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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday - Alice Moore French, American War Mothers Founder

Alice Moore French was my 4th cousin, twice removed through our Forsyth line. 

Located at Greenlawn Cemetery, Franklin, Johnson Co., Indiana
photo by Joy Logan Burkhart

Alice Moore French
source: American War Mothers website
Alice Moore French (1863–1934) was born in Johnson County, Indiana, to Joseph J. and Ermina Forsyth Moore.  Joseph Moore first operated a country store and then a department store in Trafalgar, Indiana, and by judicious investment amassed a considerable amount of land there. He and his wife had three other children, only one of whom, Frank, survived infancy. After passing through the local grammar school, Alice attended Franklin College, graduating in 1882, and then the Boston (Massachusetts) School of Art and Design where she developed her skills in woodcarving and painting. In 1887 she married Eli M. French, a railroad man from Frankfort, Indiana, and together they had one son, Donald. When her husband died in 1894, French and her son moved to Woodruff Place in Indianapolis, residing there until her death. She was very active in women's clubs, including Kappa Kappa Gamma from her college days, the Woman's Department Club, and the Monday Club.

She was probably best known, however, for her founding of both the state and the national divisions of the American War Mothers in 1917. In August 1917, Don Herald of the State Food Commission attended a meeting of the Woman's Civic League in Indianapolis in hopes of persuading a woman to push ahead the food conservation program in Indiana. Alice French was chosen and initiated a circulating letter campaign aimed at women with children in the Armed Forces. Her idea of convincing these "War Mothers" to pledge to conserve wheat, meat, fats and sugar was supposedly inspired by her attorney son's enlistment in the army. Indiana Food Commissioner, Dr. Harry C. Barnhard, was so impressed with her letter that he forwarded it to Washington, D.C.; authorities there soon sent back a telegram requesting French to "mobilize" her War Mothers.

The Indiana Chapter was organized first and incorporated on 18 May 1918. Interest spread to other states, and a National Organization was incorporated in August 1918 with French as its first president. After the war, the group continued its efforts to aid soldiers; one of the most notable was the establishment in 1926 of the American War Mothers National Memorial Home to provide food and shelter for families visiting Fitzsimmons Veteran Hospital near Denver, Colorado. The group also had a postage stamp devoted to it in 1934. French was very enthusiastic about forming an International War Mothers modeled after the League of Nations and traveled extensively throughout the United States and Europe to encourage methods of addressing differences other than bloodshed. Although the organization was originally open only to mothers of World War I soldiers, its membership now includes mothers of soldiers who served in World War II, the Korean War, and the War in South Vietnam.  Biography source

American War Mothers' flags were placed in windows or in living rooms for all to see.  If you had more than one child in the Armed Forces, you had that many stars on your flag.  If you were unfortunate to have a child killed in action, the blue star was replaced by a gold one.
Blue Star denotes a son or daughter in the military

Gold Star denotes a son or daughter in the military, killed in action.


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