American socialite was WWI humanitarian hero
By Yasmin Chaudhary
Director of Public Affairs, United States World War One Centennial Commission
Julia Hunt Catlin Park Depew Taufflieb was no ordinary American socialite. During the Great War, she turned her huge French mansion into a 300-bed military hospital for the Allies.
In honor of her actions, was the first American woman to be awarded the Legion d’honneur and Croix de Guerre from the government of France.
Julia was born in Vermont and lived in New York until the death of her first husband, Trenor Park. Together with her daughter Frances, Julia moved to Paris. There she married again (to Chauncey Depew) before divorcing and marrying General Emile Taufflieb of the French Army – thus her lengthy name.
The year the war broke out, she converted her Chateau d’Annel into a military hospital with three hundred beds for wounded Allied soldiers. Julia ran the hospital for four years, often under fire, and completely on her own expenses.
She appealed back the to the States for money to support the 1500 refugees camping out nearby in the cold, only some of whom she managed to house. Among them she mentioned a mother with a three-month-old baby, whose husband and daughter were captured by Germans. The anguish in her tone was evident as she described several freezing to death from lack of shelter; $4000 were sent to her immediately ($85,000 today).
The German advance forced her to flee France, but she returned and inspired other American French to open their own military hospitals. World War II forced her to leave again, this time for California.
After the war she was able to return to her home, where she passed away in 1947. Her only living daughter (Frances) ended up marrying the head surgeon at Julia’s hospital.
Yasmin Chaudhary is a Spring 2018 Intern with the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission.