Emily Hobhouse to Emily Greene Balch, March 1921


Copy from letter from Miss Emily Hobhouse, Rome, March, 1921.

My dear Miss Balch,

Your very kind letter deserves a more encouraging answer than I can give it -- but after all, my opinion and outlook -- that of a hospital -- is little worth. Oddly enough your friend Mrs. [Urie] was here [today] and we discussed the position, agreeing I fancy on the broad facts. Yesterday Signora Chiaraviglio was here and I tried to get her points of view.

1) Are Italians as a whole a peace-loving non-military people. Ascribes the existing pugnaciousness to bad education founded on a system brought hero by Greeks centuries ago.

2) When pushed into the late war practically all the [Borghese] women raved about it. The Contadine remained pacifist on human ground. The Aristocracy largely pacifist, this probably more from self-interest.

3) Now nearly all leading or capable women fully occupied with works of importance. Those with German or Austrian blood deem it still impossible to come out and take up public work. The socialist women such as Victoria Rambelli and the Lollini feel the League is not fundamental enough for present day issues, and besides under party rules must sever Connection with bourgeois bodies.

Many women, pacifically minded, and approving the objects are [skeptical] of any good result.

Probably some interventionists might take it up but they have been known as crying out for war!

The wives of artisans and contadini are too overburdened with long families and too ignorant of the problems involved, and work amongst them of an educative character would take an army and would be quickly strangled by the priests.

The Montessori is pacifist au fond. She has just gone to Barcelona for 2 months and is going to England, and when she returns to Rome, it is to take up the position of Principal in Signorina Chiaraviglio's Scuola di Bologna Humana -- and make it a work of international and pacifist character. Probably she would be too busy to do the spade work needed here. Still her name might help you. I think if the Chiaraviglio took it up she is the one who could do real good with it -- but she is full of work and seconding as long as her father is Premier (and she is said to have more influence over him than anybody). I doubt if she would consent. Still if Miss Addams asked her one does not know. I love and admire her dearly. We have been incessant correspondence for years and years and I think her the wisest woman I know.

Under these circumstances I do not think it would be any use for you or anyone your delegate to come here unless prepared to stay and work for months and even then it is doubtful. Italy is a difficult place to work in -- and there is so much division between the towns. The posts too are abominably slow and uncertain. Now the Italians are [page 2] doing their best to choke off foreigners; they don't want us, and have inaugurated a tax on foreigners which I am told is to be very heavy. This will make international work still more difficult. The women here are not very ripe.

Have you thought of turning to Vernon Lee (Miss Violet Puget) in Florence? It might be a better field.

I would speak more openly -- but do not want to commit more to paper.

With all best wishes

Yours very sincerely

(signed) Emily Hobhouse

I think the immediate future for pacifist work lies amid artisans -- and town working men. I have just heard that in Turin the metal workers have refused to make arms and armamention for Export to Rumania.