World War I -- Life Histories/Section 001/Howard Haines Lowry

From Wikiversity
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Howard Haines Lowry, captain of Haverford University's cricket team in 1899. http://triptych.brynmawr.edu/cdm/ref/collection/HC_hisphoto/id/2479

Howard Haines Lowry, born in 1878, was a Quaker stockbroker from Pennsylvania, California, and North Carolina. He graduated from Philadelphia's Haverford College, a Quaker university, in 1899. During World War I and shortly after (1918-1919), Lowry served as an athletic director for the YMCA in Toulon and Champagne, France. Lowry died suddenly in 1922. His letters to his wife, Margaret Lowry (whom he nicknames “Tweeters”) reveal his personal feelings about the war and the cognitive dissonance he experienced because of the Great War’s violence and his pacifist values. The letters to Margaret, as well as the occasional note to his daughter, parents, and friends, are all housed in UNC’s Wilson Library Archives. In 1980, his daughter, Margaret Holt Lowry Butler, published a book of his letters titled Letters to Tweeters.

U.S. Volunteerism in France[edit]

United States aid workers had been involved in French affair since the late 1800s. With the start of World War I, France became a center of American humanitarian focus, spurred by heavy propaganda on the home front such as the poster “Don’t Waste Food While Others Starve,” which depicts an emaciated French woman surrounded by starving children. Most of the pre-1917 volunteer involvement provided sanctuary for refugees or other necessary functions such as medical care for soldiers. However, new welfare services came with the start of US military involvement. These services included libraries, “leisure centers,” and of course, the YMCA.[1]

YMCA in France During the War[edit]

The Y deployed approximately 13,000 employees to the French humanitarian effort (in addition to the 750 already stationed on French soil) to address “the temporal and spiritual needs of the soldiers, sailors and marines."[2]The Y’s historically unprecedented welfare efforts permanently changed the U.S. military, creating a new of focus on “the human needs of their personnel."[3] The military began to incorporate these services as protocol after the war, which made future deployment more bearable.

Letter from Lowry to his wife while he was stationed in France. Picture taken in Wilson Library archives at UNC.

Job of the Athletic Director[edit]

While still stationed Silver Bay, New York, Lowry taught French classes to other trainees and soldiers. His job as "physical director" was to "get the men playing all sorts of games, with or without apparatus...to get them interested in something or anything outside the deadly routine...to make them forget grievances, real or imaginary."[4] In France, Y athletic directors were responsible for organizing sports tournaments, designating exercise activities, and reaching out to the community. “A Summary of World War work of the American Y.M.C.A.,” a Y publication, describes how prisoners of war and wounded men were relieved of their depression once “the play instinct [was] aroused.”[5]

The "Heaven Sent" Organization[edit]

During WWI, The YMCA was responsible for the vast majority of relief measures in Europe. In fact, 9 out of every 10 aid workers and volunteers were associated with the Y. [6] The Y provided normalcy and comfort for the thousands of soldiers fighting in the trenches. In a 1917 YMCA publication, a British soldier described the Y as “a haven of rest with a most soothing and homelike atmosphere.” [7] The Y also provided strong spiritual and religious guidance that the “Summary of World War work” characterized as “practical Christianity.” The war was an opportunity to evangelize to the 40 million church service attendees through bible study, music, and religious programs.[8] The YMCA also has a history of relative social progress. For example, in the early 1900s, the YMCA built facilities with rooms that could provide shelter for African Americans who traveling at a time when most hotels were "Whites only."[9] The Y’s progressive ideals would have aligned with Lowry’s religious zest and humanitarianism.

Quakers and WWI[edit]

Quakers have been defined by their commitment to pacifism for centuries. This “Peace testimony” is central to the Quaker identity and has underscored countless humanitarian movements.[10] In 1870, the Friends War Victim Relief Committee was among the aforementioned volunteers in France, and arrived in the wake of the Franco-Prussian war. In 1914, they began the Friends Ambulance Service which provided medical attention for wounded soldiers.[11] Despite a religious mandate for pacifism that resulted in some refusal of any war involvement, many Quakers had strong charitable and patriotic tendencies which surpassed their purely religious identity.

Two women who were members of the Friends Ambulance Service. Taken in 1916. From Wikimedia Commons.

