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in War Times By Dr. Agnes von Harnack
Miss Agnes von Harnack is the daughter of Adolph von Harnack, Professor of Theology at the University of Berlin, who is well known in the United States through his scientific work, and who has had many friends here since his visit to the World Exposition at St. Louis is 1904. Viss von Harnack was the first woman in Germany to study at a university. She studied modern languages, especially English, wrote a thesis on German Romanticism, and took her doctor's degree in 1912. Since that time she has been Principal of a high school for girls. Besides her activity as a teacher, she is prominent as a social worker in the interest of the betterment of woman's position in Germany. Outside of these tasks she is continuing her literary studies and is a contributor to several scientific periodicals.
LMOST immediately after the out —to wait, to endure, to suffer without
break of the war, when people murmuring, to look on hopelessly withhad in some slight degree recov out being of help. Even in the Franco
ered from the first overwhelm German war of 1870-71 only a small ing surprise caused
number of women acby the rapid course
companied the troops of events, the one
as nurses, and while thought uppermost in
the women at home every German mind
did much in a quiet was, “We must de
way, their tasks were vote all our time and
simple and individual. strength to working
They were of no help for the Fatherland!”
to the nation. In 1914 This was compara
women turned natutively simple for the
rally to the Red Cross men who had their
work, and during the appointed tasks. But
first eight weeks of the problem for the
more than women, and it was of
23,000 girls and the utmost urgency to
women in Berlin alone them, was very dif
were trained for work ferent and very dif
in the field hospitals ficult. The men were
and ambulances. But organized; each was
their work and the a cog in a smoothly
work of nurses and running machine di
women 1. doctors at rected by a trained
home, in the war zone, engineer. The women,
or at the front is not or the great body of
in my province; I wish them, were not organ
merely to sketch ized. Each had to
briefly and in general find her work and DR. AGNES VON HARNACK
terms the work of learn to develop her
for usefulness in co-operation with the others. the civilian population, their united efEnthusiasm and willingness had to be forts for the nation. directed into practical channels.
Early in August, 1914, the National The educated German women
Women's Service League, (Nationaler united in one determination—that they Frauendienst,) a powerful organization and their sisters should not play the of public-spirited women which had rôle women had played in previous wars branches in nearly every German town,
issued an appeal to all women who had had dialect the mother volubly explained to: any training in political economy and the young lady in charge that she could social science to place their services at do nothing with the youngster; he was its disposal. These women were organ running wild and paid no attention to ized in local bodies and immediately as her and, since his father was at the front, sumed charge of the work of investigat she wanted the young lady to give the ing applications made by the wives of lad a “piece of her mind.” Somewhat soldiers for State aid. The league mem startled by this rôle of paterfamilias, the bers soon learned local conditions, where young lady nevertheless tried her hand distress and sickness prevailed, and at giving the boy a “ piece of her mind" where the care of children or other help with such splendid results that the gratewas needed. Some idea of the magnitude ful mother frequently returns to pour of these labors may be derived from the out her thanks. The young lady has a fact that in Berlin alone more than ten painful impression that her eloquence has million marks are paid out every month inspired the mother with a disciple's zeal, to indigent families of soldiers, and that and that she is waiting another opporpractically all applications for aid are tunity to hear how it is done. handled by the league. Everywhere the Another branch of work undertaken by officials welcomed the league workers, the league was the care of children, since they not only relieved the over organized in a special central bureau. In worked men, but their tasks were per operation, it is aimed to be as thorough formed promptly and thoroughly. The as possible, beginning with the care of soldier's wife or dependents found it nursing babies. By personal talks with much easier to deal with the league work mothers, the knowledge of rational ers since they found in them a womanly nutrition was spread throughout the sympathy that saved them from the em empire, and personal attention was paid barrassment many of them felt.
