@NPCWomen with the Army of Occupation in Coblenz

The photo below is a gathering of National Panhellenic Conference women enjoying lunch in January of 1920. It was taken in Coblenz, Germany. When the French occupied the city after the first World War, they used a “C” in the name. Koblenz is on the banks of the Rhine River where it meets the Moselle River.  

The meeting took place in the YWCA Hostess House, the former Hotel Trierscher Hof. The women were the guests of “Miss Robey, a YWCA secretary and a member of KKΓ.” (“Miss Robey” could have been any of the University of Oklahoma Kappa Kappa Gamma Robey alumnae, as described in a 1919 Key, “Winifred Robey, B.A . 1913, who was schedule clerk in Ordinance Department at Washington, D. C., but is now in service overseas; Roberta Robey, B.A. 1914, who is state executive for women’s work in United War Work Campaign, and Lucille Robey, B.A. 1915, who is in an Army School of Nursing at Camp Jackson, South Carolina.)

3627 - coblez wwI after pan

The article accompanying this picture has the title “Pi Phis with the Army of Occupation.” At that first meeting there were 24 women from 24 different colleges representing eight NPC organizations. Some were wives of military personnel. One was “visiting in the big Base Hospital distributing candy and toilet articles and cheer to the bed ridden patients.” Another, with the Salvation Army, was a “Salvation Lassie in a Recreation Hut and Canteen at Coblenz. Another was a Red Cross worker in a “Recreation Hut for convalescent soldiers at the Base Hospital.”  It was noted “many of our members are giving their whole time to Army Welfare and Rhineland Commission Secretarial work and as nearly all the officers wives are members of the Allied Woman’s Club sewing two afternoons a week for charity and holding occasional sales teas and dances to raise money for materials.” 

The Panhellenic’s first president was Nellie Kellogg Van Shaick, a Pi Phi alumna of the University of Michigan chapter whose husband was a Colonel. At one of the club’s subsequent meetings,  “it was Mrs. Van Schaick’s turn to entertain. She talked about her recent ten day visit in Berlin as she is the only Army woman who has been fortunate enough to get a pass to go there.” 

Another member of the club, Alpha Chi Omega Ola M. Wyeth, in a letter dated March 10, 1921, noted:

The work here has been most interesting and very well worth while. There are about 15,000 American soldiers on the Rhine and the American colony is further augmented by many wives and families hundreds of civilians connected with the welfare organizations and such. While the library is primarily for the soldiers it has always been free not only to other Americans but to our Allies who are here, British, French, and Belgian representatives connected with the Rhineland Commission. The library has a central collection of about 40,000 volumes with as many again scattered in the Y huts branch libraries, et cetera. Coblenz is the center and contains most of the troops but many small towns in the vicinity are also garrisoned by our troops and must be provided with recreation. I have had a staff of five regular workers, two enlisted men, and seven Germans, so you see we could turn out a good deal of work. Incidentally, we never get caught up. Besides supervising the work in the main library, I have had to make periodic trips of inspection to outlying points to see that the books were being properly cared for that the supply was adequate. You would not believe that books could wear out so quickly. Books a month old which have caught the boys’ fancy look as though they had been through the war. Then too, the boys read so eagerly and so constantly that they are forever calling for an exchange of collections and it has always been great fun to see them gather around the box when a new collection was sent out and opened up. The schools maintained by the Army inspire the men to serious use of the library as do also the examinations for West Point for commissions, etc. I feel I deserve little credit for my work here as it was all organized and in good working order when I arrived and I have simply carried on.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2017. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory/


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