Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hannah Schoff In Her Own Words

   My previous post gives an introduction to Hanna Kent Schoff.  I think her success as a national spokesperson for child rights and maternal education was a product of her deep commitment to these issues and to her skills with the written and spoken word.  Her writings are quite emphatic and she must have been an inspirational speaker.
       The following interview with her was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, April 3, 1917.  The accompanying graphic highlights many of her comments.

Mrs. Frederic Schoff, President of National Congress, Not a Pacifist, but Indignantly Scores Desire of Militants of U. S. to Put Universal Training in the Schools of the Country Has Four Sons

     "NOT a nation in the world, not even the mad, war-torn ones, not even Germany has drafted Its children Into military service, and yet the militarists of America, in the most crucial time of our history, lose their heads and threaten us with this thing!"
     In ringing tones of Indignation, Mrs. Frederic Schoff, for the last fifteen years president of the National Congress of Mothers and Parent Teachers' Association, an organization representing more than 100,000 mothers, denounced the agitators who would legislate the rifle and the musket into the hands of the school children and left no doubt as to the scale Into which she would throw her Influence when the all-Important subject of universal military training is brought up at the annual gathering of the association, to be held In Washington this month.
     It is quite possible that in her gentle, retiring way, this little white-haired Philadelphia woman molds opinion in as great a degree as many a nationally prominent statesman. For almost two decades in a benign and motherly fashion she has been engaged in educating mothers the country over out of the state of passivity over public questions into which she thought they had fallen.
     She is the mother of the organized mothers of the United States, and if she declares against universal military training it's a safe bet that the militarists of the country will have to sit up nights to offset her influence.

     "Please do not think I am a pacifist," she said and the flag in the window at her home in Baring street was a concrete exhibition of her patriotism "I believe firmly and stanchly In being prepared. Three of my ancestors came over in the Mayflower; I am an American first, last and
all the time, but I believe America must point a newer and better way, not follow in the footsteps of mad, insane nations which are wiping each other off the face of the earth.
     "Experts will tell you," she continued earnestly, "that military training, in its strict sense, is not the best thing for children. I am not speaking of its spiritual effect now, but of Its purely physical effect. Why inject it into the schools? Later on, perhaps, at college, or when a man reaches his majority it would be well to have a military course. It should not take long to teach a healthy man the methods of warfare. But spare the children.
     "Give them a compulsory physical training, both the girls and the boys. That is real preparedness. Militarists will try and make you believe that the bill passed by New York recently putting physical training into the schools is military. It is not. It is simply a health measure, and as such could be copied in every other State with good effect.
     "But before we talk of a greater army, should we not better the condition of those already in it? Is it patriotic for us to sit back and criticise [sic.] men for not enlisting when they are expected to enlist at something like $15 a month?
     "Put the army and navy on the basis of a decent profession and then talk about enlistments.”
     "Mrs. Schoff is just back from a tour of the western States, where she spoke before the local mothers' organizations in the interest of child welfare, and to speak of child welfare at the present time without mentioning war and militarism was, she declared, more than she was capable of.
     "But I found many women who do not believe as I believe, some who are for war at any price and some for peace at any price. This augurs for a stormy convention In April. Do not magnify my influence I am but one woman among a hundred thousand or more represented in the mothers' association. They may go on record for universal military training."
     "But knowing mothers as she does, it was plain to see that she doubted that they would. Mrs. Schoff herself is the mother of seven children, four of whom are boys of war-going age.
     "One of my boys served on the border," she said, "and I believe the sending of those 150,000 boys down to Mexico did as much for the mothers of them as it did for the boys themselves. It made them learn things It brought the atmosphere of war Into their homes and opened their eyes to the seriousness of life. [Note: during her tour of western states, she visited her son, Albert, who was serving with the First Pennsylvania Cavalry in El Paso Texas.]
     "The trouble with most women has been that they haven't thought, they haven't studied. Federal bills are being considered the passage of which will touch every home and affect millions of lives. Yet few women know anything about these bills.
     "Great Britain and Europe are demonstrating that in times of war the women play almost as strenuous a part as the men. It behooves us to be prepared. Physically the women of America can pass muster with the men, but If It comes to a question of service we should put a little sane thinking into our expressions of loyalty and patriotism."
     "Millions for defense, but not one penny, not one man for aggression, is the message that its president will take to the annual convention of the National Congress of Mothers, which is to meet for the week beginning April 21 in Washington, D. C."

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