September 1917

One hundred years ago this month, on September 10th, 1917, Marjorie Lyon left her family in Bristol and traveled to Columbia, South Carolina. The evening before, she had celebrated her 34th birthday (three days early) with her family at Blithewold. But she was anxious to spend some time with her husband George who was training new recruits at Camp Jackson. She booked herself into the Jefferson Hotel in Columbia and looked forward to spending her real birthday (September 12th) with George.  That morning a large bouquet of beautiful flowers was delivered to her room and George picked her up in his rented car to give her a tour of his quarters at the camp and meet his colleagues. They later drove out to the Ridgewood Golf and Country Club for a special dinner. As they watched the sun setting through the pine trees, Marjorie commented that it was a lovely ending to her birthday. George was shocked — he had not remembered it was her birthday!

After a few days, Marjorie decided she liked Columbia and wanted to stay there as long as George was stationed at Camp Jackson.  She rented a room in a private home a few miles from the camp, but soon realized she would see very little of George. She thus decided to look for useful war work herself, and made enquiries at the Red Cross headquarters in the city. She was asked to take charge of the Home Services Institute and given the title Head of Civilian Relief Work. She had an office with a typewriter, a telephone, and a small support staff and was made responsible for 31 local families — all military families with special needs. Her work was so valued, and the need so great, that she was later assigned new families, bringing the total number of families served to 121. She was too busy to go home to Boston for Thanksgiving, but she and George traveled home together in December and spent Christmas at Blithewold. She wrote later, “What a wonderful time we had. And wasn’t it lucky we could all be together in dear Blithewold. I wonder if the old place realizes how much I love it?”

This was the beginning of 40 years of service to the American Red Cross, through two world wars and in peacetime. When Marjorie retired in 1957 it was announced at her farewell dinner that she had driven an estimated 150,000 miles for the organization.


Marjorie Lyon in her Red Cross uniform