“Alexine Mitchell has returned from a trip abroad,” reported a 1911 Key of Kappa Kappa Gamma. Alexine and her sister Marion Otis Mitchell were both initiates of the Kappa chapter at Stanford University although Alexine later affiliated with the chapter at Berkeley.
They were the daughters of Captain Josiah A. Mitchell. He survived the burning of the chipper ship Hornet by making it 43 days in an open longboat. Captain Mitchell’s story was immortalized in Samuel Clement/Mark Twain’s account of the ordeal which appeared in the newspapers and magazines of the day. The sisters, too, were world travelers and both would go on to be of service during World War I.
“Alexine Mitchell is nursing in a hospital in France, through the grounds of which were the third line trenches of the July offensive,” their alumnae chapter reported in a 1918 Key. Marion, it was noted, was “still in motor service at Toule and Nancy and writes of being under direct bombardment of German guns while rescuing two old French women from their remote mountain hut.”
The War Work done by the sisters explained in more detail in The Key. On December 31, 1916, Alexine left Alameda, California to travel to France. She was with the “American Fund for French Wounded.” She had spent 30 weeks preparation and study at the State Normal School in Santa Barbara, which was followed by a first aid course at the Presidion and another at the Lane Hospital. Her work in France was detailed below. (Do the math on the mileage. It works out to about 10 miles an hour!)
For a year and a half she drove a car in France delivering hospital supplies to hundreds of outlying hospitals, taking care of the car. The trips often required driving late at night, summer and winter. On one occasion when it was necessary to carry supplies from Paris to Nancy in haste (218) miles she drove for twenty hours without stopping, arriving at 2 a. m.
Nancy has often been subjected to severe bombardments. She visited the American Headquarters at the Front, where no women had driven a car. Also visited the famous citadel of Verdun. Was in the French second-line trenches, where no woman except Sara Bernhardt had been since August, 1914. Even going beyond until she stood less than half a mile from the German line, a shell exploding near reminded them of their dangerous position.
In June, 1918, Alexine entered hospital work as a nurse at Essey-le-Nancy just back of the Front, where she is at present; that hospital has been bombed by the Germans repeatedly. -General Nollet, head of the hospital, upon leaving to follow their advancing armies, called the doctors and head nurses together and said: ‘We drink to the health of our two American nurses, who, like ALL Americans, have made good.’
While on her first vacation she fell ill with influenza, but recovered and reached Paris during ‘Peace Week’ in time to witness the joyful celebrations.
Marion Otis Mitchell left Alameda on May 7, 1917, also working for the “American Fund for French Wounded.” Her preparation included taking a first aid course and another in automobile repair. In addition:
She handled hospital supplies for some time in Paris, and was engaged in canteen work in Bar-le-duc for a short time; then went to Toul and drove a dispensary car for Dr. Brown, an American woman physician, for four months, their work being among civilians immediately back of the Front including Pont-a-Mousson. She acted as interpreter for the doctor, and also assisted her in her work when necessary.
From Toul Marion was sent to Nancy where she continued her work for a year past, driving a car with hospital supplies to the ambulances back of the Front. She has been present in Nancy and Toul many times when they were bombed, also in Paris when fired upon by ‘big Bertha.’
Being sent to the top of Mount Mousson to evacuate an old woman of ninety-three years and her “ancient daughter,”she came within range and sight of the Germans who fired six shells at her car. The second shot brought down a tall tree less than thirty feet from her.
After an attack of the Spanish influenza Marion was fortunate in arriving in Paris in time to witness the wonderful peace celebration.
Alexine married Walter Lubowski, and in the 1940s, the family name was changed to Gregory. Alexine’s granddaughter and her cousin have put together a wonderful website about the Mitchell sisters. For more information on the war service of the Mitchell sisters, visit www.mitchellsisters.com.
© 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.