Throughout the 140-year history of the American Red Cross, the entertainment industry has been a great supporter of our lifesaving mission. Today, the Red Cross Celebrity Cabinet works to raise awareness of Red Cross services, volunteer opportunities and fundraising needs in times of crisis — a proud tradition that traces its roots back to the early years of our organization.
CELEBRITIES WHO SUPPORTED RED CROSS THROUGHOUT OUR HISTORY
DIANA, PRINCESS OF WALES, was one of the most dedicated supporters of the British Red Cross.
In 1993, Diana became a vice president of the British Red Cross, and two years later, she became patron of its 125th Birthday Appeal. In June 1997, the princess traveled to Washington, D.C., to support an American Red Cross effort to raise funds to help victims of land mines around the world.
The princess and American Red Cross President Elizabeth Dole attended a memorial honoring Red Cross workers, joining forces to raise international awareness of the devastating effects of land mines and appeal for a worldwide ban. Diana also attended a Red Cross Gala at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington to raise donations for prosthetic devices and international rehabilitation programs for land mine victims.
Her campaign against land mines was well known, including a January 1997 trip to Angola organized by the British Red Cross. She met children who were landmine survivors and walked through active minefields wearing protective armor and headgear. In early August 1997, she visited victims of mines in Bosnia. Just a few weeks later, Diana died in a crash in Paris on August 31, 1997. At the time of her visit to Angola, negotiations were ongoing to initiate the Mine Ban Treaty. The treaty was signed by 22 counties in December 1997, and many credited Diana for bringing attention to the issue around the world.
WALT DISNEY, famed creator of Mickey Mouse and Disneyworld, worked for the American Red Cross after the World War I armistice was signed in November 1918.
Originally, Disney trained to be a Red Cross ambulance driver during the war; however, he became sick with influenza and his deployment was delayed. After he recovered, Disney spent about a year in France, where he was a driver and mechanic for Red Cross supply trucks and provided taxi service for army officers. He also served at a Red Cross canteen in the French countryside, where he drove canteen workers to various base hospitals to deliver doughnuts and ice cream to patients.
While overseas, Disney found time to develop his artistic skills. He decorated vehicles with cartoons, illustrated posters for the Red Cross and drew war-related cartoons for Life magazine and Judge, a humorous periodical.
ERNEST HEMINGWAY, renowned American author, joined the American Red Cross Ambulance Service during World War I. Sailing for Europe in May 1918, he landed in France and was assigned to Schio, Italy in June 1918. There, the ambulance unit was not busy, so he volunteered for a canteen unit on the Piave River, using a bicycle to deliver items like candy and postcards.
Hemingway was wounded a month later in July 1918 by the Piave River. After aiding the other wounded, he was sent to a field hospital and eventually transferred to a Red Cross hospital in Milan, where he underwent physical therapy during his initial hospitalization. He returned home in January 1919.
His experience in Italy during World War I was the inspiration for his famous novel, A Farewell to Arms, which tells the story of the love of a young American ambulance driver for an English nurse on the Italian front.
NORMAN ROCKWELL, an iconic American painter and illustrator well known for Saturday Evening Post covers and idealizing life in America, was a true friend of the American Red Cross. Rockwell supported the organization for more than 30 years, beginning in 1918 when he first contributed a series of illustrations and posters to help promote fundraising and recruit volunteers.
In 1918, Rockwell painted A Red Cross Man in the Making for The Red Cross Red Crescent magazine. A scout is depicted attending to the injury of a small dog, while a larger dog looks concerned. He also painted Join the Red Cross, featuring a man pasting a Red Cross window sticker under the watchful eye of his dog. The image was used for the 16th annual Red Cross Roll Call fundraising campaign in November 1932 and for the cover of the Red Cross Courier in 1936.
ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, first lady from 1933 to 1945 during the presidency of her husband, Franklin D. Roosevelt, became an American Red Cross volunteer in Washington, inspiring others to join the Red Cross and acquiring extraordinary emotional skills that she would use during World War II and in later human rights work. She also visited injured soldiers at local military hospitals and sought additional funding to improve their care and assist their families.
In August 1943, traveling as a representative of the Red Cross, Mrs. Roosevelt began a month-long journey to the South Pacific to visit the soldiers and sailors. She visited every ward in the hospitals and the infirmaries, in both the military bases and ships. She kept a detailed notebook of names and families, dates and places, and diligently wrote personally to all their mothers, wives and sweethearts.
This story is part of a special historical series marking the 140th anniversary of the American Red Cross. Visit redcross.org/RedCross140 to learn more.