Over There, Over Here – Rhode Islanders in the Great War
PROVIDENCE, RI – Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea has opened Over There, Over Here – Rhode Islanders in the Great War. The exhibition is the second in her four-part series exploring how activism in Rhode Island has shaped our history and influenced national civic conversations.
"The power of having such a rich and robust State Archives is that it serves as our very own time capsule that we can open at any time to see how the actions – big and small – by concerned citizenry can shape our history," Secretary Gorbea said. "We have so much to be proud of in Rhode Island's history and this exhibition series is a great opportunity to encourage civic pride and participation among all Rhode Islanders."
In Over There, Over Here, archival documents tell the story of everyday Rhode Islanders enlisted to serve in the armed forces and those who supported the war effort at home. For example, within two months of the U.S. declaration of war on Germany, over 50,000 Rhode Island men had registered to serve in the armed forces. For the first time, women, too, were given the opportunity to enlist. The Navy and Marine Corps designated women as Yeomen; in the Army women served in the Nurse and Signal Corps.
Rhode Islanders unable to serve "over there" found ways to support the war effort at home. Women were particularly active, raising money for troops, filling jobs left vacant by soldiers, and adopting food conservation measures so that America could increase its food aid to war ravaged Europe. In Providence, students from local high schools joined the Signal Corps. They took oaths "to perform… as though I were a soldier of my country" and wore armbands and pins to distinguish them while on duty.
To complement its holdings of documents, photographs and vintage posters, the Rhode Island State Archives secured loans from the Rhode Island Historical Society, the Bristol Train of Artillery, and a private collector.
The exhibition will run May through July 28, 2017.
The Rhode Island State Archives, a part of the Rhode Island Department of State, is open to the public Monday through Friday, 8:30 to 4:30 at 337 Westminster Street in downtown Providence. Validated parking is available adjacent to the building at InTown Parking.
Additional images from the exhibition can be viewed online at the State Archives' Virtual Exhibitions page at http://sos.ri.gov/virtualarchives/.