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is easily traced by the continuous crosses raised over the hastily dug gravesbeginning with the Galician thorofares and stretching south and east for fourteen hundred miles, upon which a distracted peasantry ran breathlessly until stopt by the Caspian Sea, or crost the Ural Mountains into Asia only to come back again because there was no food there.
There is no doubt that many Americans experienst a great sense of relief, therefore, when Congress finally establisht a Department of Food Administration for the United States, and when Mr. Hoover, who had spent two and a half years in Europe in intimate contact with the backwash of war, made his first appeal to his fellow-countrymen in the name of the food shortage of the entire world, insisting that “the situation is more than war, it is a problem of humanity.” We were relieved to know that there was something we could actually do about it, and we received the instructions for our intelligent action and guidance with genuine gratitude. I firmly believe that thousands of people are striving every day to carry out those instructions in a spirit of humility, and cherish the hope that their efforts may prove to be of genuine human service.
Mr. Hoover tells us that the food of the helpless Belgians has now become entirely dependent upon the exertions of the American farmer, and thru the destruction of men and ships one hundred million more men, women, and children have come to depend largely for their daily bread upon what can be sent from America-upon what the farmer may produce and what the women may save.
The last harvest in France was less than 40 per cent of her pre-war harvests and is less than one-fourth of what she needs to feed her own people. France has had the heaviest burden of wounded, sick, and crippled men and in addition one-thirtieth of her population are refugees from the war zone, their homes having been destroyed and their fields devastated.
Some parts of Italy are never able to produce enough food for all the population, even in normal times, which largely accounts for the enormous emigration every year to South America and to the United States. There has been little emigration since the war began, and the shortage of food in the southern provinces is heartbreaking. In addition they are caring for the half-million refugees driven southward by the Austrian drive in October, 1917, thirty million of whom are found as far south as Sicily, again superimposed upon the normal population.
In Roumania there has been an increase of 50 per cent of population on the one-third of the land that is left to them, while at the same time the crops there have decreast 50 per cent. The suffering has been incredible. Wounded soldiers in the very hospitals have died of starvation and have had their feet frozen in the hospital beds.
Altho Russia is the land of modern famines, she has never experienst such loss of life as this great war has brought her. Eight millions of her people have actually perisht, and the myriad soldiers in the Russian army, never adequately equipt with munitions, food, and clothing, have been reduced to the last extremity. In addition Russia is suffering from a complete disorganization of her transportation facilities, so that whatever grain there may be in the south cannot possibly be shipt to Petrograd or Finland. There is something very touching in the belief revealed from time to time that if the situation could but be clearly stated in America food would at once be sent.
We all know that practically every nation in Europe is living on rations and is destined to suffer privation for a long time. Our best efforts will no more than relieve them. The question is, Can we, the United States, produce enough for ourselves and enough more to make up the most bitter deficiencies?
If we ask what has been done before when there seemed to be too little food in the world we shall find that the deficiency has always been corrected by the application of human intelligence and human labor to the soil. The one thousand acres nearest to Paris are so carefully cultivated that if the population of France should be doubled it could still be fed entirely from its own soil if it were all thus skilfully tilled.
In response to the demands made in the United States last spring two million back-yard and vacant-lot gardens were establisht in 1917, and the first war crop of potatoes was 452 million bushels—an increase of one hundred million bushels over the previous year. Since the war began England has given over a million and a half acres of hitherto idle land to the production of wheat and potatoes, and three hundred thousand women of the leisure class have gone into agricultural work.
Of the eight million women engaged in gainful occupations in the United States less than two million are in agriculture. It is estimated that at least three hundred thousand more must take the places of the two hundred and fifty thousand men already drafted from the farms, just as a million women are quickly taking the places of the million men drafted from various industrial occupations.
Food, above every other production in the world, responds to individual attention. It is greatly benefited by being treated in small quantities, and quickly indicates the skill of the caretaker. It is quite possible that a more intensive method of American farming would actually produce more food; that we need "integration of function,” as the economists say.
Equally important with increast production is the necessity of saving food if we would “increase our exports to our Allies to a point which will enable them to feed their own people.” The women responsible for twentytwo millions of kitchens of the nation are askt to give up certain old habits, to modify accustomed ways, to make a technical study of resources at hand and of what a family may conscientiously use. They are also urged to evoke the interest of their households and a sense of participation in a patriotic undertaking. The effort centers about three general propositions.
First, elimination of waste, which we have all learned from our mothers and grandmothers, altho we too often forget to apply it. Second, an actual reduction of consumption. Perhaps this can best be illustrated from sugar. Third, the substitution of foods which cannot be readily shipt for those which ship to the greatest advantage-corn for wheat, poultry and fish for drest meats, and the others with which you are all so familiar.
There are other things which women are doing in addition to careful administration of their kitchens. Food conservation may mean many things, as has recently been pointed out in a circular issued by the Department of Educational Propaganda of the Woman's Committee of the Council of National Defense. It may mean direct purchasing thru the parcel post, municipal markets, cooperative delivery, just as the new agricultural movement in North Dakota and elsewhere includes road-making, storage, transportation, cooperative distribution, and many other things.
From the time we were little children we have all of us, at moments at least, cherisht overwhelming desires to be of use in the great world, to play a conscious part in its progress. The difficulty has always been in attaching our vague purposes to the routine of our daily living, in making a synthesis between our ambitions to cure the ills of the world on the one hand and the need to conform to household requirements on the other. It is a very significant part of the situation, therefore, that at this world's crisis the two have become absolutely essential to each other. It is no slight undertaking to make this synthesis, which is probably the most compelling challenge which has been made upon women's constructive powers for centuries. They must exert all their human affection and all their clarity of mind in order to make the great moral adjustment which the situation demands.
