World War I -- Life Histories/Section 018/William Washington Gordon

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Overview[edit]

William Washington Gordon was a highly decorated soldier in the Civil War. Later, he ran a successful cotton company. His children played an active role in the war effort during World War I.

Biography[edit]

Life[edit]

William Washington Gordon lived from 1834-1912 in Savannah, Georgia. He fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War as a lieutenant in a cavalry unit known as the “Georgia Hussars” [1]. He also worked as an attorney, a state legislator, and a merchant. Gordon later served as a brigadier general in the Spanish-American War. Most of the Gordon family wealth came from his family’s cotton company, named W.W. Gordon & Company. This company relied on the labor of impoverished African Americans [2]. The company was financially successful and the Gordon family was very wealthy. This allowed the Gordon family to travel abroad in Europe. They often traveled on the British Cruise liner Lusitania (which was later sunk in an attack by the German military) to cross the Atlantic [3]. W. W. was married to Eleanor Kynzie and their children were Juliette, Sarah Alice, W. W. Jr., Mabel, and George Arthur [4].

Children[edit]

Upon W. W. Gordon's death in 1912, his son G. Arthur Gordon took over the family's cotton company. He also expanded the family business into warehousing [5]. Additionally, he also took up his father's position as a community leader in Savannah [6]. Arthur Gordon was prominent in the activities of the Democratic Party for his whole life and held the civic positions of captain of the State Troops and city alderman. Juliette (Daisy) Gordon founded the Girl Scouts in 1912 [7]. She faced strong opposition from various groups, including the Boy Scouts. James West, the founder of Boy Scouts, led this opposition, saying that the creation of Girl Scouts would “sissify” Boy Scouts [8]. These groups believed that women should not be trained in roles of leadership or in activities that were not domestic. She succeeded nonetheless [9]. Mabel was involved in many activities in support of the war, including the Fund for the Special Relief of Better Class Belgian Refugees and the Lady Lugard Hospitality Committee. She was lauded for her leadership of women on the home front [10].

Social Issues[edit]

Lusitania[edit]

The "Lusitania" was a British cruise liner that carried British and American passengers, predominantly tourists, across the Atlantic. It was sunk by a German submarine in 1915 [11]. America had not yet become directly involved in World War I. The sinking resulted in over a thousand civilian deaths. One hundred of these were American citizens [12]. This did not lead to the immediate entry of the United States into war, but it led to a notable shift from the previously widespread support for President Wilson’s stance of neutrality [13]. As a result, the Axis Powers downscaled their use of submarine warfare since they feared that “that further torpedoing of shipping would lead to US entry into the war” [14]. However, Germany never accepted responsibility for the attack and “submarine warfare was resumed” two years later near the end of the war [15].

Women on the Home Front[edit]

While men were serving abroad during the war, women played their own role in supporting the war effort. Many women served abroad as nurses near the fighting through Red Cross and other service organizations, but there was also a great deal of support work to be done away from the battle lines [16]. Women provided medical support for soldiers during WWI, especially at military bases removed from the battle lines by significant distances. The Red Cross sent thousands of nurses to tend to wounded soldiers at these support bases, especially in Europe [17]. Indeed, “Assisting the Red Cross became a means by which those who were ineligible for military service could support their nation’s troops in the field” [18]. Additionally, the YWCA established many “Hostess Houses” in various military bases. It created “fifty hostess houses at thirty-seven military camps, and it employed more than a thousand women as hostesses” [19].These were buildings decorated to feel homey and comfortable and young women volunteered to socialize with soldiers who visited. These visits helped relax and comfort the soldiers while they were not in active combat [20]. Women on the home front had logistical roles in establishing these aids for soldiers. They also took up many of the jobs that soldiers left, to a limited extent [21].

  1. Pierce, Brenda. "The Gordon Family." USGenNet. GeorgiaGenWeb, 2005. Web. 23 Mar. 2015.
  2. Pierce, Brenda. "The Gordon Family." USGenNet. GeorgiaGenWeb, 2005. Web. 23 Mar. 2015.
  3. Gordon Family Papers #2235, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  4. Pierce, Brenda. "The Gordon Family." USGenNet. GeorgiaGenWeb, 2005. Web. 23 Mar. 2015.
  5. Pierce, Brenda. "The Gordon Family." USGenNet. GeorgiaGenWeb, 2005. Web. 23 Mar. 2015.
  6. Pierce, Brenda. "The Gordon Family." USGenNet. GeorgiaGenWeb, 2005. Web. 23 Mar. 2015.
  7. Cordery, Stacy A. Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts. New York, NY: Viking, 2012. Web.
  8. Cordery, Stacy A. Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts. New York, NY: Viking, 2012. Web.
  9. Cordery, Stacy A. Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts. New York, NY: Viking, 2012. Web.
  10. Pierce, Brenda. "The Gordon Family." USGenNet. GeorgiaGenWeb, 2005. Web. 23 Mar. 2015.
  11. Palmowski, Jan. A Dictionary of Contemporary World History: From 1900 to the Present Day. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008. Web.
  12. Palmowski, Jan. A Dictionary of Contemporary World History: From 1900 to the Present Day. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008. Web.
  13. Palmowski, Jan. A Dictionary of Contemporary World History: From 1900 to the Present Day. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008. Web.
  14. Palmowski, Jan. A Dictionary of Contemporary World History: From 1900 to the Present Day. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008. Web.
  15. Palmowski, Jan. A Dictionary of Contemporary World History: From 1900 to the Present Day. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008. Web.
  16. Tucker, Spencer, and Priscilla Mary. Roberts. World War I: Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2005. Web.
  17. Tucker, Spencer, and Priscilla Mary. Roberts. World War I: Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2005. Web.
  18. Tucker, Spencer, and Priscilla Mary. Roberts. World War I: Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2005. Web.
  19. Brandimarte, Cynthia. "Women on the Home Front: Hostess Houses during World War I." Winterthur Portfolio 42.4 (2008): 201-22. JSTOR. Web. 1 Mar. 2015.
  20. Brandimarte, Cynthia. "Women on the Home Front: Hostess Houses during World War I." Winterthur Portfolio 42.4 (2008): 201-22. JSTOR. Web. 1 Mar. 2015.
  21. Brandimarte, Cynthia. "Women on the Home Front: Hostess Houses during World War I." Winterthur Portfolio 42.4 (2008): 201-22. JSTOR. Web. 1 Mar. 2015.