Alice Hamilton to Mary Rozet Smith, May 12, 1919

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Zurich May 12th
1919

Dearest Mary: I have wished for you to be over here many many times since we came but none so much as this morning when I do long for you to be here to see J. A. in all her glory, happier I am sure than she has been in five whole years. It is the opening morning of the Congress, the big room is full of a [subdued] Babel of many tongues, up on the platform which is charmingly decorated, is the lady surrounded by seven selected women of the different countries and in a few minutes she will make her opening address. It has all gone so beautifully, the Congress promises to be a great success. Some twenty-three British women are here, perfect corkers they are too. The Americans & Germans will be about even, around twenty. Next come eleven from Sweden, two or three each from Hungary, Austria, Ireland, Norway, Holland, & one each from Belgium, France & Italy. Of course there are a lot of lovely, fresh-faced Swiss with nice quaint English. Now J. A. is beginning & I must stop for a bit.

Zurich is so French and [things?] clean. The [page 2] weather has been perfect, the children's cheeks are the reddest thing you ever saw, they all have shining [moving] faces, the sky is the bluest ever, the snow is in great heaps on the mountains & the bright blue [illegible] [illegible] and the white sheets seem just as clean and they [illegible] & [illegible]. And it is such as refreshment after Paris. There is no gasoline so all go on foot through quiet streets, which in Paris it was a wild, noisy rush everywhere. There is no nervousness, no excitement, no gossip about how people hate us & how wretchedly the Americans are doing everything & what a miserable failure everything is. In Paris we were in a fantastically expensive hotel with lots of costly food, here we are in a Y.M.C.A. hotel, in a tidy little room -- very cheap, and food is plain & costs little. There is no butter in Switzerland, we make our breakfast on heavy black bread and marmalade & we put skim milk in our coffee. But in the best hotel the breakfast is just the same. That is another comfort in this pleasant land. Rich and poor fare alike.

Food is a subject that has never left my mind for a day since I came over. All the time in Paris when people are eating more extravagantly [page 3] than at home we were hearing ghastly tales of starvation, things that simply stagger one. And word of the discussions about what the Entente was doing or meant to do was a discussion of the deliberate use of starvation as a method & for apparently that is the new method of warfare, and it is very inexpensive & requires no courage & no sacrifices, you have no idea of the ghastliness of their policies and of course they are not theoretical, they are in force this very minute in every country where the "Reds" are in power, as well as still largely in force in Germany, Austria & Hungary. Here in Zurich we are [meeting?] the [motion] of it, and I am perfectly certain of one thing and that is that no matter whether war is ever justified or not nothing in the world can justify a food blockade. It is cowardly, it is hideously evil and it is utterly unjust for it strikes hardest the people least responsible for the [illegible] which has started it. If you could see Frau Kulka from Vienna, Frau Knischewsky from Wiesbaden, Frau Pogany from [Budapest] -- it brings a lump to any throat to look at them. They are emaciated, and it is the tragedy in their eyes that is the worst. Frau Kulka told me that the worst thing about any continued hunger is the effect on mind & spirit. People can think of nothing but food, they grow deaf to everything else, they change into selfish, sordid almost ruthless people who care nothing about anybody but themselves & their children. She says she will never again expect idealism or even intelligence from the abjectly poor. Frau Pogany told me of looking out of her window on a freezing morning at three o'clock & seeing the street [illegible] with women waiting for a butcher shop to open at eight because they had heard that the butcher had half a cow to sell, and she could see that there would be barely enough for one tenth of them.

They have just finished the roll call & it transpires that the Germans have the most numerous single delegation, 24. We and the British are even, 23 each. However the Allies & ourselves number 49 as against 36 of the Central Powers. The Irish have sent three who of course belong with the neutrals. Our delegation is better than last time and really there are only three who count, J. A., Miss Kelley & Emily Balch. I like her ever so much & she certainly knows a lot & her disposition [page 4] is fit for the Kingdom of Heaven. Miss Wald is not very telling, somehow not much of an addition. Jeanette Rankin is clever and attractive & people are all immensely interested in her. Mrs. Post & Mrs. Mead are looked on as the pillars of conservatism & if it were not for F. Kelley & Crystal Eastman our delegation would be -- together with the Swiss -- the extreme Right. I suppose that is because we and the Swiss are contented Republics for the most part & fiery revolutionary zeal has not reached us. Crystal Eastman is here as Mrs. Walter Fuller. For once she has found husband valuable. She has an English passport and sits with us. We have our share of silly ones. Old Mrs. French has turned up, also your friend Miss Burritt & Mrs White, Miss [Nichols] of Boston known to be trying and intelligent. Then there is a group of youngish individuals, Madeleine Doty & four others. But on the whole this 23 is decidedly better than our former 57.

The English delegation has old Mrs. Despard, and Mrs. Philip Snowden, Mrs. Pethick Lawrence, Miss Sheepshanks, Miss Marshall & a lot of active [awfully?] able women, most of them holding positions in the Labour Party & quite radical in their politics. But the radicalism of the [illegible line] [page 5] [illegible] women is delicious. They [illegible] our snail-like Anglo Saxon ways. Why not overthrow everything & start afresh as they have done. Whether the [illegible] is to be followed by a second somersault backward they don't stop to consider. Of course the poor Hungarians are [illegible] sad. Their brief Soviet is over & they are at the mercy of the Entente & unofficially Russians to whom they feel much as we felt toward Mexico under Diaz. They say Karolyi is a sincere, honest, excellent man, but the French & Romanians invaded Hungary -- then the Reds came & of course that meant Allied intervention.

I am afraid this letter will be almost illegible but if I waited for ink it would never get written. Do you know J. A. has had only a note from you -- written the day we sailed.

Love to Eleanor

Yours ever

Alice.