Page 1

The_Bravest_of_the_Brave

(3 THE SATURDAY EVENING POST ,January 16, 1915 211673 VISOT (THE women of four nations are involved in this war. The story of the Belgian women is well known. They have been the literal victims. They suffered almost without protection the first red rage of the enemy. They have been scattered to the four winds of the earth. They have been trampled in the dust by the feet of an invading army. For one, I must continue to doubt that German soldiers cut off the heads of Belgian children in the presence of their mothers, or that they thrust naked children into the fire in order to hear them scream, or that forty Belgian women lay with their bodies ripped open by swords in the streets of a town after the Germans had passed through it, or that they made a practice of shooting women about to become mothers. One must see these things, which surpass the diablerie of demons, in order to believe them; but I have seen women who were forced to witness the execution of their husbands, women who ran screaming with terror from their burning homes into a world filled with German soldiers. I have seen not one or two but literally thousands of them who were famished for water and starving for bread. I have seen children less than two years of age who had been without food for four days, young babes in their mothers' arms whose breasts had been dried by the awful terrors through which they had passed. I have seen women accustomed to every comfort staggering into a strange land without shoes on their feet and without a centime in their pockets. As a Southern woman I have heard from my earliest infancy stories of the hardships endured by the women of the South during the Civil War. Heart-rending tales they were of suffering, of robberies, of starvation, even, which they endured after Sherman's march through Georgia; but never once have I heard any story of the treatment they received from the soldiers of the Union Army which slowed these blasting stains of shame. To strike terror belongs to the military theory in Germany. And this striking of terror cannot aim at the fighting men opposed to them. It is now an axiom, proved beyond doubt, that the Germans could not terrify those little Belgian soldiers on whom they moved in overwhelming numbers. Many of these patriots of a peaceful country fought until they died in the trenches—not from bullet wounds, but from exhaustion. The only way to break the courage of such men was to strike terror to their dearer selves—their women and children. And no one knows how far this practice actually succeeded in its purpose. When the Belgian soldiers learned of the martyrdom of their women, their blood flowed from wounds within too deep to be healed. No wonder we heard so often of their agonized question: "When are the Eng- lish coming to help us? Will the French army get here in time?" They were thinking, not of themselves, but of their wives and maidens whom they had left behind. I say the agony and martyrdom of these Belgian women are written in an awful and lasting script on the memory of mankind. If Germany is victorious this stain will dis- honor her achievement more than anything else. If she is defeated her defeat will be stripped of the glory which some- times shines most effulgent over the fallen. What shall it profit a nation to gain the whole world at an expense so devastating to humanity? We all know how that is. Society receives everywhere, with politeness, even with compli- ments, individuals who have gained riches through devious methods. But how does society receive them? We only respect ourselves by being decent to such persons. We really despise them. This will be the position of Germany in the coming association of nations, no matter what the issue of this conflict may be. She can never win real respect through the disguise of diplomacy. The Women of Germany FOR commercial purposes, for the proper protection of mankind against her ruthless system, she will receive compliments and politeness and favors, and such justice as she can win through the respect other nations have for their own reputations. Not a single representative of a single nation, who comes to the ultimate conference for adjustment and peace after this war, will be able to forget for a moment the story of her treatment of the Belgian women and children. Yet one must entertain the highest admiration for the German women. In a sense, they are no less the victims of the Kaiser's Army than the women of Belgium. They impressed me as the greatest women of Europe when I was in Germany, and the most pathetic in their bondage to the men. They were by far the most thoughtful, the most capable and the most helpless. They had the mournful sense of sibyls in regard to their conditions. They were not hopeful; they were only patient. They had the 0 y Coywzr Ifficui.T.Tfia Corra Harris. This Photograph Was Taken at Compiegne on November 14th, 1014, Within Sound of the Cannons at Soissons. They are German Bullets Which She Holds in Her Hand. Given Her by a French Soldier brains of scholars and philosophers, the seer spirits of poets. And they seemed to be moving dumbly through the life of the nation. They were the slaves of the order of things there. Only certain employments were open to them. They could become servants, field hands, factory workers, shopgirls, teachers, actresses, medical doctors, and wives—or prostitutes. There was a small school just begun at Potsdam for the purpose of teaching stenography and typewriting to the girls of impoverished gentle families, only with the hope that those women might be placed in small clerical positions in the government offices. I have remembered something I thought then—that only a terrific national catastrophe could deliver these unfortunate women from their condition. At last they have the catastrophe; this war is the great opportunity for the women of Germany. And they have met it with courage. Germany is being bled to the last drop of her manhood. So the women are filling men's