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Woman's Committee of the Council on National Defense, Grand Rapids, Michigan unit records

Identifier: Collection 174

Scope and Contents

The collection provides insight into the lives of women during the early 20th Century. Not only does it give the biographical information such as name, age and address, but it also looks into education levels, skills and employment status. The majority of the women who registered for service did so in Kent County, but there were also a number of smaller individual communities that held registrations. Most of the registrations took place at local schools. The committee probably disbanded with the end of the war.

It is believed that this card file represents the bulk of those gathered for the Grand Rapids area project. Few files or other documents from the national project are currently known to exist. One other card set for Michigan is known

Also included are U.S. Student nurse reserve enrollment cards for 1918. New reference materials added to this collection in 2006, received from a local researcher, provide information on this national organization, the methodologies used, and key personalities involved in the Western Michigan area. A poster, “Spirit of Woman Power,” created by Paul Honore, provides a graphic representative of the movement.


  • 1918


Biographical / Historical

The National Woman's Committee of the Council of National Defense was begun in April 1917, headed by suffragist Dr. Anna Howard Shaw. Many feminists saw this committee as an opportunity for women to perform significant work for the war effort. Much of the work was voluntary, such as establishing children's health care programs, rolling bandages for the Red Cross and distributing food conservation pamphlets.

The Grand Rapids unit was organized in the spring of 1917, according to the outline arranged by Reverend Caroline Crane of Kalamazoo. Within the local unit there were committees to handle such work as registering people for service, aiding with home and allied relief, helping with food conservation and assisting in the welfare of children. The Grand Rapids unit was chaired by Mrs. Clay Hollister with a number of other prominent women also contributing their time, such as Mrs. Dorian (Helen E.) Russell, Mrs. Huntley (Clara C.) Russell, Mrs. M.R. (Anna) Bissell, and Mrs. Fred N. (Helen H.) Rowe. Many of these women were also active in the local suffrage movement and instrumental in organizing the Equal Franchise Club in 1910.

Not long after the information gathering program was completed, the War ended. So, little war work was actually supported using the project data. However, some of the data is said to have been used to provide support for other beneficial endeavors.


19.5 Linear Feet (28 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Grand Rapids Woman's Committee of the Council on National Defense was organized in the spring of 1917. The group contributed to the war effort by helping with home and allied relief, food conservation and the welfare of children.

The bulk of this collection is a large group of note cards containing data about women who registered for home front service during World War I. The cards include the greater Grand Rapids, Michigan area, covering much of Kent County and occasionally communities in neighboring counties. The registration cards give primarily biographical information about the women, but also provide insight into ethnicity, educational background and occupational opportunities for women in Grand Rapids and surrounding communities.

Also included in the collection are reference materials providing information on the national organization, the methodologies used and key personalities involved in the Western Michigan area.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Unknown, accession numbers 00.000, [5093].1, [5094].1, 00.[5112].1-9, P2007.010

Related Materials

See Collection 008, the Russell Family Papers, regarding participation of Russell women in the Woman's Committee of the Council on National Defense.

See also “Womens” Bajema clipping files, and searchable index.

Finding aid for the Woman's Committee of the Council on National Defense, Grand Rapids, Michigan unit records
January 1995
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Grand Rapids History Center Repository

Grand Rapids Public Library
111 Library Street NE
Grand Rapids Michigan 49503 USA