Nation-wide plans are set on foot to include 3000,000 immigrant to attend night schools---"America First" Campaign launched---Women's organizations asked to help-Woman's Committee appoints Mrs. Catt Chairman of Education---Foreign women flock to night schools in Chicago, bringing their babies---Volunteer nurses called for.
A campaign of vital importance and one in which women have played conspicuous parts is that called "The America First" Campaign in the interest of reaching the 3,000,000 non-English-speaking immigrants in America. Participating in this campaign of patriotic education are chambers of commerce of various cities, educational associations, religious and philanthropic organizations and a large number of miscellaneous societies. The campaign is being directed by the Division of Immigrant Education. United States Department of Education. In normal times this division pursues activities which may be classified a follows: surveys, field investigations and research to ascertain conditions, facilities, and needs, in order to establish the basis for constructive national state, and local work; publicity through news letters, circular letters, bulletins, articles in the daily periodical press, exhibits, special reports, and by lectures and addresses; organization of cooperation among public and private agencies, by serving as a clearing house, by projecting plans of work, and by developing organized facilities upon request; counsel given through conferences, committee meetings, personal interviews, and correspondence.
On the first of September, 1917, there was begun through the cooperation of educators and various industrial and social agencies of the United States a systematic campaign, (1) for the improvement of existing agencies, (2) for the creation of such agencies where they do not exist, (3) for giving to foreign born persons in the United States the fullest and best opportunities for such instruction as will fit the for American industrial, social and civic life and for citizenship, and (4) for inducing all such persons to make the fullest possible use of the opportunities offered. This is the "America First" campaign, the ultimate object of which is a unified and intelligent American life and citizenship.
One object of the campaign has been to induce the 3,000,000 non-English-speaking immigrants to attend night schools and learn the common language of America.
To achieve this purpose and to insure complete cooperation and organization on a nation-wide basis, Dr. Philander P. Claxton, United States Commissioner of Education, upon the request of school authorities and others interested, has designated men and women who deal with the immigrant and his problems to serve upon a National Committee of One Hundred. Federal officials, representative industrial leaders, educators, state labor and immigration officials, editors, officials of patriotic, civic, and racial organizations and interested private citizens generally, have accepted with evidences of an eager readiness for national service. The Honorable John Price Jackson, Pennsylvania State Commissioner of Labor and Industry, has been appointed chairman of the Committee and Harrison H. Wheaton, Specialist in Immigrant Education of the Bureau of Education, has been designated chairman of the Executive Committee. Under the direction of Mr. Wheaton, a complete plan of activities has been outlined and put into execution.
The forces cooperating in this campaign embrace not only educational institutions and organizations of every kind, but industrial organizations like the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, individual chambers of commerce, manufacturing, transportation, commercial and financial interests of the country, working through organized bodies and through individuals; labor unions and labor leaders; social service organizations covering every field of welfare and philanthropic endeavor as well as religious organizations and parochial institutions; native patriotic and fraternal societies, and societies of foreigners. The news-disseminating agencies, such as the daily and periodical press, both English and foreign language-and the motion-picture theaters have shown patriotic willingness to assist in forwarding the campaign. Among the great national organizations entering into the undertaking may be mentioned the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the General Federation of Women's Clubs with its affiliated State Federations, the American Association of Foreign Language Newspapers, the National Americanization Committee, the Young Women's Christian Association, the National Association of Patriotic Instructors, the Council of Jewish Women, the American Library Association, the Committee for Immigrants in America, and the Young Men's Christian Association.
Americanization of the foreigner has been directed almost exclusively toward assimilating the foreign man. The foreign woman has hitherto received scant consideration. Two points deserve to be noted, however, which should force this woman's question upon public attention.
In the so-called suffrage states, the man of the family determines to become a citizen of the United States. He complies with the naturalization law by learning English and demonstrating his fitness to have citizenship conferred upon him. By the same judicial fiat which makes the man a citizen, the wife automatically becomes a citizen. Thenceforth she stands upon an equality with the American woman, and enjoys the same franchise, rights and privileges. Yet the foreign woman may be absolutely ignorant of English, and totally unfitted for exercising the right of suffrage. In these states, therefore, Americanization of the foreign woman is a civic and political necessity. This argument is only less potent in the case of the independent woman wage-earner, for she, too, may retain her independence, and become a naturalized citizen under the same conditions as her brother.
