'Doughnut Girls' of World War One

During the Great War for USA (1917-1919), many women wanted to help life a little nicer for the soldiers. Four women working for the Salvation Army who, while providing snacks and Christian activities for the soldiers, had the idea that serving up some doughnuts ( a rare treat because of rationing) would perhaps do more to life the men’s mood than hymns. It was September 1917, that four girls first fried up the dough to make doughnuts in metal army helmets, using wine bottle or shell casing as a rolling pin. These ladies were on the front lines, not at home.

They used small stoves in huts or tents, these ladies serving thousands of doughnuts per day in each area while bombs and gunfire raged on outside. As another organization learned what the ladies of the Salvation Army (rough 250 ladies) were doing, the Red Cross also supplied volunteers and supplies with which to make doughnuts. U.S. troops were often provided with free coffee to wash down the doughnuts, as well. This classic combination proved warming – not only of body, but it greatly lifted the soldier’s spirits.

With more supplies, pies, cakes, fudge, and hot cocoa were usually also on offer, amounting to untold snacks made and served everyday by only a small number of women who were there on a volunteer basis. These snacks were free and started a tradition of no-cost snacks for U.S. Soldiers.

During World War One, women serving doughnuts were so much a part of some battles that they had their own housing next to the soldiers or were literally in down the trenches with them. They became known as the “doughnut girls” or “doughnut lassies” and the USA troops themselves were nicknamed the “doughboys.”

Due to the work in wartime by these ladies, donuts became even more popular in America. Even in 1938 a National Doughnut Day was created.

Check with any written by an ancestor who served overseas if they remember or wrote about this ‘doughnut girls’ or maybe you had a ‘doughnut girl’ as an ancestor.

Here is the recipe they used:


5 C flour
2 C sugar
5 tsp. baking powder
1 ‘saltspoon’ salt (1/4 tsp.)
2 eggs
1 3/4 C milk
1 tub lard


Combine all ingredients (except for lard) to make dough.
Thoroughly knead dough, roll smooth, and cut into rings that are less than 1/4 inch thick. (When finding items to cut out donut circles, be creative. Salvation Army Donut Girls used whatever they could find, from baking powder cans to coffee percolator tubes.)
Drop the rings into the lard, making sure the fat is hot enough to brown the donuts gradually. Turn the donuts slowly several times.
When browned, remove donuts and allow excess fat to drip off.
Dust with powdered sugar. Let cool

Photos: Poster about the Doughnut Girls; making the doughnuts; serving coffee and doughnuts and serving soldiers.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Women Postmasters

Rosie the Riveter

Women in the American Civil War

< Return To Blog Interesting! We had doughnuts this holiday, but not homemade ones. Not sure I want to buy a tub of lard but if someone else made this, I'd eat one.
Sara N Martin 29/12/20

So true. What is interesting also, the size of the donut hole was much larger in the 1910s and by late 1940s, the hole was smaller, in other words, more donut cake to eat. The size went from 1 1/2 inches open hole to 3/8 open hole.
alice 29/12/20

Whoa! Interesting trivia.
Sara N Martin 29/12/20

Yes !
alice 29/12/20

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