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Moina Belle Michael

creator of the "memorial poppy"

Moina Michael

Moina Belle Michael was born in Good Hope, Georgia, on August 15, 1869. Her father, John Marion Michael, was a Confederate veteran. She began her teaching career at age 15, and was subsequently educated at the Lucy Cobb Institute, Georgia State Teacher's College, and Columbia University.

Michael was in Europe when the war broke out in 1914, and briefly served on the American Committee to aid stranded tourists before returning to the United States. She was a professor when the United States entered the war, and soon after took a leave of absence to volunteer in the New York City training headquarters for overseas YWCA workers. Two days before the Armistice was declared she read "In Flanders Field," a poem by John McCrae that refers to poppies that grew near the battlefields of that horrific conflict. That poem inspired her to write her own poem, "We Shall Keep Faith,” and to permanently wear a memorial poppy.

After returning to the University of Georgia, Professor Michael taught a class of disabled veterans. Realizing how much support such men needed, she came up with the idea of selling artificial poppies to raise funds for America’s disabled veterans. Her organizational ability soon became clear, as millions of people bought paper or silk poppies to wear as lapel pins on national days of remembrance. Women both made and sold them, and the endeavor raised so much money that the American Legion adopted the poppy as its symbol and honored Moina Michael with its Distinguished Service Medal.

the American Legion Auxiliary Memorial Poppy

Michael retired from teaching in 1938, and devoted the rest of her life to the "poppy cause." Disabled veterans made the poppies, and all the profits went to the relief or rehabilitation of these veterans or their needy dependents. By the time of her death, which came on May 10, 1944, approximately $200 million had been raised for the rehabilitation of war veterans in the United States and England.

We Shall Keep the Faith

Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a luster to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch and Poppy red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.

SEE ALSO
John McCrae

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The Robinson Library >> General and Old World History >> General History >> World War I, 1914-1918

This page was last updated on 02/08/2017.