Women’s Registration Cards National Council of Defense
The registration cards from the Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defense are a valuable resource for anyone researching women in Sioux Falls or the surrounding area during World War I. The collection includes over 7,000 index cards, each with demographic information including the woman’s name, address, age, marital status, race, country of birth, education, and occupation. The cards also state how much time each woman pledged to the war effort and what tasks she wanted to do.
All of this information was collected by the Women’s Committee of the National Council of Defense. The U.S. government formed this group in 1917 in order to assist, advise, and coordinate the aid efforts of women throughout the country. South Dakota, under the leadership of Dr. Helen F. Peabody, was one of the first states to organize a group. In early 1918, South Dakota began to register women to ascertain their abilities and willingness to serve.
Museum staff found the registration cards for Minnehaha County women in 2012; we don’t know how long they have been in the museum or quite how they came to be in our possession. Staff created an Excel spreadsheet with the data from each card, making it easy for a researcher or descendent to discover more about a particular woman. It also allows one to sort or filter the data to estimate broader patterns, such as what percentage of women were born in Norway or if working women were more or less likely to volunteer. It’s hard to believe such a wealth of information has remained hidden for so long, but we’re certainly glad to have it all available now!