The Dowager’s Diary – Week One Hundred and Sixty-Eight

May 9-16, 1918 

In the midst of a world war, there was a spot in New York City where Kate Roosevelt and her family could always find a quiet spot to breathe in the air of freedom that everyone in America was so thankful to inhale. “Sent Shippen Geer to Central Park for an outing with Emily, his baby nurse.  I, to war meeting at Mrs. Stevens.” While Kate and all the other adults in the city were rallying and raising money for the Allied Troops fighting in Europe, governesses and nannies like Emily were keeping intent eyes on their charges.

Central Park During World War One

On this day in May of 1918, Kate’s three -year-old grandson, Shippen was enjoying a day of play in the park while his older brother, Langdon Geer was recuperating from an operation to remove his tonsils. Their mother, Dorothy Roosevelt Geer was otherwise pre-occupied, making plans for the next day’s big parade. Kate’s diary documented the events, “To the library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street watching the crowds and excitement in preparation for the big Red Cross Parade. I saw President Wilson and Mrs. Wilson, his second wife as they were driven down the avenue.”

                                    Donations for the Red Cross

On the day of the parade, Kate wrote, “My sister, Anna Davis, and I to Dutton’s publishing house to watch the Red Cross Parade. A wonderful sight. Seventy-five thousand women paraded, most of them wearing the white dress, apron and veil with the Red Cross symbol embroidered on it. It looked like a river of white pouring down Fifth Avenue. Many of the women wore the special uniforms of their particular branch of service.

Red Cross Parade, New York City 1918

Dorothy marched with the Emergency Canteen Corps which feeds the soldiers when they are embarking or moving from one place to another. All of the surgical dressing units paraded along with the nurses ready for overseas service. It took from 2:30 to 8:30 for the parade to pass by any given point. President Wilson marched at the head of the parade which created great enthusiasm. He reviewed the parade from the start at 26th Street. When the parade was over I went to the Metropolitan Opera House on Broadway and 39th Street and sat in the top gallery to observe the Great Red Cross meeting and heard President Wilson make his memorable address. He seems a strong man and a very astute politician.  He is an excellent speaker.”

Dorothy Roosevelt Geer in Red Cross Uniform

Next to this diary entry Kate Roosevelt pasted a clipping from the New York Times that contained some of Wilson’s most memorable quotes, “War has knitted the world together, just in this one single year.” “Four nations engaged against the entire world.” It seemed that Mrs. Roosevelt was enamored with President Woodrow Wilson, but not her cousin, former President Theodore Roosevelt. Far removed from the White House and the power of the presidency, Theodore Roosevelt still had very decided opinions about how the country should be run. 

Theodore Roosevelt Rallies Against Wilson

Years before the United States was forced to enter World War One when the passenger ship the Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-boat, Roosevelt promoted preparation and felt that soldiers and sailors should be trained and ready for action. President Wilson preferred neutrality and said that, “America needed to leave a European conflict to Europeans.” He said, “There is such a thing as a man being too proud to fight.” Roosevelt said that the United States’ lack of involvement was “inconceivable” and that neutrality looked like “supine inaction.” He was proven right when he prophesized that neutrality would fail and criticized Wilson to anyone who would listen.  On her many trips to Oyster Bay I could only imagine Kate’s reaction to her cousin, Theodore Roosevelt’s bully-pulpit brand of politics.

Sharon Hazard’s Dowager’s Diary appears on Thursday.

On WAT-CAST, listen to Sharon talk about the series.

Photo One:
Red Cross Canteen Volunteers
Red Cross Photo, public domain

Photo Two:
Central Park During World War One
Clipping from diary, author collection

Photo Three:
Donations for the Red Cross
National Archives

Photo Four:
Red Cross Parade, New York City 1918
author collection

Photo Five:
Dorothy Roosevelt Geer in Red Cross Uniform
author collection

Photo Six:
Theodore Roosevelt Rallies against Wilson
Library of Congress