Women of Belgium; Turning Tragedy to Triumph
- Kellogg, Charlotte
- Funk and Wagnalls company
- Published in
- New York and London
- Publication Year
- # of pages
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by Herbert C. Hoover
Chairman of The Commission for Relief in Belgium
Belgium, after centuries of intermittent misery and recuperation as the cockpit of Europe, had with a hundred years of the peaceful fruition of the intelligence, courage, thrift, and industry of its people, emerged as the beehive of the Continent. Its population of 8,000,000 upon an area of little less than Maryland was supported by the importation of raw materials, and by their manufacture and their exchange over-seas for two-thirds of the vital necessities of its daily life.
When in the summer of 19 14 the people were again drawn into the European maelstrom, 600,000 of them became fugitives abroad, and the remainder were reduced to the state of a city which, captured by a hostile army, is in turn besieged from without. Thus, its boundaries were a wall of bayonets and a blockading fleet.
Under modern economic conditions, no importing nation carries more than a few weeks' reserve stock of food, depending as it does upon the daily arrivals of commerce; and the cessation of this inflow, together with the destruction and requisition of their meager stocks, threatened the Belgians with an even greater catastrophe — the loss of their very life.
With the stoppage of the industrial clock, their workpeople were idle, and destitution marched day and night into their slender savings, until to-day three and a half million people must be helped in charity.
The Belgians are a self-reliant people who had sought no favors of the world, and their first instinct and continuing endeavor has been to help themselves. Not only were all those who had resources insistent that they should either pay now or in the future for their food, but far beyond this, they have insisted upon caring for their own destitute to the fullest extent of those remaining resources — the charity of the poor toward the poor. They have themselves set up no cry for benevolence, but the American Relief Commission has insisted upon pleading to the world to help in a burden so far beyond their ability.
This Commission was created in order that by agreement with the belligerents on both sides, a door might be opened in the wall of steel, through which those who had resources could re-create the flow of supplies to themselves; that through the same channel, the world might come to the rescue of the destitute, and beyond this that it could guarantee the guardianship of these supplies to the sole use of the people.
The soul of Belgium received a grievous wound, but the women of Belgium are staunching the flow — sustaining and leading this stricken nation to greater strength and greater life.
We of the Relief have been proud of the privilege to place the tools in the hands of these women, and have watched their skilful use and their improvement in method with hourly admiration. We have believed it to be so great an inspiration that we have daily wished it could be pictured by a sympathizing hand, [...]
We offer her little book as our, and Mrs. Kellogg's, tribute in admiration of them and the inspiration which they have contributed to this whole organization. This devotion and this service have nowgone on for nearly 900 long days. Under unceasing difficulties the tools have been kept in the hands of these women, and they have accomplished their task. All of this time there have stood behind them our warehouses with from thirty to sixty days' supplies in advance, and tragedy has thus been that distance remote. Our share and the share of these women has therefore been a task of prevention, not a task of remedy. Our task and theirs has been to maintain the laughter of the children, not to dry their tears. The pathos of the long lines of expectant, chattering mites, each with a ticket of authority pinned to its chest or held in a grimy fist, never depresses the mind of childhood. Nor does fear ever enter their little heads lest the slender chain of finance, ships and direction which supports these warehouses should fail, for has the cantine ever failed in all these two and a half years ? That the day shall not come when some Belgian woman amid her tears must stand before its gate to repeat: "Mes petites, il n'y en a plus" is simply a problem of labor and money. In this America has a duty, and the women of America a privilege.
Note: Mrs. Kellogg was the wife of the administrator of the CRB office in Brussels.