Courtesy Center for American War Letters Archives, Leatherby Libraries, Chapman University, CA
When her husband Dwight Fee went to war, Lucille had to get a paying job. With millions of men leaving for military service, thousands of women found work in factories and with the government to help their finances and their country. Fee used her clerical skills to organize patriotic speeches for the Pennsylvania Bureau of Public Speakers. Fee referenced a popular song of the day, “Keep the Home-Fires Burning ('Till the Boys Come Home),” when writing to her husband: “I am doing my part over here, as you do yours over there. To sum everything up, we are all ‘keeping the home fires burning.’”
Pittsburgh, Pa. Room 21, Old City Hall Bldg.,
Dear Dwight: I received your letter last night, July 24th. It was sent, of course to Canonsburg and Ma was so anxious to have me get it that she brought it over to Sara’s in a storm. She stayed all night and left this morning with me, when I came to work.
I was certainly surprised to hear that you were already in the trenches but I know that you must have volunteered because your Regiment is not in the fight as yet. You certainly are the bravest boy and I know that nothing can happen to you. I just hate to think of your being in so much danger but you will be taken of and perhaps you can distinguish yourself and get home a little sooner than the rest of the boys.
There is only one thing that is really worrying me and that is that you do not hear from us. I have written constantly since you have left and as usual some were very nice and some very lonesome. You know I cannot help but be lonely because we were so much to each other.
I have given four small orders for you from Horne’s Paris Store and the things I have sent do not amount to anything but it is just the idea that I am thinking of you.
There are thousands of things to tell you, but really I cannot write hardly a thing. My heart is so full that there seems to be no word that I can give you. You know that I am with you in everything that you do and that I am thinking of you constantly. In all your joys and sorrows imagine me near.
Did I celebrate our anniversary? Well, I guess I did! Ma came in all dolled up in a brand new outfit and took me to dinner and brought me a bouquet of roses, just like the kind that I had when we were married. I got my ring that day and you should see how nice it looks on my hand. Every one admires it very much. It has all the dates in it, that you and I planned for. There are two vacant spaces, and I suppose by this time you have the next one that is to be put in. Let me know it when I can, as I want my ring to be as complete as possible. I do not feel that you will be gone more than a year, because you fellows are certainly doing some fighting over there.
Do not think that we do not appreciate and realize what you are doing for us. People just crowd before the signboards. They blew all the whistles in town, the day they started the Allied drive and at noon every day they play the chimes downtown.
Pa and Ma are both fine. Pa keeps up better than I expected. I am sure he will continue to do so.
Suppes is in France by this time and O’Hara is on the way I think. I enclosed you a letter or rather the copy of O’Hara’s letter [handwritten: in my last letter.]
[p. 2] I like my work here fine, I am in charge of the Bureau of Public Speakers. We send speakers to patriotic meetings. In addition to this, I am supposed to do anything else that can be done. My own particular work is rather slack now on account of the warm weather but when it picks up, I shall have nothing else to do. I started at $75.00 a month and expect to get $90.00 in a few months. This is the maximum. I like the work and that is a great deal. I want war work too and still I would not have the heart to leave Ma and Pa to go to Washington. They seem to just love to have me around.
They have almost decided to take two of those McConnell lots and start to build next Spring. By this time we shall have an idea just how things are going.
I do hope you will be back for our next anniversary. I am going to brace myself up to that time, because I honestly think that you will be but if when that time arrives, there is no chance of your being home soon, I shall get another grip on myself and wait until the next anniversary. It is wonderful what strength a person can have, when they try and ask for it from above. Already this war has made me a much better person and I have profited so much by it, except that I am a great deal older but I shall lose all above my age when you return and shall be a child once more and still continue to be your “Mother”. Do you remember how I used to Mother you? AS IF YOU COULD FORGET OR AS IF I COULD!
You certainly must be getting strong to be able to carry all that stuff. I will not know you when you come back. Remember you must let your hair grow again before you get home, because you know I never even liked to have you have it cut. But I would be so glad to see [handwritten: you] no hair or not that I would never notice it.
Wire me when you get in New York and I shall come to meet you; I would not write this sort of stuff if I thought it would weaken you. I want the war to be over soon but not before it is right for it to be and you know that as long as it is going on, I want you to be right where you are. I am doing my part over here, as you do yours over there.
To sum everything up, we are all “keeping the home fires burning”. I do wish though that they would not play this song so much right under our window. I love to sing it myself though.
Love, YOUR Lucille. P.S. I know you are keeping all your promises and that you will continue to do so. It may be sacriligious but I have as much faith in you as I have in God. It is needless to say that I am keeping mine.