Poppy Facts from Veteran Affair Canada
During the Napoleonic Wars, the poppy drew attention as the mysterious flower that bloomed over the graves of fallen soldiers.
In the 20th Century, the poppy again was widely noticed after soils in France and Belgium became rich in lime from rubble during the First World War. The little red flowers flourished around the graves of the war dead as they had 100 years earlier.
In 1915, Guelph, Ontario native John McCrae, a doctor serving with the Canadian Forces Artillery, recorded this phenomenon in his famous poem In Flanders Fields.
Two days before the Armistice, Moina Michael, an American woman from Athens, Georgia, read the McCrae poem and was inspired to wear a poppy year-round in memory of the war dead.
In 1920, Madame E. Guérin of France visited the United States and happened to meet Miss Michael at the YMCA at Columbia University, where the latter was a volunteer. Madame Guérin then resolved to sell handmade poppies around Armistice Day to raise money for poor children in the war-torn areas of Europe.
In 1921, Field-Marshall Earl Haig, the former Commander-in-Chief of the British Armies in France and Belgium and the principal founder of the British Legion, was sold on Madame Guérin's fundraising idea and approved organization of the British Poppy Day Appeal by the Legion to raise money for poor and disabled veterans.
The same year, Madame Guérin visited Canada, and convinced the Great War Veterans Association (predecessor to the Royal Canadian Legion) to similarly adopt the poppy as a symbol of remembrance in aid of fundraising.
Today, the Poppy Campaign is one of the Royal Canadian Legion's most important programs. The money raised from poppy sales provides direct assistance for ex-service people in financial distress, as well as funding for medical appliances and research, home services, care facilities, and numerous other purposes.