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THE FOLKS THEY LEFT BEHIND THEM
Mr. W. Frank Persons, Director General of Civilian Relief, Tells of What the Red Cross Is Doing and Plans to Do for the Soldiers' Families
FRANCIS R. BELLAMY
YOU have met the man, of course, who has all the misinformation in the world, according to whom sugar is high because the Mormons are holding it, and that Great Britain is striking back at the Irish by going to war with Germany
Keeping him in mind for an instant, go out now and ask the "man in the street," what the Red Cross does. Nine out of ten times you will get the vague answer: "Why, makes surgical dressings, I guess." It is a tribute, of course, to the value of the show windowthe magic of the visible thing. In nearly every city of the United States, for months past, hundreds of women have been plainly in view making and packing bandages. Nine out of ten men accept the Red Cross at face value or at least what they can see of it.
Your tenth man, however, is apt to be different.
"Oh, yes-the Red Cross," he says, and criticism fairly spurts from his eyes. "Why, don't you know that there is glass in the bandages, graft in the offices, poison in the Christmas seals, jealousy in the management -that they wear the sweaters and shovel the surgical dressings out the back door? And furthermore they sell almost everything they get?"
You are surprised, of course. You have always thought of the Red Cross as composed of fairly decent folks.
Oh, no, not at all, he tells you. There are hundreds of things in connection with the Red Cross that you don't know. They are always asking for money, for instance, and never doing anything except for people who are at least three thousand miles away. And who knows if they really do that? Why aren't they a branch of the government-it's all just a question of relief, the essentials of life?
Then he warms up.
The Government, now (for the moment the
Government is safe) the Government has just passed a law granting allowances to soldiers' families. Right at home! Home-that is the kind of thing needed. That is what the soldiers and their families are interested in these days. Both now and after the war, too. Why doesn't the Red Cross do something about them?
Well, you reflect as you hurry away, well that would be a good thing. "The folks at home" is probably the unvoiced thought in the heart of every one of Uncle Sam's soldiers and sailors. How will he find his wife, his children, his sweetheart, when he comes home? Worry over them fills the monotonous hours of training, of camp detail, and guard duty which make up the grind of the soldiers' life at present.
And the Red Cross has received $100,000,000 in addition to its other income. It doesn't seem fair that all this money and effort should be spent in war work in France, in Belgium, in Italy-for relief for the sick and wounded while no thought even is given to those families whose life has been dislocated by the changes war brings.
But is it true you wonder. Isn't the Red Cross going to do anything for the people at home?
Well, the Red Cross is going to do a great deal for the people at home. These questions have not occurred solely to our friend in the street. They have occurred to other people as well-people who have not been content to voice them and then hurry on. Answers to such questions can be secured in a certain corner room of the new marble Red Cross building in Washington.
"The folks at home," in fact, are an old story to the Director General of Civilian Relief, Mr. W. Frank Persons, in his office whose windows give a glimpse of winter trees and war buildings, of the Washington Monument, of avenues crowded with soldiers in olive drab.
of streets dctted with English and French officers of Washington in war time. Due to him, questions regarding them came up, were discussed and answered many months ago.
There was at hand, when he assumed office in July, the regular organization of the Civilian Red Cross that had relieved in the past such disasters as Messina and San Francisco, and that has found time even in these days to extend its aid to flooded Tien-Tsin and earthquake-stricken San Salvador-an organization held to strict efficiency and financial accountability.
How could it be enlarged and devoted to work so delicate and universal as the sympathetic care of lonely and anxious wives and children of soldiers and sailors? Work such as this would combine the necessity for trained, tireless, social workers with a national need, and would demand endless patriotism and perseverance owing to its undramatic character, far removed from the firing line, and to its infinite variety of problems.
The mere will to serve would not be enough, Mr. Persons realized, if the problem were to be solved. How could such a situation be met? That was the question.
