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Red Cross Home Service Institutes — Richmond School of Social Economy.

Red Cross Home Service Institutes During World War I

Alice W. Campbell, Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries


During the fall of 1917, the American Red Cross organized to support families of soldiers and sailors serving in the Great War. While much of this work would be carried out by volunteers, the Red Cross sought the assistance of social work educators to provide rapid, intensive training for the women who would lead this army of Home Service volunteers.

At a September 5, 1917 conference held in the Raleigh Hotel in Washington, D.C. the Red Cross and a group of prominent social workers, including Henry H. Hibbs, Jr. of the Richmond School of Social Economy, agreed upon a plan for a six-week course of instruction to be conducted at locations across the nation. These Red Cross Institutes were to be held in cooperation with Chapters of the Red Cross. Local directors were appointed by the Director General of Civilian Relief of the National Red Cross, W. Frank Persons. For those unable to attend a six-week Institute, extension or Chapter courses were planned.

Three sessions of the Red Cross Home Service Institute were held at the Richmond School of Social Economy (soon renamed the School of Social Work and Public Health). Fifty-two students attended the three Institutes which were discontinued by the 1919-1920 school year. Students desiring training for Home Service work thereafter were advised to take two courses in the Department of Social Work. (Third Annual Catalogue: 1919-1920, p. 8).



Red Cross Institute, May 1918
Richmond School of Social Economy
Image: Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries, Special Collections and Archives



Six Weeks’ Intensive Course of Training Is Planned by National Board.


Director of Richmond School of Social Economy Returns From Conference With Headquarters’ Officials in Washington.


Dr. H. H. Hibbs, Jr., director of the Richmond School of Social Economy, returned last night from Washington, where he was called by W. F. Persons, director-general of civilian relief of the American Red Cross, to confer with social workers and educators from all over the country concerning the problem of providing opportunities for the training of the leaders in civilian relief work in the 2,5000 Red Cross chapters in the country. Mr. Persons in his letter of invitation  stated that the experience of Canada had shown that the task of the Red Cross in caring for the families of soldiers at the front would be an enormous one, certainly a task much greater than most people realize.

After the war is over and the soldiers return home the Red Cross chapters will have an equally great task in the re-education of the maimed and permanently disabled for new occupations. He also made it clear that the experience of Canada had shown that the vast amount of this home service work must be done by volunteers without previous training or experience. To overcome this difficulty and to provide an opportunity for the training of the thousands of women willing to volunteer their services, the national headquarters had decided to establish throughout the country a chain of home service institutes for the training of civilian relief workers. The meeting in Washington was called to complete the organization of these training schools.


The instututes will be held in the various divisions of the Red Cross in each section of the country. The institute for Virginia, and possibly also for North Carolina, will be held in Richmond by the Richmond School of Social Economy in co-operation with the civilian relief committee of the Richmond Chapter of which Mrs. Henry E. Baskervill is chairman. The course of training will extend over a period of six week and the student will be required to give his full time to the work. The institute will open about November 1. Dr. H. H. Hibbs has been appointed director of the institute and Miss Loomis Logan supervisor of field work.

The courses in the institute are planned for the training of leaders in the civilian relief work of the various chapters who will be expected to return to their homes prepared to supervise the work of untrained volunteers. Later extension courses from four to six weeks, but not requiring full time of the student, will be arranged. Full details as to both the extension courses and the Home Service Institute will be announced later from national headquarters.


It was made clear at the conference that the national headquarters of the Red Cross regarded these institutes for the training of home service workers as of the utmost importance. An effort will be made by the national organization to see that every chapter in the country sends a representative for the six weeks’ course of training. In order that the instruction may be of the best the number of students attending each session of the institute will be limited.

Henry P. Davison, chairman of the war council of the Red Cross, also emphasized the importance of the civilian relief work of the Red Cross. He told the delegates that, while the work of Red Cross nurses at the front and then knitting and first-aid another work of the local chapters at home was, perhaps, more spectacular at this time than civilian relief work among soldiers’ families, that it was of no less importance. He said that the war council appreciated the importance of home service and would do every possible to build it up.


C. C. Pinckney has been made director of camp service at Camp Lee for the national Red Cross. He will be in charge of the supply house for hospital supplies for emergency cases. Together with State officers of the Red Cross, Mr. Pinckney and four of the national committee spent Thursday at Camp Lee.

A committee from Jetersville, Amelia County, was in the city yesterday to arrange the details of organizing an auxiliary branch of the Richmond Red Cross, of which Mrs. Southall Farrar will be chairman. This auxiliary purposes to make hospital shirts and pillowslips. At a recent entertainment $39 was realized with which to purchase materials.



(1917 September 8). Richmond Times-Dispatch, p. 8.


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For further reading: 

American Red Cross, Social Welfare History Project

World War I and the American Red Cross [PDF]. American Red Cross

U. S. Red Cross Spreads Work. Decides at Meeting Last Night to Give Students Intensive Training. (1917 September 6). The Washington herald. (Washington, D.C.),  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress.

Persons, W. F. (1918). The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science77(1), 171–184.

Persons, W. F. (1918 March 9). Home Service. The Work of the American Red Cross in the United States. The Survey, 39, 631-632.

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