Make Black History Personal: #8 My Grandmother’s Role in World War I

Although I have searched for male African-American ancestors who gave military service in America, I have yet to discover any who did. But my maternal grandmother, Hazel Edna Weaver stepped up during World War I to give service by answering the call to work for the Red Cross.

red cross sign Make Black History Personal: #8 My Grandmothers Role in World War I

Reproduction of the kind of Red Cross recruitment sign my grandmother might have seen circa 1918.

The first Black woman to become a Red Cross nurse was Frances Reed Elliot Davis from Knoxville, Tennessee. She was initially rejected by the Red Cross but was later accepted into nursing service in 1918. African-American women weren’t allowed to become military nurses until after that war was over, so joining the Red Cross was as close as Frances Davis could get to giving service during WWI.

Frances Elliot Davis Make Black History Personal: #8 My Grandmothers Role in World War I

Frances Elliot Davis, 1st Black nurse in the Red Cross. Photo:

After Mrs. Davis paved the way, my grandmother volunteered for the Red Cross too. At the time of the photo below, taken around 1918, Grandma would have been in her late twenties. I’m proud that, as a young Black woman who did not even have the right to vote yet, my grandmother was still willing to help the war effort by serving her country back home.

Grandma Hazel WWI Make Black History Personal: #8 My Grandmothers Role in World War I

My maternal grandmother Hazel Weaver as a Red Cross volunteer, circa 1918.

How can you make Black history personal? 

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Karen Batchelor About Karen Batchelor

Karen Batchelor is a genealogist and founder of where she blogs about more than three decades of climbing her family tree. Learn more about her here and connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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