Jane Addams to Kathleen D'Olier Courtney, October 14, 1915


October 14, 1915

My dear Miss Courtney: --

I hoped very much that a letter from Miss Marshall or yourself would arrive before Dr. Jacobs left America, but she sailed from New York on the 5th of October, just a week before your letter of September [23d] reached Chicago.

I have been quite ill for the last two months and while I had seen the two groups of ladies separately at Bar Harbor where I was convalescing, I had not seen them together before the meeting which we held in New York the day before Dr. Jacobs sailed. As four out of the six officers were present, and as the meeting had been properly called, it was considered an official meeting. Dr. Jacobs was authorized to take steps toward calling together the International Committee upon her return in accordance with the resolutions passed at The Hague Congress, and she will then report for the delegation which went to the belligerent capitals. Madame Ramondt, in case neither of the others have returned, will report for the Northern delegation. In our capacity as envoys we issued the enclosed manifesto, to be released on the 15th of October, believing that it made for publicity and involved no un-neutral action of any sort.

I have missed one of the cables to which you refer and also one of your letters. It is therefore somewhat difficult to be quite clear as to the points made by the British Committee. I, of course, agree that the International Committee should have been called together to hear the reports of the envoys before further action was taken, and I imagine that "further action" refers to the second visits made by members of the Northern delegation to the two capitals.

In one sense their action was part of the original commission undertaken by the envoys to [page 2] the capitals. The Northern delegation felt that they had uncovered valuable information which made it advisable to visit the two capitals. Although I was not in Holland when the decision was made, I am quite sure that I should have felt that the only people who could decide on the value of such a course were the people who had had the original interviews when the information was disclosed. Also, in a sense this was exceeding their authority, but on the other hand, from the very nature of the case, the functions of the delegates could not be too clearly defined.

An impression [seems] to have been given that the second visits were a mistake; on the other hand, the delegates themselves feel that the written opinions have been most valuable in Holland and elsewhere.

I also infer that the British Committee has been disturbed by the meeting held in Amsterdam after Dr. Jacobs left. I myself felt that if money had been voted from the treasury on the urging of the two members of the committee who were coming to America the meeting would have seemed dubious, but the two ladies are perfectly definite in their statement that they came to America solely at their own expense and drew nothing from the treasury. The second visits to the capitals were also paid for out of a special fund of $500 donated by Miss Balch; the balance of $130 from that fund was returned to the treasury after Miss Balch came back to America, and she further paid into it $382.30, the amount expended by her upon the first journey. As I paid my expenses the American envoys have thus drawn nothing from the treasury. I am discussing the money matter at some length because it seems to me to clear the situation of a ground for criticism.

The original resolutions read that the envoys were to visit the European capitals and the President of the United States. At our committee meeting at The Hague as I recall it, the matter of the [personnel] of the delegation to the United States was left open. We felt that the journey was an expensive one and [page 3] that the feasibility of the European members coming here would have to be settled later. Because the matter was open, Miss Macmillan and Madame Schwimmer had a certain right for supposing that the United States might be included in their mission. I wrote from England in June to Dr. Jacobs and Madame Schwimmer, after I found that it would be utterly impossible for me to return to Holland, saying that I would see President Wilson immediately upon my return to this country because immediacy seemed to me important; and that if it were afterwards decided that other members of the delegations should come to the United States I would do what I could to secure interviews for them.

It was only during my conversation with the President that I found out he was declining to receive any representatives from belligerent countries. Miss Balch also saw the President upon her return, but the cable [we] sent with this information to Holland failed to reach Miss Macmillan or Madame Schwimmer. Although they have not seen the President they are lecturing at the present moment in California and doing valuable work for the international cause.

As to the difficulty implied in the very fact that women from belligerent countries held official positions, you can of course judge much better than we can here, although it has been a matter of a little pride to us, has it not, that "women from the belligerent and neutral nations" were working together. Both of the ladies have offered to resign -- Madame Schwimmer has, I think, already sent her resignation to the office in Holland.

We have had, as you know, no constitution, and the only instructions from the Congress received by the officers of the International Committee from the Congress were on two points -- the first sending envoys to the various governments, which I think on the whole has been well done although doubtless open to criticism; the second, to make arrangements for the meeting to be held "at the time and place the terms of settlements are made", and these arrangements I believe are well under way. The International [page 4] Committee will have, I hope, a good meeting. Mrs. Andrews will be in Europe at that time and will represent the American Committee.

I do not know whether or not the absurd report about the bayonet charges has reached you. In case it has, I am enclosing an explanation which I wrote the other day at the end of an article for the New York Independent. Miss Balch and I are getting out a little book "Women at The Hague", correcting many misapprehensions.

With all good wishes and hoping that I may hear often from the British Committee, I am

Faithfully yours,

Miss Courtney
London, W.