Utah History to Go
UTAH STATE HISTORY
HOME
FACTS
LESSONS
PEOPLE
PLACES
SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
TIMELINE
BIBLIOGRAPHY
CONTACT US
SITE MAP
HISTORY FOR KIDS
World War I Heroine Maud Fitch Lived in Eureka, Utah
Lesson
From War to war

UTAH aND THE COLD WAR

World War I and Utah
Utah's Capitols
Herbert S. Auerbach, Renaissance Man
Utah's "Ugly Duckling" Salt Flats
Publicizing Bryce Canyon
The Last Indian Uprising
Home Industry 20th Century Style
Some 80 Utah Nurses Served in World War I
World War I Heroine Maud Fitch Lived in Eureka, Utah
Mexican Families and the Sugar Industry in Garland
The Development of Zion National Park
The Twenties
Artist John Held, Jr. Created Cultural Icons, 1920's
Media Development in Weber County
Silent Films Intrigued & Occasionally Offended
Coal Production Amid the Wars
Sheep Fueled 1920's Economy
Military Installations
Boxcars and Section Houses
Jack Dempsey Loved Fighting, Mining, and Cowboying
Radio in Utah Began in May 1922 on Station KZN
The Cigarette Ban of the 19020's Caused an Uproar
Prohibition Failed to Stop the Liquor Flow in Utah
Lawyer Ran For President on the Farmer-Labor Ticket
George Sutherland Served on the U.S. Supreme Court
Alice Stratton Feared and Made Fun of "Kaiser Bill"
Klansmen at a Funeral and a Terrible Lynching
President Harding's 1923 Visit to Utah
Growing Crops For the Cannery
Dinosaur National Monument
The Fathers of Capitol Reef National Park
Ogden's the Bigelow-Preserves a Historic Area
Philo T. Farnsworth's Invention
The Beginnings of Commerical Aviation
The White Book Road Guide
The Great Depression
Depression Memories
"Even Grasshoppers Were Starving" During Drought
New Deal Agencies Built 233 Buildings in Utah
"Alphabet" Agencies in Utah County
The Civilian Conservation Corps Was a Boon to Utah
The Civilian Conservation Corps
Marriner S. Eccles Helped Design FDR's New Deal
Reed Smoot and the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, 1930
Reed Smoot & America's Natural Resources, 1903-33
Children in the 1930's Hoped to Become Nurses & Pilots
Arches National Monument
A Labor Inspector During the Great Depression
Clean Clothes Blowing in the Breeze
Utah's Rosies in the War
Garfield County Airport Has Unusual Hangar
Marie Ogden Led Spiritual Group in San Juan County
Uinta Basin Group Trekked to the 1933 World's Fair
Helen Hofmann Bertagnole-"Utah's Queen of Swing"
World War II in Utah
How Trains Helped Win a War
The War Effort at Home
Topaz Relocation Center
Topaz: Japanese American Interned in UT During WWII
Japanese Agricultural Colony at Keetley
Utahn Survives the Attack at Pearl Harbor
The USS Salt Lake City Made History
Utah Naval Officer Died a Hero's Death at Pearl Harbor
Rhymes Filled Children's Autograph Books
Utah's Rosies Upshot
Women Workers and Housing Issues
World War II Claimed the Lives of Four Utah Brothers

Miriam B. Murphy
History Blazer, April 1995

Maud Fitch won recognition for her valor near the front lines in France during World War I. A native of Eureka, she was one of many Utah women whose efforts helped the Allies succeed in defeating Kaiser Wilhelm's war machine. Born in November 1882, Maud was one of five children in the family of Exilda Marcotte and Walter Fitch, Sr., a wealthy mine owner in Juab County's famous Tintic Mining District.

Maud Fitch

Maud Fitch, ambulance driver in World War I

Eager to serve her country when the United States entered the European conflict in April 1917, Maud became active in the Red Cross. For her and many other women in the United States and Great Britain that was not enough. They wanted to be in Europe where the action was and where the young men of their generation were dying. Most of the Utah women who served with the military during World War I were registered nurses. Maud was not qualified for that specialized work. When she heard that women were driving ambulances in France, however, she immediately determined to do the same no matter what it took. At first she signed on with the Woman's Motor Unit of Le Bien-etre du Blesse ("well-being of the wounded"). The organization required her to furnish her own ambulance truck and pay in advance for a six-month supply of gas and oil. Fortunately, Walter Fitch was willing to support his daughter financially in her desire to serve. Directed by New York writer and socialite Grace Gallatin Seton, the venture seemed poorly organized to Maud when she arrived in Manhattan in mid-February 1918.

