Anna Garlin Spencer to Jane Addams, May 2, 1920


7 High St White Plains N.W. May 2, 1920

My dear Miss Addams

We had a small but important meeting yesterday at the house of Mrs Leach. She, with Mrs Lewis, Mrs Thomas, Mrs Karsten and [I] were all that were present, but Mrs Cothren joined us in consultation over the phone, being prevented from coming to the house by ↑her↓ removal to Montclair, N.J. on May 1st.

Mrs Allender cannot accept the position of Ex. Sec. This seemed to necessitate postponement of the removal of the office to Washington. Mrs La [Follette] is to be urged to accept the position of Chairman, Mrs Thomas to go to Washington to see her personally if [arrangement] for an interview can be made. Mrs Leach will let her name stand as Chairman for the present in case Mrs La Follette absolutely refuses. Mrs Cothren will take the treasuryship if the office remains, for the present at least, in New York, and will help to supervise the ↑office↓ work during the summer, while Mrs Leach is away, as she will be in commuting distance from N.Y. City all summer. I shall also do what I ↑can↓ to help out during Mrs Leach's absence and even if Mrs La Follette takes the Chairmanship since she cannot be in N.Y. much at best. Mrs Cothren also assures us she can find a competent Ex. Sec. for the present if the office remains ↑here.↓ We therefore felt we should ↑renew↓ our rental of the same office space for another month. Mrs Karsten very kindly gives an extra week to helping get things in shape. We are therefore not left wholly at sea as to the immediate future of the office end. Mrs Thomas feels she should not undertake very definite or large assignments but can and will do something for us. We voted to wire Miss Rankin asking her to give some time for field [page 2] organization work for $100, and expenses per month, to begin at once and with her own choice of area but in the West of course. If Mrs Thomas also [begins] organization work ↑later on↓ it will doubtless be in Western New York, New Jersey and Western Penna, all areas needing and ready for such work.

After Mrs Lewis left, as she was obliged to do early on account of illness in her family, Mrs Leach, Mrs Thomas, Mrs Karsten and I took up the situation concerning Mrs Villard and her Society as it [seemed] necessary that Mrs Thomas be made acquainted with [anything] vital in the local and national situation if she were to help the Section officially.

When we all thought Mrs Villard was initiating only a Fellowship like the Tolstoy Society, or ↑some↓ such a personally congenial group of believers, we were of course all desirous that she should meet with success and we of course are all now deeply appreciative of her earnestness and fidelity to conscience and understand that her influence is an important one. It seems now, however, from the letter I have received as have others from Miss Balch, and from ↑some↓ other tokens, that Mrs Villard has in mind a rival organization, not only nationally but internationally, to the regularly constituted Section for the U.S. of the W.I.L.P.F.

This makes matters very serious all around. I ↑have↓ had the pleasure of seeing Mr and Mrs Hobson and found Mrs H. very much concerned over the possibilities of a "break" within the inner circle of the W.I.L. International Executive should there seem to be two organizations ↑from the U.S.A.↓ asking for, or claiming, recognition from the International body, and both bodies claiming the International President as officially responsible for their existence and management. [page 3]

Mrs Hobson asked me if I "knew that Mrs Villard intended to send a messenger to Geneva to explain her position and her Society" and wanted to know if we "of the U.S.A. Section were intending to send [someone] to explain our position," I told her we had nothing to explain. Our Section was duly constituted the [branch] of the International for our country, and contained members of every grade of opinion but all of undoubted loyalty to the main principles we had enunciated most clearly during and since the war. I said we hoped to have a good delegation, and a strong representative of the International President, at the Executive meeting in June, [although] we were sorry to say Miss Addams could not go herself. Mr Hobson was most emphatic in his assertion that no other body could have legal or proper representation for voting in any business meeting of the Executive or Biennial Sessions of the International League unless our Section were "impeached" and thrown out for some reason. I suggested that "fraternal delegates" were often sent to such meetings as the Biennial of 1921 would be, and he assented to that, but of course that would not be a recognition of Branch membership in the League itself.

The fear of some English women who have learned of Mrs Villard's intention to start a rival national and international body is that it will cause a split in the International; ↑a split↓ in which the women of Austria and Germany will join Mrs [Villard's] group under the mistaken belief that hers alone is "true blue", and, since the English women will not stand for the position and the schism that Mrs Villard would make, we should have another abortive attempt to get and to retain a truly international organization. [The] fact that the Canadian Women's [page 4] Council refused to send delegates to the meeting of the International Council next Sept because the women of the Central Powers were asked ([although] it is hoped they may see better later on); and the further fact that the women of Germany and Austria, at the present showing, refuse to go to [that] International ↑Council meeting↓ because a meeting was held without them in London, ↑last year, a meeting↓ of delegates from neutrals and allies which [although] called "informal" had representatives from all allies but our own country (we ↑alone↓ refusing on the ground of unwillingness to send [delegates] to any meeting to which the women of Germany and Austria were not invited) makes the international character of the greatest of international bodies of women very doubtful. Also the International Suffrage League meeting is very likely to be not truly international in scope. This would seem to leave our W.I.L. the only genuine expression of world comity among women, unless the Y.W.C.A. and the W.C.T.U. change ↑their↓ plans and work. It would therefore be a tragedy if the women of the England ↑and↓ perhaps of other countries and the women of Germany and Austria, should, by any confusion of claim ↑of peace "orthodoxy"↓ on the part of American women, find themselves at odds. That this is a real danger I have seven letters ↑from↓ and several conversations with English women to make me fear. I am sure that Miss Balch is very anxious lest the slender tie of international organization which the women at The Hague and the women at Zurich established should break under any strain of rival [illegible] ↑appeals↓ for recognition from the United States. There could be no such confusion except on the mistaken ground that our Section is not truly a peace organization. This error could only be instilled into the German and Austrian mind by one whom they know better than they know the rest of us who in America have [page 5] worked hard and long and ↑at↓ great personal sacrifice for the peace cause. This person is of course Mrs Villard, and she would perhaps honestly seek to brand some of us as not true pacifists [although] her judgment would be a mistaken one and sadly unjust.

I shall ask that my own name be not used at all on the letter heads of our Section. That might ease the situation a bit as Mrs Villard seems to misunderstand me more than many others and since I am not ↑to↓ be actively an officer there is no need to use my name, ↑if it is a "redder rag" than some others might be↓. The situation demands certainly a strong representative of the International President sent to Geneva for the Executive, one capable of easing any difficulty that may arise over the Villard letters sent broadcast to other countries, and one not only loyal to the core to the duty constituted Section for the U.S.A., but able to state the case if the German and Austrian representatives should stir the matter with clarity and sweetness of spirit, and with full understanding of the [American] situation. I think of all women free to go Mrs Thomas would be the best for that task and if the money can be raised for her expenses she would go, I know.

I shall not trouble you with long letters after this. I should be very glad to be excused from writing this, but [although] I at first felt I might avoid any nearer exposure to the friction which is most intolerable to me in the peace cause of all others, I could not rest without stating the seriousness of the situation as some very [clear-minded] people see it and have written me to that effect.

↑Yours sincerely↓

Anna Garlin Spencer [signed]