Ada Knowlton Chew

The St. Peter’s History Committee is pleased to offer insights into the history of our church and churchyard so we learn about the people who came before us and brought us to where we are today.

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This blog article was submitted by Libby Browne.

Last summer St. Peter’s was approached by the Women’s Overseas Service League offering to place a plaque at the grave of one of its founders, Ada Knowlton Chew. She and her husband Oswald Chew are buried in the Chew family plot on the south side of the church near the center. His ancestor Benjamin Chew was the Chief Justice of Pennsylvania in the Colonial era and lived on 3rd Street next to Samuel and Elizabeth Powel and at his country house “Cliveden” in Germantown, still standing and open to the public. Oswald served as a Red Cross ambulance driver in World War I, where it seems likely that he met his wife Ada.

Ada Knowlton Chew was one of many American women of her era who served in World War I. According to the League’s website: “They rallied to the aid of their country and volunteered for overseas service with the U.S. Army Expeditionary Forces of World War I. Over 11,000 Red Cross nurses served with the Army and Navy Nurse Corps. Others were assigned duties in the Ordnance, Quartermaster and Signal Corps, and the Treasury Department. The women served in France, Belgium, Italy, and the Balkans. When Armistice was declared, 90,000 American women had served. 348 had given their lives.

“The women returned home and scattered across the country, most without the assistance and benefits afforded the male soldiers. The League was formed in May of 1921 to maintain friendships, to keep alive the patriotic spirit that had prompted their overseas service, and to provide aid—financial and otherwise—to these returning women. It was, in fact, a women’s self-help group. One of its major achievements was to help ex-servicewomen gain admittance to veterans’ hospitals. Working with Congress, they succeeded in getting hospitals to open their doors to women for needed treatment and domiciliary care.”

The League continues its work to this day, and we are grateful to them for honoring one of their founders by funding this project: the restoration of both Oswald and Ada’s grave markers; the installation of planters in front of them; and the fabrication and installation of the new plaque. As you can see from the photograph of the completed project, with the recent addition of flowering plants made by churchyard volunteers Anne Eiswerth and Elaine Markezin, it makes a lovely and significant improvement to our churchyard.

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