From the West 12th Road Block Association:
The idea for a Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy came to Miss Moina Michael of Georgia while she was working at the YMCA Overseas War Secretaries' headquarters on a Saturday morning in November 1918, two days before the Armistice was declared at 11 o'clock on 11 November. The Twenty-fifth Conference of the Overseas YMCA War Secretaries was in progress. On passing her desk, a young soldier left a copy of the November Ladies Home Journal on Moina's desk.
At about 10.30am, when everyone was on duty elsewhere, Moina found a few moments to read the magazine. In it she came across a page which carried a vivid color illustration for the poem "We Shall Not Sleep" (later named "In Flanders Fields") by the Canadian Army doctor John McCrae.
Reading the poem on this occasion - she had read it many times before - Moina was transfixed by the last verse - "To you from failing hands we throw the Torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders Fields."
She then conceived of an idea and started the practice of wearing red poppies on Memorial day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States was the first veteran organization to promote a nationally organized campaign for the annual distribution of poppies assembled by American disabled and needy veterans. In 1924, the VFW patented the name "Buddy Poppy" for their version of the artificial flower.