Speech to the Missouri State Teachers Association, November 8, 1919 (summary)



Says Entire Generation of Children Has Been Stunted in Her Address to Teachers.

Deplorable conditions among the children of the war-ravaged countries of Europe were described by Miss Jane Addams of Hull House, Chicago, before the Missouri State Teachers' Association at the Coliseum, in the first of three addresses delivered by her this morning. She spoke afterwards before the Negro Teachers' Association, and at noon addressed social service workers at the American Annex.

Having visited Europe last summer, Miss Addams said that in the central countries and in the occupied regions of France it is impossible to tell a child's age by its appearance. Children of 14 look to be only 9, she asserted, and an entire generation has been lowered and stunted in growth. She told of a great hegira of children to Switzerland, Holland and Sweden for the purpose of obtaining proper nourishment, and of seeing some of them, stripped for medical examination in Zurich, looking like "lines of little skeletons."

Old People Make Sacrifice.

In Germany, she related, mothers are constantly confronted with the alternative of sacrificing their children or their aged parents in dispensing the family stores of food, the old people often volunteering to go without sustenance for the sake of the children. There is a widespread rumor, she continued, that the old people of Vienna have agreed to kill themselves this winter if food conditions do not improve, regarding their own lives as having been spent, and determining that the young generation shall not perish.

How children in Germany are in some cases reverting to savagery under the sufferings of famine was illustrated by the speaker with an incident related to her by Gen. Smut. He was in a little village in Germany in July, she said. His aid de camp went out for a walk, carrying in his pocket a few sandwiches. Two emaciated children begged him for food, and he gave them the sandwiches. Word swept through the village, and in a short time a crowd of children gathered, who threw themselves upon the officer, bore him to the ground and tore his clothing off in a frantic search for food. He was so severely injured that he was sent to a hospital.

"The greatest work in Europe today," said Miss Addams, "is that of keeping the children alive. The American people should support with all their means the Red Cross and the Supreme Economic Council, which are trying to remedy conditions. Herbert Hoover is chief of a movement with headquarters in New York, and offices in nine European countries, which supplies one or two meals a day at least for 4,000,000 children. It has a fund of $22,000,000, which is being increased by the Governments under which the starving children live.

"The Women's International League at Zurich is scientifically feeding hundreds of children from Russia, Germany and Austria, and the mothers of Switzerland are [cooperating] with the league by taking the children into their homes. All available supplies of cheese and milk are being reserved exclusively for the emaciated children of the war."

Children Lose Gayety.

In Saxony she found that the children have lost all of their former gayety, and sat about listless with hunger. In Berlin the dish water from the hotels was being treated by a process for extracting the particles of fat floating in it, which were fed to children in hospitals. There will not be sufficient food in Germany for some time to come, said the speaker, but the children, to recover what they have lost, must be super-fed. Physicians differ, she reported, as to whether with the best of care and the most plentiful nourishment they can ever regain a normal state.

In this emergency, she concluded, Europe is learning invaluable lessons concerning scientific feeding, and she hoped that America would not lag behind. The teachers of Missouri, she said, may do a great work in teaching proper dietetics, and should give as much attention to the physical as to the mental growth of the children in their care.