Guest Writer Spot – @RobertaEaton17

My guest this week is Robbie Eaton Cheadle. Many of you will be familiar with Robbie’s blog and also her books. Here she gives us an insight into her latest WIP.

Doughnut Girls

By

Robbie Eaton Cheadle

It always surprises me, when I write a novel, how many unexpected bits of historical trivia turn up during my research process.

I am not a ‘pantster’ writer, I must have some direction. I am also not a detailed planner, although I do have a spreadsheet for my planned and partially written Cli-fi trilogy. It is necessary for those books because there are a large number of characters I need to keep a handle on. My standard modus operandus, however, is to write backwards. I plan the ending of my books or stories and then I decide where I’m going to start on the timeline of my story. The timeline is usually historical, except for the unnamed trilogy which is forward looking.

The middle of the book takes its own path as I write towards my planned ending. This path often includes the little pieces of trivia I discover and find interesting, as I think it makes the story more fun and relatable for readers.

One such piece of information I discovered while doing research on America’s participation in World War 1 for my latest WIP, The Soldier and the Radium Girl, is the story of the Doughnut Girls.

The Story of the Doughnut Girls

Picture credit:

https://www.worldwar1centennial.org/index.php/communicate/press-media/wwi-centennial-news/3929-doughnut-girls-the-women-who-fried-donuts-and-dodged-bombs-on-the-front-lines-of-world-war-i.html

Americans did not want to enter the war that had erupted in Europe in 1914. President Wilson won his second election campaign with the slogan ‘he kept us out of war.’ As a result, when Wilson delivered his Declaration of War Message to Congress on Germany on the 2nd of April 1917, his voters were not pleased.

The American government had to implement conscription when their recruitment target was not met, and this resulted in an even more negative attitude by the general public towards the war.

The Salvation Army decided to send women to France to lift the spirits of the American soldiers and to serve them comfort food.

When the American troops moved to the front lines in France, morale plummeted to an all-time low following thirty days of straight rain and heavy German gunfire. In an attempt to lift their spirits, Salvation Army Officers, Helen Purviance and Margaret Sheldon, decided to cook the men a treat that would give them ‘a taste of home.’

They managed to beg the necessary eggs from the residents of a nearby village and raid ration packs for sugar to make doughnuts. They also had to invent new methods of shaping the dough by using ammunition shells as rolling pins and tin cans as cutters.  The first doughnuts were fried, seven at a time, in a pan.

When these overcooked doughnuts were served, they were a huge hit with the homesick soldiers and before long the women of the Salvation Army, nicknamed the Doughnut Lassies, were serving up to 9,000 doughnuts a day. The doughnut became a symbol of everything the Salvation Army was doing to ease the hard lives of the fighting men at the front. The ‘Doughnut Lassies’ were featured in newspaper headlines and recruitment posters across the United States.

When World War 1 ended and the troops returned home, the demand for doughnuts continued.

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.

Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has two published novels, Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy, and A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.

Roberta has nine children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.

Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.

Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written seven publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.


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76 Responses to Guest Writer Spot – @RobertaEaton17

  1. Darlene says:

    Robbie is such a versatile writer and her research is incredible. This was a great bit of history I knew nothing about. Thanks for this great post, Esther.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I just LOVE this story of doughnut girls! They used to be my favorite treat when I was a youngster because we go them so infrequently.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting facts – thanks Robbie. I had never heard of the ‘Doughnut Girls’. A nice treat for the soldiers.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a lovely true wartime tale. Thanks Robbie and Esther for hosting really enjoyed. x

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on and commented:
    I am over at Esther Chilton’s blog with a post about the Doughnut Girls from World War 1 who feature in my latest WIP, The Soldier and the Radium Girl. Thank you to Esther for hosting me. Esther has a fabulous book for writers called Publication Guaranteed. You will find a link for it on her blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. HI Esther, thank you for hosting me today. Have a lovely weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dave Astor says:

    Great, well-described historical find about donuts during “The Great War,” Robbie! I had no idea! If only there were more donuts and fewer military weapons… 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  8. That’s fascinating stuff – nice one, Robbie! I’d never heard of the doughnut girls of WW1 – lovely story! But my mum did used to talk about ‘the doughnut dugout’, which was some kind of snack thing US troops set up in her home town during the latter part of WW2. Doughnuts – and foreign troops, of course – were a touch of glamour in drab wartime Britain. I think my dad, who was overseas at the time, was less impressed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • HI Mike, my mom never mentioned the US troops having doughnuts. Her family lived in Nethergate Street Bungay and there were US troops stationed at Flixton and on Bungay common. She has mentioned they had chewing gum and the kids used to pester the soldiers to give them some. WW2 certainly was hard times for people.

      Like

  9. What an awesome piece of historical trivia! It’s amazing how important a small piece of comfort can be. Everything I’ve read about the trenches makes them sound like a slice of hell on earth, so it’s terrific that the “Doughnut Lassies” found a way to bring some happiness into a horrible time. Thanks for sharing this. : )

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I didn’t know this, Robbie. What a great addition to my WWI knowledge.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. TanGental says:

    cool info Robbie; I wonder when they stuck jam inside for the first time?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Mick Canning says:

    The stuff you find when researching books! Side-tracked…down rabbit warrens…but it all comes in useful!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great research facts, Robbie! Know you’ll weave them into a fascinating historical fiction novel. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’d forgotten that tidbit about the origin of the term “doughboy” for WWI soldiers! I read the article you linked. I was struck by imagining how excited that first group of soldiers to smell doughnuts frying at the front must have been.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. JT Twissel says:

    Great interview! You can never underestimate the power of comfort food.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Hi Esther and Robbie – thanks for sharing this about the Doughnut Girls. I had not heard this story before. We have so much more written about WW2 than WW1. It’s good to see this.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. memadtwo says:

    I always learn something from your writing Robbie. So much that the history books leave out! It would make the study of history much more interesting to include them. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

  18. What a fascinating tidbit of history, Robbie. I can imagine the comfort that came from doughnuts, and 9,000 a day is huge! Thanks for hosting, Esther.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Jim Borden says:

    gotta love the Salvation Army. and who doesn’t like doughnuts?

    and my guess is that your spreadsheet is probably nicer than most authors 🙂

    good luck with your book…

    Liked by 1 person

  20. The story of the doughnut girls as revealed by Robbie’s research is very interesting. The story brings another organisation to mind who were always a welcome sight when we came off Army ranges, cold and wet: the WRVS van. The Women’s Royal Voluntary Service do so much more than serve up hot drinks and food to needy soldiers. Over their history, they have made vital contributions during hard times, including feeding and clothing evacuees from Dunkirk in WWII when they returned to England’s shores.
    What interested me most in this guest spot though, is Robbie’s MO: neither a planner nor a panster. I fell into this MO, unintentionally, during the writing of my first novel. I had written about one-third of the manuscript, when I awoke in the middle of the night with the final chapter in my mind. I got up and wrote it. I then had something to aim for as I wrote the middle of the book. When I finally arrived at that last chapter, I expected that I’d have to re-write it. I changed three words.
    It’s an effective MO.

    Liked by 1 person

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