LYNN – Judith Marshall, the education manager for the Lynn Museum, stands in front of a remarkable photograph that shows soldiers departing from Lynn on July 27, 1917. Thousands of Lynners are lining the streets, watching and waving from windows and rooftops and cheering on our young men who were about to journey overseas to join the World War I fight.
“Lynn and the Great War: At Home and Abroad,” the museum’s current featured exhibit, shows how Lynn influenced and was influenced by the events of World War I, both at home and abroad. This exhibit is paired with the Smithsonian poster series, “World War I: Lessons and Legacies,” which explores the war and its lasting impact on American life at a national level.
“This is a story of Lynn we are very excited to tell,” said Marshall. “We haven’t focused on World War I before, but this story of Lynn and its people still resonates today.” Marshall said this exhibit has been in the works for about eight months. It’s in the museum’s second floor gallery through December.
Peggy Dee of Lynn has loaned the museum her father’s medals, helmut and diaries, which include a harrowing story of traveling by boat to Europe. The diary entries are compelling, alternating between good (seeing the Eiffel Tower from a distance) and bad (living in trenches in France and marching through cities reduced to ruins). Edmund Q. Dee’s personal story is further enhanced by photos of him in uniform.
“Women were very involved in the war effort. They had to work in factories while the men were overseas,” said Marshall. Shoe manufacturing firms and the General Electric River Works were humming with activity during the war years.
“Sweaters were hand-knitted by students and women in Lynn and sent to the soldiers. And it was every American’s patriotic duty to save food. Some even planted gardens in wheelbarrows.”
A spotlight is shined on one woman, Constance K. Greene, who served as a “reconstruction aide” aka physical therapist in hospitals on the battlefield. She would go on to teach “war courses” at Northeastern University’s Bouve College. Her uniform, photo and “certificate of identity” are part of this exhibit.
Items also include a colorful German U-Boat flag (“Revenge and Punish”), a pair of women’s boots made in Lynn and decorated with a small colorful American flag, and a Lynn Item story and photo from 1916 that details reporter George Sprague’s encounter with aviator Farnum T. Fish who staged a mock aerial bombing over Central Square.
Among the collection is a soldier’s “comfort kit,” which contains a bar of soap, shaving gear and a tobacco pipe and pouch.
The posters are sensational. “For victory, buy more bonds” implores one. “Beware of female spies!” warns another. Joe Scanlon III has loaned a framed Declaration of War against Germany, signed by many prominent leaders, including many from Lynn.
“For the third Liberty Loan drive, the city of Lynn set a goal of raising three million dollars in one night,” added Marshall. “They ended up raising more than three million dollars in one night. It shows how compassionate and devoted Lynners were … and still are, as shown last year by the rally of support for the victims of the fire on Broad Street earlier this year.”
Wednesday at noon, the museum hosts its monthly Museum Enrichment Series for Adults (MESA) talk featuring guest speaker Salem State University history professor Dr. Gayle Fischer. She will discuss “Ballots and Bullets: Fighting for Women’s Right to Vote During the Great War.” Bring your bagged lunch and stay for the talk, which is free. For reservations, contact Elena at [email protected].