Alma A. Clarke had ventured far from her comfortable life on the Main Line and was caring for wounded soldiers of the Great War. Lansing Warren, who would one day write for the New York Times, was a volunteer ambulance driver. Their paths crossed in Red Cross American Military Hospital, No. 1, housed in the Lycée Pasteur in Neuilly-sur-Seine, just outside of Paris. During one of his trips to drop off injured doughboys, Warren wrote this moving anti-war poem in Clarke’s scrapbook:
A monarch’s hopes, a people duped to fight
Nor heed the object they were fighting for,
Conflicting aims of nations, each one right
Have plunged the world, unwillingly, into war.
Three years of tragic bloodshed, waste and woe,
Three years of useless struggle on the field,
Of daily conflict with the unseen foe
And wholesale murder which no cause can shield,
Unless, hearafter when the end shall be,
The right of war shall be denied to States,
And power of a real democracy
Shall purge the horror of unnatural hates.
Then firmly Freedom shall arise and stand
Where writhes the bloody snake of “No Man’s Land!”
Not satisfied with the prospect of life as a socialite, Clarke had set off alone for France to work for the Franco-American Committee for the Protection of the Children of the Frontier, a benevolent society that cared for children orphaned by the war. After training with the Red Cross, she served as an auxiliary nurse at the American military hospital.
Clarke compiled two scrapbooks filled with mementos of her time in France. The English-language book contains photos of the hospital staff and patients, newspaper clippings and postcards. More poignant are the hand-written notes entered by the servicemen or by Clarke herself, recording each soldier’s name, regimental information, nature of injury and battle zone where he had fought. Some of the men added expressions of gratitude for the care received, brief remembrances of fallen comrades and even sketches. The French-language scrapbook includes photos of French orphans, letters written by children thanking Clarke for visiting them, and public health pamphlets issued by the French government. After the war, Clarke remained a few more years in France, where she gave a lecture on American kindergarten education at the Exposée Générale de l’Enfance, a conference on the welfare of children held in Lyon in 1918. Although she never married, Clarke adopted three orphans and raised them in the U.S.
Sketch of auxiliary nurse Clarke from English-language scrapbook drawn by unknown artist (Image courtesy of Bryn Mawr College Special Collections):
Lansing Warren was born in Illinois on June 17, 1894. His World War I experiences were only the beginning of an impressive career that included a 1934 interview with Gertrude Stein published in the New York Times. In 1942, while reporting for the Chicago Tribune, Warren was arrested by the Nazis along with his wife and other colleagues and held for 14 months. Warren retired from reporting in 1956 and died in 1987 at 93 years of age. “War’s Absolution” and other poems were published in 1919 in a collection entitled “En Repos and Elsewhere Over There,” available online in plain text:
Page from English-language scrapbook with Warren’s poem (Image courtesy of Bryn Mawr College Special Collections):
Clarke’s scrapbooks and other papers were donated by her niece to the Bryn Mawr College Special Collections. They have been digitized and made available for online viewing. http://triptych.brynmawr.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/almaclarke
For more information on the Alma A. Clarke Papers:
Lansing Warren Obituary
His interview with Gertrude Stein
The author gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following individuals:
Michelle Moravec, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History at Rosemont College, who provided additional biographical information on Clarke.
Eric Pumroy, Associate Chief Information Officer and Seymour Adelman Head of Special Collections,Canaday Library, Bryn Mawr College, who made the scrapbooks available for examination.
This page composed by: Barbara Quintiliano [BQ]