“In 1914, when the war broke out, Anne and her two friends [Miss Elisabeth Marbury and Miss Elsie de Wolf] were vacationing in Savoie,” Diane Dillon, The Newberry Library’s Interim Vice President for Research and Academic Programs, explained. “Anne remained in Paris with Elsie, and they decided to devote themselves to war work, serving the Allied cause. Anne Morgan traveled back and forth across the Atlantic to raise funds and rally support for this work.”
While in the U.S., in 1915, Miss Morgan published her only book, The American Girl: Her Education, Her Responsibility, Her Recreation, Her Future. In 1916, Miss Morgan and Miss De Wolf funded Cole Porter’s first Broadway musical See America First, which Miss Marbury produced. A spoof of George M. Cohan’s patriotic musicals, it flopped.
In 1915, Miss Morgan and Isabel Lathrop founded the American Fund for the French Wounded (A.F.F.W.) “to provide medical supplies to French hospitals and send parcels to wounded soldiers,” as the American Friends of Blérancourt explained. Miss Morgan and Miss De Wolf converted the Villa Trianon into a convalescent home for soldiers. In July of 1916, they visited front-line hospitals at Somme and Verdun to confirm American donations went where they were supposed to go.
Miss Morgan founded the Civilian Section of the A.F.F.W. with Mrs. Anne Murray Dike (1879-1929), a physician, in New York City, to help civilians neat the front-lines. The French Government soon recognized the Civilian Section of the A.F.F.W. and it opened an office in Paris.
General (later Marshal) Henri-Philippe Pétain (1856-1951) had his headquarters in Compiègne, “and, believing it was imperative that Picardie be repopulated and rebuilt as quickly as possible, he placed the new arrivals under [French] Army jurisdiction and housed them in barracks set up among the remains of the Château of Blérancourt,” according to the American Friends of Blérancourt.
The Château de Blérancourt had been in ruins even before the German Imperial Army had occupied it. The center of her work during World War I, Blérancourt became Miss Morgan’s favorite French town.
In 1919, Miss Morgan founded the American Committee for Devastated France, known in France as Comité Américain pour les Régions Dévastées de France (C.A.R.D.) with Mrs. Dike. They raised $5,000,000 for food, medical supplies, and rebuilding projects, including $75,000 she raised as a boxing promoter. In 1921, Miss Morgan arranged a boxing match between lightweight boxers Benny Leonard (1896-1947) and Ritchie Mitchell (1895-1949) at the original Madison Square Garden.
According to The Morgan Library & Museum, “Committee applicants were required to speak French, hold a driver’s license, and—in most cases—pay their own expenses, which could amount to $1,500 for a typical six-month stint. The requisite blue martial uniforms could be made to order for $45 at B. Altman Co.”
The organization American Friends of Blérancourt compared the seventeen volunteers the Civilian Division of A.F.F.W. had in 1917-18 with the 350 women who had volunteered with C.A.R.D., usually for periods of about six months, by 1923. “With the funds raised it was now possible to employ needed professional skills: doctors, nurses, construction workers (both French and American), then later, librarians and sports directors.”
Miss Morgan and C.A.R.D. volunteers visited villages throughout Picardy (spelled Picardie in French), a northern region of France, to find out what people needed and brought it to them. They re-constructed villages, opened hospitals and medical clinics, created educational programs, and helped farmers reintroduce agriculture to the ruined landscape.
According to American Friends of Blérancourt, “The Committee’s nurses were largely recruited from the Florence Nightingale School in Bordeaux, ensuring that they had an academic background as well as practical experience. The goal was to make of each of these centers a complete social organism with low cost stores, clinics, and libraries. Children’s programs with lessons in domestic skills as well as carpentry and construction were combined with sports programs…The visiting nurse services throughout Picardie are active today under local administration but still are remembered as a contribution initiated by CARD.”
