In the last letter Norman wrote home she enclosed a clipping from the local newspaper. This was reproduced and published in the ‘Atlanta Constitution’ the following February and gives a rare insight into how the French themselves regarded Norman Derr’s efforts to help the soldiers and the support of the then neutral United States.
Soldiers Grateful for Presents sent by Atlanta Women
Le Petit Troyen Tells of Receipts of Gifts Carried by Miss Derr – Miss Rosalie Howells Describes Christmas spent by the French Wounded.
February 11,1917 – Xmas 1916
The interest and generosity of Atlanta who sent many hundreds of Christmas presents to wounded soldiers of France by Miss Norman Derr, of Atlanta when she returned last fall to her hospital work in France, was the cause of pleasure and comfort to nearly 1,500 wounded, as is shown by an account of the presentation of Atlanta’s presents to the sufferers by Miss Derr published in Le Petit Troyen, a newspaper of Troyes France a copy of which has just been received in Atlanta.
Not only does the account of this event in Le Petit Troyen describe the pleasure which Atlanta’s thoughtfulness brought to the soldiers, but it expressed the warmest thanks of those soldiers and the people of France for the sympathy which many Americans have felt for France.
The work of Miss Derr and another Atlanta women Miss Rosie Howells, both of whom are actively engaged in hospital work back on the battle lines in France will prove of interest and inspiration of Atlanta women who are now preparing for the possibility of rendering a similar service to the United States, through the organisation of the Atlanta chapter of the American Red Cross.
MISS DERR PRESENTS ATLANTA GIFTS TO SOLDIERS
It will be recalled that in the fall Miss Norman Derr came home to Atlanta for her first leave of absence from the war hospitals since she gained admittance to service in the French hospitals. She holds a commission in the French army and is the only American women working in the French war hospitals- those directed by the department of war in France.
While here she addressed the Atlanta women on several occasions and when she returned to France carried with her gifts from Atlanta women for the soldiers in the French hospital in which she was serving.
“Le Petit Troyen” a French newspaper published at Troyes, France dated 2 January, carries an article which describes the presentation by Miss Derr of the gifts sent by the American women. The article has been translated by Mrs Alexander Smith and follows:
(Translated from “Le Petit Troyes” a French Newspaper published at Troyes, France, dated January 2)
“It was a beautiful and touching fete to which, without previous announcement, we were invited yesterday to the 1,440 brave soldiers under treatment at l’hospital-lycee, ambulance 10-13.
American sympathy for us has not been wanting since the beginning of hostilities- and it manifested itself again through the medium of an admirable women who for two years cared for our soldiers at the front with absolute devotion. Miss Norman Derr, Atlanta, Ga, daughter of a medical director in the American navy, a Red Cross nurse, received eight days ago from the minister of war, her appointment to the formation of the ‘rue de Paris’ where she wished to mark her entrance upon her new post of service by a touching act- the offering of New Year gifts from her home over the Atlantic to our combatants.
Twenty six cases of useful things, toilet articles, stationery, bags, smoking outfits etc, etc, which she had collected, had been put by her care in as many packages as there were men. These packages were wrapped in a pair of socks, which filled the office of children’s stockings in the chimney, and which contained the card of the donor so that the French soldier would have the address to return his thanks.
THE SPRUCE TREE
“A superb spruce tree from Vosges had been dressed in a corner of the refectory and all decorated with oriflames and the flags of the allied nations.
Assisted by Madame Lanth, Miss Derr presided with charming grace at the distribution of the tree, in the presence of Doctors Lanth and Raynaud, chief medical officers, and the whole personnel, medical and administrative of the post.
Gifts which could not be put in the packages, required the soldiers to defile before the tables loaded with oranges, cakes bonbons and other things, including 6,000 cigarettes.
Shall we emphasize the pleasure of our valiant soldiers who, in more than one expression of regard, showed their gratitude to Miss Derr and to her generous compatriots?
But another pleasure was reserved for them: an improvised concert, at the conclusion of which there were long plaudits for Messrs. Delma, of the ‘Opera Comique’, Fleurant, of the ‘Theatre de Geneve’: Messrs ‘Violins Le-Virtuose’, and Ganthien ‘pianiste du Conservatoire’.
Briefly, it was a beautiful afternoon for our wounded of the ‘rue de Paris’. They knew they owed it to the liberty of a neutral nation, and they surely join with us in sending expressions of tender recognition across the ocean to that noble and friendly nation, the United States which has already so often given France moral support in the long and sad trial through which she has passed.”
The Atlanta Constitution: February 11, 1917 with permission of ProQuest Historical Newspapers Atlanta Constitution (1868 -1945)