Talented Tuesday: Doing Her Bit

Benita (McGinnis) McCormick
          (1889 – 1984)

As the Great War (later to be called World War I) broke out in Europe in 1914, barely a year after arriving home from her trip there, my great-aunt Detty (Benita McGinnis McCormick), like most women of the era, threw herself into a flurry of patriotic activity. 
Her efforts took on renewed urgency after her youngest brother, John, an officer in the Army cavalry, returned with horrific stories from the front, having fought in the Battle of the Somme.  Feeling a personal call to increase the public’s awareness of wartime suffering abroad, Benita turned to her artistic talents.  One of her projects was to paint a poster for the Red Cross.
The Chicago Tribune profiled her contribution twice, one in a feature story on November 10, 1917, and a second time in a brief mention during World War II.  Benita later pasted copies of both articles in a scrapbook  she created of her life’s memories.

Article in the Chicago Daily Tribune, “Instead of Knitting,” as it appears on a page from Benita (McGinnis) McCormick’s scrapbook.


Instead of Knitting

One of Maj. Funkhouser’s
Censors Paints Red Cross Poster as her War Contribution. 

“I wanted to do my bit, that was all,” Benita McGinnis said modestly yesterday as she exhibited the poster that she had painted for the Red Cross. “All the women I knew came to me and suggested that I knit while I was censoring the movies.  I am on Maj. Funkhouser’s staff, you know. 

 “I couldn’t see it that way. I knew I would probably drop half the stitches if I tried to give both “Camille” [a popular silent film] and my knitting my attention. All my friends seemed to think that there was no reason on earth why I shouldn’t do Red Cross knitting all day because, as they did their knitting, they always did it at the movies.  

 “I paint a bit – I studied in Paris and I graduated from the Art Institute. I decided to serve by doing some public work, and I made up my mind that I would rather give up my Saturday afternoons and devote myself to the painting for a couple of weeks so that I could be free to give my undivided attention to the movies.” 

 Miss McGinnis, who lives at 8336 Drexel avenue (sic), has presented the poster to the Red Cross through the women workers in the auxiliary established by the Political Equality league. Copies of the poster, which represents suffering Belgium, will be distributed in the near future.

 If you caught the reference to Benita as “one of Major Funkhouser’s Censors,” you’ll want to come back tomorrow to learn more.  She was full of surprises.


Copyright ©  2014  Linda Huesca Tully

8 Thoughts to “Talented Tuesday: Doing Her Bit

  1. I've tried to take up knitting, but I'm always dropping stitches or making some mistake. I fully understand her concern about knitting in the dark. 🙂 Besides, she had much to contribute with her other talents.

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