1918. 96 leaves of lined paper, of which 84 have some entry and/or momento affixed, of this latter which includes, but is not limited to: a cigarette from a soldier had returning from the front, wine bottle tops, a piece of German Gas mask, soldiers insignia, deck chair ticket stub from RMS Aquitania, her identity papers, various base passes, original luggage tag from the Leviathan, etc. Writing in different inks, as well as pencil, of varying degrees of legibility [e.g., the pencil sometime quite faint, but nevertless, still readable]. 25 lines per page, 5-7 words per line, ~ 10000 words total. 7-1/4" x 4-1/2". Bound in plain stiff card stock boards. Pale yellow eps. General wear & soiling to boards. Front hinge split, with binding tape separated at top. A Good copy. Item #49364
Hear offered a WWI diary, and document/momento archive, kept by Spear, a nurse with the United States Army, Sanitary Service. Spear was a Dietitian assigned to Base Hospital Unit 62 in France. The diary a frank & honest account of her days in the service, recounting her daily experiences, interactions with other military personnel & her observations on divers hospital & wartime conditions / situations.
Spear begins her journal September 9, 1918, approximately a month before embarking on the US troopship Leviathan, where she notes "There are so many sick on board with the infuenza. And there have been three deaths." Her final entry comes on July 20, 1919 as she prepares to return to New York City from France. Like many young women, Ms Spear evinces much interest in the opposite sex, and service offers many opportunites for meeting & interacting with eligible [and so not so eligible] young men. So the diary offers an uncensored account of her official, and unofficial, life as a Nurse in France during WWI.
Miscellaneous diary entries :
Sept 24, 1918 United States preparing to board the Leviathan
I took a fierce cold the day I got my feet wet; but it is much better today thanks to Major’s nursing. I do believe it was a touch of the Spanish Influenza, but I would not go to bed.
Oct 1, 1918 Leviathan
Our beautiful flag was dedicated Friday and we had song service in the evening. The dedication was most impressive & lots of the girls wept. They served communion to us all. Then Sat. morning we came aboard the beautiful liner Leviathan. Everything was so novel and exciting.
When we were pulling out of the harbor Major Billie Taylor of Chicago came into the lounge with his friend Major Steppes. They were both very nice men. Billie and I had several cigarettes before we went down to dinner. He made the mistake of asking my name and I would not tell him. Yesterday, he seemed peeved to think he had not found me. I spent most of the morning on Decks B & C in the sun.
Oct 9,1918 Arrives France- travel to base 62-65
We waited about an hour before we were assigned to barracks & then it was very dark; but we had mattresses & were very comfortable. I drew a bed alone & the others bunked 2 in a bed. We are crowded, but warm & have plenty to eat.
We hope to go on to our own base tomorrow it is rainy and wet and frightfully muddy.
We have put up nails & made things as tidy as we can. They are wiring now for electricity we had candles last night and the morning went to brush our teeth & wash.
This pm we are to have a gas drill. So far this base is used as an emergency Hosp. for sick troops and there are 3000 beds.The Germans do not know of its existence yet and so we are not allowed to send out any letters from here.
Oct 10, 1918- France
We took s fine long walk last evening and slept fine. The French all gave us a cute little “ ello” when we said “Bon Soir” This morning we went for blackberries & found some delicious ones. We lost one of our girls & she is not buried yet and is terrible condition. Mrs Ruby went in & 3 flies & 2 bumble bees came out from the mouth & she was purging dreadfully. They collected $38 for flowers. ...
This P.M. there was a rumor that 15 were to be sent onto another camp & the rest to our own Base, that the travel orders had come. Miss Biddle said the rumor was true & she would pick them when she returned. She returned, laughed & said to get all laundry work done.
I am ready to go on duty.
Oct 15, 1918 - France
Have been in Camp at Base 62 for 2 days & 2 nights and it is primitive but we a wonderful place & I love it.
