holes, so that now and again, despite every care, in you lurched and stuck fast, or gave your car a fearful, dislocating wrench. Shells burst before you, beside you, on your nightly road. Craters opened almost under your wheels. And your little tin Lizzie, after a trip or two, got so speckled and dented and sliced by flying shrapnel that scarcely a hand's-breadth of surface remained untouched.

But the men in the front-line trench system watched for those regular consignments of daily papers with an eagerness that almost surpassed their desire for smokes. And Frances Gulick drove her car along the shell-swept midnight roads with an unbroken steadiness and a superb, laughing dash that almost discounted its own credit, so utterly steady-nerved did it show her to be.

A creature so built was glorious to behold; yet—one of some nervous sensibility might really show more merit in the act.

So had thought even that famous character, "the Count." [?] One night, however, "the Count" happened to be in the room with Frances Gulick while she waited for her bundles of papers — her Paris Heralds, Chicago Tribunes and Daily Mails, to be ready to load so that she might get away to her job.

room with Frances Gulick while she waited for her bundles of papers — her Paris Heralds, Chicago Tribunes and Daily Mails, to be ready to load so that she might get away to her job.

As the two lingered, talking, a Boche bombing-plane, with its ghostly, pulsing hum, swung close overhead. The girl switched off the light, but opened the window blind and stood looking out.

"Come away from there!" snapped "the Count," laying a hand on her arm in his haste to pull her back.

In that instant it was that he met one of the real surprises of an eventful life.

With his hand so on her arm, he knew that her whole body was shaking — big tremors flooding her muscles, as hammering waves flood and shake a ship.

"What in the world is the matter with you? " he exclaimed.

"Oh, don't notice me!" she retorted, more than a little annoyed. " Why, I've been like this every single night, from the very start. I never get used to it! And nobody has seen it before. Don't you ever dare tell! . . ."

But on Frances Gulick's Army citation1 for valor and courage on the field, her general's endorsement reads: "A splendid type of woman welfare worker with combat troops."

The citation itself runs:

Miss Frances Gulick, Y.M.C.A. (attached to 1st U.S. Engineers) welfare worker, who has displayed the finest qualities of energy, courage and devotion in the discharge of her duties throughout the war and occupation of hostile territory, notably during the aerial bombardment at Vernaise, May 30, 1918, where, in spite of many casualties in the town, she remained at her post. From then until the division was relieved in July, 1918, Miss Gulick, with total disregard for her own personal safety, continued to operate her canteen, although the town was shelled and bombed at different times by the enemy, and her canteen itself struck.

The full story of her bravery, devotion, and actual achievements, but faintly shadowed here, would place her easily among the outstanding heroines of history. Yet she is instanced, not as a bright, particular light, but, on the contrary, as a fair common example, in character and in record, of the fighting divisions women of the Y.

Sparkling eyes

She's not much of a looker but I bet she was really fun to be around.

Francy Gu

Sounds like a girls' book series of the 1920s -- "Frances Gulick: YMCA Girl and the Canteen." Wherein our heroine saves the lives of doughboys in Europe and survives a terrible bombardment by the Hun.

It's an inspirational story for young ladies 10 to 18 years of age. The heroine is self-sacrificing and long-suffering while loyal to the Allied cause ...

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