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World War I at Berry

By Jordan Brannen, Berry College

May 2015

World War I was a war the likes of which the world had never seen before. With almost all of the biggest and most powerful nations pitted against each other, there was no shortage of manpower. While the United States tried to stay neutral in this worldwide conflict, it was to no avail. The sinking of the RMS Lusitania, a passenger ship, catapulted the U.S. into the First World War. The war affected every part of the nation from factories to farms and even schools, including Berry College.

There are countless stories of how the more than five hundred Berry students that participated in the war with great honor. Ten died and many others were wounded for the Allied cause. While fighting in the trenches, one boy earned the Croix de Guerre for his special bravery. Many of the girls from the Schools helped out with the Red Cross and as Miss Berry put it, “the training in the kitchen helped them become dietitians.” Martha Berry was extremely proud of all the boys and girls who help with the war effort abroad; she prided herself so much on this that she sent appeals asking for money to help the younger breed of mountain children prepare for war. Because her students did so well during this time of war she felt that it was very important to keep up the work of the Berry Schools.

During her attempt to keep the Berry Schools in pristine condition, Martha Berry fought extremely hard to keep her entire staff on board in a time where several hundred thousand American men were being shipped off to war each year. In 1918 a teacher, Mr. S.H. Cook, was drafted into battle. Now being the woman that she was, Martha Berry would not let even a P. E. teacher go without a fight. This story is just an example of how Martha Berry believed that everyone she had on staff was indispensable, and of the tight knit community she wanted for Berry. In the hopes of pardoning Mr. Cook from the draft, she wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury William G. Macadoo asking to return her teacher to the school. In this letter, Macadoo responds and refers her to the Secretary of War, because as you can imagine the Secretary of the Treasury does not have much say in matters of war. In a separate letter, Martha Berry writes to Mr. Cook asking him to take a furlough to help open the schools in the fall. She says that the students love him and will be praying for him in the dining halls each night. Although Martha Berry did not get an exemption for Mr. Cook, this correspondence with the Secretary of the Treasury as well as one of her highly valued teachers speaks volumes for her persistence in always helping make her schools the best that they could be.

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