The current of inspiration is turned on from the Woman's Committee at Washington---Wheels of organization begin to turn in the states---A model town---General plan of work adopted by Woman's Committee
Having formulated a general plan for organizing the women of the country, the Woman's Committee set about to assist in the organization of the various state units. The plan of organization left each state free to perfect its organization in the way its leaders thought best. There was no stipulated manner of doing the work and no settled plan for establishing headquarters. The state organizations are financed various ways. In some instances the cooperating organizations furnish the funds; in others voluntary contributions are used; in many places entertainments are given to raise funds and in several states appropriation of the State Council of Defense covers the expense of the women's district organization. While these preliminary arrangements were being made in the various states the Woman's Committee was fulfilling its mission as a clearing house, and continued it efforts toward a general coordination of all organized societies of women, the states being encouraged and stimulated to work out their -plans in their own way.
It is most interesting to follow the work of the various states and to note how each has handled its individual problems. Alabama began early to center it efforts on social service; Connecticut specialized in medical service; Virginia took up public health; Nebraska went to work early for food production and conservation; Wisconsin did effective home work for county and town; Kansas, besides conducting the wonderful work done by farmers' wives, was very active in a work organized by the wife of Brigadier General C. Martin, who marshaled the women of her state for war work under an organization called the Military Sisterhood; in Illinois the women organized butlers serving wealthy families, culinary experts, cooks' unions, hotel and club stewards, etc.; prizes were offered for the best wheatless, meatless menus, and food conservation meetings were held everywhere in the state. Meetings for women of foreign birth were held throughout Illinois, at which the women were taught to speak and understand English. They were invited to bring their babies to the class and it soon became necessary to ask for voluntary nurses to take care of the babies. It was in Chicago that a woman conceived the idea of establishing a flag hospital, and she called for volunteers to assist in keeping the flags of Chicago clean and mended.
The organization of women initiated by the Woman's Committee not only extended through the forty-eight states but spread to the entire territory over which float the Stars and Stripes. Mrs. F Arnett Smith, of Christobal, Panama Canal Zone, was asked by the Woman's Committee to represent the district in which she lived in mobilizing the great army of women for war work. Porto Rico and the Philippine Islands were also asked to organize A temporary chairman was appointed in the Hawaiian Islands, and Alaska kept pace with the other states in perfecting its organization under the chairmanship of Mrs. Thomas J. Donohue.
By June 15, 1917, six states had fully organized and had reported permanent chairmen. These states were South Dakota, Texas, Ohio, Alabama, Iowa and Colorado.
What may be considered a mile post in the progress toward the coordination of the women's organization for war work was the conference held in Washington on June 19, 1917, between the Woman's Committee of the Council of National Defense and heads of fifty- nine national women's societies. The delegates came to Washington at the call of the Woman's Committee to present their views to the end that war work might be carried on systematically and harmoniously throughout the nation. This was perhaps the most notable gathering of women ever held in America, and during the all-day session many plans of far- reaching influence were initiated and many valuable experiences and ideas were exchanged. The organization of vigilance committees was suggested, to watch for violations of ethical laws governing labor and to prevent the employment of women in the place of men at half the men's salaries. It was decided to oppose any attempts to annul laws governing the employment of women and children in industry as well as the exploitation of children. Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt, President of the National American Woman's Suffrage Association, declared this to be the greatest problem of the war and made a strong plea that the women stand for equal pay for equal work. Another important feature of this meeting was the announcement of the organization of women physicians of the National Woman's Medical Association for maternity service and to fight infant mortality. Dr. Esther Pohl Lovejoy, of Portland, Oregon, represented the Association in Washington. Dr. Lovejoy had been authorized by her organization to go to France to study conditions there, and the Woman's Committee gave her letters of introduction to the American officials in France. Dr. Lovejoy's reports from time to time to the Woman's Committee and to her own society will form valuable data upon which to base serious work of the future, and will constitute an important chapter in the history of the work of American women in the World War. Even in these early days of war thousands of women were already mobilized as was shown by the report of the representatives of the Needlework Guild of America, who stated that more than two hundred and fifty thousand women were ready to engage in war work. Spontaneous pledges of earnest efforts along many avenue constituted an inspiring feature of that meeting. The Association of Collegiate Alumnae reported that its chief interest would lie in safeguarding moral conditions at the camps and the National Special Aid Society reported that it had already sent sixty-five nurses to France, was giving French lessons to nurses, training aviators and having books printed for them in order to get them into the hands of the enlisted men more promptly. Miss Mabel Boardman reported that to that date the American Red Cross had enlisted more than nine thousand trained nurses. The Woman s Christian Temperance Union, through its president Miss Anna Gordon reiterated its strong stand for national prohibition and declared its belief that the greatest waste in America comes from alcoholic beverages The United Daughters of the Confederacy agreed to care for the children of women engaged in war industry by turning their homes into day nurseries, and the National President, Mrs. O.D. Odenheimer reported that some members had volunteered to take as many as ten or fifteen children into their homes. Mrs. C. Van Rensselaer of the National League for Woman's Service made the remarkable report that progress for constructive preparedness were under way in thirty-nine states. Mr. Lester Scott representing the Camp Fire Girls, was the only man delegate at the conference. He said that more than ninety-five thousand girl were cooperating with the Department of Agriculture, working with the Red Cross, adopting Belgian babies, and canning vegetables and fruits. From this meeting radiated in every direction a stimulating and powerful influence of incalculable benefit.
