Alice Hamilton to Mary Rozet Smith, April 22, 1915

Thursday April 22d

Dear Mary,

This will be a rocky letter, I am afraid, for we have had a following wind and a heavy roll for the last two days and my hand is most uncertain. Indeed it never has been smooth enough to make either Miss Addams or me quite comfortable but then it has not been rough enough to make us sick.

It is a most novel trip. It is like a perpetual meeting of the Woman's City Club, or the Federation of Settlements, or something like that. Really it makes the day go amazingly quickly. I never was so little bored on a trip. Always one is going to meetings [page 2] or discussing the last meeting or reading up something which somebody has said is peculiarly illuminating on the underlying causes of the war. It is interesting too to see the party evolve from a chaotic lot of half-informed people and muddled enthusiasts, and sentimentalists, with a few really informed ones, into a docile teachable, coherent body, only too glad to let itself be led by those few. We have long passed the stage of poems and impassioned appeals and "messages from womankind" and willingness to die in the cause, and now we are discussing whether it is more dangerous to insist on democratic control of diplomacy than it is to insist on the neutralization of the seas. There are still some five or six whom we regard [page 3] with a little mistrust and who may possibly disgrace us at the last moment but most of us are very quiet and tractable.

I find the discussions ever so interesting and get quite absorbed in them, and then all of a sudden the whole thing looks absurdly futile. I suppose I shall always be a doubting Thomas and a pessimist. Miss Breckinridge has been a great help. She and Grace Abbott and Miss Balch of Wellesley and Mrs. Post are acknowledgedly the leaders. Miss Addams is really having a good time. She has made every woman on board feel that she is an [intimate] friend and they all adore her. And she has the pleasant conviction that she has done a good job with not very promising [page 4] material. We are right next to Miss Breckinridge and Miss Abbott and have the door open between our cabins so we are very chummy. I like Grace Abbott better all the time but my special crony is Miss Kittredge, Norah's friend and landlady. I hope she will stick to us, for I foresee a Cinderella kind of a time if we go to England. Everybody on board wants to go to England with Miss Addams and though she is lying low and not saying whether or not she will go, I know that when she does she will have annexed a lot of them and I shall be lost in the shuffle. In that case I shall break loose with Miss Kittredge. [page 5]


We were off the Scilly Islands when we came up from breakfast this morning, then came all sorts of wild excitements, a big ship westward bound, very high out of the water and marked in great letters "Belgium Relief," evidently empty and going back for more supplies. Then a fleet of fishing vessels which roared angrily at us and made us go out of our way in a big curve to avoid their nets. And then [illegible] Eddystone Light and the Lizard, which would be so beautiful if only that foggy island were not at its foggiest. It is disappointing. I had looked forward to this day along the English coast and now it is only a dim outline. [page 6] We know absolutely nothing of what has happened during these nine days. The wireless clicks away and the Captain has sheafs of dispatches brought to him at the table, but no word do we hear. He announced that he would allow no news to be posted because on one of the trips the passengers got into such a fierce controversy that he was afraid of trouble. It seems a little provoking that forty elderly female Peace delegates cannot be trusted to keep from fighting over war reports.

They say we are to reach Dover tomorrow morning, though other reports are that we shall not steam at all tonight but just sit and wait for daylight. At Dover the excitement is supposed to begin, for there the British warship is supposed to meet up with us and inspect us. Two wretched [page 7] stowaways, Germans I suppose, came out from the coal hold a few days ago, having exhausted their food supply and I suppose the English will take them off. Then there is a pale, melancholy, pinched-looking woman, a German who was caught in America by the war and has only just succeeded in escaping. She has some dreadful American disease which she would never have caught in Germany and the American doctors would not cure her because they have no good medicines now that they cannot get them from Germany. She is in terror of the British and when we try to comfort her she only sniffs in a melancholy and skeptical way.

The Pethick Lawrences are much in evidence and I can see why Rachel Yarros loved them so passionately for they would rather discuss than do anything else. They are nice and warm and likeable, but not very intelligent. [page 8]

I have not said a word about all the wealth of things which you and Mrs. Bowen sent us. It is just as if I were taking them for granted and perhaps we really all hid out a little as if we knew of course we should be showered with luxuries. Anyway we enjoyed them immensely, all of us, for none of us has ever been beyond the possibility of liking to eat between meals and when going to bed. Also we have taken boxes up on deck from time to time and been ostentatiously generous with them. Miss Addams has been saving a box of peppermints and the cake and biscuit box for Holland and now they say that cake and candy will be confiscated at the custom house.

It really is amusing to think that we are actually in the danger zone now, in this gray, still, monotonous ocean, with everything as ordinary and reassuring as can be. One cannot have a single [illegible]. [page(s) missing]