Anna Garlin Spencer to Jane Addams, March 5, 1920




7 High St. White Plains New York March 5th 1920

Dear Miss Addams,

I saw Mrs Karsten a few minutes after our meeting yesterday and learned more than I had before "sensed" of her great desire to end her connection with our office as soon as possible in order that she might have a real vacation in which to think out her problem of future work.

I feel that we should consider her in this matter since she definitely decided not to continue as permanent Ex. Sec. of our Section (as we should all wish she might do) and since she has loyally kept on with the work under the disheartening conditions incident to the [attempt] to revive a moribund organization and is willing to keep on until there can be a "new deal".

It had not occurred to me at first that we could have a the Annual Meeting before the June date I suggested. But all others seem to think June too late in the season and some are going abroad and those responding to the [Questionnaire] incline to early May. Now it seems our Friends from Phila find early May impossible.

These circumstances make me feel it not wrong to ask for a still earlier date, namely, in April, just after the meeting at New Orleans. That would enable Mrs Karsten to end her engagement the first of May and yet give her several days with the new Ex. Sec. to help her if needed and such a person is chosen. We cannot know whom we should try to get for the general work of our office until the location of the Headquarters and the person and amount of time she can give to the work of a new Chairman are determined, at Chicago meeting, and hence any aid Mrs. Karsten may be able to render to the new staff must be given after that meeting.

If therefore you and the other general officers approve, and the local Chicago group who will have the details of the meeting in charge concur, I shall call the Annual Meeting for the 23rd and 24th of April, Friday and Saturday, with a chance for a supplementary meeting on Sunday should there be need for it and with the service of Mrs Karsten secured until April 30th for such aid as she may render after the meeting.

The material from the office here must be taken to Chicago and would therefore be at hand for transfer. This office should be given up at end of April even if New York City were decided upon for permanent office, since through the summer a mailing service only would be needed [until] other arrangements could be made in the fall. [page 2]

There is another reason which developed at our meeting yesterday which makes me personally anxious to have the Annual Meeting as early as possible. That is the action taken on our historic platform. Had the circumstances been different I should have felt obliged to rule as Chairman that the motion to "drop" that platform was out of order and have asked for a substitute motion that the members of the Board present [recommend] by referendum that a new platform be written and adopted when the organization should meet. I am sure that further thought will make you agree with me that no radical change in a regularly accepted platform under which a body has been working since its organization, can be made by a small fraction of the Ex. Board at a meeting in the call for which no mention is made of such a purpose.

It may be quite time for "a new platform" but such a change must be made "decently and in order".

I shall be glad to entertain any proposals for a new platform to be sent out in the call for the Annual Meeting. Until then, whatever expression of feeling there may be or desire expressed for a different form, the old platform and the Revised Constitution are all we [legally] have to work under or with. We can of course issue "lists of emergency duties" as we tried to do to supplement the platform.

The obvious need, however, of going over all the [illegible] [items] of the platform, and the Revised Constitution, especially in reference to the relationship of local branches or associations, make it clear that the next Annual Meeting must be devoted primarily to setting our own house in order. That means that a full statement of our needs and possibilities be made to all our members in preparation for that event.

This is ↑a↓ tedious and thankless task, but the ethics of [cooperative] action require it to be done and I shall do my utmost to get the [matter] in shape to save time and trouble for our membership at the Chicago meeting. [page 3]

The things we must decide are 1. Shall we be an organization, a real "Section", or a mere Committee? (That question can be justly decided now as it could not at Phila because our members will be definitely circularized for votes)

2. Shall we have Branches or [affiliated] bodies and if so what shall be their status in fees and voting privileges?

3. Where shall we have our Headquarters?

4. Who shall be our Chairman?

5. Shall we emphasize in our paid staff office or field work?

6. How shall we make our Constitution brief clear and consistent?

7. What shall be our platform for permanent work?

8. How shall we provide for emergency work and the quick decisions that demands?

9. How can we raise money and secure personal support to make the plan plans for the year's work, between our Annual Meeting of the Spring of 1920, and the Biennial of the W.I.L. to be held in the Spring or early summer of 1921, a worthy American support of the women of other countries?

These questions are vital to any real work as a collective body before the public. Each of us can individually make some contribution to the world need. We can not do more as acting together unless we have a clearer basis and method of cooperative action.

There is nothing intricate in the business of this office. Any competent Chairman who could give the necessary time could easily manage it with ↑a↓ mere stenographer. But a Chairman giving limited time and attention must have a woman of Mrs Karsten's [caliber] to aid her in the office side of the work.

A Chairman sufficiently footloose and a good speaker could on the other hand manage the field work, if the office were efficiently conducted by a good Ex. Sec. If however the Chairmen chosen could do the office end with a stenographer and could not take the field then the paid officer should be a field worker. The manner of adjustment of these duties is less important than that both the office and the field end be made strong and efficient. [page 4]

After an Annual Meeting in April, if that were what it should and may be, there will be time for a years really efficient work on any basis determined.

Thank you dear Miss Addams for the generous interest which secured for our treasury the handsome addition and for the benefit and delight of your presence at our little meeting.

Yours always faithfully,

Anna Garlin Spencer [signed]