100 years ago, 1917
No flag among the many hundred which float from Lewiston and Auburn homes today, represents a truer patriotism and more genuine spirit of sacrifice than do the Stars and Stripes which fly from the Lewiston Home for Aged Women. Out of the widow's mite which each of the inmates of the home had possessed, a precious bit was taken until these aged women had collected enough to purchase a flag. A miniature flag raising was held. Most noteworthy of all was a patriotic poem written by Miss Mary A. Richards. Miss Richards, who is an inmate of the Home, is 82 years old, but the patriotic fervor which must have moved her in the Civil War days, came to life in a thrilling little poem of 1917 patriotism.
Now, it bears repeating that the Great War, WWI, was going on at the time, and that the United States had just entered the fray, which has been reflected in a lot of these entries recently, including one I previously wrote about here when the declaration itself was made.
The next obvious element is Mary Richards, 82, had a chance to reflect on two major wars, the Great War as well as the Civil War. She was born in 1835, and so was 30 when the Civil War ended, plenty old to know exactly what was going on at the time. (Maine had particular reason to feel pride during the Civil War, with its own hero in Joshua Chamberlain, depicted by Jeff Daniels in the film Gettysburg and its follow-up, Gods and Generals.) This may be a genealogical profile for Mary.
There's this somewhat famous instance of game show history of a witness to Lincoln's assassination, but Mary is an example of ordinary folk (presumably) and how they reacted not just to one war but to another. Today we still have WWII veterans and survivors, but they tend not to comment on later wars. Mary happily joined the support for the Great War even after experiencing the Civil War, surely still the most heartbreaking of all wars Americans lived through. I don't know what exactly that says, if Mary was somehow unique in that regard, but I just thought it was worth noting, her reaction and the history she witnessed.
I was really hoping I could somehow come across the poem itself, but I'm not even sure I was able to find Mary herself. If I did, her daughter relocated to Ohio, and then...whatever became of the family from then on only they know, and only they know if Mary's memory still exists for them, much less her poetry. This is one case where I hope someone with information sees this blog and volunteers what they know, because I'd love to extend Mary's legacy a bit. She seems to deserve it.