Feeding Europe and Saving America, February 18, 1921 (excerpts)



Nationally Known Woman Addresses Large Audience of Reading Business Men on the Needs of Starving Europe -- Answers Number of Questions

Jane Addams, of Hull House, Chicago, appeared before a large audience in the ball room of the Berkshire Hotel last evening and made a very sane and convincing appeal in behalf of the relief work now being conducted for the starving peoples in Europe and Asia.

For almost an hour she outlined in a candid manner the situation in various afflicted countries and based her appeal on the ground that America today has the greatest chance in its history to make itself the everlasting friend of the peoples of the world. She spoke of it as a rare chance and one that may never come along again.

"If America, with its [overabundance] of food and clothing, fails to come to the rescue, it will leave us with an everlasting scar," she declared. "If we help, we will bind the peoples of afflicted lands to us with hoops of steel."

The speaker made only a very brief reference to the work at Hull House in spite of promptings from various people in the audience to have a few words on her wonderful work in Chicago. In reply to various questions she made brief references to the work of women on the Chicago school board and the use of school houses as community centers.


Her audience was one of the largest that ever crowded into the ballroom of the Berkshire. There were more women than men. The balcony was crowded and many stood on the [mezzanine] floor adjoining the banquet hall throughout the address.

The occasion was arranged by the Chamber of Commerce. It opened at six o'clock with a dinner which was presided over by Landes F. Miller, president of the Chamber of Commerce.

In a few well-chosen words, Mr. Miller made reference to the movement to have Reading declared a second-class city. "The Chamber of Commerce took action in favor of second-class cityhood some time ago," said Mr. Miller. "Since that time there have been no dissenting voices and the action we took we still stand upon. A city is not better than the people make it and we hope to make Reading worthy of the new dress of second-class cityhood."


Heber M. Ermentrout was then introduced as chairman of the meeting and in a few words he introduced Miss Addams.

Miss Addams was given a splendid ovation as she arose to speak. Everyone in the audience stood up and applauded vigorously. She announced that the subject assigned to her was "Feeding Europe and saving America," and explained that, inasmuch as many people in the audience were anxious to hear something about Hull House she would try to divide her time between the two subjects.

She told of the present attempt to raise $33,000,000 for the relief of starving peoples on the other side of the ocean and explained that congress is waiting to learn what the people think of the subject of European relief. The speaker explained that Congress with the proper legislation will be able to help enormously on the crying need of the world particularly in the matter of moving our surplus crops and clothing supplies to the countries which need them. There are many difficulties in the way, she said, and many of them can be eliminated with the help of legislation.


"The relief commission does not pretend to do more than take care of the children who are ill or those who are about to become ill from the effects of malnutrition," said Miss Addams. "The commission is trying to keep them alive until the next harvest. There will be no attempt to take care of the normal children even though they must suffer to a certain extent.

"I have seen some of the conditions in Europe with my own eyes and what you see with your own eyes makes an indelible impression on you. I went with Dr. Hamilton to Europe in the summer of 1919. We are making a study for the Friends' commission, of Philadelphia. The general impression students of the situation got at that time was that the food resources of Europe were so much reduced that, unless America [page 2] came to help, a whole generation of children would be permanently harmed because of undernourishment. They would lose all their mental vigor or 'pep,' as we call it in Chicago. I don't know whether you use that term here or not.

"We will leave incomplete the whole moral effort which we undertook when we entered the war unless we take care of the food situation in other countries today. We entered the war for the sake of humanity, but all of our effort will be lost unless we carry it through to completion with the relief work which now confronts us."


The speaker then told briefly of how Congress is waiting for word from the people relative to a national loan which is to be used to send our excess food and wool supplies to Europe. She told of efforts of the wool growers of the northwest to have their excess manufactured in this country and of later efforts to have it sent to Austria and other countries to have it converted into clothing, but stated that innumerable difficulties faced them, including such matters as the tariff and rates of exchange. The cotton growers also considered sending their crop to Europe but ran up against the same difficulties.

"One of the chief troubles in trying to make the adjustments," said the speaker, "is the difference between our dollar and European money. The result is that America in now in the position of being commercially boycotted, not through any fault of Europe, but through our own fault."


Miss Addams then spoke of seeing children at Lille examined by a physician. "They were scarcely more than skeletons," she said. "They were emaciated to the point of danger, that is, the point where they can no longer take care of their growth and life. We did little else except look at children wherever we went.

"One got the impression after seeing so many starving children that, no matter what country they belong to, something simply had to be done for them.

"We have more wheat in this country than we ever had before. There is a glut in Chicago. They are burning corn for fuel in the middle west. Here we have more food than we can use, while over in Europe they are starving.

"We hear of old people making suicide pacts. They think they ought to kill themselves in order to give the children a chance.

"Before the war Europe was importing one-fourth of the grain consumed for food and one-fourth of the fodder necessary to produce their dairy products. The war eliminated commerce with the result that Europe's food supply was cut in half. It means that each person who should have 3,200 calories in food each day, has been getting only 1,300 to 1,500 since the beginning of the war. The result has been that they are in such a state of depletion that the future looks black indeed."


"It is up to the business men of America to see that the oversupply of food and clothing here is sent to Europe. The business men have come forward splendidly whenever called upon and we expect them [page 3] again to rise to the occasion and they will do so if public sentiment is aroused.

"As bad as Europe is, it is nothing compared to Armenia and the near east. There the children gather up bones, crush them and eat the marrow. It is also authentically reported that one child was found eating the marrow out of human bones which she had dug from a cemetery.

