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Iowa History Daily: March 26 - Marion Crandell, WWI

Iowa History Daily: On March 26, 1918, Marion Crandell of Davenport became the first American woman to die while serving the US military in World War I. Crandell, killed during a German artillery strike, represents selfless service above self.

Born in Cedar Rapids on April 25, 1872, Crandell initially attended school in Linn County before her family relocated to Omaha, Nebraska, where she completed high school at Omaha Central. Following graduation, she journeyed to France to study at Sorbonne University in Paris. Eventually, Crandell found her way back to Iowa, teaching French at St. Katherine’s School in Davenport up until she enlisted following America’s declaration of war on Germany on April 6, 1917.

Convinced her language skills might prove useful on the French front, the 45 year old Crandell joined the United States Christian Commission of the YMCA, a group which provided the primary support of overseas military services for the Entente and allied troops. Following a brief training period, Crandell arrived in France on February 15, 1918, to work at a YMCA canteen called the Le Foyer du Soldat, or ‘soldier’s fireside,’ in Sainte Menehould roughly 135 miles east of Paris. She served with the rank of ‘enlisted’ until her death the following month.

Initially buried in the Sainte Menehould hospital cemetery, Crandell’s remains saw reburial at the American Cemetery at Meuse Argonne. Following the war, St. Katherine’s School bought Crandell’s Davenport residence and converted it into faculty housing, and Colonel D.M. King, Commandant of the Rock Island Arsenal, spearheaded an effort to place a marker commemorating her service. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar #IowaOTD


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