Experience has shown that where the children of foreign parents acquire the English language and the parents remain ignorant thereof, a disintegration of the family unit is almost sure to follow. Children in their impulsiveness look down upon the linguistic limitations of their elders, in some cases even ridiculing covertly or openly this disability. Parental discipline and control are dissipated, and the whole family fabric becomes weakened. Thus one of the great conservative forces in the community becomes inoperative. Inasmuch as the maternal control of the young is or should be dominant, Americanization of the foreign woman through language is imperative.
Furthermore, it is well known that the foreign home is much more exclusive than the American home. Only a woman can effectively break through this national reserve. It is important, therefore, that American women's organizations consider this question seriously, for they can be of invaluable assistance in overcoming this ultra conservatism. Parent-Teachers Associations which have been largely promoted by women's organizations, are already doing effective work along this line. California has taken a long stride forward through the passage of its "Home Teacher Act" (1915), legalizing the appointment by boards of education of a teacher who shall spend her time in the homes. A sentence of this act reads thus:
It shall be the duty of the home teachers to work in the homes of the pupil, instructing children and adults in matters relating to school attendance and preparation therefor; also in sanitation, in the English language, in household duties such as purchase, preparation and use of food and clothing, and in the fundamental principles of the American system of government and the rights and duties of citizenship.
Knowledge of English is the open sesame by which the foreigner comes into contact with our wonderful American civilization. It is likewise the way of approach for the foreign woman to American acquaintanceship and American friendship. Without this the alien woman will be a stranger in a strange land, shut off from the enjoyment of the privileges of American social life, and compelled to confine her social relations to those of her own nationality.
Women's clubs have a marvelous opportunity to make their influence effective in Americanizing the foreigner. They can join in the "America First" Campaign of the Bureau of Education to induce three million non-English-speaking immigrants to learn our language and fit themselves for participation in American life. By their interest and participation in this movement, they can demonstrate to the foreigner that he is welcome in our great national family, and that after all there is a human side to this extending the welcoming hand of fellowship, quite apart from the selfish appreciation of his worth as an economic asset. They can stimulate local school authorities to provide adequate facilities for the foreigner to learn English. (This means afternoon classes for women as well as evening classes for men and women.) They can encourage the citizenship reception which goes far toward making both men and women feel that their entrance to
American citizenship is humanly worth while. They can form groups, as has been done by the Women's City Club of Chicago in cooperation with the Infant Welfare Society, to teach foreign mothers how to feed and clothe their children properly, how to prevent the spread of contagious diseases, and can instruct them as to the legal status of themselves and their children under our civic code. They can cooperate with the Bureau of Education in the employment of women physicians (following the plan inaugurated so successfully by the Chicago Board of Education in the winter of 1912-13) to work with foreign mothers on a general health side, this instruction to be given in public school buildings after school hours. They can provide nurses for the babies while these mothers are at school. They can see that "Block Matrons" are appointed, as at Erie, Pa., who learn to know the foreign families of their neighborhood, who stand back of school authorities in urging the men and women to learn English, and who become neighbors, friends, and veritable mother confessors to the foreign women of the block. They can organize Americanization committees to study the whole problem, and work out other means of local application to combat this non-assimilation situation which is confronting every community having any considerable number of foreign born inhabitants.
In these and other ways which the collective ingenuity of the Women's Club members will readily devise, the organized women of this country can play an important part in making ours a country with a common language, a on purpose, a common set of ideals-a unified America.
The United States Bureau of Education has varied facilities for promoting this Americanization work, and will gladly put these at the disposal of organizations or individuals who are sufficiently interested to write for further specific information or suggestions. Such correspondence should be addressed to the Bureau of Education, Division of Immigrant Education, Washington, D. a. It is the aim of the Division to be of national service in dealing with the complex problem of immigration and to cooperate with every possible agency in effecting its solution.
In order that women may appreciate the Americanization problem as it applies to women, figures have been compiled from the U. S. Census Report for 1910, which give for each state, certain statistics relating to the number of women of twenty-one years of age and over; (1) total number of white women; (2) number of foreign-born white women; (3) number of foreign-born white women unable to speak English and (4) number of foreign-born white women attending school.
Comparison of the figures under 3 and 4 will give the problem for each State, as far as non-English-speaking adult foreign women are concerned.
