Food and meal preparation was a serious matter during World War I and it was mostly women upon whom the burden fell to create solutions. With a great deal of foodstuffs being send to Europe to feed the troops and needy allies, the United States was forced to be economical in order to avert a famine here. In 1917 the United States government created the Woman’s Committee, Council of National Defense, to enlist the aid of women for the “national war relief program.” States were encouraged to create regional organizations on state, county and even city/town levels.
Upon the New Hampshire branch, Woman’s Council of National Defense, fell the task of distributing bulletins and arranging for the meetings at which home demonstration agents provided presentations. The stories of these dedicated women have mostly been lost. In 1918 the following women were appointed to be New Hampshire home economic experts to present lectures and demonstrations on all aspects of food preservation and substitution, household and personal economy, and budget making. The lectures would be offered free of charge, the local woman’s or other club having sponsored the lecture assuming the costs.
Ann F. Beggs — Hillsboro (sic Hillsborough) County
M. Pearl Grant – Merrimack County
Dorothy Emerson – Portsmouth
Ida D. Moulton – Strafford, Carroll Counties
Helen E. Osborne – Rockingham
Ruth W. Sykes – Nashua and Concord
M. Roseland Tilden – Belknap County
H. Irene Weed – Sullivan, Cheshire, Merrimack Counties
Olive Wilkins – Manchester
Kathryn Woods – Sullivan
Neva E. Woods – Coos County
The Granite State Monthly magazine of April 1919 provides some history: “These young women were as fine a group of patriots as New Hampshire produced during the war. Tireless in their energy they worked day and night under their state leader, Miss Bertha Titsworth of the Extension Service, New Hampshire College. Many a day during the terribly severe winter of 1917-1918 they made their way over almost impassable roads, frequently suffering severely from the intense cold. Undaunted they kept up their work and accomplished great things. Although they gave demonstrations on saving fats, uses of cornmeal, war breads, meat savers, milk and its products, war time menus, child and invalid feeding, the making and the use of the fireless cooker and the preservation and use of greens they emphasized, after the 50-50 rule became effective, at every demonstration, the use of wheat substitutes. They took an active part also in all the special food campaigns. ” Statistics were gathered by Miss Titsworth.
On July 1, 1918 the home demonstration agents severed their connection with the New Hampshire Food Administration, although they continued to give demonstrations in canning and drying under the auspices of the Extension Service of New Hampshire College. Several of these instructors stayed on with the College that became the University of New Hampshire’s Extension Service.
These women are just a few of the the forgotten women heroes of World War I. The following biographies focus on their lives and careers.
Ann Farley Beggs was born 23 January 23 1894 in Concord, NH, the daughter of Martin F. and Mary (O’Donnell) Beggs. [Her brother Martin F. Beggs was b. 8 April 1901 in Concord NH and died 9 June 1963 in Newington NH (heart attack at wheel of car). Ann also had a sister, Mary K. (Beggs) Dye of Miramar FL]. Ann F. Beggs lived in Durham New Hampshire and in 1917 was one of 11+ women demonstrators for the (not necessarily the first as her obituary indicates) Woman’s Committee, Council of National Defense. In 1943 she a home management specialist for the University of New Hampshire extension service. By 1951 she was the editor of the Granite State Homemaker, organ of the Institution’s extension department and a home economist for the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of New Hampshire. She retired in 1959, after 42 years as a home management specialist for UNH’s extension service. Her lengthy obituary includes and excellent biography: “1 Dec 1964 The Portsmouth Herald page 3 Obituary. Miss Ann Beggs, Extension Leader, Dies in Durham. DURHAM–Miss Ann Farley Beggs, 70, Extension associate professor emeritus of home economics at the University of New Hampshire and the state’s first Home Demonstration agent, died at her home, 17 Faculty Road, last night. Miss Beggs had retired in June 1959, after 42 years as a staff member of the UNH cooperative Extension Service during which she brought educational information in home making in two generations of New Hampshire women. She was born in Concord, January 23, 1894, the daughter of Martin F. and Mary O’Donnell Beggs, and attended St. John School. After study at Nasson College, Springvale, she taught in Hopkinton Schools from 1915-1916 then entered World War I emergency work in 1917. At the request of homemakers in Hillsboro Couty, she was appointed Home Demonstration agent in 1917. As a pioneer Extension worker she traveled throughout the state encouraging homemakers to can home-produced food and demonstrated fireless cookery, time-saving methods and home management. In 1920 Miss Beggs was assigned to the Extension state staff in Durham as assistant state leader of Home Demonstration work. In this position she assisted county Extension agents in training and planning and administered their activities. After a year of study at the University of Chicago, she returned to New Hampshire in 1928 to become Extension’s first home management specialist. Her subsequent activities in the state’s 10 counties including helping local people improve the efficiency and attractiveness of their homes, schools, hospitals, churches and other public buildings. Through her program in home furnishings she joined the state’s women in creating a comfortable, attractive atmosphere for family living. Emphasis was placed on labor- saving and cost-saving procedures. During this period she authored some 50 publications in the homemaking arts and sciences. Miss Beggs pursued graduate studies at Purdue University, Lafayette Ind., and Cornell University, Ithaca N.Y. Two years before her retirement she was honored in a statewide testimonial in Concord as the holder of the longest record of service for a Cooperative Extension Service’s education program. Her travels took her through Canada, Europe, Panama, Bermuda and Nassau and during the past summer she had toured Europe. She was a past chairman of the Extension Department of the American Home Economics Association and a past president of the New Hampshire Home Economics Association and had been chairman of the State Housing Committee. An organizer of the New Hampshire Farm and Home Safety Council, she was women’s chairman for the Defense Bond program in New Hampshire. She was a charter member of Nu Chapter, Epsilon Sigma Phi, honorary Extension Service fraternity. She held membership in the American Legion Auxiliary and the Business and Professional Women. Active in St. Thomas More Parish, Durham, Miss Beggs was a past president of its Altar Society, and had been adviser the Newman Club, Catholic students’ organization, for more than 15 years. She leaves a sister, Mrs. William E. Dye, Miramar Isles, Fla and two nieces. Funeral arrangements are incomplete.
