Faith & Insight: National Doughnut Day and the Salvation Army

Hey folks, Happy National Doughnut Day! I’m guessing you are probably wondering what I’m referring to, am I right? National doughnut day was Friday, June 7, and it first started in Chicago in 1938 to honor those who served doughnuts to the U.S. soldiers (Doughboys) of World War I. And who was it that served these doughnuts? It was the American women of the Salvation Army.

When the U.S. entered World War I, The Salvation Army’s National Commander, Evangeline Booth, sent a delegation to France to find out how she could best serve the troops across the sea and it was reported back that the young men were homesick and “in need of mothering.” This is mothering in the best sense of the word, mind you. The decision was made to send women to care for the soldiers as sons and brothers and that is exactly what they did.

The first set of doughnuts are credited to Helen Perviance and Mary Sheldon. They wanted to make a treat for the Doughboys, but they had no oven or baking pans. While drinking a cup of coffee, Pvt. Braxton Zuber mentioned how he wished he had one of his mom’s doughnuts with his coffee. The ladies went into action, they had flour, baking soda, lard, sugar and all they needed were eggs which they secured from a local farm. They set to work with a bottle as a rolling pin, and with no cutter, they shaped them into twists and fried them over a short fire. Zuber was the first to taste the treat and said “If this is war, let it continue!”

There were 800 soldiers waiting in line that first day, and making seven at a time, Helen and Mary were only able to produce 150. They made 300 the next day and soon were efficient enough to make 2,500 a day. It wasn’t long before all the Salvation Army huts were preparing doughnuts and they continued until the war’s end and all the soldiers were on boats heading home. These women were affectionately called “The Doughnut Girls.” There were only 250 of them but they made a powerful impact.

The Doughnut Girls are recorded as saying that they felt every serviceman was their brother and they truly felt it was their duty to serve them and to do for them as their mothers would have done. The Doughboys saw in the Doughnut Girls their mothers, sisters and sweethearts. They represented all things American and the familiarity of home. They were highly revered and treated with respect.

So, the next time you take a trip to the local doughnut shop, think on the love and care of the Doughnut Girl who ministered in the stresses of war with determination and resourcefulness to America’s sons of World War I. The Salvation Army continues to serve with the love of Jesus in our communities and in disasters both national and abroad. 1 John 3:18 “let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth”.

Capt. Leslie Cyr is an officer in the Salvation Army at 911 E. Second St. For information go to


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