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WOMEN'S RELIEF CORPS

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Membership pin
1887 medal
WOMEN'S RELIEF CORPS. The National Woman's Relief Corps, Auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic, Inc., is a patriotic organization whose purpose is to perpetuate the memory of the GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC (G. A. R.). The organization was organized on July 25 and 26, 1883 in Denver, Colorado, and incorporated by Public Act of the 87th Congress on September 7, 1962.

In April 1887 the thirteenth encampment of the G.A.R. meeting was held in in Dubuque. The committee on entertainment was expected to provide boarding places and lodgings for an estimated 200-300 women delegates. The chairman "hoped the lady citizens would respond to the the appeal" and help provide lodging. "Please send particulars as to price per day (if pay is desired). (1)

At the meeting, the Women's Relief Corps Department of Iowa's President Mrs. Clara Nichols called attention to the "crippled condition" of the G.A.R. due to lack of money. During the year, twenty-five corps in Iowa had been visited and "general orders" issued along with two "circular letters" and 666 letters. The budget showed that the Corps had $7,066.87 after $550.12 had been given to posts and $1,766.58 had been given to charity.

It was believed the Corps should provide aid to the sons of veterans. The suggestion was made that the Corps should prepare wards of rooms in the new building of the Soldiers' Home. (2) The veto of the pension bill by the President of the United States was condemned.

Four years later, the G. A. R. celebrated its 25th anniversary on April 7th with speeches and music. Among those invited were members of the Corps, Sons of Veterans, and Ladies' Aid Society. (3) The state encampment was again scheduled for Dubuque on April 15, 16,and 17th. Commander Erwin of the Hyde Clark post, returned to Dubuque to report that the meeting appeared to be very large with over 500 members of the Women's Relief Corps expected in addition to the soldiers. (4)

Fundraising to help provide for needy soldiers, widows and orphans led to a fair and bazaar for one week beginning on November 19, 1894. Donations of money and items for sale were collected by the Corps and the Hyde Clark Post of the G. A. R. (5) The Corps, usually associated with the G. A. R., joined with the DUBUQUE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA in February, 1895 to present a charity ball and supper to aid "sufferers in Nebraska." (6) Membership increased to the degree that the Corps in Dubuque were to be represented by the Hyde Clark No. 37 Post as well as the Lookout No 299 Post.

On February 22, 1898 members of the G. A. R. gathered to celebrate a new holiday, Washington's Birthday. Piano and vocal solos were performed and Thomas J. FITZPATRICK presented an address. The Corps served light refreshments. (7) In March of the same year, the Corps presented 21 silver and 4 gold medals to pupils in the public schools for the best essays on Memorial Day and its importance. (8)

In 1904 it was suggested by Col. M. B. Davis, past commander of the Department of Iowa of the G. A. R. that with the death of the last survivor of the CIVIL WAR the organizations of the G. A. R. and Women's Relief Corps should cease to exist. He pointed to the lack of interest in the organization of the Sons of Veterans. He believed that since the Corps had come into existence only after receiving permission from the G. A. R. that it had no reason to continue. This met with resistance from members of the Corps. Only those who were linear descendants of soldiers in the Civil War could join the Ladies of the G. A. R. (9)

The Dubuque County Soldiers' and Sailors' Reunion in 1907 was held at UNION PARK. The "old army fare of beans and coffee" was served by the Corps. (10) Veterans of the CIVIL WAR, SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR, Sons of Veterans, Women's Relief Corps, G. A. R. Circle and hundreds of visitors were entertained in 1910 by the Dubuque County Old Soldiers' and Sailors' Association at Epworth. (11)

Although records of meetings of the organization have been found in the early 1940s, the organization, based upon obituaries through the 1990s, appears to be declined except in Wisconsin.


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Source:


1. "Women's Relief Corps," The Herald, April 15, 1887, p. 4

2. "The Encampment," The Herald, April 21, 1887, p. 4

3. "25th Anniversary of the G. A. R.," The Herald, April 5, 1891, p. 8

4. "G. A. R. Encampment," The Herald, March 4, 1891, p. 4

5. "Fair and Bazaar," The Herald, October 28, 1894, p. 8

6. "Sweet Charity," The Dubuque Herald, February 10, 1895, p. 5

7. "The Veterans Celebrate," The Dubuque Herald, February 23, 1898, p. 8

8. "Caught on the Fly," The Dubuque Herald, March 8, 1898, p. 5

9. "Would Let G. A. R. Die With Old Soldiers," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, July 26, 1904, p. 7

10. "Beans and Coffee Will be the Fare," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, August 6, 1907, p. 3

11. "The Old Soldiers Have a Gala Day," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, August 11, 1910, p. 5


See: Mary C. AGARD