Maud sailed for France and by March 21 was living in a Paris hotel. For almost two months she waited for the Paris office of Le Bien-etre du Blesse to assign her work as an ambulance driver. To fill her time she volunteered in canteens and helped refugees. Her patience with the Seton group's lack of organization finally wore thin, however, and she tried to find a temporary position driving an ambulance for the Red Cross so that, as she wrote her parents, she could "get into action AT ONCE." The war seemed like a great epic to her, and any part in it was better than sitting on the sidelines, a view many soldiers shared. Maud's own words express her sense of being part of a great human drama: "And to think at last I shall get into the very vortex of the greatest conflict in the history of the world....If only I shall have the right stuff in me to benefit by it--to go into it and come out with one's soul and heart all fire tried!"

Maud Fitch

Maud Fitch, in France, October 5, 1918

The Red Cross assignment did not materialize, but on May 15 Maud had exciting news to share with her family: A private British women's ambulance outfit, the Hackett Lowther Unit, needed a driver. Maud was in the right place at the right time and was taken on. "Toupie" Lowther, a well-known tennis player of the time, was a member of the Earl of Lonsdale's family; she worked in the field with the unit. The women drivers paid $30.00 a month for their upkeep. The unit was under the control of the French Third Army and supervised by a French lieutenant.

Fitch and her companions drove their ambulances north of Paris in a long convoy of troops headed toward the heart of the German army's spring offensive. Their first quarters were near Compiegne, an area being shelled by the Germans. Maud vividly described her night rescue of five wounded soldiers on May 30. In a scene of utter confusion, with troops, cavalry, and trucks filling the road, she bribed those directing the traffic with cigarettes to let her ambulance through. Shells had destroyed directional signs in the town square, but she eventually located the hospital. She was back home by 2:30 A.M. and fell instantly to sleep in the back of an ambulance. By 6 A.M. she and her companions were awake. They "breakfasted on nothing and washed some layers of dust off, then strolled about the hills with the guns at the front hammering in our ears."

Ten days later, on June 9, she accomplished a daring rescue of wounded under heavy fire. She played down the experience in her letters home, but for her bravery she received the French Croix de Guerre. Later, a gold star was added to her medal.

Wounded men were typically taken on stretchers to first aid stations near the front lines. Maud and the other Hackett Lowther drivers picked them up there and took them to the nearest hospital. Maud thrived on this dangerous "frontwork." Another typical assignment was "back evacuation" from a hospital near the front lines to one farther back--work, Maud wrote, "one prefers not to do unless one's nerves have begun to get taut from frontwork." Sometimes the hospitals were so crowded, especially near the fighting, that they would not accept any more patients. Maud worried about the pain her wounded suffered when she had to drive them 40 to 50 kilometers over poor roads to a hospital behind the lines.

Despite many 24-hour shifts and considerable off-duty time spent repairing their vehicles, the women were able to indulge in practical jokes, pillow fights, and swimming in one of the many streams in northwest France to ease the tension. They also enjoyed associating with the French officers and men, sharing food, dancing, and enjoying casual conversation between battles. On one occasion a French artillery crew allowed Maud to fire its 75mm field gun toward a German position. She also drove a French colonel, surprised and delighted by his female chauffeur, to his new assignment on the front lines.

Following the war Maud returned to Eureka, married, and had one son. Years after her death in Los Angeles at age 91 oldtimers in Eureka still recalled her heroism during World War I and her devil-may-care attitude behind the wheel in her later years.

For Maud Fitch, driving an ambulance in the war zone was the experience of a lifetime. Her many detailed letters home constitute a remarkable firsthand account of World War I.

See Miriam B. Murphy, "'If Only I Shall Have the Right Stuff': Utah Women in World War I," Utah Historical Quarterly 58 (1990)

 

UTAH CHAPTERS
The Land
American Indians
Trappers, Traders, & Explorers
Pioneers & Cowboys
Mining & Railroads
Statehood & the Progressive Era
From War to War
Utah Today