From Hiram House to Warsaw: Evelina Belden Paulson’s Internationalist Extension of Social Work

Document 1: 22 August 1921     |     Document 2: 8 September 1921
Document 3: 22 September 1921     |     Document 4: 1 October 1921
Document 5: 4 October 1921     |     Document 6: 2 December 1921

Author: Evelina Belden
Recipient: Family
Date: 22 September 1921
Document Type: Typed Document
Location: Evelina Belden Paulson Papers, RG 30/406, Series II, Box 3, Letter No. 2177, O. C. A.


The following letter is an excerpt from a typewritten letter written by Belden to her family.  Her letters are a testament to the value she placed on maintaining communication with her family, given how extensive her commitments are–as described in the letter. Her engagements may explain why this letter is written over the course of many days.

Belden’s mention of nurses and health is significant, given that “through instruction, American nurses aspired to make local women self-sufficient, disciplined, and educated, prepared to teach their fellow citizens about modern conceptions of health and to serve as emblems of appropriate moral behavior.”[1] For this reason The American Red Cross focused on sanitation, hygiene, and disease prevention in their aid work.


Original                       Both                    Transcription




[Handwritten: This has just come. Please send to Ellen, + Ellen [illegible] you speedily return home, as there are some people here who want to see it. Mr. Riggs + Miss Cole were in yesterday P. M. when it came, + they wanted others to hear it.][2]

The last social worker has just taken her train out of Warsaw and we are now back to a normal state after about a week of special things. Saturday, Sunday and Monday we were all here for a special conference for the social workers.  It was the best thing of the kind I have most ever known for everyone was intensely interested, the spirit was fine and the conclusions were satisfactory.  Now we feel that we can go on with thenext [sic] three month’s plans andwork [sic] with a will.

I thought when I was in the Red Cross in Central Division that we had a fine spirit among the staff, but this has been even finer.  There has been absolutely no friction and each is as anxious to do her part as I or anyone else would want her to be.  It is an inspiring group to work with. I think one reason for the spirit is that there is too much work for each one so there cannot be any jealousy, and there is a great deal of independence about the things that are to be done.  That does not make a supervisor keep supervising but advising, and it puts each one on her mettle.  In fact it is the only way to have a group of adult and independent thinking persons organized.  We shouldnever [sic] have a system of direction when one of all working together is possible.

OnSunday [sic] we had a grand reception for some fifty or more members of Polish national societies who have headquarters in Warsaw.  There was the Catholic Woman’s League,[3] which is an international organization and one I have worked with in Chicago, the Polish Red Cross which of course is a member of the League of Red Cross Societies and encircles the globe, the Women’s Protective Society which is also international, the American Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A.[4] which of course are everywhere and here too, the American and English Society of Friends. Then there was the Minister of Health for Poland, the head of one of the departments of the Ministry of Labor, another government official, from the foreign office, members of the Ziomanchi which is the great agricultural society composed of the wives and the daughters of the landowners and pledged to a program for the help of the peasants, the Circle of Polish Women and another women’s organization of considerable importance, the White Cross which was founded during the war by Madam Paderwiski[5] for help to the soldiers and is still active.

They were a serious and interested group of persons who were glad to sit and talk with the [sic] American workers.  Most of the people spoke some English but we had five interpreters at the party for those who did not.  And besides the interpreters were women who will later be interested in this sort of work and help push it in the various towns.  One of the interpreters is the woman in Krakow who is most active in various kinds of social service.  She rejoices at the opportunity of working with Ruth FitzSimone because of the training it gives here in practical ways.

We are going to help the Polish Junior Red Cross to get under way in all the towns where our social workers are situated. In fact when the field secretary of the Polish JRC called onme [sic] yesterday she had her time planned ahead without workers for the next month. We are spending the American Children’s fund for the Polish children also and getting them t [sic] send back to the American children such things as they can. It will be an interesting job.

