The Whatcom County Chapter of the American National Red Cross was founded by Mrs. E.W. Purdy in Bellingham, Washington in 1917. Originally named the "Bellingham Chapter of the American Red Cross", the chapter was started in response to the entrance of the United States into World War I. The first meeting was attended by twenty-seven people. On March 1, 1917, a meeting was held at which officers, an executive committee, and twenty committee chairs were elected. The charter for the chapter is dated March 15, 1917.
By the end of World War I the chapter had grown to over 15,000 members with 23 branches and 18 auxiliaries*. The branches gathered and provided surgical dressings, clothes, transportation, linens, civilian relief, nurses, and financial aid for the war effort. Quotas were set by the national organization each month which the local chapter consistently met and exceeded.
Although membership declined in the post-war years, the chapter continued to provide health and educational services to the community. Programs included First Aid, Swim-for-Health, Water Safety, Water Sports, Aid for Visiting Nurses, Emergency Relief, and Flood Relief. During the Depression years, the chapter provided milk for up to 160 families with small children.
On April 5, 1934 the executive board voted to change the chapter’s name to the Whatcom County Chapter of the American National Red Cross to more accurately reflect its membership and constituency.
The chapter experienced a revitalization during the World War II years when many new and old programs were brought to life. The Nurses’ Recruitment and Placement Service provided sixty nurse volunteers from Whatcom County and the Production Corps had approximately 4,000 volunteers. Other services included The Home Service Department and the Camp and Hospital Corps. In addition to work done by recruited nurses, the chapter coordinated volunteer work through the Gray Ladies and the Nurses’ Aide Corps. The Junior Red Cross, established by the chapter in November 1917, also saw its membership peak during this time.
During the interwar period, and following the end of World War II, chapter membership declined. The chapter focused its attention on service to veterans and their families, as well as emergency medical training and disaster relief. During the 1960s, the chapter initiated a Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) program. Although aimed initially at medical and allied health professionals in Whatcom County, CPR training and first aid courses were extended to the general public in the 1970s. The Red Cross has continued to provide services to the Whatcom County community through, for example, the Volunteer Disaster Service which responded to terrible flooding in 1983.
*As reported in "A Brief History of the Whatcom County Chapter, American Red Cross", Whatcom County Chapter of the American National Red Cross Records.
The Whatcom County Chapter of the American National Red Cross records comprise approximately five linear feet of materials, spanning the period 1917 to 1999. These records document the establishment, goals and activities of this chapter based in Bellingham, Washington. The collection includes administrative and financial records, correspondence, publications, chapter event and property records, photographs and scrapbooks.
Administrative records document the founding, organizational structure and major programs of the Whatcom County Chapter. These include executive committee meeting minutes dating from the chapter’s founding in 1917, as well as minutes generated by various different service divisions including the Gray Ladies volunteers. Minutes are supplemented by meeting agendas, membership records and a large number of annual reports, the latter spanning the years from 1946 to 1997. Strategic plans and program records detail some of the long-term objectives of the chapter, and include a Whatcom County Emergency Services Operations Plan from 1973.
The collection contains a small number of financial records, including ledgers detailing chapter accounts since the founding of the chapter in 1917 through the 1970s. Correspondence arranged chronologically documents a variety of subjects and activities including the chapter's associations with the national-level American Red Cross, legal and business affairs, business, and communications about the new chapter building. The collection also includes a few personal letters sent by chapter affiliates during their travels abroad.
Publications include local chapter newsletters and bulletins documenting chapter events and programs from 1918 onwards. The collection also contains publications produced by the national American Red Cross, including informational and instructional materials produced during the war years, training manuals and annual meeting publications from the 1980s and 1990s. Some older publications include the Veterans’ Claims: Guide for Home Service Workers, dated 1952 and Your Red Cross Carries On, dated 1947.
Chapter event materials document annual dinners between 1941 and 1963, information on the Christmas Bags for Men of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps Ill in Hospitals Abroad and Stationed on the Most Remote Posts (1936) and miscellaneous other event materials.
Legal and property records pertain largely to the construction of a new chapter building in 1961. These include contracts and order records. The property materials also contain documentation of the acquisition of a property left to the chapter in the last will and testament of Delilah A. Mitchell in 1953.
Histories include local chapter histories including a 40-year history and a 75-year history of the Bellingham and Whatcom County Chapters. Also included are some national history overviews.
Photographs document the members and activities of the Bellingham Chapter, the Whatcom County Chapter, the Junior Red Cross, Nursing Services, and the Whatcom Leadership Training Center.
Certificates and Awards contain recognition of chapter achievements and services throughout its presence in Whatcom County. Most of these come from the national American Red Cross.
A large number of newspaper clippings are included in this collection covering a wide range of Red Cross activities between 1949 and 1999. These include documentation of many Bellingham and Whatcom County Chapter events, as well as chapter achievements. Clippings are from local newspapers but do include some national advertisements.
There are several scrapbooks included in this collection documenting many local chapter events, achievements, and services between 1941 and 1969. The two Junior Red Cross scrapbooks document the services and achievements of the Whatcom County chapter of the Junior Red Cross. The scrapbooks also document fund drives and additional newspaper clippings as well as some photographs and correspondence.
Restrictions on Access :
The collection is open to the public.Preferred Citation :
Whatcom County Chapter of the American National Red Cross Records, Center for Pacific Northwest Studies, Heritage Resources, Western Washington University, Bellingham WA 98225-9123.
The Whatcom County Chapter of the American National Red Cross records are organized in accordance with the following series and subseries arrangement:
Detailed Description of the Collection
The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.
Legal and property materials deal primarily with the construction of the new chapter building in 1961. In addition, they document the transfer of a residential property to the chapter as requested in the last will and testament of Delilah A. Mitchell upon her death in 1953.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in the online catalog. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.