Hell for leather

The Great War saw the U.S. Army balloon from 100,000 regulars who were spending most of their time in the Philippines and along the border with Mexico, to a modern fighting force of nearly 3 million– and this from a country that had a population less than a third of what we have today.

With so many hardlegs pulled from the fields, factories, police forces and offices, many women stepped forward to do their part for the war effort. While Germany was still an ocean away, very real threats of sabotage by enemy agents and U-boats stalking towns up and down the East Coast led to mobilization of home guards and auxiliary police units.

One of the most interesting is the “Cavalry Corps of the American Woman’s League for Self Defense” in New York City.

A troop-sized unit of some 20 horse-mounted uniformed women organized by one Ethel May Schiess, the group performed messenger and scouting duties in the city through the end of 1918. If there were serious landings in the NYC area by the Germans, they no doubt would have become a noteworthy irregular partisan unit.

Original Caption: Cavalry corps of the American Women's League for Self Defense. Cavalry Corps of the American Woman's League for Self Defense held its first public drill in the 1st Field Artillery Armory, Broadway and 60th Street, New York. Miss Ethel May Schiess, who is seen in the front, put the 20 prospective scouts and message bearers through their paces, while the 1st Field Artillery band played. Photographer: Kadel and Herbert

Original Caption: Cavalry corps of the American Women’s League for Self Defense. Cavalry Corps of the American Woman’s League for Self Defense held its first public drill in the 1st Field Artillery Armory, Broadway and 60th Street, New York. Miss Ethel May Schiess, who is seen in the front, put the 20 prospective scouts and message bearers through their paces, while the 1st Field Artillery band played. Photographer: Kadel and Herbert

Original Caption: New York's female cavalry drilling in city streets. The American Woman's League for Self Defense who have organized a cavalry troop, started outdoor drilling in the streets adjacent to the 1st Field Artillery at 67th St. & Broadway, New York, where their first lessons were received under the supervision of army officers. Photo shows Captain Ethel Schiess giving orders to the troop. Photographer: Western Newspaper Union

Original Caption: New York’s female cavalry drilling in city streets. The American Woman’s League for Self Defense who have organized a cavalry troop, started outdoor drilling in the streets adjacent to the 1st Field Artillery at 67th St. & Broadway, New York, where their first lessons were received under the supervision of army officers. Photo shows Captain Ethel Schiess giving orders to the troop. Photographer: Western Newspaper Union

For an article I did on the similar and very well-armed women’s machine gun squad police reserves of New York City over at Guns.com, click here.

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