The various studies which thousands of club women thruout the country have been carrying on for so many years in their effort better to comprehend the world in which we live, will bring to their aid at this time of crisis an understanding of woman's traditional relation to food, of her old obligation to nurture the world. We may be able thus to lift the challenge of the present moment into its historic setting.
Back of history itself are innumerable myths dealing with the Spirits of the Corn, who are always feminine and are usually represented by a Corn Mother and her daughter, vaguely corresponding to the Greek Demeter, the always-fostering Earth and her child Persephone, the changing seasons. It is said that relics of the Corn Mother and the Corn Maiden are found in nearly all the harvest fields of the world, with very curious old customs.
Perhaps those club women who have cared most for history and the study of early social customs will be the first to realize that these myths centering about the Corn Mother but dimly foreshadowed what careful scientific researches have later verified and developt. Students of primitive society believe that women were the first agriculturists and were for a long time the only inventors and developers of its processes. The men of the tribe did little for cultivating the soil beyond clearing the space and sometimes surrounding it by a rough protection.
Those club women who have persistently kept up a study class in such stiff subjects as comparative religions and philosophy know how often a widespread myth has its counterpart in the world of morals. This was certainly true of the belief in the "fostering mother.” Students in the origin of social customs contend that the gradual change from the wasteful manner of nomadic life to a settled and much more economic mode of existence may be fairly attributed to these primitive agricultural women. The desire to grow food for her children led to a fixt abode and a real home from which our domestic morality and customs are supposed to have originated.
In these dark years, so destructive of the old codes, the nations, forst back to their tribal function of producing and conserving food, are developing a new concern for the feeding of their peoples. All food supplies have long been collected and distributed thru the utilization of the commercial motive. At the present moment, however, just as the British government has undertaken the responsibility of providing the British Isles with imported food, so other belligerent and neutral nations have been obliged to pursue
the same course in order to avert starvation. Commercial competition has been supprest, not in response to any theory, but because it cannot be trusted to feed the feeble and helpless. There is no doubt that even after peace is declared the results of starvation, arising from the world's shortage of food, will compel these governments to continue and even extend their purchasing in other lands. But such a state of affairs will itself indicate a new order—the substitution of the social-utility motive for that of commercial gain. In international affairs the nations have still dealt almost exclusively with political and commercial affairs considered as matters of “rights"; consequently they have never been humanized in their relations to each other as they have been in their internal affairs.
It is quite understandable that there was no place for woman and her possible contribution in these international relationships; they were indeed not "woman's sphere.” But is it not quite possible that, as women entered into city politics when clean milk and sanitary housing became matters for municipal legislation, as they consulted state officials when the premature labor of children and the tuberculosis death-rate became factors in a political campaign, so they may normally be concerned with international affairs when these are dealing with such human and poignant matters as food for the starving and the rescue of women and children from annihilation ?
The instinct to feed those with whom we have made alliances certainly bears an analogy to those first interchanges between tribe and tribe when a shortage of food became the humble beginning of exchange. At the present moment the allied nations are collecting and conserving a common food supply, and each nation is facing the necessity of making certain concessions to the common good that the threat of famine for all may be averted. A new internationalism is being establisht day by day; the making of a more reasonable world-order, so cogently urged by the President of the United States, is to some extent already under way, the war itself forming its matrix. An English economist has recently pointed out that in Europe generally the war has thus far thrown the customs tariffs flat. Are they perhaps disappearing under this onslaught of energized pity for world-wide needs ? And is a motive power, new in the relations between nations, being evolved in response to hunger and love, as the earlier domestic ethics had been ?
It is possible that the more sophisticated questions of national grouping and territorial control will gradually adjust themselves if the paramount human question of food for the hungry be fearlessly and drastically treated upon an international basis. The League of Nations, destined to end wars, upon which the whole world, led by President Wilson, is fastening its hopes, may be founded, not upon broken bits of international law, but upon ministrations to primitive human needs. The League would then be organized de facto as all the really stable political institutions in the world have been.
In this great undertaking women may bear a valiant part if they but stretch their minds to comprehend what it means in this world-crisis to produce food more abundantly and to conserve it with wisdom.
THE UNITED STATES BOYS' WORKING RESERVE H. W. WELLS, ASSOCIATE NATIONAL DIRECTOR, UNITED STATES BOYS' WORKING RESERVE OF THE UNITED STATES EMPLOYMENT SERVICE OF
THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, WASHINGTON, D.C. Will everyone in this audience be good enough to take pencil and paper and to write down these words: United States Boys' Working Reserve, Employment Service, Department of Labor, Washington, D.C. you reach your homes please be good enough to transfer these words to a stampt envelope, inclose your name and address within the envelope, and mail it. The national office of the Reserve will immediately respond by sending you information concerning the United States Boys' Working Reserve and will tell you of what vital importance both to itself and to you your hearty cooperation with the Reserve must necessarily prove to be.
The United States Boys' Working Reserve is the one organization establisht by the federal government for the mobilization of boys sixteen years of age and over, and under twenty-one years of age, for work, chiefly in food production, but also in the shops that are manufacturing waressential material. It is organized in three units: the Agricultural Unit, by far the most important of the three; the Industrial Unit; and the Vocational Unit.