Madeline McDowell Breckinridge to Jane Addams, November 18, 1914


General Federation of Women's Clubs

L & N. train to Louisville
Wed. Nov. 18 -- 1914.

Dear Miss Addams --

The enclosed pencil sheet is the telegram I wrote you yesterday morning immediately after the morning session. I could not find from anyone your address, so could not send it. My conviction then as to events seems so amazing as to be hardly credible. I therefore gave you no advice in my telegram of last night sent to Chicago. This letter giving the facts as I remember them will probably reach Chicago as soon as you do. I took the motions from the Sec's (Miss Ericson's) minutes before leaving the room. The whole thing was pretty rapid and mixed. When I spoke in the evening after our all afternoon board meeting to four people -- Anne Martin, Mrs. Cyrus Field, and then the two Mrs. McCormicks -- of [page 2] what seemed to me the biggest fact of the morning, namely the reading by Dr. Shaw of a portion of a letter or written statement from you accepting the position, & they did not know it had happened. I began to think I was going to have to make the statement unsupported. I tried to get hold of several other persons on whom I believed it would have made an impression & they had left town. Later, however I had a conversation with Mrs. [FitzGerald] as to what had transpired, & it is also her statement that Dr. Shaw read your written statement of acceptance. She considers that Dr. Shaw got hold of the wrong letter by mistake. Dr. Shaw, however, did not read the right one until I said, "But a later letter Dr. Shaw", and I think I added just, then though perhaps a little later "of which I have a copy" [page 3]

This is the record which I think the Sec's minutes will show:

Mrs. Rogers moved (seconded by Miss Blackwell) that Jane Addams be first Hon Vice-Pres. Carried. Miss Thomas moved that Ex. Council ask "Miss A's consent to print her name on official paper as Hon. Vice-Pres. with names of official board. Dr. Thomas withdrew motion."

{There was then much discussion on another subject to no motion. When this fact was called attention to I made a motion to reconsider motion electing you, which after some discussion with Mrs. French called on as parliamentarian, I changed to "rescind"}

Mrs. Breck'ge moved to rescind the motion electing Miss Addams. Lost.

Mrs. Sommerville moved the Sec inform Miss A [of] her election to the office of Hon. Vice-Pres. & say the conditions made which she stated she would accept the office be rigidly ad. moved {by Mrs. Breck} that the fact of Miss A's [page 4] election be not given to the papers nor any mention made of the incident until Miss A. has been communicated with. Carried.

The Sec. allowed me to write out -- with Mrs. Sommerville's help as to hers -- these last three motions.

The proceedings were not as orderly as this reading of the minutes would indicate. The Sec. was having a hard time to get the minutes. Having written down a motion previously she went back & put "carried" when such a motion was finally carried -- even though another motion had been offered & discussed in between.

It is Miss Fitz's statement in the conversation with me last night that the [motions] which I have numbered 1 & 2 were before us at the same time. (Dr. S's presiding was considerably tangled). It was at this time that Dr. S. read the part of the earlier letter from you & while I said "a later letter Dr. Shaw," read us [page 5] as I remember a part of & then Mrs. Fitzg. read the whole of your letter of which I had the copy. In there Miss Thomas withdrew her motion about stationery. I stated my understanding of that letter & your letter to me that your name was to be withdrawn & that this was final. The others explained that you didn't withdraw, if the conditions about printing your name were complied with. Things were made to move very rapidly & you were elected. Discussion about something else was entered into. After sitting still some time with the feeling that the thing had been railroaded, that I had simply been out-generaled, that I had not yet done my duty, I moved  to "reconsider", changing to "rescind" in order to get it done in one motion instead of two, stated that I considered I was commissioned to [finally] [page 6] withdraw your name & read your letter to me & (again) your letter to Miss Shaw. I feel sure you did not intend me to do that & I think you have a right to be disappointed if not displeased with the way I managed the thing. It seemed to me the council after hearing the 2 letters would necessarily agree with my interpretation of your intention -- & I wanted them by that time to hear both. As a matter of fact I think the council took the interpretation of Dr. Shaw, Miss Thomas, Mrs. Fitz & the McC's. I think most of them felt we were all too tired to think clearly about anything & that I was tired to the point of feeble-mindedness.

