Moina Michael

Moina Michael
Moina Michael: 1869-1944
Moina Belle Michael was born near Good Hope, Walton County, Georgia, USA on August 15, 1869. At the age of 15 Moina began her career as a teacher, spending time in every section of the educational system in Georgia, teaching in county, town, state and church schools.

The idea for the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy came to Moina Michael while she was working at the YMCA Overseas War Secretaries headquarters on a Saturday morning in November 1918, two days before the Armistice was declared at 11 o’clock on 11 November

At about 10.30am, when everyone was on duty elsewhere, Moina found a few moments to read the magazine. In it she came across a page that carried a vivid color illustration for the poem “We Shall Not Sleep” (later named “In Flanders Fields”) written by the Canadian Army doctor John McCrae.

Reading the poem on this occasion - she had read it many times before - Moina was transfixed by the last verse - “To you from failing hands we throw the Torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders Fields.”

At that moment Moina Michael made a personal pledge to ‘keep the faith’ and vowed always to wear a red poppy of Flanders Fields as a sign of remembrance and as an emblem for “keeping the faith with all who died.”

Compelled to make a note of this pledge she hastily scribbled down a response on the back of a used envelope, entitled “We Shall Keep the Faith”

Moina Michael died on 10 May 1944


Moina Michael: We Shall Keep the FaithOh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet – to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a luster to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.

Hello From Canada

Canadian CEF officer, Dr McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields” was initially published in ‘Punch’, London England, issue December 8 1915, authorless, but with this title. Apparently at some point it was re-titled for the US market, reprinted in a book put out by Putnam’s.

When Michael, in New York City, saw the surgical supplies company, Bauer & Black’s advertisement in Ladies’ Home Journal for November 1918 – illustrated with dead doughboys, painting by Philip Lyford – this inaccurate title was used, along with errors re McCrae: decisions of Bauer & Black and its ad agency, nothing to do with the magazine editors.

But ‘In Flanders Fields’ is the title in old and recent anthologies, and in Canada’s Remembrance traditions.

Regards Nell,
January 2012