MEETING THE SITUATION
The answer was not long in coming.
His first step was the preparation of a small, unimposing looking booklet, a booklet that does not use technical terms but that speaks with the voice of kindness and consideration and thoroughness, that tells in simple terms what to do and in great measure how to do it.
the situation either. Early in September he called into conference in Washington more than a score of the leading teachers of social welfare in the United States to take hold of this tremendous problem and provide a solution-in advance.
"It is impossible to give you any idea of the enthusiasm and energy with which that gathering set to work," Mr. Persons will tell you. "Understand, there were very few records of similar war work in England or France to which we could look for guidance. It was a case of having to strike out for ourselves."
And they struck out for themselves. The result has been encouragingly apparent through the fall and winter.
In twenty-five of the largest cities of the United States, cities as widely separated as Atlanta and Seattle, selected groups of men and women have been gathering each week this winter to fit themselves to carry on the work planned. They are enrolled in serious courses of lectures and reading, prepared at the Washington conference, called Home Service Institutes, which are under the direction of some of the most experienced social teachers in the country. In consequence the workers are growing daily in number, keeping pace with the need-trained workers who will be capable of grappling with this most difficult task of adjusting human relationships.
"Every family's need is different," said Mr. Persons, "and no law and no amount of money, can cover all needs."
A WHITE HOUSE GUARD
"We got on the track of one of our many chances to help the other day here in Washington—a corporal in the regulars with a little Irish wife and two children of whom he was very fond. When war was declared, he was ordered here to be one of the White House guards. He brought his wife and children with him. The day before the third child was to be born, the war came home to him in a very vivid way. He was ordered away. He borrowed what money he could for his wife, but he knew no one in Washington and he went away filled with anxiety-to put it mildly.
The book is called the "Manual of Home Service" and it is wonderful little volume.
Mr. Persons felt that he had made a start. He was quick to see, however, that the carrying out of such a programme of mercy would require a familiarity with new problems and a faculty in dealing with them which could be acquired only through experience and training in things which no manual could ever impart.
It did not take Mr. Persons long to remedy and her condition aggravated to an alarming
"When we got in touch with his wife and children through his letter to us, the secretary of our Home Service section found her in actual want, in need of medical attention,
extent by her despair over her inability to manage alone.
"The Home Service worker was able to be of direct assistance at once. She secured a woman, with a baby of her own, who was more than eager to help in the house, called proper medical assistance, and a situation which threatened to destroy the home of a soldier absent on service was taken care of in time." Mr. Persons turned to his desk.
"It is typical of the sort of thing that is going to happen, and that is happening all over the country, even where the people concerned are doing their best. There are now nearly two thousand families getting help from the Home Service Sections in New York City alone.
"Things may be more difficult to remedy, of course, in homes where there is a terrible depression because of the loss of the intimate relationships of home life. We have had many, very many instances of the terrible loneliness of these homes, and that, too, where there was no financial question involved. The problem more often than not is one of character and associations. Here is a sentence which expresses it, in one of the letters I have here: 'It is very hard when there is no one who comes home at night.'
"But it is not always a matter of wife and children, either."
He drew forth a file of papers.
'Just a little while ago a little old lady came to us with a request for work of some kind. Investigation revealed the fact that she and her invalid husband, who formerly had been a minister, were living in great privation in a little bungalow outside the city-a bungalow which their married son had built for the family near the army post where he had been stationed.
"He had been among the first to face the war. He had been sent to the Pacific Coast at once, taking his wife with him. Left behind in the bungalow, his mother had kept the true state of affairs from him, trying to subsist on the little money he could send her when his wife's expenses were paid That her son was sending her all he could spare, she knew. So she herself, at sixty-nine, was trying to secure work to take care of herself and her invalid husband.
mond in 1865. She could do it again, if need
"There was no thought of neglect or injustice in her mind. This was war. She had eaten sorghum and black peas in Rich
"Only after a great deal of difficulty was she persuaded to allow the Home Service Section to pay for the carpenter work necessary to make half of their bungalow a separate apartment. But the rent from this and the very light work secured for her have made life a different thing. She can do a little better than black peas and sorghum.