Mrs. Fitz. stated to the council that she would submit what she wrote on to me. She did submit a formal letter which with one change which I made, seemed to me a very clear & simple statement of the case. [page 7]

Miss Byrnes asked me to ask some one to be with her when she gave a report of the meeting to the press. I suggested Miss Blackwell, she assented. Miss Blackwell was present. Mrs. Fitzg. says Miss B. innocently gave away enough to put the reporters on the scent of news. At any rate there is a very clear act of some of the happenings in morning Nashville paper.

By last night my interpretation of the morning events seemed to me even almost incredible. Mrs. Fitzg's explanation of the reading of the 1st letter certainly sounds much more reasonable.

My first instinct about your name being put on against your will & in a somewhat tricky way (regardless of the fact of the 1st letter) is however still so strong, that if you asked my advice I would advise you to withdraw. There is of course in my mind the conviction that you intended me to withdraw your name finally. You know [page 8] whether I am right or wrong about that.

There is of course

Mrs. Dexter has gone on to Ch. to see you. You will hear I am sure, the reasons why you should not withdraw. I do not think I need be afraid of influencing you unduly -- I am sure you will make up your own mind.

Regardless of the methods of yesterday is there not a danger of further [misunderstanding] as to the use of your name?

I worked [peaceably] with Dr. S. all yesterday afternoon & parted with her pleasantly -- which somehow does not increase my self-respect. Yet I hardly feel prepared to make a charge & declare war. I am inclined to think my instinct of the night before agreeing to accept nomination was right. That I should have declined. I am also inclined to think I should resign now [page 9] I would like advice from you & Nisba, if you are not weary of that job.

Please show this letter to Nisba. I apologize for it. Knowing the patience it will require on the part of you both to read it.

My resig. would have to be based on inability to attend all B. meetings, fear that I could not work harmoniously with the Board & health --  I believe the last fairly valid. I doubt if I can comfortably stand continued emotional as well as physical strains! I could not base it on a charge, & I don't feel ready to make that. But the feeling that I ought [not] to go on with the lack of complete [confidence] in the Pres. is undoubtedly the strongest factor.

As a by-product, Mrs. M. McC. thinks considers, I believe, that I insulted her in a conversation last night. I went in to ask her recollection & Mrs. [page 10] Stanley's about the "1st letter". Neither one of them remembered & also considered that I had simply misunderstood your morning letters to Dr. Shaw & me. Mrs. [McC.'s] mind was not on the thing that seemed important to me. A discussion arose as [to] the publication of your statement. I thought the [sentence?] printed on a separate sheet & distributed among the delegates was the incorrect statement & said so. I found I was [wrong] about that & so stated. But before that I said I thought she was responsible for that printing. I said I remember "it wasn't printed by the other side: it was printed by some of your people". [When] I said she was "responsible" she left the room. I went & got the statement, stated I was in error as to it; she had Mrs. [Funk] explain to me that some of them had had the thing printed & [page 11] circulated without Mrs. McC's knowledge.

Mrs. McC. after a little came back in the room. I stated to her that I was mistaken about the printed statement, that I had had no intention of implying that [she?] was underhand when I said she was "responsible", but as I felt responsible for what was done on the Board though I was not always there, as I would consider myself responsible for those associated with me. I did not do it in a very apologetic way; she evidently did not do that accept that explanation, & left without saying or allowing me to say good-[bye.]

I hate to bother you with this. But because it may come to you from elsewhere, I think I had best make my statement of it to you.

It is another slight indication that my service on the Board would not be very pleasant. [page 12]

Our all afternoon B. meeting was entirely peaceful & it seems to me I ought to be ashamed to say quite friendly, even as between Dr. Shaw & me, so that I almost forgot my morning impression with regard to her. I freely voted to let the two McC. & Dr. Shaw do all the work & have all the responsibility, in soliciting [employees], etc. & generally lived up to my role of being a shirk.

Thanking you for all your kindness & for the joy of being with you, I am

Aff yours

M. McD. B.