Americans in France at War’s End
Before and after the Armistice, Chicagoans enthusiastically supported recovery and rebuilding efforts in Europe. Charles L. Hutchinson, President of the Corn Exchange Bank and recipient of that angry letter about Jane Addams in 1915, led several fund drives. In late 1917, he helped organize a coalition to raise funds to restore the battle-scarred city of Reims and its thirteenth-century cathedral. In 1919, King Albert of Belgium awarded Hutchinson an insignia of distinction for his contributions to the relief of Belgium. Americans’ engagement with rebuilding Europe soon became so widespread that it was celebrated in popular songs.
Funds raised on the home front also supported the war relief work of Americans on the ground in Europe. Numerous armed servicemen remained in Europe to assist with the war recovery. The efforts were supplemented by a fresh influx of humanitarian aid workers, most of them women. In her Chicago Daily News dispatches, Eunice Tietjens chronicled the work of the Smith College Relief Unit, first at Beauvais and then at Château Thierry. The young nurse’s aides cared for and helped transport wounded soldiers to hospitals. These members of the mobile relief unit slept in tents and cooked their meals outdoors. The work of the Smith women complemented that of the volunteers with the American Committee for Devastated France, who focused on aiding civilians and rebuilding social and cultural life.
Others focused on remembering the tragedy of the war, traveling to Europe to view its landmarks. After the war, American tourists flocked to the devastated regions, using guidebooks to find the gravesites of loved ones and the locations where these fallen soldiers had served.