World War I -- Life Histories/Section 018/Howard Haines Lowry

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Overview[edit]

Howard Haines Lowry (1878-1922) was a Quaker stockbroker. During the end of World War One, Lowry served as athletic director of the YMCA in Toulon, France from 1918 to 1919.

Biography[edit]

Lowry was born in 1878 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He spent most of his life working as a stockbroker, moving between Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and California. Lowry was a practicing Quaker. He married Margaret Erwin Holt Lowry in 1912, who gave birth to their only child, Margaret, in 1914. In September of 1918, near the end of the war, Lowry traveled to France, where he worked at a battlefield canteen, providing water and chocolate to soldiers. After the Armistice, Lowry served as athletic director of the YMCA in Toulon, France, a position he maintained throughout 1919. Upon his return to America, Lowry moved with his family to California, where he resided until his death from heart ailments in 1922. [1]

Social Issues[edit]

Quaker Pacifism[edit]
A letter from Lowry's daughter, Margaret (c. 1920), showing use of the "thy" pronoun.

Historically, adherents of the Quaker faith (also called “The Society of Friends”) have maintained an anti-war stance, condemning violence, military combat, and war. However, around the beginning of World War One, many Quakers began to justify military involvement, recognizing the importance of patriotic contribution to the effort. An editorial article, authored by a prominent Quaker, was published in the Manchester Guardian (now known as The Guardian) in 1915. The author first elaborates on the historical Quaker perception of war, writing, “The real ground of belief for the opinion that force is no remedy, and that violence can best be met by gentleness, is experience,” before explaining the shift in view brought about by the war: “It is not possible to try and practice non-resistance between nations yet. It must be prepared for by a much higher level of active benevolence in private life, and as between churches and political parties first."[2]

The Lowry family members were active Quakers, and even used thee/thy/thou pronouns to address each other in their letters, a longstanding Quaker tradition. While many pacifist Quakers did not support the violence of the war, Lowry decided to support the American effort, though in a nonviolent role. Lowry admired the bravery of the soldiers and repeatedly wished he had arrived overseas sooner so that he could have supported more of those who fought.[3]

YMCA[edit]

The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) was founded in 1844, partially in response to the effects brought on by the Industrial Revolution. Rapid urbanization exposed many citizens, recently relocated from rural areas, to liberal facets of city life, including alcohol, prostitution, and gambling.[4] The founders of the YMCA sought to provide a haven from what they saw as perils of urban living, offering regular Bible studies, athletic activities, and opportunities to evangelize through mission work.

The original goal of the YMCA was global evangelization.[5] However, this was interrupted as wartime neared, and the leaders of the YMCA changed course, recognizing the value of a wholesome lifestyle in relation to the health of soldiers. In the early 1900s, the organization expanded overseas to provide its resources to men fighting in foreign countries. Allied nations funded local YMCA programs in Italy and France, operating under the motto: “A sober soldier, a clean soldier, a contented soldier, makes the best fighting man. The Y aids the man in uniform to become that kind of soldier."[6]

The YMCA in Europe during World War One served as a respite for soldiers away from combat zones. Lowry's facilities included swimming pools, basketball courts, and exercise spaces. Under Lowry’s supervision, tenants boarding at the YMCA in Toulon adhered to a rigorous schedule of both physical activity and spiritual studies. Residents often participated in charity work in surrounding areas, performing hard labor, such as construction and maintenance, in acts of service to their adopted community.[7]

Postwar Occupation in Europe[edit]

Towards the close of World War One, France and Britain feared victory stolen by Germany, and therefore attempted to prevent this at all costs.[8] America's intervention into combat came late, almost postdating the conflict altogether. President Woodrow Wilson was wary of mobilization and insisted on forming a separate American army rather than feeding troops directly into existing Allied formations.[9] After the Armistice was signed, many American soldiers remained in Europe, ensuring peace in recovering nations, like France.[10] While France had sustained itself during war years without excessive damage from German onslaught, political policy wavered regarding the security of its new foreign relations.[11] In particular, French political executives did not feel they could entirely trust their surrounding countries, including Britain and Germany. Thus, a renovation of its treatment of international affairs was in order, necessitating troops, American and otherwise, to remain abroad.[12] Most of Lowry's time in Europe was spent during this interval, and he was tasked with supervising some of the many soldiers lingering in France after the end of the war.

References[edit]

  1. Lowry, Howard Haines. Letters, 1917-1925. Box 1, Folders 2-4. Collection Number 04602. Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC.
  2. "The Quaker Position." Editorial. The Manchester Guardian [Manchester] 1915: Web. 22 February 2015.
  3. Lowry, Howard Haines. Letters, 1917-1925. Box 1, Folders 2-4. Collection Number 04602. Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC.
  4. Steuer, Kenneth. Pursuit of an “Unparalleled Opportunity.” New York: Columbia University Press, 2009. Print.
  5. Steuer, Kenneth. Pursuit of an “Unparalleled Opportunity.” New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.
  6. Speech Stuff Concerning the YMCA for Use in the United War Work Campaign. New York: Columbia University Press, 1918. Web. 22 February 2015.
  7. Lowry, Howard Haines. Letters, 1917-1925. Box 1, Folders 2-4. Collection Number 04602. Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC.
  8. Rose, Gideon. How Wars End. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010. Print.
  9. Rose, Gideon. How Wars End. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010. Print.
  10. Gibbons, Herbert Adams. Europe Since 1918. New York: The Century Co, 1923. Web. 23 February 2015.
  11. Gibbons, Herbert Adams. Europe Since 1918. New York: The Century Co, 1923. Web. 23 February 2015.
  12. Rose, Gideon. How Wars End. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010. Print.