"No one can foresee the variety of situations where assistance will be needed. To some extent these stories illustrate the kind of aid Home Service is prepared to extend at the present moment. And these are only a few instances, indicative, perhaps, of what is in store for us. There may be needs in many thousands of homes, undiscovered as yet.
"It is their right to be helped. They will be helped, once they are known. To my way of thinking, in fact, the greatest opportunity for the women of America lies in this service. What the soldiers and sailors will find on their return-soldiers and sailors no longer, but everyday brothers and husbands-will depend in great measure on what we people at home have done. It is not only an opportunity, it is a duty. I hope that we will realize the task before us.
"It is rather surprising, in the light of such things, to receive letters like this one
He tossed across to me a short letter, with a heading from some town in Tennessee.
"Dear Sir," I read, "What are the Red Cross Institutes intended to do? The people who need Civilian Relief simply need money. They don't have to be nursed or taken care of. It seems to me that the Red Cross should spend its money in supplying the essentials of life and not waste it on experiments. "Yours Truly"
Mr. Persons's eyes gleamed as he said quietly: "It is odd that people should feel that way, when we cannot tell what may face us in this field any more than in any other phase of war work. The Red Cross is pledged to Home Service wherever needed in the United States. We include the families of men enlisted in the service of our Allies as well as of American soldiers and sailors. We are going to be prepared. We shall have a Home Service Section in each chapter. By no other means can we be sure that the responsibility will not be overlooked and finally lost. Without a group
charged with this responsibility there will be soldiers' children dropping out of school, children deprived of timely medical treatment; there will be soldiers' wives wheedled or cheated out of their incomes by fakirs; and there will be soldiers' homes broken up during their absence by temptation or misfortune of one kind or another which the strong will and informed mind of a friend at hand might have overcome.
"There is a real task for the Home Service Section in every community from which soldiers and sailors have gone and from which more must go."
But Mr. Persons had stated that there was no telling what the future might bring forth. Was this as far as the Home Service of the Department of Civilian Relief was prepared to go? In other words-what of the future?
Well, the future is being taken care of also. Mr. Persons is not content with the present situation either, although all his activities may not take dramatic form. To the public eye, indeed, they appear principally in the shape of booklets, compiled by experts, completely covering their subject, which are called manuals. In reality, however, they are the conclusions of past experience applied to the present need-means by which stay-at-home America may intelligently maintain the comfort of its soldiers' homes and the morale of its fighting forces.
So far as the future is concerned it is a fact of sad significance that of the two booklets now in preparation, one is to be entitled, "After Care of Crippled Men."
"The United States Government has already recognized the prospective need of special hospitals and of special industrial training for the crippled," Mr. Persons explained. "The Army and Navy are preparing for it in very thorough-going fashion and on a vast scale.
"But no matter what degree of success may attend the skill of the surgeon and of the teacher, the time will come when the crippled
man-returned home as a civilian-may need the sympathetic and earnest attention of the Home Service Section. There lies before us the necessity of awakening a genuine interest on the part of employers so that these men will have every opportunity of self support. The men themselves, in many cases, will have to be encouraged to continue their work until finally refitted for industry and self support.
"The future always will contain some insistent call upon us for aid-the call of humanity. We must constantly plan ahead. The Red Cross, when the war is over, must be ready for the tasks that will then confront it. They will be many and varied."
Mr. Persons's hand fell upon a sheet of the Red Cross Christmas Seals which lay upon his desk.
"Do not think for an instant, however, that we are neglecting our other fields of work -our Red Cross Christmas Seals, our country nursing, our organization for the relief of disaster which is kept always in readiness. For the moment only, I am thinking of them as 'another story.'
"I want to emphasize our efforts for Home Service at this time, until all our own people, our own soldiers and sailors wherever they are, may know that so far as human beings are capable of aiding one another in anxiety or distress they will find their wives and families comforted and protected, and with their standards as they left them before the war. If it is in the power of the Red Cross to accomplish this, it will be so."
Spiritually as well as materially the Red Cross is prepared. Whatever the future may bring forth, the wives and children of wartime America will not be neglected. Nor the returning soldiers, either. The Department of Civilian Relief does not wear dramatic raiment, but there is a real thrill in it just the same. There is living democracy in the spirit of the Home Service. The phrase will ring in my head for some time.
Home Service! Civilian Relief!
No, it isn't all surgical dressings in the Red Cross Building in Washington.
The Visit of the American Red Cross Commission to Russia-The Relief Work During the War-Russia's Efforts to find a Stable Government and the Aid the United States can Give to her Problems
DR. FRANK BILLINGS
(Chairman, the American Red Cross Commission to Russia)
HE American Red Cross Commission consisting of a personnel of twentynine, of whom sixteen were commissioners and sub-commissioners, went to Russia via Canada and Japan. The Mission arrived at Vladivostok on July 26 and Petrograd on August 7th. Seventy tons of medical and surgical supplies were taken by the Mission and this enabled the American Red Cross to give immediate aid to the Russian army.
The Mission found that there were in Russia three governmental relief organizations whose chief work is to supply war relief. These were: the Sanitary Department of the army, the Russian Red Cross, and the All Union of Zemstvos and Towns These public relief organizations are supported by the government, but are administered separately. Up Up to the time of the arrival of the Mission in Russia these three organizations had not cooperated fully in the relief work. At the battle front each organization supplied ambulances, field hospitals and, farther in the rear, base and evacuation hospitals. At the front because the work was done upon a sector of the front during a battle, there was necessarily coöperation But each organization conducted its own field, base and evacuation hospital. Each one organized and manufactured drugs, medical and surgical dressings, instruments, artificial limbs, crutches, and each maintained its own supply warehouse. In making a survey of the needs of the army, each one of the organizations desired to make separate specifications of things which could not be obtained in Russia and which they desired to obtain through the American Red Cross. It was seen by the Mission that it could not give rational aid unless the Russian relief organizations would agree to coöperate in their relief work and especially in their specifications of the entire needs of the army. The Mission
found some difficulty in convincing the officers of the respective organizations to do this, but finally they formed a joint committee on specifications and a subcommittee on disbursement of supplies to be obtained through the American Red Cross. As soon as this had been accomplished the organizations saw the practical importance of the coöperation between themselves and with us and cordially endorsed it as an evidence of American practicability.
SPLENDID ORGANIZATION FOR RELIEF
In the survey made by the Mission of the factories, the supply houses, the ambulance service and field hospitals at the front, of the base hospitals, the evacuation sanitary trains. and the evacuation hospitals at the rear, it was found that the administration of all of the three relief organizations was of the highest order The character of the heads, the chiefs of staff, the surgeons and physicians, was most excellent. The initiative and technique of the physicians and surgeons in the relief work was equal to if not better than that of the general hospitals of America. The factories of the three organizations turn out enormous supplies of the commoner types of drugs, of surgical dressings and gauze and of underclothing and pajamas. Russia cannot command certain materials for the manufacture of all that she needs. of all that she needs. In the way of drugs there is need of opium which they use rather than its derivations in the form of morphine. They cannot make enough salicylic acid or some of its compounds like aspirin and they need larger quantities of corrosive sublimate, digitalis, cascara, valerian root and many other of the simpler drugs. They manufacture many surgical instruments but not enough to supply their needs. The All Union of Zemstvos and Towns operates a chemical factory, the first of its kind in Russia, where they make salicylic acid and the salicylate compounds, dieuretin