Mary Hayden Burgess: “Doughnut Dolly” of the American Red Cross

March is Red Cross month, proclaimed by its honorary chairman, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in March 1943. The American Red Cross has been supporting the troops since the 1890s.  Its operations, since the attack on Pearl Harbor, expanded in more areas than service to the hospitals.  Services were added to “fulfill the mandates of its 1905 congressional charter requiring that the organization “furnish volunteer aid to the sick and wounded armies in time of war” and to “act in matters of voluntary relief in accord with the military and naval authorities as a medium of communication between the people of the United States of America and their Army and Navy.”[1]The services to the Armed Forces consisted of camp, club, and hospital services. 

Mary Hayden Burgess was part of the Club service, which provided the “service men with food, entertainment, and a “connection home.”[2]

Red Cross portrait of Mary Hayden Burgess.
Box 4, Henry A. and Mary Hayden Burgess papers, Coll. # 12791, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

The Club service included the Clubmobiles, which were converted GMC trucks outfitted so the three women operating each clubmobile, could make donuts, serve coffee, offer cigarettes, gum, candy and first aid kits.  Later they got the nickname “donut dollies” because making donuts was their main task.[3]

Mary with her team.
Box 5, Henry A. and Mary Hayden Burgess papers, Coll. #12791, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Mary serving coffee, donuts, and candy.
Box 5, Henry A. and Mary Hayden Burgess papers, Coll. #12791, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Mary and her colleague offering the usual goodies.
Box 5, Henry A. and Mary Hayden Burgess papers, coll. #12791, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Mary was part of Group C and like other groups, it traveled through Great Britain and Europe. After the invasion of Normandy, ten groups of Red Cross Clubmobile girls with eight Clubmobiles per group were sent into France. From then on out, the Clubmobiles traveled with the rear echelon of the Army Corps and received their orders from the Army.”[4]

Map of Group C’s Route.
Box 4, Henry A. and Mary Hayden Burgess papers, Coll. #12791, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

They provided entertainment such as music by playing records with a Victrola.[5] Later they were able to play movies for the service men using the Cinemobiles. When the USO tour (United Service Organizations) came to France, Mary’s team helped organize performances, including the popular singer, Dinah Shore.

Box 5, Henry A. and Mary Hayden Burgess papers, Coll. #12791, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Mary taking time to get photographed with her colleague and Dinah Shore.
Box 4, Henry A. and Mary Hayden Burgess papers, Coll. #12791, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Mary’s experience with the Red Cross also included the privilege to work at the Rainbow Corner, the largest club and the “most famous …Whose doors never shut and where up to 60,000 meals could be served in a single 24-hour period.”[6]

Article relating Mary’s experience with the Red Cross.
Box 4, Henry A. and Mary Hayden Burgess papers, Coll. #12791, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Service men gathered in front of the Rainbow Corner.
Box 5, Henry A. and Mary Hayden Burgess papers, Coll. #12797, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

To learn more about the operations of the American Red Cross Clubmobiles, see the Henry A. and Mary Hayden Burgess papers at the American heritage Center.

Post contributed by AHC Processing Archivist Alexandra Cardin.

#alwaysarchiving


[1] American Red Cross. “World War II and the American Red Cross.” American Red Cross, undated, https://www.redcross.org/about-us/who-we-are/history.html.

[2] Wikipedia. “American Red Cross Clubmobile Service”.  American Red Cross Clubmobile Service, 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Red_Cross_Clubmobile_Service#cite_note-1

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] American Red Cross. “World War II and the American Red Cross.” American Red Cross, undated, https://www.redcross.org/about-us/who-we-are/history.html.

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1 Response to Mary Hayden Burgess: “Doughnut Dolly” of the American Red Cross

  1. Fano says:

    Great!!! Thanks a lot for sharing this.

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