Mystery Photo of Great Aunt Ruth

Great Aunt Ruth Soderstrom in uniform?

Cousin Lyn kindly allowed me to copy this lovely photo of her mother Ruth Abrahamson Soderstrom. She was not clear about the circumstances or the uniform. So I have been doing some digging. The cross symbolized to me the Red Cross. And so it is. This particular uniform is the uniform of the Red Cross "Gray ladies". The uniform worn during the years of World War II. Judging by the age of Aunt Ruth in this photo, a World War II time frame would also seem about right.

In 1917 during World War I Red Cross chapters were organized in Rock Island, Moline and Davenport. It was likely one of these chapters Ruth volunteered for. At the peak of World War II in 1945 7.5 million volunteers contributed to the war effort by working for the Red Cross.

One arm of the Red Cross was the Hospital and Recreation Corp. During the war"Hospital and Recreation Corps provided a variety of hostess and recreational services in over 1,000 military and veterans’ hospitals throughout the United States. Services included writing letters, reading to patients, tutoring, running shopping errands, and serving in hospital recreation rooms and at information desks (49,882 volunteers in 1944-45)."* Because of their long gray uniforms during World War I they were lovingly referred to as the "Gray Ladies", a name that stuck and became the official name of this volunteer group in 1946.

Perhaps as a way to honor her son Harry, in the Air Force, or her nephews, or sons of friends, or any of the millions of young men and women who were serving, fighting and dying for our country, Aunt Ruth was one of those giving comfort; gently and lovingly doing what she could.

*for more interesting information on the Red Cross in World War II click▼

World War II and the American Red Cross

proud to be her grandniece

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