‘You have no idea what it’s like over here’
A portrait of Marion McCune Rice of Brattleboro, who served four years as a volunteer nurse in France for American Red Cross during World War I.

‘You have no idea what it’s like over here’

Photos, letters from Brattleboro war nurse Marion McCune Rice to be displayed at 118 Elliot

BRATTLEBORO — World War I volunteer nurse Marion McCune Rice's photographs and letters will be on exhibit at the 118 Elliot gallery.

Several members of Rice's family will be present at an opening reception during Gallery Walk Friday, July 2, from 5 to 8 pm, at 118 Elliot, 118 Elliot St. Fixed gallery hours are Fridays, 3 to 6 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 3 p.m.

The exhibit, which runs through Sept. 1, is co-sponsored by the Brattleboro Words Trail and the Brattleboro Historical Society to help acquaint people with the Trail - self-guided audio tours of places and the people associated with them that reflect the significant historical and literary achievements of the downtown and surrounding area.

People can download the Words Trail app at BrattleboroWords.org.

The Rice family, whose creative, community-minded lives and spirits helped shape the town's identity, lived on Chestnut Hill and worked at the American Building on Main Street.

Nurse Marion Rice; her brother, longtime Brattleboro Reformer publisher/editor Howard C. Rice; his wife Amy (to whom Nurse Marion's letters are addressed); Stephen Daye Press publishers John S. and Marion (Rice) Hooper; and Howard C. Rice Jr., a Rudyard Kipling scholar, all lived on Chestnut Hill.

Several of Marion McCune Rice's descendants helped produce audio stories for these spots on the Trail's Downtown Tour.

Steve Hooper wrote and narrated Nurse Marion's story and his daughter, Althaea Carroll, performed the voice of her great-great-aunt. Steve's wife, Jackie Hooper, wrote and narrated the Trail story, “The Rices and the Brattleboro Reformer: Chestnut Hill Road.”

The Trail pegs other Rice/Hooper family stories to the American Building on Main Street, where the Reformer and Stephen Daye Press were first located.

Steve's brother, John Hooper, narrates the American Building stories. Their father, John S. Hooper, Howard C. Rice's son-in-law, was also publisher/editor of the newspaper for more than 20 years (after the Stephen Daye Press closed).

Hundreds of photographs that Marion McCune Rice took with a Kodak camera during her four years as a Red Cross nurse in hospitals in France are the source of this exhibit of 23 black-and-white images printed from original negatives by photographer Steve Hooper, Rice's grandnephew.

Steve discovered the trove when helping to clean house after the death of his uncle, Howard Rice Jr.

“This photographic exhibit documenting four years of an American nurse in World War I is one of the most unique collections ever found in this country,” said Steve, who produced a documentary film, An American Nurse at War, based on these photographs and letters.

Marion McCune Rice's story has been praised by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and was the subject of Dear Home: Letters from WWI, a History Channel documentary shown nationally in 2000.

The exhibit will show primary materials, including Rice's carte d'identité, her handwritten letters, and original war documents. A Kodak camera similar to the one Rice used, a war medal she received, and the uniform she wore will also be on display.

A giant 1896 Sanborn floor map, created for the Brattleboro Historical Society for a Vermont Historical Society display in Montpelier but never before exhibited in town, will also be exhibited, along with other Historical Society panels.

The map allows visitors to vicariously explore downtown Brattleboro, the Whetstone Brook, the Connecticut River, and train connections, and to see the purpose of each building and the names of businesses.

“Our Storied Landscape: Exploring the Brattleboro Words Trail,” the large hand-carved clay murals of Windham County and downtown Brattleboro created by artist Cynthia Parker-Houghton, are also part of the exhibit.

Copies of the book Print Town: Brattleboro's Legacy of Words, will also be available for sale.

In August, the Summer Trail offerings will shift to a focus on the history of journalism in Brattleboro with a focus on the evolution of the Brattleboro Reformer. A roundtable discussion on local journalism today will be held with a reception with journalists from a variety of local media at the Aug. 6 Gallery Walk at 118 Elliot.

For more information, visit 118Elliot.com and BrattleboroWords.org.

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