Wilbur Kelsey Thomas to Jane Addams, October 23, 1922


October 23-1922

Jane Addams
Hull House,

Dear Friend: --

Immediately upon receipt of your letter about Dr. Nansen, I sent the following cablegram to our London Committee:

"Can we arrange extensive speaking trip Dr. Nansen America early fall. Will meet expenses."

In reply we received the following cable from Ruth Fry:

"Our connection Nansen organization ceased. Fear tour impossible but will approach him for you if still desire."

In further explanation of this last cablegram, I will quote from a letter received from Ruth Fry under date of October 10th.

"I have received your telegram suggesting a winter tour by Dr. Nansen in America, and have telegraphed back to you as follows: Our connection Nansen organization ceased. Fear tour impossible but will approach him for you if still desire."

"I am not clear whether you are aware yet of the new arrangement by which our organization ceased to be part of the Nansen organization and feel that I ought to be clear on this point before approaching Nansen."

"I appear not to have reported to you, -- as the matter was not one that concerned your part of the work, -- that this decision was come to at the time of Dr. Nansen’s visit to London in July and was confirmed at the Conference at Geneva in September. As you know [page 2] we have been proud to work with such a fine idealist as Dr. Nansen, and are really grieved to have to sever our connection with him, but there were various points about the organization which we did not feel to be completely satisfactory, and without more control over the organization we did not feel able to continue to work under its auspices. To begin with, the food rations which were promised to us by them in March did not come until May or June, which very seriously hampered our work. This was caused by a contract made in Poland which was a complete failure. In addition to this, Dr. Nansen’s agent in Berlin, who is practically acting as business manager to the whole concern is, we understand, closely concerned with the Stinnes operations, and the mixture of big business and philanthropy is one which is certainly very much open to misunderstanding and to our mind is very unwise. I repeat that if we could have complete and full information we might be in a position to continue working with this organization, but as this seems impossible the only way remaining is to sever our connection. There are various other rumors and stories of an unsatisfactory character which go to prove that the organization does not fulfill the high ideals which Dr. Nansen, himself, we are convinced, holds and desires. A good many Societies are feeling with us on these points and all the English Societies have severed their connection and the same is being done by a considerable number of Continental Societies."

"Of course, none of this applies to our views of Dr. [Nansen], himself, and you may feel that you would like, all the same, to ask him to come, but I feel that you ought to know the facts before the invitation is given. I think his work as an inspiration to others to help and to see a great moral duty in the matter, is magnificent."

I do not quite understand the situation, but it seems that Dr. Nansen is not in as good favor with the other Relief Organizations as he has been. It seems that he has been playing with the Soviet officials rather more than some of them thought was wise, and so they have sort of withdrawn their support from him. I know that Mr. Hoover turned him down some time ago. In view of all this, I wonder if it would be wise for us to proceed with our inquiry, and I will be glad to hear from you at your early convenience.

His trip over would cost, with his traveling expenses, at least Seven Hundred Dollars. If he spoke for the Friends' work, he, of course, would be worth that or many times that amount. If some unfavorable propaganda arose, however, accusing him of being a Bolshevik agent, he might make a rather unfavorable [page 3] impression.

I would be glad, however, to hear from you before going any further with the arrangement.

Sincerely yours,

Executive Secretary