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Pressed gardenia corsage worn by Donna Lynette Caldwell

Date: c 1943
Overall: 115 x 85 mm, 0.03 kg
Medium: Gardenia, wire, cardboard
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Donna Caldwell
Object Name: Corsage
Object No: 00030054

User Terms

    A pressed red gardenia mounted on wire support, originally worn by Donna Lynette Caldwell (nee Griggs) to the 651 Club Anniversary Dance in 1943.
    Donna met and maried and an American soldier, Finus Caldwell, in Melbourne during WWII. In June 1945, Donna and their son, Sterling, sailed aboard the SS LURLINE along with other Australian brides to relocate to the United States.
    SignificanceThis small garland reflects the experience of many Australian women during World War II who became American war brides and moved to the USA to start a new life.
    HistoryDescribed in local Nashville papers as 'Nashville's first war bride", Donna Caldwell (nee Griggs) met Finus "Joe" Caldwell in Melbourne. The couple met on Donna's way home from a dance at the Trocadero with her friends. Joe was originally in the Aircorps, but was transferred to the Army and was a cook for officers.
    No one minded Donna "going out with a 'yank'". In Donna's eyes “they were nice boys, similar to our boys - nice backgrounds etc." She doesn't think there is much difference between Aussies and Americans.
    For dates the couple would go to dances, swimming in St. Kilda and local balls with lovely music such as "In the Mood".
    Joe also took Donna on picnics with her family, swimming, to the snow, etc. The couple had known each other for 12 months when they were married.
    They waited for permission for a while, but then got married without permission in a minister's home in Hawthorn. They both went back to work the same afternoon! Joe was sent to New Guinea and Donna gave birth to their son Sterling in 1944.

    Donna and Sterling travelled to United States in June 1945. She had waited nine months for a ship. It was still wartime and at the time she recalls being "very tense, but not worried". They boarded the 'brideship' SS LURLINE and remembered the cabin as being a beautiful green colour. The cabin was also home to three other Australian girls and their babies on their way to America.

    When the SS LURLINE got into San Francisco Donna was expecting a golden gate, and was disappointed when it was just a bridge! They then travelled to Nashville where they waited for Joe to come home and for the family to start their life together.

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