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Irene Farrell

Red Cross Canteen Worker

Daughter of Frances Hoyt Farrell and James Randolf Farrell
Born August 25, 1888, in Oakland, CA; died 1976
Adult height 4'10"

Documentary materials provided by

Dianne Johnston Garcia, relative and goddaughter of Irene Farrell

  • Only child, raised in Oakland, CA; doted on by her family
    • Note—President Abraham Lincoln appointed her grandfather, Major James T. Hoyt, Quartermaster General of troops stationed in San Francisco during the Civil War.
    • Note—her grandmother Irene Bullen, came to California with her husband in 1860. She was a direct descendant of Ann Boleyn, second Queen to King Henry VIII of England [Dianne Garcia, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 13 April 2009]
    • Note—her father was a mining engineer who did work in Arizona, Africa, Mexico, and Central and South America. In the East Congo area of Africa he developed the King Solomon Mine; his report on that work earned him a commendation from the British government's Earl Grey [Dianne Garcia, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 13 April 2009]
  • She came from a well-connected family
  • Debutante as a young girl; she attended boarding school in England; graduated with a degree in Library Science from U.C., Berkeley
  • Irene Farrell was elderly when Dianne knew her; for example, Farrell was seventy when Dianne was about ten; but Irene remained active and was a traveler and adventurer [Dianne Garcia, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 13 April 2009]
Red Cross Canteen Worker
  • At age 30 and single Irene signed up for the Red Cross in 1919. In March 1919 she departed Oakland, CA, by train for New York, where she boarded a ship for France [Dianne Garcia, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 13 April 2009]
    • Note—Of all the opportunities women had for service in WWI, Red Cross workers wore, according to Irene, the most desirable uniforms. She wrote of the "heavy overseas leather belt, which we immediately purchased. They set our uniforms off very much. I really think the R. C. uniform quite good looking. Anyway, it is the best looking of all the women's organizations over here and they are numerous." [Irene Farrell, letter to Dearest Family, ts., 5 May 1919]
  • Family agreed to let her go for several reasons. She had been away before (at a boarding school in England); the flu pandemic was in the US and had passed through Europe; because men had been returning from the war, jobs were scarce; Irene's cousin Grace Graham (b 1892), who was already working for the YWCA in Coblenz, Germany, had been petitioning Irene's family to let Irene participate in post-war work in Europe. Also, Irene's father was having financial problems "and having one less member of the household to care for financially was a consideration." [Dianne Garcia, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 13 April 2009]
  • Wrote letters to her mother and grandmother at least twice weekly; collection = about 150 letters and about 75 photographs
  • Canteen workers in Tours, France, for five months—her first day as a canteen worker in France was in Tours on April 22, 1919; her last day was August 2, 1919.
  • After August 2, 1919, Farrell was sent to Paris with the American Red Cross where, until November 1920, she did filing work (as an administrative assistant), attached to Major Payson, Director of Supplies for the Commission for Europe. [Dianne Garcia, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 13 April 2009]
  • Met a U. S. Lt., Engineers, who apparently opposed U. S. participation in Wilson's proposed League of Nations. Speaking of Wilson and the League, Farrell wrote, "He hasn't much use for either; his one thought was to get out of this Country and get home. Most of the Americans have that same idea, but not any stronger than the French. They want the Americans to leave and I don't blame them. It must be hard to have a lot of strangers come in & take absolute charge of a whole district as the Americans have around Tours." [Irene Farrell, letter to Dearest Family, ts, 19 April 1919]
  • She notes that the Tours area called St. Pierre des Corps "is the intersecting point of the American railroads coming from Brest, Bordeaux, and St. Nagaire," and that troops which went through there to get to the front are now going through there to reach embarkation points for home. American soldiers tell her "how they hate the 'frogs' and the 'frog country' and . . . their experiences at the front." [Irene Farrell, letter to Dearest Family, ts., 24 April 1919]
Influenza Pandemic
  • Writes of Americans dying of the flu in Tours, two hundred died in February 1919. The number were "mostly Privates, a few officers and 3 girls—2 army nurses and 1 Red Cross Canteen worker." [Irene Farrell, letter to Dearest Family, ts., 19 April 1919]
Steps Toward Equality
  • Serving in the Red Cross during the war gave women an opportunity to experience a new level of respect. "All the Doughboys salute you as you pass. It is a most odd sensation. The other day I was walking down one of the quaint little streets & met a Captain coming up at the head of about 25 doughboys. The Capt. & boys all saluted me as they passed. I felt as important as Genl. Pershing." [Irene Farrell, letter to Dearest Family, ts., 19 April, 1919]
