Letter from Anne Morgan to her mother, Frances Tracy Morgan
Blérancourt, 13 January 1918
This will probably be my last letter that there is any chance of reaching you before I come myself. Now that I am back again here, it seems more and more difficult to think of getting away even for the six weeks, and yet I am sure that it is the only way to clear up our future work and find out just what the Committee expects and wants of us. As it is now we are living very much from hand to mouth, and yet there are an infinite amount of problems being put up to us all the time that demand a certain assurance of continuation and continued support.
You see the trouble is that our organization as a whole [the American Fund for French Wounded] considers our end of the work [the Civilian Division] as more or less of an extra, this means that all the detail is put up to Miss [Elizabeth] Perkins to do, and the Committee does not really take it over. All this has nothing to do with the great difficulty of raising any money of any kind just now, that we know, but the point is that over here every one seems to consider that civilian work is one of the most important parts of war work, particularly for America at the present moment, and at home they do not think of it that way, so some conclusion must be reached on the subject.
Besides this question of finances there are a number of things that must be cleared up with the home organization, and the only way is to do it with a personal interview, not only in New York but in some of the other cities.
With all my heart I wish I had some kind of gift of giving the real picture of our field over here, there are such an infinite amount of sides to it all, and the opportunities are so infinite. Yesterday I went off with Miss [Miriam] Blagden to see her village, as you know each of our group have their own village for which they are marraine [godmother], in this way no matter what kind of work they are doing, office, automobile, magasin, or anything else, they each have some of the direct individual work to give them a deeper interest in it all.
This particular village is very interesting as it is not only near the line, but it is in such a position that because of military values it is not safe as yet to do any constructive work, or even to put up any barracks. There are about thirty people living in it, and they have the most splendid courage and determination to get back to their own. One old man, a mason, is living in a quarry with a woman refugee, her daughter, and little grand daughter, you can't think of worse conditions, but their courage never falters, and as a matter of fact this is the third group that this man has taken in and offered shelter till they could arrange for themselves. Two of his former lodgers are now living in the one room left of their own house, and were as happy as clams when we were able to bring them a decent stove yesterday. Both these man can work and are only asking for tools, which we are giving them while they are waiting for the formalities about their war indemnities.
Our school classes are now going famously; we are starting in now with an appeal to America for the school children to start in with a small fund for a library of both school books and a circulating library. There is an immense need of it as all the schools are very short and the authorities have not yet decided which department is responsible.
We are also in desperate need of a fund to buy garden tools, the army is growing us plants with seeds that the Red Cross gave us, but we must be able to supply a thousand families with spades, rakes, hoes and all the other things one needs for early planting. It is absurd to try and send them over when one can buy them here, but it will all mean just that much more food supply in the gardens here. Then we are starting in with children's gardens as well, so you see we have plenty of plans on foot. In a few weeks now we will have Dr. [Maude] Kelly with us, she has been doing splendid dispensary work for the Smith [College Relief] Unit, and we will be able to build up that end of the work here where there is no end of need for it. Then we are in hopes that the Red Cross will bring us a civilian hospital in this quarter very soon, that will mean splendid for there are no end of small surgical cases that should be attended to, and for which we have no adequate facilities.
Please don't think we are living entirely with our own problems up here, as a matter of fact that is just what this kind of work makes one disinclined to do, all these questions are so utterly interdependent, and will remain so, that one must keep in touch with a thousand questions that are apparently outside our own field. As to America it is more than infuriating to hear as little as we do, it was very nice to have a long talk the other day in Paris with Bert Borden, Mrs. Finley's brother, he is full of enthusiasm with all that he saw at home even way out in the West, but I was glad to have him feel that this is the place for every one that can to be. He is in the Y.M.C.A. but means to work at their French canteen work as he feels that is the best thing he can do for America. I hope to see him again. . . .
[In March 1918, a new German offensive in the Aisne forced a second civilian evacuation. The American volunteers remained in the area to assist with the evacuation, tend to the needs of fleeing refugees, run a children's colony, and operate canteens and clothing distribution centers. The bulk of the reconstruction work accomplished over the previous months was obliterated. In late March, Anne Morgan and Anne Murray Dike reorganized the Civilian Division of the American Fund for French Wounded as an independent organization, the American Committee for Devastated France.]