Don’t you just sometimes crave the homey taste of your mother’s stew or maybe her freshly-baked cookies that give your house a lovely smell of comfort and familiarity? That’s exactly what the soldiers of World War II felt, too. So to boost the morale of these American troops who were longing for the familiar smell of home, the Donut Dollies came to work. They were a group of female Red Cross volunteers who traveled with the US soldiers during WWII to ensure that they could get the comfort of freshly-baked donuts wherever they were.

Standards Higher Than the Military

The history of “women who fried donuts and dodged bombs on the front lines” started in 1917, which was pretty casual and chill during World War I. Things kind of evolved from there during the Second World War. When Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941, aside from supplying aid to the wounded soldiers, the Red Cross also wanted to help boost their morale, and the Donut Dollies idea came. This time, however, the American Red Cross sought out a very exclusive group of ladies to take the role that experts think their standards for the female volunteers were even higher than the actual military standard.

Cover of the Salvation Army Magazine “War Cry,” November 9, 1918, depicting “Doughnut Dollies”- American volunteers serving in France.
(Salvation Army “War Cry” magazine, November 9, 1918, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The women had to be at least 25 years old, college-educated, capable of providing recommendation letters and pass the physical exams. More importantly, they also had to have outstanding personalities. The admission was tough, and only one out of six applicants were accepted for the role.

Before she could fry her first donut, the Donut Dollie should first get immunization shots, get fitter for Red Cross uniforms, and then undergo several weeks of basic training in the history, policies, and procedures not only of the Red Cross but also the US Army. She would also learn the very specific dress code: no earrings, hair ornaments, “brilliant nail polish,” or excessive makeup.