In the year of Sgt Pepper the Ladies of the Senate in dress whites rolled bandages for the wounded in Vietnam. The group was founded half a century earlier during the First Wold War for the same purpose.

I came across this fascinating photo not long ago and wanted to share. It shows the Ladies of the Senate, a volunteer organization founded in 1917 to help the Red Cross during the Great War. Here are members of that organization doing that same work in June 1967 during the Vietnam War. The image is so striking not least because it was taken in what we now call the Summer of Love. The year this photo was taken young people were listening to The Beatles’s Sgt. Pepper, The Rolling Stones’s Between the Buttons, Jimi Hendrix’s Are Your Experienced?, The Doors’s first two albums, Janis Joplin’s nascent stirrings with Big Brother and the Holding CompanyCream’s Disraeli Gears, Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow and so much more than time permits me to document here. With Psychedelia in full plumage, these volunteer bandage rollers are wearing the same white dresses and head coverings as their forbears had half a century earlier.

As mentioned, the Ladies of the Senate came into being when the United States entered the First World War. Their proper name was the Senate Ladies Red Cross Unit. During the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and other campaigns, Senate wives rolled bandages in the basement of what is now the Russell Building. The group turned into a more general charity group in the interwar years but recommitted to rolling bandages during the Second World War. Eleanor Roosevelt was an ally. Here are striking images of Jacqueline Kennedy with the group in April 1961. Some, such as Marion Ann Borris Javits, wife on New York Senator Jacob K. Javits, believed the group had become anachronistic by the late 1940s and 1950s. Most critics, including Mrs. Javits, changed their minds however by the time of the Vietnam escalation in 1965. By Vietnam the process of manufacturing bandages could have been done completely through mechanization. Some insisted however that the hand-rolled versions were more absorbent and thus helped save blood and lives. The Ladies of the Senate became the Senate Spouses Membership in the 1990s.

(image/New York Times)