Women in World War I

Posted on October 11th, 2012 by

A blog post by Archivist Jennifer Vess.

As with every conflict in which Americans participated, women played an important role in World War I – at home and abroad.  The work of woman during the war has been a particular interest of mine, and I wrote on the subject prior to coming to the JMM.  At the time I focused on women who served overseas, and it turns out that one of our manuscript collections at the JMM deals primarily with a Maryland woman, Rose Lutzky Beser, who traveled to France to be with the troops.

Approximately twenty-six thousand American women traveled overseas, either as military employees or employees or volunteers of the various welfare organizations that attached themselves to the army.  Most ended up inFrance.  These women were almost exclusively white (over 99%), all spoke English, graduated from high school or college, and mostly practiced Christianity.  These women as a whole were in marked contrast to the more diverse troops whom they served.

The Jewish Welfare Board, one of only six civilian organizations officially attached to the army, was able to see to the needs of the American Jewish soldiers.  Rose worked for the JWB and left behind an extensive collection of photos and archives.

Jewish Welfare Board in Paris. Rose stands third from right. c. 1918. Courtesy of the Beser Family, 1993.173.12

Rose at the window of Rabbi Levy’s home at 38 Rue de Sevigne in Paris where Rose lived 1918-1919. Courtesy of the Beser Family, 1993.173.22. Page from the scrapbook Rose compiled after returning from Paris, 1918-1919. Courtesy of the Beser Family, 1993.173.234.

The different branches of the military also recruited women to take over office jobs in the States so that the soldiers who had filled those posts could be transferred to front (this didn’t always go over so well with the men).  Other women became nurses, serving in hospitals at home and overseas.  The army also created the ‘Hello Girls’ a group of young female telephone operators who managed the communication systems in Europe.  Despite the importance of their work the women in the military were not often recognized for their contributions.  The telephone operators fought for sixty years to be recognized as army veterans.  The military at the time wasn’t even prepared to clothe their new female recruits.  They only had men’s uniforms and women scrounged together outfits that marked them as military, but kept them appropriately attired for the time.
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Bertha Berkowich Levy in her US Navy uniform during World War I. Courtesy of Shirley Shor, 2002.64.1.

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 Unfortunately we don’t have much information at the JMM about the work of women during World War I, particularly their contributions on the home front.  They participated in many of the same activities that we are all familiar with from World War II.  From 1917 to 1919 women in the US dealt with rationing, planting vegetable gardens, taking over jobs in factories, volunteering for the Red Cross and other aid organizations, etc. For the most part these activities seem to have gone undocumented.

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Maryland Soldiers in World War I

Posted on September 13th, 2012 by

For the rest of the year we will be posting a series of blogs on the second Thursday of each month that highlight some of our collections related to World War I.  Each post will focus on a single topic illustrated with photographs, objects and archives from the museum’s collections.  This first post will focus on the troops.

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Benjamin H. Goldstein on a bench, c. 1918. Courtesy of Agota Gold. 2002.73.75

Though the rest of the world waged war throughout Europe, Asia and Africa starting in 1914, the United States did not officially enter the fray until April 1917.  Despite a strong desire by many Americans to stay neutral, the US government had been building up the military before the declaration of war, and mobilization increased quickly after.  Over the next two years, young men from every state in the union entered the military – some willing, some drafted.  Not everyone wanted war, but once it started government propaganda did its best to stir up patriotism and support.

Troops parade down Baltimore Street near Calvert in 1918. Parades and other festivities would have helped stir patriotism and promote cohesion among Americans. Perhaps these young men were new recruits marching off toward their training bases, or maybe they were heading directly toward the war in Europe, either way, this celebration and apparent support from the civilian population must have bolstered them. Courtesy of Stanford C. Reed. 1987.19.22

The enlisted soldiers, who made up the bulk of the army, were ethnically diverse – a full quarter of the soldiers spoke no English and African Americans constituted more than 10% of the troops.  This was not new or unusual.  American troops throughout history included immigrants as well as native-born men.  The Jewish troops from Maryland would also have been a mixture of recent immigrants and descendents of men and women who had come to America during the nineteenth century.

Stanford Z. Rothschild, Sr. in front of his billet (the Rifand family home) in Tours, France during his service in World War I, 1918. Stanford immigrated to America as a child with his parents. Courtesy of Stanford Z. Rothschild. 1991.127.20

Once in the army the young soldiers shipped out to the training camps that sprouted up around the country.  These camps brought both business and headaches to the surrounding residents.  Men shipped out to parts of the country they had never seen before.  Lester Levy, a Maryland native, went to Augusta, Georgia for training in 1918.

Lester Levy’s army camp, Augusta, GA, 1918. Courtesy of Janet Fishbein (daughter of Susan Levy Bodenheimer), Ellen Patz, Ruth Gottesman & Vera Mende. 2002.79.569

Though the bulk of young men were destined for the trenches, others filled a variety of positions that keep the military running.  Only a few short years after the invention of the airplane, men like J. Jefferson Miller (a Baltimorean) became the first military aviators.  Nicholas Beser was a cartoonist for the Stars and Stripes which reported news to the soldiers.  Others were doctors or musicians, or provided any number other services that made the army function.