"The people are near to cannibalism, and they may be driven across the border line. They are not anywhere near that situation in Europe, but the children of Europe are being driven to stealing. They are losing sense of inhibition and all the other things which civilization has built up around them. They are stealing from their own home for food."


"At present our farmers are beginning to talk about restricting the crops and this in face of the fact that the rest of the world is starving. If we don't help Europe, it will leave a scar on this country. The peoples in other countries are getting to know about our situation as to crops and clothing and, if we don't help them, it will leave a bitterness which will never be forgotten."

Miss Addams then turned to a few remarks on Americanization. "The trouble is we divide out 100 [percent] Americans from those who immigrated to this country. This tendency to divide the people of this country into two groups is most unfortunate.

"The people of Poland living in this country haven't heard from their relatives since 1914. They come to Hull House and beg for news. They want to send their money, but the banks won't accept it because of unsettled conditions in that country. In Russia things are even worse."


"Those who come from Italy are also worrying about their relatives. There is less food in Italy now than during the war. Italians in this country are worried about the situation there. They are making big wages, but they can't help because the food is not on the ground.

"If we understand the situations in the countries from which our immigrants come, we will better understand the people here. With very close relatives, in many cases wives and children in the old countries, they are worried and restless. This may be some of the unrest of which we speak of today. No wonder they are worried.

"We have a great chance to make friends with these people today. We could bind them to us with hoops of steel if we would display a common interest in one of the greatest human disasters which has ever faced the world. If we're going to Americanize them and understand them, we must learn something of their background. You can't expect to change them over completely into Americans with the touch of a hand."


"For many years we have had classes in Americanization at Hull House. The people who have made the best teachers for us are those who knew something about the history and language of the countries from which their pupils came.

"We will be throwing away an opportunity we may never have again. When we entered the war, we declared that we were no longer separate and apart from Europe and the same is true today. If you are going to make friends of the people from other lands, you must have some method of approach that will be lasting and genuine."


Miss Addams then announced that she would be glad to answer questions. Before answering one, however, she spoke about Chicago's small park system, each with its buildings, swimming pools, shower baths for men and women and most of them with branches of the public library. She said the parks had helped to reduce juvenile crime and helped to bring out the cultural side of foreign-born people.

Former Councilman B. Frank Ruth wanted to know whether certain stories circulated about China to the effect that millions of dozens of eggs were shipped out of that country in the face of starvation, were true or not.

Miss Addams replied that it might be partly true. "The situation in China is chiefly one of transportation," she said. "The famine part of China is far removed from the rest of the country. In certain sections they have food, but the transportation difficulties to the famine district are almost insurmountable. What is needed there is an army which could lay a railroad in three weeks to the famine district. The people can be fed for a half a penny a day. The largest expense is getting the food to them. We have built railroads for other purposes. Why can't we build one to the famine district of China."


Owen [Warner?] wanted to know whether it is true that some of the grains sent to Europe are used to make intoxicating liquors.

"I suppose that some of that may be true," replied Miss Addams. "But this country is in such a position that it [could] absolutely dictate any kind of conditions to Europe and have them carried out."

"Many people here would like to know about Hull House," stated Stanley Bright, former president of the Chamber of Commerce.

"That's a large order," commented Miss Addams.

"Hull House was started about thirty years ago. There are now thirteen buildings covering about a block and a half.

"The buildings are used by Greeks, Italians, and south Europeans. The [Slavs] also make use of them.

"We have a labor museum showing the various steps in the progress of industry. You could have the same thing here in this textile community."


Speaking about the younger generation of foreign-born peoples, she remarked that they tried to avoid having the women considered "queer and outlandish" because they wear shawls on their heads. "Sometimes it is the opposite," remarked the speaker. "It is the women who wear hats who are queer and outlandish." This provoked great laughter.


Mayor Stauffer then wanted to know how the women could best serve their community.

"You have a very wonderful woman's club here," quickly replied Miss Addams, and the answer met with hearty applause.

"The women should urge for playgrounds, baths, and also recreational centers."

"How can the segregation evil be met?" asked a man in the audience.

"When foreigners first come to this country, it is natural that they hunt out their friends and those who speak their language. The difficulty comes with the second generation when they aspire to move into more American circles. The second generation should be encouraged to come out of the settlement districts. Women's clubs could help by showing an interest in them. However, you can't force them [and] you can't patronize them."


Rev. L. Griswold Williams wanted to know what first to do in establishing a community center.

"You will need means for recreation and education," replied Miss Addams. "There are many things, but no fixed program can be laid down. It depends entirely on conditions."

"What do they do at Hull House?"

"At present they are fond of dancing," stated Miss Addams. "Sometimes I get tired of their everlasting dancing. We must always be careful not to let anyone thing run away with the place."

"What did the women accomplish on the Chicago school board?" asked another auditor.

"We are not particularly proud of our record," replied Miss Addams. "I was a member for three years. We pushed playgrounds. The schools of Chicago are well socialized. Some of them are open as social centers. But you can't make social centers unless you have someone to run them who is deeply enthused on the subject. You can't open the schools and say to the people 'come.' They won't come of themselves. There must be a great moving spirit in each social center."

[This] concluded the speaker's remarks for the evening and she thanked her audience for their attention. Miss Addams left the city immediately after the meeting. Some of her relatives living near this city came forward to greet her. They informed her that they were cousins. Miss Addams' ancestors settled in this county.