On the first Friday in June, Americans celebrate the goodness that is donuts. But did you know that National Donut Day actually has its roots in doing good?
In 1938, the first-ever National Donut Day was celebrated in Chicago, and the history of The Salvation Army’s Donut Lassies was officially immortalized. In 1917, these women were sent to France to establish field bases near the front lines. In makeshift huts, thousands of soldiers would come to stock up on essential goods and grab a sweet treat baked by the Lassies. And while supplies for baking were difficult to obtain, two Salvation Army volunteers, Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance improvised by frying donuts in soldiers’ helmets.
Both the presence of these courageous women, and the donuts that tasted of home, brought a light of hope and happiness to the battlefield – a much-needed morale boost for languishing soldiers. In fact, the Donut Lassies are also credited with popularizing the donut in the United States after the troops (commonly known as “doughboys”) came back from fighting in Europe. And still today, over a hundred years later, The Salvation Army continues to serve on the front lines, through a wide range of social services for the most vulnerable Americans.
In 1917, The Salvation Army began a mission to provide spiritual and emotional support for U.S. soldiers fighting in France during World War I. About 250 volunteers traveled overseas and set up small huts near the front lines where they could give soldiers clothes, supplies and, of course, baked goods.
Despite discovering that serving baked goods would be difficult considering the conditions of the huts and the limited rations, two officers — Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance — began frying donuts. These tasty treats boosted morale and won the hearts of many soldiers.
Nicknamed “Donut Lassies,” the women who served donuts to troops are often credited with popularizing the donut in the United States when the troops (nicknamed “Doughboys”) returned home from war.
The donut now serves as a symbol of the comfort that The Salvation Army provides to those in need through its many social services programs.
The Salvation Army still serves donuts, in addition to warm meals and hydration, to those in need during times of disaster. National Donut Day is held annually on the first Friday in June, and The Salvation Army celebrates the work of the original Donut Lassies by delivering donuts to those in need and to donut lovers across the country.
A RECIPE FROM THE FRONT LINES
2 large eggs
5 cups flour
2 cups sugar
5 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 tablespoon salt
1 3/4 cups milk
1 tub lard*
*Because it is no longer 1917,
you can choose healthier options like butter or vegetable oil
Combine all ingredients (except for lard) to make dough.
Thoroughly knead dough, roll smooth, and cut into rings that are less than 1/4 inch thick.
Drop the rings into the lard, making sure the fat is hot enough to brown the donuts gradually. Turn the donuts slowly several times.
When browned, remove donuts and allow excess fat to drip off. Dust with powdered sugar.
Let cool, and enjoy!