NATIONAL LEAGUE FOR WOMAN'S SERVICE
America's largest and most remarkable war emergency organization---Its various departments and some details of its plans---With branches in every state this organization has far-reaching influence and is officially recognized.
One of the most remarkable examples of the genius of American women for organization is found in the National League for Woman's Service, an organization that has been doing practical war work since January, 1917-nearly three months before this country declared war against Germany.
The program of work on which the National League for Woman's Service is based was presented at the Congress for Constructive Patriotism held in Washington January, 25, 26 and 27, 1917, and was endorsed by Congress. A woman's session was held at which over five hundred women from all parts of the United States were present, representing many national, state and local organizations. At this session a resolution was passed endorsing the program an authorizing the chairman to appoint an organization committee of not less than fifteen members, to be national in representation this committee to proceed at once with the plans for an organization to promote the program for woman's work in America. Thus, the National League for Woman's Service came into being in Washington, D. C., on January 27, 1917. The organization committee consisted of: chairman, Miss Maude Wetmore,, Rhode Island; treasurer, Miss Anne Morgan, New York; national commandant, Miss Grace Parker, New York; Mrs. Rogers H. Bacon, New York; Mrs. Charles F. Edson, California; Mrs. Goelet Gallatin, Wyoming; Mrs.F.V. Hammar, Missouri; Mrs. E. R. Hewitt, New Jersey; Mrs. George Hoadley, Ohio; Mrs. George Isham, Illinois; Mrs. J. Willis Martin, Pennsylvania; Miss Marie Obenauer, Pennsylvania; Mrs. Thomas B. Owen, Alabama; Mrs. Lindsay Patterson, North Carolina; Mrs. William W. Sale, Virginia; Mrs. C. A. Severance, Minnesota; Mrs. Hugh L. Scott, Washington, D. C.; Mrs. Lewis B. Stillwell, New Jersey; Mrs. William Cumming Story, New York; Mrs. Coffin Van Rensselaer, New York; Mrs. Barret Wendell, Massachusetts.
The object of the National League for Woman's Service is to coordinate and standardize the work of women of America along lines of constructive patriotism; to develop the resources, to promote the efficiency of women in meeting their every-day responsibility to home, to state, to nation and to humanity; to provide organized, trained groups in every community prepared to cooperate with the Red Cross and other agencies in dealing with any calamity-fire, flood, famine, economic disorder, etc., and in time of war, to supplement the work of the Red Cross, the Army and Navy, and to deal with the questions of "Woman's Work and Woman's Welfare." The slogan of the organization is "for God, for Country, for Home."
The plan of work, in general outline, as originally stated, is to develop a clearing house of information regarding women's organizations; second, to coordinate the work of women's organizations and to develop the resources of women through a standardized, nationalized, program of activities; third, to recommend to the proper governmental agency: (a) a registry of the woman power of America; (b) a woman's bureau under the Federal Government to deal with woman's work and woman's welfare.
The standardized program of activity for coordinating the work and developing the resources of the women of America is as follows:
The responsibilities and interests of women are divided into thirteen national divisions, as follows: Social and Welfare, Home Economics, Agricultural, Industrial, Medical and Nursing, Motor Driving, General Service, Health, Civics, Signalling, Map-reading, Wireless and Telegraphy, and Camping. Definite work under these thirteen national divisions is developed through state and local organizations, the working unit being a detachment of not less than ten nor over thirty under the direction of a detachment commander.
The basis of training for all detachments is standardized, physical drill. Under each national division definite requirements are outlined. The plan provides for annual inspection of detachments and annual examinations of individuals, on the basis of which detachments and members are continued or discontinued; for promotion on a basis of service and efficiency; for annual state or district encampments; for an organization uniform to be worn on stated occasions; for an organization badge and insignia; for a pledge of allegiance to be signed by all members and that members must be over sixteen years of age and American citizens.
The plan also provides that any already existing organization may organize within its own membership detachments of the National League for Woman's Service without giving up its work or losing its own identity.
To develop this plan of organization would have required at least six months. Five days after the National League for Woman's Service came into existence, the nation was confronted with a crisis in its affairs with Germany and the possibility of an immediate emergency. It was then that the leaders of the National League for Woman's Service displayed their real genius for organization and expressed their patriotism in the immediate announcement of an emergency program which has since been developed and which is the working basis for the very complete and efficient organizations which the League has in nearly every state in the Union.
The emergency program was developed to provide for the immediate organization of the available resources of women for service, fitness for service being determined upon the basis of training and experience.