We are going to giv [Handwritten: e] a short intensive class for the volunteers who will help at the milk stations ans [sic] ambulatoria. I have been outlining the course all dsy [sic] and getting mimeographed copied made of things to be given to the students [sic] We decided to give a lot inPolish [sic] in writing since it is so difficult to be sure that people understand through an inter [Handwritten: preter.]

I am thinking seriously of going to Constantinople for my first leave. That may come in December or January according as it can be arranged here. It is due after I have been here sixmonths [sic] but must of course be arranged to suit the work. So if any one has any ideas on that they should be sent right on. Mail is so very slow and it requires a good two months to get a letter here and an answer back, more than that to Oberlin.

Here onmy [sic] table is a postcard of three mountain musicians playing below the mountain at Zakopane. They keep singing over the tune that we heard as we came down the mountain trail. Three men just like these were wending their way down to a roadside inn where we followed them and had tea on the porch. Inside was a dance room, where the musicians took turns dancing queer jigs of old fashioned folk steps. Theri trousers are made of white handwoven wool and fit skin tight. At the ankle is a split sothat [sic] colors like the embroidery on the jacket I sentto [sic] Ped for Christmas. It simply shines out onthe [sic] new trousers but becomes a bit invisable [sic] on the old ones which are as dark as if they started dark. The men and women too, were [sic] these leather jackets which are also embroidered in the same soft of colors. Around theedges [sic] are beautiful furs. And all these mountain people seemed to have such kind faces and good physiques.

Please keep these pictures for me. They are most attractive, dont you think? Perhaps they are especially so to me because I have seen how attractive are the real people. mHow [sic] I do enjoy travel to different sorts of places and seeing differ [sic] kinds of people. And especially where there is also beautiful scenery.


SundaySeptember [sic] 25, 1921.

I have tried to put these carbons back in and wonder whether the rest of this page will be readable. I seem to have been too occupied to get out the carona for days [sic]

This has been a most restful Sunday, the kind which quites [sic] fits one to start a new week. I went over to the English church alone but found of the nurses there to come back with. The rector is very sincere and reverential and the service always puts one back into place with the world which is at best a little trying in the week days. We have been very busy and I have had quite a little planning that involves our whole force, and of course that uses up ones reserve. I leave for a field trip tomorrow night, going out to where Louise McGuire, one of the Chicago girls [sic] is. She is fine. This is in the refugee area where thousandsccome [sic] each day returning from Russia. I am crazy to go there but so far have never been. It is an overningh [sic] trip on a sleeper and I will be gone two days. The Polish Junior Red Cross fied [field] worker is going with me, infact I am going to help [handwritten: help] her. I have arranged most of her time for the next month to be spent with out [sic] force. She is untrained but very interested and anxious for help and speaks English.

And such a good sleep as I did have and s[inserted above the line with a carrot: u]ch happy dreams about all the dear people in America whom I think of so much and even more than usual on Sunday, perhaps because there is more time to think. Miss Mathews has opened her door here but I am not bothering her for she is writing on her carona also. They are good helpers. I have been thankful a thousand times that I have one. Lately I have taken mine to the office and brought it back to write on at home nights, for now I cannot use a regular machine rapidly. The punctuation is so different that one has to keep too close track to think easily.

But this week I have been given a full time stenographer and typist so I will have less myself. She is Polish but writes and reads English. I am getting out a lost of things for the course for volunteers that we are giving and they take a [handwritten: lot of] writing. I am trying to arrange to have a lot of the substance of the course put into Polish because of the difficulties of teaching through an interpreter and the inaccuracies of the interpreters. This way I can have all the outlines translated once and gone over by a second person to be sure that the point is put into Polish right. It is intricate to teach social service to voluntee rs [sic] at best but terrible to do it without a language. Each of our workers is going to give a little of this course in her station to the women whome [sic] she picks as worth this much intensive training. We cannot just talk on for it takes too much time to talk to each person when several could be given the same information at once. So this idea of the class work. Each of the volunteers must also give so much time in volunteer service under our supervision. I hope it comes to someththing [sic] I try to be optomistic [sic] about results but mostly do not stop to plan for them for they are too slow.

