Florence Kelley to Mary Rozet Smith, May 22, 1919

289 Fourth Avenue, New York City
Steamer Rotterdam
May 22nd 1919

Dear Mary

I left Zurich last Thursday, for Bern, Lausanne, Paris, Southampton, Plymouth and this ship. As you doubtless know, my going was an act of faith, not of conviction. When anyone asked why I was going, I said "To black J. A.'s boots and lug her suitcases." Of course, I was quite useless.

But next time I would go on my knees. It was unbelievably wonderful. There were twenty-five English women sitting with the Germans in front, and the Irish at the side, all alike engrossed in the common effort to do two things. First the English were obsessed with the passionate, overwhelming [page 2] impulse to lift the blockade, modify the peace, and end the famine; Second they wished greater power for women in the League of Nations, and many modifications in the provisions.

There were fourteen nations represented by 126 delegates when I left, and no one of the nature of Rosika or of Frau Selenka among the number. I think we had more than our share of weak sisters with Mrs. Post, Mrs. Mead, [Catherine] Fuller (!) Marion Cothren, Mrs. Ford and Miss Burritt. But then, we were twenty-five all told, and no one was actively queer or obstructive.

The English leaders amazed everybody by emphasizing at every opportunity, that they were all Socialists. This included Mrs. Pethick Lawrence, Chrystal Macmillan, Mrs. Snowden (of course), and all the lesser lights. Hitherto I have found it hard to like [page 3] Englishwomen, but this time I found myself their humble admirer.

In Paris we saw much of Mme. [Duchêne] who hoped against hope for a passport until Wednesday, May [13]th, when she finally wired that there was no hope.

The solitary Italian, Rosa Genoni, arrived on Tuesday, May 15th, and Mrs. Swanwick that evening.

The French women who took part, and the one Belgian, Mlle. La Fontaine, were already in Switzerland, and needed no passports.

Never have I seen so generous a spirit in any group of human beings. Even Dr. Jacobs was amicable from the word "go!"

Needless to say, J. A. presided to the satisfaction of everyone (but me! I thought she wasted one afternoon). I heard people saying in the English delegation "What an [page 4] excellent chairman, so fair, and not a moment wasted." In the Austrian delegation a woman was saying "She is so willing to yield and say that she is wrong -- 'I'm sorry I made that blunder' -- I shall always hear her saying that, and she makes so few blunders."

No one who was not there can ever conceive what it meant to the German and Austrian women. Poor things! Starved in body and soul. I cannot [think] of them without tears. So noble and eager. The Bavarians feel that their great days have come and gone like a brief dream. Frau [Baer] a beautiful, [lovable] young woman was assistant Secretary of State and Frls. Augsburg [page 5] and [Heymann] were members of the Bavarian Diet with seven other women, under Eisner. But after he was assassinated by Count Arco Valley, and much violence and blood shed followed, she resigned in protest.

[Today] for the first time in its history, Bavaria's army, railways and post office are controlled from Berlin. But women still have votes, and our friends are convinced that Democracy has come to stay, whatever vicissitudes may arise.

There was great difference of opinion among the members about the draft of the League of Nations. When I left, a committee was at work on a report to go to Paris, and the whole Congress on a long series of resolutions to go back to the national branches for study and for action in their own countries.

The public meetings were in the Aula of the University of Zurich where I was a [page 6] student five and thirty years ago. The audiences were tremendous, many men being present, and sympathetic in an extraordinary degree.

J. A. was at her very best. She loved the whole undertaking, [though] I think the widespread horror of the League of Nations, and especially of the Peace terms among the members was a surprise and a disappointment.

The day before I left, May 15th, word came that she is to go into Germany. So she will not sail on the Noordam on May ↑June↓ 23d.

With dear love Yours always

Florence Kelley