Women on the War Front: Central Texas Women in World War I and World War II

Major Henry does paperwork at her desk in this undated photo

Major Isabella Henry does paperwork at her desk in this undated photo

Throughout World War I and World War II, in addition to the men who were deemed heroes for their military service, women also served pivotal roles in war efforts and support. Last week, in celebration of Women’s History Month, we looked at Lula Pace, a Central Texas woman who pioneered the way for female scientists and professors at Baylor. This week, we highlight two more interesting Central Texas women, Roxie Henderson and Isabella M. Henry, who served overseas during World War I and World War II.

World War I postcard: American Red Cross

World War I postcard: American Red Cross; from the Roxie Henderson collection

Roxie Henderson was born in West, Texas, and attended Baylor University from 1917-1920, earning her bachelor’s degree in education. While at Baylor, Henderson was an active member of the Baylor student community, serving as the secretary for the Overseas Club. Henderson then filled those travel aspirations by serving overseas, mostly in France, as a member of the American Red Cross during World War I.

While abroad, Henderson maintained contact with Baylor University through the university’s student newspaper, the Lariat. She wrote about her observations of the war and about her experiences while serving in the American Red Cross. In World War I, the American Red Cross played a critical role in the war by helping staff hospitals and serving ambulance companies while also providing national and international relief. Throughout World War I, more than eighteen thousand Red Cross nurses served throughout Europe.

Baylor Lariat, May 29, 1919

This issue of the Lariat student newspaper includes excerpts from a letter by Roxie Henderson, who served in the American Red Cross during WWI. She wrote, “My work in the hospitals was rich in experience. The spirit of the men and their appreciation of small services was wonderful. I truly hope these men will not be disappointed in the American girls.”

After the completion of her service, Henderson returned to the Waco area and resided in Hill County. The Roxie Henderson collection includes a variety of collected items, including the bible Henderson used during her service, an autograph book, historical signatures, letters, postcards, and periodicals produced during World War I.

Certificate appointing Isabella Henry First Lieutenant in the Women's Army Corps, 1948

Certificate appointing Isabella Henry First Lieutenant in the Women’s Army Corps, 1948

During World War II, Isabella Martin Henry, like Henderson, served overseas. Henry was born in Waco, Texas on September 27, 1910, and went on to an extremely successful career in the United States Armed forces throughout and after World War II. Since Henry had no dependents, she was able to enlist in the Women’s Army Corps in 1942. She was later appointed to the rank of Third Officer in January 1943. In December 1948, Henry was eventually promoted to First Lieutenant in the Women’s Army Corps. She also received honors including the Army Commendation ribbon and a Certificate of Achievement from the United States Continental Army Command.

Henry served in the armed forces for 19 years. After the completion of her military service, Henry returned to Waco. Upon her death, her sister, Mary Catherine Henry, donated her papers to The Texas Collection. The manuscripts include correspondence concerning her time in the military, her military personal records, certificates, news clippings, and portraits of Isabella.

These two collections shed light on the roles a few women from Central Texas played in the war effort. The Isabella M. Henry papers and the Roxie Henderson collection both are open for research at The Texas Collection.

By Mary Ellen Stanley, graduate assistant at The Texas Collection and museum studies master’s candidate

This entry was posted in Baylor University, Isabella Henry, Red Cross, Roxie Henderson, United States history, United States Women's Army Corps, Waco, World War I, World War II. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Women on the War Front: Central Texas Women in World War I and World War II

  1. Pingback: Research Ready: March 2013 | The Texas Collection

  2. Ocia Jeffries says:

    I am researching Texas women who served in any capacity in WWI who died in service in the war. Do know of any Texas women who died during the war or do you know of any source that I might research?
    Thank you,
    Ocia Jeffries
    obrink22@yahoo.com

    • Amanda Norman says:

      Hi Ocia, thanks for your question. Our manuscripts archivist and our librarian looked but did not find anything pertinent to your research in our collections. You may already have seen this, but our librarian did find in the Handbook of Texas entry on World War I that “450 Texas women served as nurses. One nurse and 5,170 Texans died in the armed services; 4,748 of the dead served in the army. More than a third of the total deaths occurred inside the United States, many of them as a result of the influenza epidemic of 1918.” You might consult the sources listed in that entry’s bibliography to see if you can find more information about that one nurse. Failing that, the National Archives in Fort Worth has government records relating to World War I and might be able to assist you. Good luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>