to as many children as possible. Success Relief and advisory Committees were has crowned this work. In Berlin, for formed for districts and presently be instance, in the hot Summer of 1915, the came local institutions to which the in mortality of babies was reduced by more habitants repaired for aid, for consola than 2 per cent. below the normal. tion, and for advice in dealing with For older children, schools and homes domestic problems. The women and girls were established. In one suburb of Berwere tireless in their work and ready and lin, for instance, the poorest district of able to meet the wide variety of demands the city, about a hundred children made upon them. Every committee soon selected by the school doctor were taken had its archives in which each case in every day after school to the large garits district was recorded, and only the dens placed at their disposal by the experienced can know how many stairs municipality. Here they received their were climbed, how many miles walked, meals and worked and played till evenhow many questions asked, before even ing out in the open air, or in stormy one case could be dealt with properly. weather in big, airy rooms, and then In September and October alone the were taken home under proper supercommittees in Berlin delivered food cer vision. For periods of eight or ten weeks tificates, milk and bread cards, and so the children lived this healthy life, and forth, to a total amount of more than the rosy cheeks and rugged health to be 130,000 marks.
found in the schools now is due to this But the committees' work is broader in excellent work. In this, as in all the scope than the mere giving of aid. other branches of endeavor, volunteers Mothers and wives come with all their are laboring cheerfully side by side with troubles. Not long ago a bewildered the paid workers. mother arrived in one of the Berlin com The problem of finding work for those mittee rooms leading firmly by the hand thrown out of employment by the war an embarrassed but very obstinate-look was one of the first undertaken by the ing boy of 12. In the purest Berlin league. The aim was to make every
individual, in so far as possible, selfskapporting in order to relieve the burden on the State. The war caused an industrial paralysis in certain lines of industry; factories manufacturing readymade clothing and articles of luxury simply closed their doors. The female workers were hardest hit. The league promptly obtained from the military authorities orders for sewing work of every description, and the innumerable sewed articles which the soldier needs, from the tent on his back to his socks, were soon being made by the women. Knitting socks became woman's universal occupation; every one knitted, old and young. In the workrooms of the league, however, knitting was a serious job and the source of a livelihood. Many women would have become State charges if it had not been for the league's knitting rooms. And an entirely new kind of factory régime was instituted in these rooms. During the working hours, and the occupation is a dull one, volunteers read books, played music, sang, and gave short, interesting, and instructive talks on matters of general and even of philosophic interest.
In this way the work was made not only interesting, despite the fact that from five to seven hundred workers were frequently crowded into one room, but of educational value.
The wage scale that was finally worked out by the leaguea problem that was rendered most complicated because of the wide variety of age, skill, types, and diligence-excited the highest admiration of professional industrial experts because of its equity and soundness. Only when the labor market began to improve, the confidence of manufacturers in ultimate victory induced them to open their factories, and the people began buying once more, did the league's 'workrooms close. Meantime, many links of sympathy and mutual understanding had been forged in them between the working girls and the volunteer helpers of the league.
The basic principle underlying the work of the league is to make every applicant for aid, in fact, every one in
whom the league is interested, in so far as possible self-supporting. The aim is to bolster self-respect and the feeling of personal responsibility so that any development of the begging habit may be nipped in the bud. There are, however, many cases in which applicants for relief cannot be expected to rely on themselves and their own unaided efforts, cases of hopeless poverty, of incurable disease, or in which all the normal activities of life had been disorganized by the war. And in such cases the response of the well to do has been most generous. The league has only to ask to get money or other assistance poured forth with a lavish hand. Sometimes zeal is excessive and has to be restrained. If it is necessary to provide clothing for a family, for a young man entering an apprenticeship, or for an expected child, the clothes collecting department is always prepared. Volunteer workers labor day after day sorting the steady stream of donations and directing their repair and alteration by skilled needlewomen and other workers. Inventiveness has free reign here, and when one examines at the end of the month the practical results it is almost impossible to realize that the pretty and serviceable garments had been developed out of unlikely material.
Educated women devoted themselves to the schooling of the children. While on the battlefield youthful blood flowed in streams and human life had become the cheapest of things, the women at home realized that their most important duty lay in healing youth, in educating it to capable manhood, and in nourishing it with everything valuable and beautiful which could be offered by knowledge and art.
A great number of schoolteachers had gone to the front. Women took their places, a thing hitherto unknown in Germany. Women teachers, candidates for degrees at the universities, even students were employed in boys' schools. Old schoolmasters shook their heads, but the work had to be carried on, and the women were ready and trained. To the satisfaction of every one, these women were completely successful in their work