World War I diary kept by a young, wide-eyed independent woman who left her home in Iowa for a Civil Service job in Washington, DC. Cora Lorenz.
World War I diary kept by a young, wide-eyed independent woman who left her home in Iowa for a Civil Service job in Washington, DC
World War I diary kept by a young, wide-eyed independent woman who left her home in Iowa for a Civil Service job in Washington, DC
World War I diary kept by a young, wide-eyed independent woman who left her home in Iowa for a Civil Service job in Washington, DC
World War I diary kept by a young, wide-eyed independent woman who left her home in Iowa for a Civil Service job in Washington, DC

World War I diary kept by a young, wide-eyed independent woman who left her home in Iowa for a Civil Service job in Washington, DC

Washington, DC: 1917-1918. Album. This diary measures 3¾“ x 6” is completely filled with entries (some with small drawings) made between 30 Aug 1917 and 12 May 1918, except for five pages in the rear, three of which document a problem she had with a supervisor and two listing Christmas gifts. The pages are soundly bound together. Half of the spine cover is missing, and the cover is barely attached. The rear cover is creased, and the rear fixed endpaper torn. Otherwise, in nice shape.

Lorenze's writing is concise, informative, and entertaining. Although suffering through bouts of loneliness, job anxiety, and severe cramping, it’s clear that Cora is proud of her work and immensely enjoying life in Washington. After arriving in DC, she first boarded with an Italian matron whom she could barely understand. Although her meals were sufficient, they made the house “smell,” and she fought a never-ending battle with bed bugs that invaded her room. Eventually, Cora found another boarding house (“homelike, I feel more like living”) with American food to her liking, “My we had a good meal tonight mashed potatoes, steak, corn fritters, and chocolate pudding.”

It appears she worked as an acquisitions clerk in the Navy Yard, mostly organizing and filing specification sheets and blueprints related to military contracts. She especially liked working with aviation files and developed an appreciation for airplanes and pilots; her diary contains a number of entries mentioning aircraft and describing air shows.

While in town, Cora took advantage of lectures and shows and visited most of the tourist highlights. She described her visits to all of them including the Washington Monument (her heart went “pittapat” when she saw the Iowa presentation stone), the Smithsonian, Corcoran Art Gallery, Ford’s Theater, house where Lincoln died, Rock Creek Park, Great Falls, the Botanical Garden and many more. She was fascinated by the Capitol and thrilled to see the Supreme Court in action. She took some time getting used to the big city (hating the pollution and occasionally getting lost) and found the “strange faces” (Italians, Spanish, Chinese, etc.) fascinating and the large numbers of “coons” and “darkies” surprising.

Some of her entries include:

Sep 12, 1917 – “[Attended] a ‘Spanish’ evening where there 8 gentlemen and 9 ladies . . . all so courteous and gallant. I have never perceived an evening like it.”

Sep 26, 1917 – "Saw an aeroplane right close . . . Italian Caponine"

Oct 13, 1917 – “I went to hear Susa’s band made up of 250 boys of the Navy-they came from Great Lakes training station and the music was beautiful. . .. The whole block and street . . . was a mass of people 10 or 15,000. . .. The market house was filled with darkies.”

Oct 23, 1917 – “You can only get two lbs of sugar now . . . Federal Officers . . . discovered 150 carloads in a Buffalo warehouse."

Nov 9, 1917 – “Tonight we listened to Dr. Vorosabun a Russian who was in the Navy on the Baltic sea on a large vessel which he said was a good target for submarines he says the nations are all alike in deeds of cruelty. . ..”

Dec 9, 1917 – “I went to a mass meeting of the Suffragist. Dudley Field Malone was the speaker about 100 of the pickets who had been in prison were on the stage.”

Dec 22, 1917 – “Going to N.Y. . .. Having a new experience. The station is black with negroes. . .. “

Dec 24, 1917 – “went to Chinatown passed Mulberry street where the Italians sleep on the street in warm weather. Passed down the Bowery . . . a very poor street but some of the wealthiest Jews have their shops down there and the best diamonds in the world. . ..”

Jan. 2, 1918 - “Went to ‘Intolerance’ Didn’t like it as well as ‘Birth of a Nation'."

Jan 21, 1918 – “Night of the Navy Yard Rally at last. . .. A pledge of loyalty was signed 9000 . . . to present to President Wilson. . .. Billy Sunday offered prayer – I laughed with others. The crowd applauded time and time again so that he had to reappear before the program could go on. . .. "

Jan 26, 1918 – “were not allowed to pass out . . . until we were vaccinated how I hated to have it done. We were taken to the men’s toilet. The man vaccinated me without sterilizing the place and when I told him he had it washed over”

Feb 4, 1918 – “My the coons in this town get me. I stand on platform car with coons to the left, right, front, back, on top & on my toes!”

Feb 28, 1918 – “I then went to the Capitol was in the house about 20 minutes. They didn’t impress me as a learned bunch at all. . ..”

Mar. 24, 1918 – “I went to the flying field. My it was the time of my life. Saw an airplane at close range. . .. Lt. Flachaire (a French ace) did the ‘falling leaf’ ‘banking’ spiral dive loop the loop. . .. Two hydroplanes circled with him. . .. I picked out the parts as I had learned much of them in Spec. Sec. ‘landing gears’ propellers, struts, wings, rudder, fuselage, cockpit. . .. "

Apr 26, 1918 – “This has been one great day-I’ve see a mammoth parade on Pennsylvania Ave then to the Ellipse where Ruth Law (a record-setting early female aviator) was landing. We saw her flying for 15 mins Her seat is out on two beams with out protection the fuselage gives other aviators. We went over [and] saw her ‘bank’ and ‘loop’ and nosedive. . .. She autographed the bonds she sold.”.

Very good. Item #009519

A terrific first-hand record of Washington DC during the First World War seen through the wide-eyes of a young Midwestern woman who had set out on her own to participate in the war effort.

Price: $850.00

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