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World War I Food Army active in York County

World War I Food Pledge poster

The United States officially entered World War I on April 6, 1917, but America had been already preparing to join its allies in the fight. Mobilization on the home front accelerated as the year progressed. Grier Hersh was the Chairman of the York County Unit, Committee of Public Safety for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. His position included being the food supply overseer. The press release below is included with some of Grier Hersh’s papers at the York County History Center Library/Archives. It is undated, but National Food Pledge Week ran from October 24 through November 5, 1917. The local release reads:

ORGANIZATION FOR FOOD ARMY CAMPAIGN COMPLETE  Women of York to Make a House to House Canvass during Coming Week.  Drug Stores Asked to Help

At a meeting of the committee of the Food Saving Army held yesterday morning, presided over by Mrs. George S. Steacy, Chairman, it was decided, after a thorough discussion, that the women of York would make a house to house canvass beginning Monday next. The following district leaders were selected, to each one of whom is assigned a district, and each district leader in turn will select sub-district leaders so that no house in the community will be missed. These district leaders, who will explain to the women of York the necessity of signing the cards, and attempt to get their signatures, are: Mrs. George S. Steacy, Mrs. Thomas Shipley, Mrs. Abe Jandorf, Mrs. John J. Landers, Mrs. George L. Stallman, Mrs. Mary Fulton Mann, Mrs. Francis Farquhar, Mrs. David F. Getz, Miss Catharine Manges, Mrs. John Stambaugh and Mrs. George Fensbaugh.

This canvass will cover not only York, but North York and West York and the outlying suburbs. If for any reason the women, as they are canvassed, are unable to sign these cards, the committee has arranged with the various drug stores of the city to receive the cards and hold them until called for.

Tomorrow evening addresses will be made in the various moving picture theaters of the city beginning the campaign. On Sunday letters will be read by the pastors of the various churches calling the attention of the women to the necessity of signing the cards. Mr. Hoover assures the women of the United States that no hardship will be placed upon them by signing the pledge. A dispatch from Washington yesterday stated that the wives of the Cabinet officers had signed this pledge and agreed that they would have one wheatless meal a day, that they would have only one meal a day at which meat would be served, and that meat would be either beef, mutton or pork, and that they would not use veal or lamb. This certainly is not a hardship and goes a long way toward proper food conservation.

Some counties of the State have already secured 10 per cent of their women as signers, and it is hoped that York city and county will not fall behind. This is the first patriotic duty the women of America have been asked to do and the committee asks that there be no slackers. All women over the age of fifteen years are asked to sign these cards and it is not limited to householders.

The appeal to women started early on in the war when Secretary of Agriculture Houston pointed out that women were the key to conserving food, clothing and shoes. The Mr. Hoover mentioned above is Herbert Hoover, future president of the United States. As National Food Administrator for the nation, his scheme of having women voluntary pledge not to waste food avoided mandatory rationing. Note that the women named above were wives of some of the leading businessmen in the county.

Here a link to one of many internet sites with more information on the vital food conservation effort.

Women were also recruited to be part of the Women’s Land Army, replacing the young men on the farm. More on that later.