by Andrea Kutsenkow, Archivist at AFS Intercultural Programs
Today, AFS staff and volunteers work with students and host families across the globe on study abroad and social impact projects. They work with schools and educators to advance global competence education and advocate for important causes. More than a hundred years ago, when AFS was first launched, our mission was the same, but the work was quite different. The collections of the Archives of the American Field Service and Intercultural Programs educate our staff and researchers about the contributions of AFSers since the founding of the organization to present day. The Archives also help us understand and appreciate AFS’ unsung heroes, the secretaries, the cooks, the nurses, the mechanics, etc. whose support immensely helped AFS evolve into the successful organization that now AFS is.
The AFS Archives heavily document and promote the volunteer ambulance and camion (truck) drivers whose humanitarian efforts laid the foundation for AFS. Take for example Harry De Maine (1880-1952), a Liverpool-born artist who began serving with the American Field Service in 1914 before the volunteer ambulance service was officially known as the American Field Service. Rosters in the Archive reveal De Maine served with the American Field Service for nearly two and a half years, although he later joined the British Expeditionary Force and fought with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. Once he was discharged from active service near the end of the war, Harry De Maine moved to the United States and became a naturalized citizen.
Information about Harry De Maine’s service is readily available, but it takes a bit more digging to uncover information about his significant other, Lucy MacDonald De Maine, whom he met as a volunteer aiding the French Army and to whom he was re-introduced in 1926 and married soon after in 1928.
Lucy MacDonald De Maine dedicated much of her life to AFS. Her hard work behind the scenes helped AFS operations run smoothly and allowed the organization to become the largest and most successful volunteer ambulance during World War I and II. From George Rock’s The History of the American Field Service, we know De Maine initially worked for the Boston office of AFS before relocating to the Paris headquarters. Between the wars she acted as the American Field Service Association Secretary in order to help coordinate reunions among former members of the American Field Service and to administer the AFS Fellowships for French Universities program. She also helped organize materials for the AFS Wing that opened at Blérancourt in 1938. During the onset of the Second World War, with the revival of the AFS ambulance service, she was promoted to Secretary. In fact, De Maine ran the New York office, leading fundraising efforts and processing applications for volunteers. She also helped create the AFS Letter, a magazine produced during World War II as a way to connect AFS drivers, their families, and donors.
Lucy De Maine’s contribution to AFS was significant. A letter from June 17, 1978 details how she remained committed to AFS even after moving from New York to North Carolina. Correspondence in the AFS Archives that mentions her, although sparse, indicates she was extremely well liked, especially the letters we have about her 90th birthday celebration from 1983.
For more information regarding AFS archival collections, you can view the AFS finding aids here and digital images here. For more information on scheduling a research visit in the AFS Archives, please visit the AFS Archives website here.