C.A.R.D. introduced public libraries and bookmobiles in Picardy. According to The Morgan Library & Museum, “Partnering with Jessie Carson, a librarian at the New York Public Library and chair of the businesswomen’s unit of the National League for Women’s Service, the committee founded a network of public lending libraries in the region that eventually served as a national model. The committee’s public libraries, housed in spacious barracks, included children’s sections—a novelty in France—with recreational activities such as a story hour.”
According to American Friends of Blérancourt, “The Picardie experience with children’s libraries was repeated in Paris and has exerted a significant influence throughout the country. Public lending libraries in France today reflect the energy of CARD’s efforts in Picardie. American librarians in the tradition of Andrew Carnegie were brought in and French librarians sent to study in the U.S. The French tradition of libraries as resources for scholars was considerably enhanced by this exchange.”
France presented Miss Morgan with both the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honor, as if had Miss De Wolf. After the war, Miss Morgan purchased the Château de Blérancourt, partially restored it, and lived in one of the pavilions.
In 1924, Miss Morgan and Dr. Dike founded the Franco-American Museum of the Château de Blérancourt. That same year, Marshal Pétain, the victor in the Battle of Verdun (1916), honored Miss Morgan and Mrs. Dike by making them officers of the French Legion of Honor in a ceremony at Blérancourt.
After Mrs. Anne Murray Dike passed away on February 8, 1929, the French Parliament voted to “cite to the nation” in the Journal officiel de la République française that as President of C.A.R.D. she had helped restore 120 villages, as The New York Times reported. In July of 1930, French Premiere André Tardieu (1876-1945) paid tribute to Mrs. Dike, who had died the previous year, and Miss Morgan for their support of the French Boy Scouts, as reported by The New York Times.
According to American Friends of Blérancourt, “Scout camps were less successful. The Anglo-Saxon tradition of scouting did not sit well with the French personality, nor did it take into account the religious divisions within France. And, Miss Morgan and her collaborators did not always tread lightly.”
In 1932, Miss Morgan was elevated to the rank of Commander in the French Legion of Honor. At the time, only one other woman, the Anna, Comtesse Mathieu de Noailles (1876-1933), a Romanian-French novelist and poetess whom multiple artists immortalized in paintings and sculpture. Miss Morgan was the first American woman to receive this French honor.
When World War II broke out, Anne Morgan returned to help civilian refugees. Joining together with people who had helped her earlier and their children, she founded the American Friends of France and its French counterpart, the Comité Americain de Secours Civil.
She fell back to the U.S. and continued to work on behalf of French civilians during Nazi Germany’s occupation of France. Miss Morgan and her volunteers wore a quasi-military uniform during both of the Great World Wars.
After the Allies triumphed, she continued visiting France to orchestrate the work of her relief committee until 1948. “I learned long ago I have no creative ability,” she was quoted as saying in her Life obituary (“A Life of Rebuilding the Wreckage of War”). “I have just the drudging capacity and God made me a very strong animal.”
Anne Tracy Morgan died at the age of seventy-eight at her residence in Mount Kisco, New York on January 29, 1952. Miss Morgan’s funeral was held at St. George’s Protestant Episcopal Church in Stuyvesant Square, New York City, where four generations of her family had worshipped.
She posthumously “became the first American—and the first woman—to be honored with a marble plaque in the Court of Honor at the Hôtel des Invalides, near Napoleon’s tomb in Paris,” according to The Morgan Library & Museum. Her famous residence in New York City, a townhouse in the Sutton Place neighborhood on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, is now the official residence of the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
 During the French Revolution, the First Republic of France expropriated the three-story Château de Blérancourt, which had been built between 1612 and 1624, and sold it off to a demolition contractor who auctioned off its stones, which would rank as the most ridiculous thing the revolutionaries did if they had not murdered tens of thousands of people, desecrated graves, erected a statue to the Goddess Reason in Notre Dame, and tried to introduce a ten-day week.