The horrific loss of life that occurred during World War I was unprecedented in Western Civilization up until that time. With “new and improved” artillery, warfare evolved from charges on the battlefield to fighting from trenches. Advances were seldom made and the prolonged combat killed millions of soldiers during the four-year conflict. Over one million French men died in the line of duty. A tragic result of these deaths was the hundreds of thousands of children without fathers living in families with little means of subsistence.
Fatherless Children of France was an American relief organization started in 1916, similar to others created in France to keep French children in their homes instead of separating them from their families. Americans were urged to support these “orphans” through donations of $36.50 a year, or ten cents a day.
The first local chapter of Fatherless Children of France in North Carolina was organized in the Wilkes County town of Elkin in mid-October 1917, when a group of citizens met in the Red Cross Room. Mrs. C. S. Currier, Mrs. E. F. McNeer, and Mr. Alex Chatham Jr. were named chairman, secretary, and treasurer respectively. The Elkin National Bank was designated cashier. Twelve children were already “adopted” and it was hoped that more would receive aid once “the wants are made known to the people here.” By the end of the month, the town was sponsoring 20 children through the donations of 18 individuals, the Methodist Church Sunday School, and the Epworth League.
Mrs. Currier traveled to nearby cities giving presentations about the needs of the French children, garnering support following each lecture. High Point also organized a chapter.
The Western Regional Archives has recently received correspondence and receipts from the Elkin chapter of Fatherless Children of France. They provide a glimpse into the efforts to aid our ally during The Great War.