The Smith College Relief Unit in October– October 1917, that is!

As you probably know by now, my upcoming book, Band of Sisters, is about the Smith College Relief Unit, eighteen determined Smith alums who went off to the front during World War I to bring aid to French villagers on the front lines, women and children whose homes had been destroyed by the Germans.

So I thought it might be fun to share some pictures and snippets about what the Smithies were doing at this time of year back in 1917….

Here’s what the Smith College Relief Unit were doing in October of 1917. (Spoiler: not trick-or-treating.)

By October, the women of the Smith College Relief Unit were settled into their headquarters at the ruined chateau at Grecourt (pictured below)…

…distributing milk and basic necessities and working to get schools up and running (see adorable French schoolchildren, pictured below)…

…offering medical care, and driving around in the deep, deep mud of the Somme with their little traveling store (also pictured below).

They’d had some serious drama (not pictured below, and, no, I’m not telling you what; you’ll have to read about it in the book), but they were hanging in there and doggedly trying to make it work….

They reported home that the rainy season had begun and that the temperature was like Greenland at night– but that they’d had a steady stream of “French, British, and Americans for tea in the afternoon– Quakers, engineers, cavalry, aviators, and civilians– it was killing and our guest book looks as if we were collecting signatures!”

But can the women keep going as the rain– and the shells– continue to fall?

Band of Sisters is available for pre-order from your favorite local bookseller or your favorite non-local bookseller.  Or even a bookseller who’s not quite your favorite, but just happens to be there and sell books.


  1. Nihla Harrell on June 11, 2021 at 3:41 pm

    I just finished the book, I have so much admiration for these ladies. I can’t begin to imagine what they went through. They are true hero’s. Thank you so much for writing about them so people can know.

    • Lauren Willig on June 14, 2021 at 2:27 pm

      Thanks so much! I feel so honored to have gotten to tell their story– what they accomplished was truly remarkable!

  2. Jenni on July 3, 2021 at 11:10 pm

    Just finished the book, it was so moving! I feel like I am friends with the characters and they are near and dear to my heart, well most of them. Thank you for posting the pictures. Now I want to know more. I feel our world today needs to know how bad war is so no one ever has to endure what so many went through. Your words certainly brought such vivid visions.

    • Lauren Willig on July 4, 2021 at 12:53 pm

      Thanks so much, Jenni! It means so much to know that the characters became so real to you!

  3. Kathleen Turner on July 4, 2021 at 12:35 pm

    Don’t know if you will read this but I am one of the reviewers in my book club in Sept. We will be reviewing Hello Girls and Band of Sisters. I would like to put together a slide show of pictures, letters and old postcards etc.
    would you have anything to offer? I have attached my email if you ate able to share anything.

    • Lauren Willig on July 4, 2021 at 12:54 pm

      Hi, Kathleen! If you email me at I can send you something next week when I’m back at my computer.

  4. Kelly on July 6, 2021 at 10:35 am

    Hello Lauren
    I recently finished Band of Sisters. Wonderful! I love historical novels. I was able to picture the people and scenery in my mind. I found your book in Woman’s World Magazine. I have recommended this book to my friends via Facebook and am going to start the Secret History of the Pink Carnation very soon. Thank you for all the research and time you invested in this book.

  5. Brandi Sikorski on July 30, 2021 at 5:31 pm

    Hi Lauren, I recently came across Band of Sisters in my never ending hunt for books on women in World War II. Your book on the SCRU in World War I, sounded so intriguing that I bought it, and I’m so glad that I did—this was a wonderful book! Thank you for sharing the stories of these brave women and for sending me down a new rabbit hole!

    • Lauren Willig on July 30, 2021 at 5:47 pm

      I’m so delighted you enjoyed it! And that you also fell down the rabbit hole of these amazing women. : )

      • Amy Bourne on August 28, 2021 at 2:00 pm

        Lauren, I have read many historical fiction books centered around WWII but had no knowledge of what women had done in WWI prior to reading your book. It was wonderfully written and almost made it feel like I was there with them, through all the tragedy and triumphs. Thank you for all your research on this topic and putting it all down in your novel for those of us who like to learn but are unwilling or unable to do the research ourselves.

  6. Liz Reichlin on September 8, 2021 at 10:15 am

    I had absolutely no idea this was historical fiction until Ingot to the end. I didn’t want to put this book down. The characters, the events were all so visual in my mind as I read along. Honestly I didn’t want the book to come to an end. Thank you so much for bringing the journey of these amazing women in to our world.
    PS: My Mom went to Smith.

  7. Jane Bailey on October 23, 2021 at 9:20 pm

    Amazing story with Amazing women. I too couldn’t put the book down. Thank you for sharing this marvelous story with us. The education is much needed for us and what a wonderful way to learn. Thank you for your hard work in writing this book.

  8. Susan Johnston on November 28, 2021 at 12:04 pm

    I greatly enjoyed this book. But it left me wondering what happened in WW2…. The post WW1 reconstruction must have run into the dread events of WW2 and probably all been undone! How awful it must have been for both young and older survivors of the WW1 dreadful events to go through it all again a little over 20 years later…. Telling that story would make for an interesting follow-up book!

  9. Sandra on September 2, 2022 at 12:10 am

    I am listening to an audio recording of this novel from my local library. Almost done and these women were amazing! I have been researching the women who inspiried this novel and there is so much untold history of not only this time period, but all of the untold stories. There are so many stories to be to,d.

  10. Justine Iris POLIN on March 30, 2023 at 4:08 pm

    Good evening,

    My name is Justine POLIN, I am a descendant of Mrs. Laetitia LEFEVRE, wife POLIN. This woman, Laetitia is present on the photo of the supply, photo taken at the exit of the village of Canisy, on the commune of Hombleux.

    Currently, I am working with a friend to build an exhibit, rooted in the books written by a friend of my grandmother, the author and member of the Smith College unit, Ruth Gaines.

    Ruth Gaines detailed my family’s life in great detail, in the two books I know of. She has helped us understand our connection to our village. I am now the Vice-Mayor of this community and would be delighted to hear from you.

    My friend, has certainly already contacted you by email.
    Thank you in advance for your reply,

    Justine POLIN

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