Pearl Annie Grant aka M. Pearl Grant, was born 21 April 1892 in New Glasgow, Pictou, Nova Scotia, Canada, daughter of John & Isabelle Grant. She died 21 June 1949 in Georgia, Franklin Co. VT. She is buried in Pine Hill Cemetery, Elysburg, Northumberland Co. PA. The 1901 Canadian Census shows her living with her parents in New Glasgow, Canada with siblings Maggie B., Carr F., James A., Willena R., George S., Mary G. and Joseph C. Starting in 1917 she was a home economics demonstration agent as described above, and continued in this role through at least 1920 when she is shown with the same occupation, boarding in Concord, New Hampshire. M. Pearl Grant married Ralph Cadwell McWilliams and lived in Franklin Co. Vermont (St. Albans and later Georgia). One of their two daughters, Margaret Agnes McWilliams, graduated from Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston MA and served in the Cadet Nursing Corps during WWII. M. Pearl Grant’s obituary appeared in the local newspaper, where her husband’s work seems to overshadow her own: “The Burlington Free Press, Burlington VT 22 June 1949 page 2. MRS. PEARL McWILLIAMS. ST ALBANS June 31–Mrs. Pearl Grant McWilliams died early this morning at her late home on Georgia shore after a long period of failing health. The wife of Ralph C. McWilliams, veteran country farm agent of the Extension service and known to thousands of county residents through visits to county events, she made her home here since her husband assumed his duties over 25 years ago.”
Dorothy “Dot” Emerson was born 30 July 1893 in Waltham MA, daughter of Philip & Minnie E. (Dewey) Emerson. She grew up in Lynn MA, where her father was a retired school teacher, author and lecturer. [He died in 1937 in York England while on a bicycling trip]. Siblings included Mrs. Beatrice Garvin of Plymouth MA and Miss Edith Emerson of Wallingford CT both school teachers. Dorothy Emerson graduated from Framingham State College with Home Economics Teaching Certificate in 1914. She began teaching home economics at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden [Plainfield] NH. In 1917 she was one of the women hired to serve as a home economics demonstrator, her own territory being Portsmouth NH. Soon after she left that position and became the Girls Club Agent for Sussex Co. Delaware, and even later joined the Maryland Extension staff as State Girls Club Agent. Her obituary includes a detailed biography. The Star-Democrat (Easton, Maryland) 11 Feb 1990 page 6. CHEVY CHASE–Dorothy “Dot” Emerson, a longtime Maryland 4-H leader, died Wednesday, Jan. 24, 1990 in Chevy Chase. She was 96. Miss Emerson’s involvement in 4-H spanned 70 years. A Massachusetts native and former public school teacher there and in New Hampshire, she first joined the Cooperative Extension Service as a 4-H Club agent in Sussex, Del. She became a member of the Maryland Extension staff in 1923 and rose to the post of associate state 4-H leader. After her retirement in 1961, Miss Emerson served more than a quarter century as consultant to the National 4-H Council. She called her public speaking presentations, “You’ll Be Surprised.” She requested that memorial donations may be made to Dorothy Emerson Education Fund c/o National 4-H Council 7100 Connecticut Ave., Chevy Chase Md 20815.
Ruth Weeks Sykes was born 26 October 1887 in Rhode Island, daughter of William T. & Harriet Louise Sykes. She died in July 1979 in Charlottesville City VA. In 1917 she served as a home economics demonstrator as mentioned above, her territory being Nashua and Concord, New Hampshire. She remained in this capacity until 31 May of 1919 when the Nashua Telegraph newspaper mentioned: “Miss Ruth Sykes finishes her work in domestic science in this city.” Ruth W. Sykes married Roger G. Shattuck, son of Gilman C. & Estelle M. (Barnes) Shattuck of Nashua. He was born 3 July 1884 and died 27 Dec 1943. Ruth’s husband Roger was the president of the Osgood Construction Co., and a Dartmouth college graduate. They had a son, Gilman C. Shattuck. Ruth W. (Sykes) Shattuck was buried in the Universalist Church Cemetery in Nashua, NH.