Decline of the Peace Testimony in the Face of Nationalism[edit]

As a Quaker, Lowry discussed his perspective of the war and the cognitive dissonance that resulted from his pacifist values. In some of his letters, Lowry mentioned "the new draft law" and ultimately came to the conclusion that he was in supported the legislation, as he stated in a September 1918 letter: "I think the new draft is absolutely the right thing, and I believe I could stand the work..."[12] His strong display of patriotism is indicative of the masculine role he embodied as part of the war effort. In another letter, Lowry expresses outright violence. On October 9, 1918 he wrote to his wife of the “Hun” and his “bloody battle,” expressing the hope that “we shall burn town for town and village for village in retaliation,” and that violence was “the only thing that seems to appeal to the Hun."[13] His dehumanization of the Germans was a common sentiment during World War I, reinforced by ubiquitous propaganda in the Allied nations. Lowry was not the only Quaker who felt the disconnect between nationalism and his pacifist values. Throughout the 20th century, Quakers began to feel that peace advocacy was “a relic of a bygone era."[14] For Quakers, who felt a sense of duty not only to their faith but also to their country, especially during World War I’s push for patriotic ideology, the “larger culture” sometimes surpassed the religious.[15] In reality, Quakers have never unanimously supported the Peace Testimony. In the late 1800s, the “Great Revival” reformed the practice of Quakerism, doing away with many of its more traditional aspects.[16] In the fallout, for some Friends, pacifism became less of a requirement and more of a suggestion. Thus, Lowry cannot be accused of being “untraditional” for a Quaker. Lowry used the traditional “thee” and “thy” pronouns in his letters, and in a 1925 letter to Howard’s father, a friend describes Lowry as a man of strong religious conviction, who would always “swing the conversation around to the things which pertained to the Kingdom of Heaven."[17] Lowry was socially located by not only his religious values, but also his personal and nationalistic tendencies, and his response to the war was not irregular.

References and Reading[edit]

  1. Blanchard, Ralph. "The History of the YMCA in World War I." Doughboy Center. The Great War Society, 1 Jan. 1997. Web. 2 Mar. 2015. <http://www.worldwar1.com/dbc/ymca.htm>
  2. Blanchard, Ralph. "The History of the YMCA in World War I." Doughboy Center. The Great War Society, 1 Jan. 1997. Web. 2 Mar. 2015. <http://www.worldwar1.com/dbc/ymca.htm>
  3. Blanchard, Ralph. "The History of the YMCA in World War I." Doughboy Center. The Great War Society, 1 Jan. 1997. Web. 2 Mar. 2015. <http://www.worldwar1.com/dbc/ymca.htm>
  4. [Letter to "Tweeters" dated 8/4/18], in the Howard Haines Lowry papers #4602, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill]
  5. Young Men's Christian Associations. National War Work Council. Summary of World War Work of the American Y.M.C.A.: With the Soldiers And Sailors of America At Home, On the Sea, And Overseas. Page 57. [New York, 1920.]
  6. Blanchard, Ralph. "The History of the YMCA in World War I." Doughboy Center. The Great War Society, 1 Jan. 1997. Web. 2 Mar. 2015. <http://www.worldwar1.com/dbc/ymca.htm>
  7. Young Men's Christian Associations. International Committee. For the Millions of Men Now Under Arms. Page 7. New York, 1915.
  8. Young Men's Christian Associations. National War Work Council. Summary of World War Work of the American Y.M.C.A.: With the Soldiers And Sailors of America At Home, On the Sea, And Overseas. [New York, 1920.]
  9. “History - 1900 to 1950s.” The YMCA. YMCA of the USA, Web. 2 March. 2015 <http://www.ymca.net/history/1900-1950s.html>
  10. Janet. "Quakers and Conscientious Objection in World War I and II." Quakers in the World. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. <http://www.quakersintheworld.org/uploads/IFEResources/ife84__Quakers_and_Conscientious_Objection_in_WWI_and_WWII.pdf>
  11. Albright, Alan. “American Volunteers in France.” BYU. BYU, Web. 23 Feb. 2015. <http://net.lib.byu.edu/estu/wwi/comment/volsamer.html>.
  12. [Letter dated 9/18], in the Howard Haines Lowry papers #4602, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill]
  13. [Letter dated 10/9/18], in the Howard Haines Lowry papers #4602, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill]
  14. "The Decline of Quaker Pacifism in the 20th Century." Indiana Magazine of History 96.1 (2000): 44-71. Print.
  15. Hamm, Thomas, Margaret Marconi, and Gretchen Salinas. "The Decline of Quaker Pacifism in the 20th Century." Indiana Magazine of History 96.1 (2000): 44-71. Print.
  16. Hamm, Thomas, Margaret Marconi, and Gretchen Salinas. "The Decline of Quaker Pacifism in the 20th Century." Indiana Magazine of History 96.1 (2000): 44-71. Print.
  17. Hamm, Thomas, Margaret Marconi, and Gretchen Salinas. "The Decline of Quaker Pacifism in the 20th Century." Indiana Magazine of History 96.1 (2000): 44-71. Print.