“Before the War, Life Was Much Brighter and Happier than Today”

Letters from French War Orphans, 1915–1922

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
Bethany S. Keenan Coe College, USA bkeenan@coe.edu

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This article examines a previously unstudied collection of letters from French World War I orphans and widows, published in US newspapers from 1915 to 1922, as a result of the US humanitarian effort Fatherless Children of France (FCOF). Through the analysis of the letters’ content and style, the article illuminates the lived experience of bereaved lower-income French families, notably highlighting the significance of grief and the impact of paternal loss on economic status, bringing out new evidence on how women and children experienced the war, as well as showing how humanitarian efforts connected French and American civilians during the war period.

Contributor Notes

Bethany S. Keenan is Associate Professor of History at Coe College. She holds a B.A. and an M.A. in French from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her current work examines humanitarianism, French war orphans, and Franco-American relations. She previously worked on French reactions to the US war in Vietnam. Email: bkeenan@coe.edu

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