A memorial to those who served in the Great War

In honor of Veterans’ Day, this post highlights the archived records of the Washington University Memorial Association, a group founded in order to create “a memorial commemorating those persons affiliated with Washington University, who rendered national service in the Great War, and also other persons, affiliated with Washington University at other periods whose services have, or shall have, reflected honor on the University.” (Memorial Association Constitution)

In 1921 the Association sent all individuals associated with the University (including current or former students, faculty, and staff) for whom an address was known a blank form titled “Washington University War Record.” Forms were also sent to individuals who attended the associated educational institutions of Smith Academy, Mary Institute, and the Manual Training School. Instructions on the form stated,

It is hoped that each person to whom this information blank is sent will regard the matter in an impersonal way, and that no feeling of modesty will prevent such person from lending his or her co-operation in a work that will redound to the good name of Washington University.

Some individuals included very detailed accounts of war involvement and attaching supporting documents, letters, or photographs, which are part of the collection. Many of the returned records were from former medical or nursing students, some of whom served at the Red Cross sponsored Base Hospital No. 21, in Rouen France which was staffed by faculty and students of the Medical School.   Information regarding military service, as well as civilian efforts, such as Red Cross and Liberty Loan participation, was requested.

Lehmann_p1 [above] A form returned by Frederick Lehmann, Jr. (Law 1907)  Barth_p2


[above] Sophia R. Barth (Class 1897) outlines her service teaching at WU and in the School of Social Economy (precursor to the Brown School of Social Work) to free others for Red Cross work.  Steedman_portrait


[above] photo sent by the family of James H. Steedman (Class of 1889), who died shortly after the war.

Individuals whom were deceased (including Steedman) were selected for special recognition on the bronze war memorial plaque installed on Ridgley Hall (then the campus library).

The collection is available to all researchers at University Archives. The names of all individuals included in the collection, and a list of names as displayed on the memorial plaque at Ridgley Hall are listed in the online finding aid.

Interested in learning more?  Try the  Guide to WU Campus History, or this Winter 2003 WU Magazine article “Over There: World War I and Washington University.”

About the author

Miranda Rectenwald is Curator of Local History, Washington University Special Collections. More info.