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Entered as second-class matter March 28, 1916, at the Post Ofice at Concord, N. H.,
under the Ad of March 3, 1879
WAR WORK-A CONSCIENCE FUND
J. M. WHITELAW
One morning in October, 1917, an ungraded class teacher was asked to read some war letters to the pupils assembled in the Auditorium of Public School 3, Manhattan. The letters were written by nurses on duty in the war zone and, although many gruesome details were omitted in the reading, the children felt the strong appeal for their sympathy, their work and their financial aid. The pupils were so deeply impressed that the teacher asked if they wished some part in saving the world from bondage and death. The response was unanimous and hearty—there was no room for doubt when the little girls answered.
During the reading of the letters, a small girl was chewing gum at intervals and that suggested to the teacher a way in which much help might be extended to the little refugees. The pupils were asked to calculate the amount that they spent weekly on non-essentials. They were told that if they were willing to share that amount with their little foreign sisters, many comforts might be secured for them. The value of making the offering a voluntary one was impressed upon the children, also the fact that the work of helping if begun, must be continued. The pupils were not to ask their parents for any money for this purpose, as it must be a personal sacrifice. A week was allowed for careful consideration of the matter, and at the end of that time it was solemnly decided that the school should establish a fund for the relief of some of the suffering children.
In November, 1917, the collection of money began. Each class has a bank on the teacher's desk into which money may be dropped. No one need know how much or how little a child gives, unless she herself tells the amount, but it is a matter of conscience to contribute as liberally as possible. For this reason the fund is called “The Conscience Fund.” It has become impossible for any girl to chew gum in peace unless her comrades feel sure that she has contributed generously to the fund.
It seemed wise to have some definite work to do. Through the American Girl's Aid, four refugee children were adopted. Three French girls "whose fathers died on the field of honor" and a little Belgian girl orphaned through the fortunes of war, became the god-sisters of the school. The
French children live with their mothers and the amount paid by the school provides an adequate supply of food for them. The Belgian child is cared for in a Colony School in northern France.
A brisk correspondence is carried on in French and English between the pupils and their god-sisters. Some of the letters received from abroad are charming and our little girls are very enthusiastic about their foreign sisters. One letter is given here:
Vron, 3 juillet, 1918 *Mesdemoiselles et chéres Marraines:
C'est toujours avec beaucoup de reconnaissance que je reçois le généreux présent qui me vient de mes petites soeurs d'Amérique. Je sais que pour l'envoyer elles doivent se priver de bonbons et de joujoux qui font tant de plaisir aux petites filles aussi cette privation me les fait aimer davantage.
Prés de chez nous il y a des cantonnements d'Américains tout le monde aime ces vaillant amis qui viennent partager nos dangers il n'est guére de jours et de nuits ou leurs aviateurs ne viennent survoler notre pays je voudrais bien qu'il en vienne loger à Vron, il me semble que je serais heureux de leur offrir l'hospitalité en le faisant je croirais faire plaisir à mes petites soeurs d'Amérique. Le jour et la nuit nous entendons le canon mais l'arrivée de nos amis qui viennent si nombreux nous donne courage et confiance.
Recevez bien, chéres Marraines, l'assurance de ma grande affection,
The god-sisters have sent their photographs to the school and recently it was possible to send across the sea some very fine photographs of the various activities of the school.
Interest in suffering children has reached others than the little god-sisters. When the cry of distress reached us from Halifax, forty-five dollars was promptly sent for the relief of some of the little ones.
One morning the pupils had the great privilege of listening to an address made by a charming woman connected with the Royal Italian Embassy at Washington. In simple language she depicted the sad life led by children
Vron, July 3rd, 1918 *Mademoiselles and dear God-Sisters:
It is always with much gratitude that I receive the generous gifts which come to me from my little sisters in America. I know that to send them they must deprive themselves of the candy and playthings which give so much pleasure to little girls, and this sacrifice makes me love them all the more.
There are, near us, some American cantonments. Everyone loves these brave friends who come to share our dangers. There is hardly a day or night that their aviators do not fly over our country. I wish very much'they would come to live at Vron. I should be happy to offer them our hospitality, and in doing so I know I would give pleasure to my little sisters in America. Day and night we heai cannon, but the arrival of our friende who come in such numbers, gives us courage and confidence. Please accept, dear God-Sisters, assurance of my great love,
abroad, and so touched the hearts of our little girls that they contributed fifty dollars towards the relief of children on the Venetian Plain. In June when the appeal was made to save starving Italians, the pupils contributed all their pleasure money for one week and the sum of one hundred and fifty dollars was sent to the Italian Consul.