J. Jefferson Miller, Aviators Flight Log Book. Courtesy of the Weiler-Miller Fund. 2008.76.35 Nicholas Beser and friends in camp in France. Courtesy of the Beser Family. 1993.173.29

Nicholas Beser and friends in camp in France. Courtesy of the Beser Family. 1993.173.29

Print room of Stars and Stripes in Paris. Courtesy of the Beser Family. 1993.173.42

Honors and memorials for soldiers who fought and died during World War I began soon after the war ended.  Besides the public or government honors (statues and medals) individuals and private companies would sometimes recognize the veterans connected to them.

Tablet in honor of M.S. Levy and Sons employees who fought in World War I. T1989.4.1

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Next month we will look at the role of women in World War I.


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MS 132 and MS 182

Posted on October 27th, 2011 by

Two for the price of one!  The following post has two related collections: MS 132 and MS 182 both of which contain materials related the Joseph M. Zamoiski Co. and the Zamoiski family.

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Calman J. Zamoiski (1896-c. 1970),

Papers, n.d., 1918-1972

Joseph M. Zamoiski Co.

Papers, n.d., 1919-1972

MS 132


This collection of documents and letters concerning Calman J. Zamoiski, his family and the Joseph M. Zamoiski Co. was donated in two parts.   Letters and papers relating to Mr.Zamoiski’s service in World War I were donated to the Jewish Museum of Maryland by Mr. and Mrs. James L. Zamoiski in 1990 as accession 1990.57.  Additional personal papers were donated by Ernestine K. Wiesenfeld in 1988 as accession 1988.51.  Documents relating to the Joseph M. Zamoiski Co., its founder, Joseph M. Zamoiski, Sr., and company executives, were donated to the Jewish Museum of Maryland by the Zamoiski Company in 1987 as accession 1987.065. Myrna Siegel processed the collection in December 2003.

Access to the collection is unrestricted and is available to researchers at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.  Researchers must obtain the written permission of the Jewish Museum of Maryland before publishing quotations from materials in the collection.  Papers may be copied in accordance with the library’s usual procedures.


Calman J. Zamoiski, Sr. (1896 – circa 1970) was born inBaltimoreto Joseph M. and Tena Zamoiski.  The elder Zamoiski established Joseph M. Zamoiski Co. as an electrical supply and construction business.  Calman, Sr. worked in the business until his service in World War I.  After the War he returned to the business and became interested in radio.  The Zamoiski Company began stocking radio parts and Calman, Sr. received a radio operator’s license in 1921.  In that same year, he establishedBaltimore’s first commercial radio station (WKC) in a room in his home at2527 Madison Avenue.  The station ceased broadcasting in 1924.  About the time of Joseph’s death in 1927, Calman, Sr. took over as head of the family business.  He ran the business until at least 1956, when his son, Calman, Jr., succeeded him.

Nathan Ullman, a long-time employee at the Joseph Zamoiski Company. 1987.065.10


The Zamoiski papers contain memorabilia of Calman Sr.’s service in the U.S. Army during World War I.  There are letters from family and friends, diaries, and other souvenirs of his war service inFrance.  There are also copies of his radio operator’s license as well as articles describing his foray into broadcasting.  Also included are memorial tributes to Calman, Sr.’s mother and father, Joseph and Tena who died in 1927 and 1952, respectively.

The Zamoiski Company papers consist of information about products sold by the Company, Company advertising and sales brochures, and the Company’s annual convention booklets.  There is also some documentation of Calman Sr.’s involvement in other business ventures including a patent application of M.W. Askin and service by Calman Sr.’s brother, Joseph M. Zamoiski, to the Big Brothers of the National Capital Region.

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The collection has been organized into three series:  Series I.  Personal Papers, n.d., 1903-1972; Series II.  Zamoiski Company Papers, n.d., 1932-1972; and Series III. Photographs, n.d., 1952-1956.  Material in Series I. and Series II. is arranged alphabetically by the name of the person or business creating or receiving the material, and then chronologically within each name.  Series III is arranged alphabetically.

employees of the Joseph M. Zamoiski Company in front of the company building. 1987.65.27

The Joseph M. Zamoiski Co.

Minute Book Collection


MS 182


The Joseph M. Zamoiski Co. Minute Book Collection was donated to the Jewish Museum of Maryland in 2007 as accession 2007.072 by the Zamoiski family. The collection was processed by Jennifer Vess in February 2010

Access to the collection is unrestricted and is available to researchers at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.  Researchers must obtain the written permission of the Jewish Museum of Maryland before publishing quotations from materials in the collection.  Papers may be copied in accordance with the library’s usual procedures.

Zamoiski company meeting minutes. 2007.72.1


Joseph M. Zamoiski established the Joseph M. Zamoiski Co. as an electrical supply company in 1896.  In the early years the company distributed batteries, lighting fixtures and accessories, and also participated in electrical contracting.  The original building burnt down in the 1904Baltimorefire, but continued to operate in temporary quarters.  The Joseph M. Zamoiski Company incorporated in 1909.  In the 1920s the company added radios and phonographs to their stock and continued to expand the variety of products over the decades to include, among other things, home appliances, and televisions.  By the 1970s the company had multiple product divisions with warehouses inBaltimore,MDandWashington,D.C.and its own fleet of delivery trucks.

From 1946 meeting minutes book. 2007.72.1


The collection contains six minutes books ranging in years from 1909-1974 and two additional books containing articles of incorporation and meeting minutes for the Joseph M. Zamoiski Co. and the Gigi and Cal Zamoiski Foundation, Inc.  The papers are generally organized chronologically and contain Board of Directors and Stockholders meeting minutes as well as by-laws from various years.


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