Martha R. aka M. Roseland Tilden was born 30 March 1890 in Worcester MA, daughter of Charles H. & Ann Maria (Mays) Tilden. In 1900 she was living in Weare, NH with widowed mother Ann, and sister Anna M, at that time a public school teacher. In 1917 she was, along with several other women, appointed to provide educational presentations for women in New Hampshire (see story at top of page). The Portsmouth Herald of 21 Feb 1940 shows that “Miss M. Roseland Tilden, field representative and follow-up worker of the Women’s Field Army for Control of Cancer, today announced the following leaders of state organizations as comprising a state staff to sponsor the educational program of the Field Army in New Hampshire for 1940. By 1979 she had removed to California, where she died in San Bernadino on 25 September 1979.
Bertha Titsworth was born 21 Aug 1882 Farnia, Illinois, daughter of Benjamin Franklin & Jennie (Zinn) Titsworth. In 1911 she received a diploma from Pratt Institute, and a B.S. Degree from Cornell in 1915. From 1917-1920, Bertha Titsworth was the state leader of the Extension Service at NH College (now UNH), and was responsible for compiling statistics. She must have also kept positions at Cornell for the newspapers of the same time report the following: “3 July 1917 Times Herald. Miss Bertha Titsworth of the department of Home Economics at Cornell gave a talk on Thrift.” and “12 July 1917 Times Herald, Olean NY page 4. Pomona Grange state representative, Miss Bertha Titsworth. food conservation work.” The Cornell Countryman, Vol 18, 1920 stated: “Class of 1915, B.S.–Bertha Titsworth has resigned as state leader of home demonstration agents for New Hampshire, and is conducting a tea room in the middle west.” I could not discover the name of this tea room, but it seems she returned to teaching at Ohio Weslyan. Her biography in the annual yearbook shows: “Professor of Home Economics. Diploma. Normal Home Economics, Pratt Institute, 1911; B.S., Cornell, 1915; M.A. Columbia 1925; Professor, Ohio Wesleyan, 1925–.” The last entry I could find about Bertha Titsworth was her obituary: Washington C.H. Record-Herald, Washington DC Wed 21 July 1943. Miss Bertha Titsworth, for eighteen years head of the Home Economics department of Ohio Wesleyan University, died Tuesday. Her funeral will be Thursday afternoon at the William Street Methodist Church, in Delaware.”
Helen Irene Weed was born 7 Feb 1890 in Columbus Ohio, daughter of Clarence Moon & Adah (Aber) Weed. She was a 1912 graduate of Simmons College. In 1916 she was Supervisor of Department of Home Economics, State Normal School, Keene NH. In 1917 she was one of the New Hampshire home economics demonstrators covering the territory of Sullivan, Cheshire, and Merrimack Counties. She married 20 Sep 1919 in Lowell MA [registered NYC] to John Joseph Landers, son of Garrett J. & Mary A. (Dee) Landers. At the time of her marriage she was the assistant editor of a magazine (House Beautiful) and her husband was an attorney at law (b Keene NH) She married 2d) Myron B. Hart who d 30 Aug 1963 in Concord NH. member of NH State Legislature. In 1955-56 she was a state Senator of Keene until her marriage to Hart. She was a Republican representing the Tenth District. She beat her democratic opponent 4,197 to 2,512. She died July 1977 in Keene NH and is buried in Woodland Cemetery, Keene NH.
Neva E. Woods was born 27 Sept 1889 in Lockport, Niagara NY, daughter of Robert G. & Estella M. (Whitcomb) Woods. In 1892 she was living in Niagara NY with her parents and siblings Elvin E. and Grace M. In 1905 she was living in Lockport, Niagara, NY. In 1917 she was a home demonstrator for New Hampshire representing the territory of Coos County. From 1923-1926 she was Macon County Illinois farm bureau adviser. In 1926 the Decatur Herald of Decatur Illinois published the following: “Miss Woods, who has been advisor for the Macon County Home Bureau for three years, will leave this week for her old home in Lockport NY for a two weeks’ vacation. She will then go to New York city to take special work in Columbia university, working for her master’s degree. Her place in the Home Bureau will be taken Oct 1 by Miss Bonnabelle Fulmer of Urbana. Under Miss Woods’ direction, the Macon County Home Bureau has grown to be one of the best in the state.” She married 9 Jan 1932 in Anaconda, Deer Lodge, Montana to Henry S. “Harry” Magraw. She died 8 December 1977 at St Peters Hospital in Helene, Montana and is buried in Hillcrest Lawn Memorial, Great Falls Montana.
[Editor’s Note: this story is part of an on-going series about heroic New Hampshire men and women of World War I. Look here for the entire listing].