Coming from Breast we were on the train 3 nights a& got fearfully tired. Saw Sammies at every stop & they we’re so glad to see and speak with American women. Some of them were returning from the front injured or gased [sic]. We saw lots of Marines and they were all a fine type.
Saw a Sammy from Decatur who knew powers of U of I.
At Leman's we all got out with our rations & I carried our five loaves of bread with our wrapper; we had no paper. Ruby was loaded down with cans. Finally they made us all get back on the same train and we were side tracked until about 2 A.M. The Sammies would not let us rest but kept popping their heads in the see a real American girl.
Nov 11, 1918 -France
Ruby told me yesterday that she was a misfit in "this mans army" and that altho she was a good mixer, she was most unhappy. She was married for 15 yrs and has been a widow 3 and she said she had gone thru “hell” these last 6 months all this with tears in her eyes. She is so dear and sweet and very conscientious.
This morning Spence told me of how rudely Lewis talked to her & she wept on my shoulder. I think she wanted me to tell Miss Biddle, but I refuse to get into other people's scraps.
Nov 24, 1918 France
The last two weeks here have been anything but pleasant in a social way. I have enjoyed my work, but Lt. Burbank has been sarcastic to the point of discourtesy. Once when he was reeking with liquor he raised his voice at me & I asked him to please not shout at me. At another time he told me I “annoyed“ him. Later he apologize for it. Miss B had denied him all privileges in seeing me & they hardly speak. Also he found out he could not own me. He was very disgusting on several occasions & I believe he is ashamed now. ...
Rumors have been afloat for some time that we will be going soon. They are rushing the boys out but it may only mean that they want room for those going back.
Dec 1, 1918- France
Wed. eve. we went into Nevers to the 19th Engineers dance. They are surely good entertainers : such fine men and real dancers. I had every dance and became quite well acquainted with Lt. Lewis who I thought at first was going to dance a straight. ... Then there was another peachy dancer who wondered why he had not found me sooner & who made violent love to me & finally in one of the encores he got a regular jujitsu on me & held my right hand up in the middle of my back & finally an officer pulled him away and we did not finish the dance.
Also, the big Frenchman, a Capt. was funny. He insisted that [I] drink pure Coniac [sic] & I did not want it, so I said we would put the glasses just outside on the step while we danced as I much rather dance.
Dec 6, 1918 -France
I was relieved from duty Dec. 4 fro a transfer to Beaune. ... Miss B. has been wonderful to me & when I knew I was going to I told of the proposition made me concerning Nice & I said I wasn't to be purchased for a roast pheasant.
This certainly seems like a land of romance & it is the irony of late that Lt. Burbank has censored letters to my beloved James, C.O. of Unit 80, and now I am going there. He has also censored letters to Lt. Miller which letters my darling Dee had never received. Had such a good letter from Dee today & he still loves me & knows I love him even if he has not heard from me.
Feb 4, 1919 - France
The Col, has been fine and friendly but has not taken me out except to ask me to walk down town with him the day before Xmas to shop for his nieces. We bought bourdoir caps & lace collars & nightie yolks. We had a real heart to heart & he have me his idea about the status of women in the army. He thinks it is wrong to go with married men. He meant it for me because he knew I had gone out several times with Sandy. I said it depended upon the spirit in which it is done. For good fellowship is all right if the man speaks lovingly of his wife.
The day we went to Dijon, when I went to the Col. For my pass he took me in his arms & pressed burning kisses all over my face. All this for no reason that I could see and he said he would like to go with me. Then he noticed the window open and went over to close it and came back for more.
July 11, 1919 - France
All the afternoon he as loving me with his eyes and trying to break down my reserve and how hard it was for me not to yield to his fascinating love making when we had Champagne in the bower of roses.
At last I could resist his charming manners no longer had I allowed him to kiss me & how we both loved it. He is the most wonderful and most powerful lover I ever had. And he certainly appeals to ones sense of humor.