Sigma Kappa and Armistice Day, 1918

100 years ago, at “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month,” the Armistice of Compiègne was signed, to mark victory for the Allies and defeat for Germany, ending World War I.

postman_SK.JPGSigma Kappas, then as now, were all over the world at the time, and many wrote letters to the Sigma Kappa Triangle to share their experiences. Volume 13, Issue No. 2 of the Sigma Kappa Triangle was dedicated to these letters.

Days before the armistice, on Oct. 31, 1918, Olive Taylor, a Zeta Chapter alumna and Red Cross volunteer with the American Expeditionary Forces in Paris, wrote the following:

Every face you see here has tragedy written on it. Everyone has suffered to the dregs of suffering. Yet they seem in no wise weakened by it. Of course, now that peace seems closer there are gleams of hope, but equally of course there is family after family ruined beyond the hope of peace. Still these are sacred sacrifices. There is one spot on the Rue de Rivoli where the Belgian refugees gather to see if they may return to their· homes. Ever since I have been here the doors have been tightly closed with this notice, ” Lille est interdit.” Yesterday the office was open and another notice stuck up saying that safe conduct could be given to Amiens. Some of the faces seemed brighter. But in general they have the most lifeless look I have ever seen on a human face.

Everything, however, is not tragic. And I am sure one of the most humorous is myself trying to speak French. I little realized what a wee bit I knew until I got here. I can read anything and understand and of course my talking ability is improving. I have learned that if you say “Merci” and “s’il vous plaît” very often, smile, and use your eyes and hands freely you can generally make yourself understood.

Just over a month later, on Dec. 9, 1918, Mary Anne Newcomb, also a Red Cross volunteer from Zeta Chapter, wrote much happier news from Paris:

You girls should have been in Paris at the signing of the armistice. The Paris mob was joy mad. They would make rings around us and yell ”Vive la Americaine” then they wanted to kiss us. Everybody was kissing everybody else… I can’t begin to tell you about all my parties in Paris.

Sigma Kappas on the homefront volunteered with the Red Cross Home Service. As Marion Southard, Mu Chapter, wrote, their work continued apace after the armistice was signed.

Other branches of war service have found their work decreasing since the signing of the armistice. The opportunities of Home Service have been greatly enlarged since then. The signing of the armistice has brought with it serious problems of demobilization. Through the Home Service Section, the Red Cross had pledged itself that the family of a fighting man need want for nothing which friendly interest and Red Cross resource could supply. With the return of our fighting men Red Cross interest will not cease. Many of the problems of readjustment from military to civil life seem harder to solve than did those problems of changing from a civil to military basis at the declaration of war, and the Red Cross is not going to allow a returned soldier to become a misfit through lack of service on its part. We couldn’t all go to France, but the service which has been rendered in our own country is none the less real or none the less vital because it has been ” Home Service.”

Grace Collins, Eta Chapter, of the Bloomington Alumnae Chapter, summed up the post-war mood of the sorority and the country in the following way:

“Of course, the biggest things that have happened to us since Triangle letters last hurried across the continent, are the things that have happened to all the world. The armistice made the most thankful Thanksgiving, the most beautiful Christmas, and the most hopeful New Year we have ever known. May 1919 fulfill the fondest hopes of each active and alumnae chapter!”

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