For the country as a whole, 1.2% of the non-English-speaking white women are attending school, or were attending school during the period covered by the 1910 Census Report. The corresponding figure for both sexes is 1.3% showing that slightly fewer women in this category attend school than men. In either case, the number of these non-English-speaking adults in school is insignificant. The problem which the "America First" Campaign is designed to attack is, therefore, a problem of adult education for both men and women, and it is likely to tax our best efforts for its solution.
Organized women's clubs can bend their energies to no other task where the need is so crying or the reward of accomplishment so satisfying.
Dr. Charles Eliot said: "The United States have made a great contribution to civilization in demonstrating that the people belonging to a great variety of races or nations are, under favorable circumstances, fitted for political freedom."
The Woman's Committee of the Council of National Defense, realizing at once the need of aggressive effort toward the "patriotic education" of the immigrant population, and especially of immigrant women, created a committee on education as one of its divisions of work and appointed Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt chairman. In the interest of patriotic education the Woman's Committee planned public mass meetings of women all over the United States. These meetings formed the initial part of the plan of the Educational Department of the Committee of which Mrs. Catt is chairman. Soon after her appointment Mrs. Catt stated to the Woman's Committee that millions of people in the United States did not clearly understand why we were at war or the imperative necessity of winning the war if future generations were to be protected from the menace of an unscrupulous militarism. Mrs. Catt said there was evidence on every side of ignorance and apathy on the part of the people. Women, she said, are the greatest sentiment makers of any community. They have time to talk, time to read, and time to go to meetings. "There is no machinery in our country now," said Mrs. Catt, "which can carry a message to the remotest hamlet quite so successfully as can the Woman's Committee with its fifty-two divisional chairmen, including one for each of the forty-eight states and one each for Guam, Alaska, the Philippines and the Hawaiian Islands. Each state has its county, city and rural community chairman, so there is hardly a school district which cannot be reached.
"In a general way the men of our country have realized that women have many and large organizations, but they have not comprehended how easy it has been to unite all these organizations in this tremendous machinery which has been perfected and adjusted with amazing efficiency. There are probably one hundred thousand women now officering this great woman's army, and through them we propose to spread to at least twenty millions of women the message we get here in the Capital of the nation. The first message we want to send to the women now is that whether the nation likes it or does not like it we are in war, and that whether the sacrifices necessary to win it are made willingly or unwillingly they must be made, or the generation that follows us will find itself drawn into a similar maelstrom to that which now involves all the chief nations of the world. We propose to begin a vast educational movement with lantern slides, movies, lectures and literature, which will carry to the women of the nation the graphic story of the war. When the women understand, all will be fervently enlisted to push the war to victory as rapidly as possible. With the women behind it the end will come sooner, and with more certainty this war will prove to be the war to end wars. "
In the states where the foreign population is large women have worked indefatigably and with telling effect.
A Department of Naturalization has been started by the Nebraska Division. Nebraska women felt that such a Department would do incalculable good, arousing in women the feeling that there should be no alien in America. They are securing zealous workers of each nationality represented in the state to interest women in naturalization. "These spread the news among the men," writes Miss Hrbkova, the Nebraska Chairman, "and Nebraska already shows some good returns in applications of men for naturalization, for it appears that they do not want to be outdone by the women in making good their chance at American citizenship."
In several other states, the Women's Committee is either initiating a plan of Americanization, or is allying itself with work already started. Thus, in Maryland, the Division is interesting itself in the data gathered by the General Census Board. They determine the number of foreigners who attend the night school, and from the Court of Common Pleas and the U. S. District Court, are finding out the number who have taken out first and second papers. They are also using the special census lately taken in Maryland. Altogether Maryland's job is to win about 104,000 foreign born.
In Seattle they are cooperating with a Federal Association, planning a survey of the county.
Miss Mary McDowell, head of the University of Chicago settlement and chairman of the Committee on Foreign Women in Industry in the Council of National Defense, has plans to teach English to foreign women who are working in Chicago shops and factories.
The Committee of Women of the Illinois Council of National Defense has received requests for information on this subject from other parts of the country, and the plan may be adopted in many other cities.
A story from Chicago is to the effect that so many foreign women who came to one of the schools to learn English brought their babies that the teachers in charge had to issue a hurry call for volunteer nurses.
In Michigan remarkable work has been done, and in Minnesota also some novel and effective ideas have been worked out.
The National Americanization Committee advises:
Americanize one Immigrant Woman
Get one Immigrant to become a Citizen
Teach one Foreign-Born Mother English
Put one Immigrant Family on your Calling List.
Chapter IX. The Liberty Loan
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