The first step in the development of the emergency plan of organization was the appointment by the National Executive Committee of a temporary state chairman in every state. These temporary chairmen were asked to appoint temporary state committees, consisting of at least one vice-chairman, a secretary, a treasurer, and as many other members as might seem desirable. The National Executive Committee suggested that temporary local chairmen be appointed at the earliest possible date in every city, town or district throughout the state. Much was left to the discretion of the state chairman and the state committee in the promotion of the organization in each state. So rapidly was this plan developed that within an incredibly short time the national headquarters had received information that there were complete working organizations in thirty-nine states while the other nine were in process of organization.
It would be difficult indeed to say which branch of the National League for Woman's Service has done most efficient work or has made a larger contribution to the national war program. But undoubtedly the Bureau of Registration and Information, which has been maintained since the beginning of the war in Washington, has rendered a service to the Government and to thousands of women the value of which cannot be estimated.
The first service which this Bureau set out to render was concerned with the mobilization of wage earning women to meet the demands for trained woman labor in the government establishments and in privately owned factories and mills engaged upon emergency orders for army and navy supplies. The principle and method of the Bureau's procedure was first submitted for approval to the Secretary of Labor. The plan received his endorsement and the work has been conducted in close cooperation with the Labor Department's employment offices throughout the country.
The work involved in carrying out the plans for this Bureau was tremendous. To do this work the Bureau had first to secure from the War and Navy Departments, and from other appropriate sources, accurate, current and comprehensive information concerning:
(1) What orders the Government was placing with private concerns and with its own factories and arsenals; (2) which of these orders involved woman labor, skilled and unskilled as an important factor; (3) the status of the woman labor supply in the establishments filling such orders; (4) the factory and mill trained woman labor reserve in the vicinity of these establishments which could be mobilized under a call for paid but patriotic service in case of a shortage in the mills and in the near by factories; (5) other near by places from which industrial recruits can be secured in case there is a shortage of trained woman labor in the immediate vicinity of establishments filling Government war orders.
The Bureau was able to get the War and Navy contracts as they were let; the necessary information as to the supply of trained woman labor to complete these contracts was obtained, and through local committees of its scores of cooperating organizations, the Bureau worked registering women for service and sending them direct to the establishments needing help. The value of such a work to the Government, to the firms holding government contracts and to the women workers must be at once apparent. The National League for Woman's Service has worked intelligently in many directions, but had it confined its efforts to the Registration Bureau alone it would be entitled to the highest commendation.
It was after the League had begun a general registration of the woman power of the country that the Woman's Committee of the Council of National Defense undertook such a registration, and for the purpose of avoiding confusion the National League for Woman's Service called its registration "Enrollment" instead of "Registration."
The "Follow-Up" system employed by the League proved most effective. By this system every volunteer enrolled for service was brought into an organization and especially prepared for the service which she had volunteered. The keynote of instruction sent out from the national headquarters is "Service must never be sacrificed to organization; but too frequently service is sacrificed because of lack of organization."
The National League for Woman's Service cooperated in a most interesting demonstration in food conservation in New York City made by the Mayor's Committee, the Woman's University Club, the Boy Scouts and other organizations. All food coming into New York City is inspected at the docks. The custom has been to condemn a crate of fruit or vegetables if only a small portion of the contents was unfit for use, and to throw away the entire crate. Now every barrel or crate which is not passed by the inspectors is turned over to the Mayor's Committee. The contents are sorted and all that is fit for use is either sold or canned at the demonstration kitchen.
In Schenectady, New York, the League secured the use of a small moving-picture theater a part of which is equipped with a kitchen where canning and cooking classes were held and demonstrations and lectures given with lantern slide illustrations. In Virginia the League pledged 30,000 cans of fruit and vegetables to be delivered for the soldiers by October 1, 1917.
A very important feature of the work of the League is the social club work for soldiers and sailors in different parts of the country. A notice regarding the club in New York City is posted on all of the transports of the Atlantic Fleet. To attend one of the social evenings at the New York City club a party of sailors who were without means walked from the Navy Yard in Brooklyn to the League's Club at 39th Street and back again, the round trip being over twelve miles.
The father of one of the boys came with him to the club and spent an evening. The following day he wrote to the League as follows: "I want to express my sincere appreciation of what you are doing for the boys of the army and the navy, and I would be glad to have a small part in this work. I enclose my check for $100."
Chapter XV. Permanent Organization
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