  • Transferred to Paris because of her clerical skills—there for fifteen months at YWCA Hostess House, Hotel du Palais Royal, 4 Rue de Valois, Paris
    • Note—this 18th century hotel is still in business
Professional Conduct of Women
  • Women were expected to maintain an aloofness from the soldiers. "You have to remember you are working with a lot of homesick men. . . . It is no place for a silly or indiscreet girl for all you have to do is to smile at a boy and he lays his heart at your feet. Two girls at St. Pierre were sent home a few weeks ago for actions on the platform when the troop trains were in." [Irene Farrell, letter to Dearest Mother, ts., 2 June 1919]
Visit to Verdun
  • On Saturday, All Saints Day, 1919, Farrell and three other "girls" had a holiday weekend and decided to visit Verdun and the Argonne. They went by train from Paris to Chalons, and then by another train from Chalons to Verdun. Farrell notes that on All Saints Day "the whole of France would be visiting her dead and the battlefields of the French front." As a result the Paris station was "packed with all kinds from the wealthy to the peasants, all with flowers and head wreaths." [Irene Farrell, letter to Dearest Family, ts., 5 November 1919] They visited the Romagne Cemetery. She notes that "The Y.W.C.A. has a Hostess House at Romagne to receive the American parents who are coming over to visit their sons' graves. . . . The Cemetery is one of the most wonderful spots I have ever seen—our National Monument to the boys who fell in the Argonne. It is to be like Arlington. I don't know when I have seen any place or thing which impressed me more than that American Cemetery there on the hillside in the Argonne. . . ." [Irene Farrell, letter to Dearest Mother, ts., 2 June 1919]
    • Note—Dianne has her identification bracelet (Red Cross Worker #7621) and RC hat and apron
Meeting General John J. Pershing in St. Pierre
  • "He is very fine looking, quite a large man. Much better looking with his hat on as he is getting quite bald. But I am glas to have seen him as close as at St. Pierre and to have shaken hands and said a few personal words." [Irene Farrell, letter to Dearest Mother, ts, 9 June 1919]
Return to the U. S.
  • "It really is time the men were going home. They are getting into very bad habits for the lack of doing nothing." [Irene Farrell, letter to Dearest Mother, ts, 9 June 1919]
Marriage to Ross Browne Hoffman
  • Irene (age 50) married Ross Browne Hoffman (age 74) in 1938. They knew each other before and during WWI, though there is no evidence of a romantic relationship. [Dianne Garcia, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 13 April 2009]
  • Ross and his mother, Lucy Mayotta Browne Hoffman, visited Irene in Paris at least twice while Irene served in the ARC
    • Note—Ross' father, Charles F. Hoffmann (1838-1913), was also a mining engineer and cartographer. In the 1860s and 1870s Charles F. Hoffmann served as cartographer for the Josiah Whitney Survey of California's Sierra Nevada Range. A peak in Yosemite National Park is named for him. Hoffmann became a professor of topographical engineering at Harvard in the 1870s.
    • Note—Irene's father was an admirer of Ross' father Charles Hoffmann, as well as Ross' grandfather, J. Ross Browne. Browne had come to California during the Gold Rush in 1849 and served as reporter at the California State Constitutional Convention, which took place in Monterey. In 1868 President Andrew Johnson appointed Browne as the first U. S. minister to China. In 1868 Browne published for the House of Representatives a voluminous report entitled Mineral Resources of the Pacific States. That publication became a bible for mining engineers for many years [Dianne Garcia, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 13 April 2009]
  • Irene and Ross lived in Carmel where Ross continued his career as a mining engineer. The cottage owned by Irene and Ross (at the southwest corner of Casanova and 10th Streets) was eventually purchased by Dianne and Tom Garcia. [Dianne Garcia, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 13 April 2009]
    • Note—the cottage, built in 1925, is a historical landmark, partly because of the architects who built it, Hugh Comstock and Michael Murphy. Comstock was Ross' cousin. [Dianne Garcia, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 13 April 2009]
  • Ross died in 1951 (age 87) and Irene thereafter divided her time between Carmel and San Francisco
  • Irene died in 1976 (age 88); Dianne was 25 years of age
Purchase of Carmel Cottage
  • Dianne and husband Tom and Dianne's sister and brother-in-law purchased the cottage from Dianne's mother's estate. With Dianne's sister and Tom's brother, Dianne and Tom remodeled the cottage in 2003, following California historical guidelines; the cottage is named "Trilogy" [Dianne Garcia, e-mail to Frank Mazzi, 13 April 2009]
    • Note—Three reasons explain the name "Trilogy" for the cottage. First, three master builders were involved in its construction—Michael Murphy in 1925 had the largest role in the design and building of the cottage; Hugh Comstock added a room to the cottage in 1945; and Al Saroyan made some changes in 2003. Second, three generations of the family have occupied it. Third, the home design includes three prominent roof gables. [Dianne Garcia, e-mails to Frank Mazzi, 26 May and 27 May 2009]