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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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Key to Reading the WWI Registration Cards

There is a photocopy of the nine-page Michigan Registrar's Manual with the Woman's Committee registration cards at the Grand Rapids Public Library. It is key to understanding how the women were interviewed and how the cards were marked. A brief description follows.

Directions tell registrars to circle numbers to the left of occupations in which the woman had some form of training or experience that was sufficient to prove useful. The occupations in which she was willing to give service were underlined. Notice #94—foreign language. There are a variety of languages indicated on the cards and more women who speak another language than you probably would find today.

There were twelve tabs at the top of a blank card and the ten major categories listed below are repeated there. The two additional categories are for Training and Student. The registrar’s manual directs that only three tabs are to be marked; first, a woman's occupation; second, the occupation in which she offers service; third, any form of training desired: but registrars, in an effort to capture as much information as they could, often marked more than three tabs.

The "T" and "U" on the tabs are for Trained or Untrained. If a woman was trained in the skill marked on a tab then the "U" was crossed off leaving the  "T" and visa versa. If a woman had training in several occupations under one classification, the one in which she had the highest level of training would be marked on the tab.  A “+” indicates that she has experience in additional items in a category; “P” indicates she wants to be paid for her skills. The parentheses around a tab at the top indicates the category of her declared occupation. If a woman listed her occupation as housewife, the domestic category would have been marked with parentheses.

Once the cards had been completed the registrar would cut off the tabs that had not been marked. When the cards were placed in filing boxes, tabs identifying a particular category were lined up and could be searched easily.

The 1918 Woman's Committee Registration Cards located in the Grand Rapids History and Special Collections Department of the Grand Rapids Public Library are filed alphabetically for Grand Rapids, and cards from adjacent communities such a Ada or Byron Center are filed alphabetically at the end of the Grand Rapids section.

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