Through a stirring address made by a representative Armenian, the school was awakened to the sorrows and needs of Armenia; fifty dollars was sent for food for some of their children. Later in the year the pupils listened to a wonderful address by the same speaker, the subject being “The Meaning of Liberty.” It carried a stirring message to the hearts of the little girls. An interesting French guest brought to the school very cordial messages of appreciation from some of his countrymen who knew of the pleasures gladly sacrificed by our little Americans that their little foreign sisters should not perish.
Each month after paying the board of the god-sisters, there was a surplus which was saved in the hope that enough money might be sent to France to pay
for a cow. One of the workers associated with Miss Anne Morgan, had told of the wonderful work done at Blerincourt and of the need of cows, chickens and eggs.
At that time a cow cost one hundred and fifty dollars in France. When the pupils had one hundred and forty-five dollars a very interesting incident occurred. Public School 3, Manhattan, was formerly a boys' school and the graduates have a very strong alumni association which met in May to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of the school. The present principal was one of the guests, and during the evening was called upon to make an address. Having listened with pleasure to the “glories of the past” she decided to tell what the school is now doing. The story of the daily sacrifices made by the little girls touched these "boys" and they decided to contribute towards the children's cow. A plate was passed and in a few minutes the sum of two hundred and ten dollars was added to the fund.
When the girls heard the good news they decided not to use any of the gift for their cow as they wished it to be entirely their own offering. After much discussion it was planned to send three hundred dollars to Miss Morgan's committee to pay for two cows, one a gift of the "big brothers,” the other from the little sisters." There was enough of the Alumni money
“ left to provide for an Armenian child for one year and it was voted to ask the Armenian Relief Association to assign to the school a boy and his little sister; the boy's board to be paid from the Alumni money and the little girls' expenses to be met by the pupils.
After receiving the generous gift from the Alumni Association the pupils decided that they too wished to make some offering to celebrate the school's one hundredth birthday. They had heard with great sorrow of the thousands of children suffering from shell shock and decided to give twenty-five dollars to the Kindergarten Association in France. They decided also to send a gift of twenty-five dollars to the Colony School in France; the school was sadly handicapped through lack of equipment and it was hoped that the gift would be used to buy something as a reminder of the American sisters.
During the Red Cross drive in May it was explained that all money contributed during the week would be used for relief work, food, clothing, etc. The difference between executive expenses and relief funds was carefully explained, also their interdependence. The children contributed seventyfive dollars and a friend added twenty-five dollars.
A few weeks later three very poor looking children went to the teacher who had made the explanation. Each child had a dollar in small coins. They made an eager demand for “reglar membership" in the Red Cross, saying that they wished to help pay the workers who were saving the little children. The school had previously become a member of the Junior Red Cross, but these three little women wished to be "reglar members.”
The ethical value of the fund cannot be measured; many a little girl has successfully fought battles with self, sacrificing her own pleasures that others might live. Many interesting stories might be told of the little girls' joy at the successful termination of inward struggles. One story will suffice to show the sense of responsibility felt by the pupils. At the close of the Auditorium exercise one day, an ungraded class pupil handed over a cent with the following story. “Ain't I glad I didn't spend it! My mother got up late this morning and didn't get breakfast ready in time. I said I had to go to school because we were going to hear some letters from our French children. My mother gave me a piece of bread and a cent and said 'buy somethin' for yourself. I said to myself 'what'll I buy?' Then my conscience said 'you ain't got no right to buy more food—you have some.' Then the other voice said ‘go on and buy; you have a right to some-thin'.' Then my conscience said ‘no you ain't got no right to buy, you have bread and the French kids are starvin'.' Ain't I glad I didn't spend it!" The story does not serve as an example of Addisonian English, but it certainly illustrates something much higher and nobler. Our little girl has learned the value of putting self in the background when the call of humanity comes.
In the third Liberty Loan Campaign one of the speakers used the story of the Conscience Fund to awaken an apathetic audience. This worker, a forceful cultured woman, was asked to address an audience in a movingpicture hall. The audience was indifferent to her appeal, many of them complacently chewing gum or eating candy. That reminded the speaker of the little girls who had cheerfully given up such pleasures that others might have bread. She told of the fund and of the long continued voluntary sacrifices of little girls far from rich. As she talked the audience awakened. One man rose and waved his hand enthusiastically saying, “I'll buy a thousand dollar bond; I'll not be outdone by children. Within a few minutes five thousand dollars worth of bonds had been sold.
Before Easter the pupils decided to send money to the little god-sisters to buy something new to wear, also a little extra money for postage stamps.