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Interpreting the Evidence

American Red Cross Parade, New York City

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    World War I

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    New York City
    New York State
    United States

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load American Red Cross Parade, New York City, October 4, 1917 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
American Red Cross nurses parade down New York City's Fifth Avenue on October 4, 1917.
Historical Context
By 1917, following U.S. entry into WWI, Fifth Avenue in New York City had become the home of numerous parades used to rouse patriotism and support of the war.  Fifth Avenue was one of the most well-known boulevards in America at the time and it was used for preparedness campaigns even before the U.S. entered the war.  As a result, the avenue became known as the “Avenue of the Allies.”  Various parades (soldiers parading, liberty bond drives, etc.) were used to help increase support for the war.  The American Red Cross conducted a parade of 15,000 nurses all dressed in the well known white uniform down Fifth Avenue on October 4, 1917.  Nurses from Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island, Westchester County, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Washington all marched in the parade that was being held in honor of nurses that had already been sent to the front or who were about to see service in the war.  There was even an entire corps of nurses marching that had already seen action abroad and who were about to return to their duties oversees.  In this photo, the nurses are passing in front of the New York Public Library. New York City police estimated that more than 300,000 New Yorkers attended this Red Cross Parade.  Parades continued to grow in size and popularity as the war continued. A later Red Cross parade held in 1918 and led by President Wilson attracted 75,000 American participants who marched down Fifth Avenue decorated with Red Cross flags, American flags, and flags of the Allied nations. 15,000 nurses and women associated with the field marched in this 1918 parade.  Parades like the two noted helped draw attention to the needs of the Red Cross and helped raise money for the war effort, as well as draw in recruits for the nursing service. 
Essential Question
How do non-profit organizations contribute in times of conflict and turmoil?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and evaluate the impact on the general public.
Historical Challenges
What other parades were held on the “Avenue of the Allies” during the war? Why was this such an important location?
Interdisciplinary Connections
English Language Arts: Create an “interview” of one of the nurses marching in the parade that has already been sent to the front and is about to go back.