As a further stimulus to the work of state organization the Committee sent its executive secretary, Mrs. Ira Couch Wood for a tour through the states of Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska, with the view to the perfection of the organization of the Committee in these states. The survey made by Mrs. Wood proved interesting and valuable and her direct message from the Woman's Committee to the leaders in these states was helpful and inspiring to them. Later, members of the Committee personally assisted in the organization work of other states, Mrs. Lamar in North Carolina, Miss Wetmore in Texas and Mrs. Moore in Indiana. Not only did these women give their personal attention to state organizations when their assistance was needed, but the Woman's Committee continually sent out information and assistance from its headquarters in Washington, leaving nothing undone that could aid the states in their work.
Perhaps the most striking example of prompt and efficient organization came from a thriving and energetic town in the Middle West. The men and women in this town of about five thousand people were animated by the desire common to all Americans to be of real service to the nation. They came to the conclusion that the best way to begin was to make their community life as fine and serviceable and uplifting as it could be.
A democratic group of representative men and women canvassed the situation thoroughly, and made up their minds as to what, in general, needed to be done to carry out their purpose. The War Emergency Union was formed, the men choosing certain lines of work, the women certain others. A joint committee was provided for and headquarters established in the Community House, with a paid secretary and volunteer help. The men devoted themselves to finance, recruiting, drills for home defense, food production. Vacant areas were plowed by tractor and assigned to citizens; home gardens encouraged; lectures on gardening given and seeds and fertilizer furnished to boys and girls, who were under responsible leadership. They held organized sales of surplus garden produce in the village, through one of the markets, and established a cooperative central delivery for all the stores. They started an Honor Roll placed in the center of the village for all men entering the Army and Navy.
On July 4th, on the village green there were reproduced, with full detail of costumes and wording, two dramatic scenes from American history-"Washington Receiving his Sword and Commission from the Continental Congress," and "The Signing of the Declaration of Independence. "Those proved a splendid stimulant to patriotic endeavor. The Boy Scout organization was developed to great usefulness and sports and entertainments for men at an adjacent training station were organized.
The women called together all the presidents of the local organizations of women in the village, and some women to act for the unorganized women, and formed a local unit of the Woman's Committee, Council of National Defense. A permanent chairman was elected, who, with two other women chosen by the central group, became members of the joint committee of the War Emergency Union.
The women undertook the registration of village women for service; then centered their interest in food conservation, which included lectures and demonstrations by several home economics experts on all aspects of food preservation and substitution, household and personal economy, budget making, etc. All those lectures were given in the Woman's Club house, and were free to women in the village, the Club assuming all expenses. Actual canning, drying and preserving were carried on in the school house kitchen in charge of an expert, women bringing their own vegetables and fruit, and paying the actual cost of jars, etc. Certain days were set aside in the school for the members of the Relief and Aid Society to can surplus vegetables donated from private gardens to be used the following winter in charity work.
Red Cross work was a part of their program. One parish house was kept open every day for the making of surgical supplies, hospital garments and comfort bags for soldiers at home and abroad. A branch of the Navy League worked every day at the Woman's Club house, making supplies and comforts for the sailors.
Every sewing society and church guild or fraternal group in the village agreed to keep in session all summer to make garments for the women and children of our Allies. Money to buy materials for the work was raised by a systematic collection of waste paper twice a week. This was marketed with a substantial profit in a city sixteen miles distant; delivery trucks otherwise returning empty, were the means of transportation.
A group under the direction of the Relief and Aid Society undertook to see that all local charities were maintained. Volunteers are assigned from the registration lists to help at playgrounds, parks and beaches; a number are taking social service training in a School of Civics and Philanthropy, and receiving practical experience in neighborhood visiting, under the direction of the Community Nurse; others have volunteered for service in a near by city settlement and a day nursery, and a city infant welfare station is supported. Three groups of Camp Fire Girls were organized who are giving splendid community service
The women joined others in neighboring towns to maintain a "Khaki Teahouse" for officers in the training camp. They entertain soldiers and sailors at beach parties, at the Community House and in private homes. One parish house is opened one night a week for dances for the men from the training camp. Magazines and newspapers are collected for the soldiers, and one sewing society undertook to mend their clothes.
There was a joint committee of men and women, on public health and sanitation, which undertook a complete survey of village conditions. This resulted in a better system for the disposal of garbage, purification of the water supply, and a campaign for the elimination of all standing water, rubbish piles, tin cans and other breeding-places for flies, mosquitoes and microbes.
Altogether it is as busy a village as one could wish, showing the finest kind of constructive patriotism, defined in terms of work close at home. The patriotic program planned and carried out to the letter by the men and women of this town could be followed in every town in America with profit to the nation, the town and every individual in the town.
Having seen the wheels of organization begin to turn, one by one, in the states, and having seen the beginning of what promised to be successful coordination in each of its forty-eight sections, the Woman's Committee turned its attention to the closer organization of its own work.
Chapter IV. Organization.
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