The Near East Relief Medal
The American Committee on Armenian Atrocities was founded in 1915 in response to the massive humanitarian crisis precipitated by the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. Many millions of Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, and members of other minority groups were displaced and over a million and a half died as a result of deportation, forced marches, starvation and execution.
During WWI, members of the Near East Relief generated the attention of other humanitarian organizations such as the Hellenic Red Cross (HRC), the French and British governments. A number of Americans, whose humanitarian efforts were singled out, received recognition from these sources.
Near East Relief WWI Medal Obverse and Reverse
In 1919, the organization was renamed the Near East Relief. By then the organization had grown to include operations throughout the Middle East and West Asia, which prompted the name change.
The final name change occurred in 1930, when it was changed to the Near East Foundation (NEF) to capture the change in emphasis from relief work to sustained long term development activities. To this day, the NEF operates the following organizations: (1) Near East Foundation - Armenia; (2) Near East Foundation - Jordan; (3) Near East Foundation - Lebanon; (4) Near East Foundation - Mali; (5) Near East Foundation - Morocco; (6) Near East Foundation - Palestine; (7) Near East Foundation - Sudan; (8) Near East Foundation - United Kingdom; (9) Near East Relief Historical Society and (10) World Service Commission. It currently has projects in Armenia, Jordan, Lebanon, Mali, Morocco, the West Bank, Senegal, Sudan and Syria. In the countries served, it works with disadvantaged social groups including people coping with conflict, displacement, exclusion, and climate change.
Several exceptional and outstanding members of the organization during the Great War years include:
Miss Bernice J. Everett of Franklin, New York was an outstanding example of devotion to service. In September 1920, she was head of the Personnel House in Constantinople, but her service primarily involved her as Director of Near East Relief at Broussa (Bursa), Turkey. During the three years of her service at Broussa, Miss Everett developed the schools, expanded the industrial activities, aided the refugees driven from their homes by the Nationalist uprising, trained 1,300 orphans and aided in the transfer of several hundreds to the Near East Relief orphanage in Bardizag (Bahcecik), a prosperous Armenian village in Western Turkey. For her efforts, she was decorated by the Hellenic Red Cross in 1921. Bernice was awarded the one-class, silver Hellenic Red Cross Medal 1916-1920 with the clasps: DEVOTION and EPIDEMICS in Greek.
An additional eight Americans: Mary L. Boyle, Margaret Dingledine, Gerardine Grumdy, Elisabeth Murlles, Minta Reinhart, Mand Revel, M. S. Spellinan and Edna Steiger were also recognized by presentation of the medal. Scant information about this group is available.
The obverse of the Hellenic Red Cross medal, instituted in 1920 to recognize WWI efforts, features a red enamel Geneva Cross surrounded by the inscription, HELLENIC RED CROSS 1916-1920. The reverse contains five straight-line Greek place names translated to English as: (1) MACEDONIA; (2) EPIRUS; (3) THRACE; (4) ASIA MINOR and (5) THESSALY. Four Greek language clasps (translated to): DEVOTION, SOLIDARITY, EPIDEMICS, and FRONT were authorized for display on the medal based on individual eligibility.
Hellenic 1916-1920 Red Cross Medal with Clasp Epidemics, Medal Reverse, and Four Greek Language Clasps (translated to): DEVOTION, SOLIDARITY, EPIDEMICS, and FRONT
Devotion and Epidemics February 1912 Award of Greek Red Cross Medal
In this Near East Relief hospital, situated just outside the old Byzantine walls of Constantinople, weak undernourished children of all nationalities were given a chance to breathe fresh country air, eat nourishing food, and become strong and sturdy. Nurse Wood left for the region in 1917. Her first duties were as chief nurse for the Armenian Relief Fund Association of Canada. Subsequently she moved on to the American Near East Relief Organization where she had supervision of its entire nursing staff in Antolia, Transcaucasia, Syria, Persia, and Palestine. She was awarded the French Croix de Guerre 1914-1918.
Miss Emma Darling Cushman was born in Burlington, NY in 1869. She graduated from Kansas State College and studied Nursing at Paterson, NJ. Miss Cushman traveled to Talas Hospital in Turkey to work as a nurse with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in 1899. When her term ended in 1907, she worked in hospitals throughout Turkey, including the city of Konia in central Turkey.
In 1917, Miss Cushman turned down the Turkish government's offer of safe passage from Konia to Constantinople because the government could not agree to protect Konia's refugee population in her absence. She was particularly devoted to the young girls in her care. Miss Cushman began working with Near East Relief in 1919. She served as Director of relief activities at Konia, an area with which she was already very familiar.
Miss Cushman was then placed in charge of one thousand children in the Boyadjikeuy and Yenikuey Orphanages in Constantinople. In July 1921 Miss Cushman addressed the secretariat of the League of Nations with a letter explaining the difficulties of rescuing women and children, many of whom had sustained physical and psychological trauma, from Turkish harems after years of captivity. In response, the League of Nations opened Neutral Houses for rescued women and children in Constantinople and Aleppo. After the burning of Smyrna in 1922, Miss Cushman accompanied her young charges to Corinth, Greece, where she supervised the new Near East Relief orphanage in a converted army barracks. Miss Cushman received the Gold Cross of Jerusalem in April 1921 and was named a Knight of the French Legion of Honor in December 1921. Emma D. Cushman devoted more than 30 years of her life to service in the Near East. She died in Cairo, Egypt in 1931.
French Legion of Honor 3Rep, Croix de Guerre 1914-1918, and the Gold Cross of Jerusalem
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