I have been dipping into H.G.Wells [sic] Salvaging of civilization,- the book the Dear [illegible two lines typed on top of each other] (plague, the typewriter did not move and I did not see till a whole line was written) Lady gave me to read on the steamer. It has a lot on education for the future which you both would love to read for it is just what we have so often spoken about and what we believe. Wells thinks that the new order of things will come as an education process and that persons who believe in it as a cause must take it up. A group of persons could read this book together with profit for it would provoke some interesting discussions.

We hear many tales now from Russia which cannot fail to be true. The situation the [sic] there must be appalling. I do hope the American relief can get in. We heard that the train had been plundered and so the relief was stopped. What a terrible situation to develope [sic] in a day of the world when people are supposed to be civilized and capable of governing each other in a decent way.

America is sending a shipload of clothes to Central Europe some of which comes to Poland. It will be distributed by the Polish Committee not by the American personnel. We are however getting groups of Polish women to sew on material which is also given by the Americans so that they may also have a part in making the garments for their more needy fellow countrymen. All of us social workers think it is part of our duty to help the Polish societies in staring [starting] their own groups for such service. A lot of the American material is being made up for the American Red Cross by the Russian Red Cross and the Polish Red Cross women. I like to have the American women who have given somuch [sic] time and unselfish service in sending things know how the women on this side are also doing something. They have not enough money to buy material but this means makes it possible for them to sew on ours. There appears to be great need of warm clothing. When I mentioned Ellen’s statement that she had read that babies were wrapped in newspapers after birth in some of the hospitals, this nurse said that she had seen it done in Poland [sic] You know there are no trained nurses in the hospitals here as we consider nurses for there have only been only the short courses for what we would call a tendants. But now there are three full fledged xxxxxxx nurses training schools in Poland and one six months [sic] course for health workers. These are combined efforts of Polish and Americans, though the money is largely from America. That seems like a solid piece of constructive work for the far distant and also near future.

In reading over the reports and in seeing persons who tell of the Red Cross in Europe I am filled with appreciation at what it is doing and you know I am a conservativive [sic] in giving praise and I see the faults as well as the virtues. You don’t know how glad I am that I feel so. I cannot work in an organization in whose program I have not confidence nor in whose personnel I have not also. But I have here. I hope if you hear confidence nor in whose personnel I have not also. But I have here. I hope if you hear things to the contrary you will pass on this belief. Oh, of course all is not perfect. But where is it. And where can one expect to find a large force all of whom are. But I can speak in public at home for it withxxxx [sic] great praise.

I got a hatyysterday [sic], green and blue and very pretty with my green coat. I wish you could see it. It was also quite inexpensive. It certainly increases ones [sic] self respet [sic] to have a few clothes. I must get a dress but would so much rather have the money for other things of more permanent value. This page is gone and I must write another let [handwritten: ter. Much love to you all Evelina.]

[1] Julia Irwin, Making the World Safe: The American Red Cross and a Nation’s Humanitarian Awakening (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 156.

[2] Belden frequently asked the recipient of her letters to pass them on to other members of her family. Ellen could either be her mother, Ellen Scranton Belden, or her sister, Ellen Scranton Belden Taylor.

[3] Margaret Fletcher founded The Catholic Women’s League in 1906 in England. They focused on health and peace efforts internationally, aligning them closely with the work of The Red Cross. (Catholic Women’s League, accessed 17 August 2016, Source).

[4] The Oberlin YWCA chapter would develop an internationalist focus in the 1940s. [LINK]

[5] Helena Paderewska founded The White Cross to aid the American Polish Army. Paderewska’s work began in Canada staffing hospitals during an influenza outbreak, but moved in Poland in 1919 (Helena Paderewska: Memoirs, 1910-1920, ed. Maciej Siekierski (Stanford University: Hoover Institution Press, 2015).