places in every walk of life. They are no longer at the bottom but at the top. They are taking the places of the male students in the schools and universities. They are in the banks, they are conducting great business. They are attending to the sanitary conditions of the towns and cities. The whole of Berlin is supplied with milk from the farms just outside the city. This enormous enterprise has always been managed by men; but when they were called out to join their regiments the women went in and filled the places of the men, and Berlin was not without her milk supply for a single day. The women of three nations are engaged in nursing the wounded soldiers of the Allied armies and in supplying them with comforts; but only the women of Germany nurse German soldiers and send them these comforts. So far, it appears that they have fallen short only in their contributions of jams and sweets. The soldiers, born of these pathetically domestic mothers, have raided for jam and jelly every pantry in that portion of France through which they have passed. They may leave the pickles if they are in too good a humor to destroy them, but they fight over the preserves. They gulp them down without bread and lick the glasses before they break them. One of the rare humorous aspects of this terrible situation is the lifted hands and eloquence of the outraged French housewife who returns to her home, if it stands after the bombardment, to find all her winter store of sweets stolen. "But yes, of course, they drank all the wine, and they ruined the piano; they played it all night—all night! Such awful thunder they make on the poor thing that now it gives out only a bombardment of noise." "The Germans are fond of music?" I suggest. "Yes; but awful! I do not call it music. I am in the cellar, I put my fingers over my ears, I cannot endure it. And the poor piano, it cannot either. Its feet "— pedals—" are dead. All that I can bear, since they did not kill us or burn the house; but why have they stolen my jam—my little, little pots of jam! It is wicked. They did so." She cupped her fingers and pretended to empty something into her mouth. "One after another that German he licked out my little pots of jam." The story is the same everywhere. They break into the stores and eat all the candy and every sweet cake, even when they do no other damage. I suppose those domestic women, who feed them so lavishly at home, are responsible for this. Or it may be that when men revert to savages they get an abnormal appetite for sugar! Meantime no one knows what their women at home are enduring of sorrow and hardship. So many more of their sons and lovers are dying in this war than the soldiers of either the French or English. So many more women's hearts are breaking in Germany as these men are driven into battle. But because these men must obey their officers, because they must strike terror, I have not heard one single word of sympathy for German women since I have been in Europe. Yet they are as guiltless and they suffer equally with the rest. The Fortitude of Frenchwomen THERE is a story going round to the effect that a letter from his mother was found in a wounded German's pocket, in which she urged him to bring home as many gold watches as he could get. I doubt the existence of this letter. But, even if one woman should incite her son to theft, it would be as unfair to judge the women of Germany by such an example as it would be to judge the women of England by the crime of a militant suffragette, or by one of those useless beings to be seen at every turn in London, still carrying a dog under her arm; or as it would be to judge Frenchwomen by those few light ladies who managed to secure Red Cross badges at the beginning of the war for the purpose of preying, in the most horrible meaning of shame, on the wounded who might fall to their care as nurses. The militant suffragettes and the dog-carrying ladies of England are merely diseases. They do not represent that great body of womanhood which must command our admiration for the services rendered, with so much courage and sacrifice, on behalf of the poor and the unfortunate refugees—any more than the light lady nurse represents the womanhood of France. She was a corruption incident to the confusion of the hour and quickly suppressed. Germany, however, has not been invaded; therefore the position of the German woman is still secure. England has not been invaded; therefore the Englishwoman has not had the opportunity to prove her quality to the uttermost. Belgium has been destroyed, for the present at least; and her women have gone down with her. The fight is over, so far as they are concerned. They are a part of the wounded in this war. They have relatively no more responsibility as women of their nation. The situation is quite different in France. The battleground is here, and the struggle lasts from day to day without decisive victories for either the enemy or the Allied troops. No one can imagine the suspense and the awful significance of this situation who has not been in France and felt life change from lightness and gayety to sternness, simplicity, courage, patience, and the sword. The relation of the Frenchwoman to this is immediate. Of all the women in the world at the present moment, what she is and what she does are most important. She is in the center of a frightful stage, in the limelight of her century; but of all the women I have seen she is the least self-conscious. She does not think of herself at all. She thinks only of France and of that moving line of bayonets borne by the soldiers of France. She complains of nothing, and she seems to me to be sublimely delivered from every fear. She is adjusted to the awful conditions about her as perfectly as she ever has been to the frivolous life of gayety and fashion. If it were decent to use so light a word as artistic in this connection, I should say she is the last perfect stroke in this terrific picture—a little figure in the background, standing like a spirit in the deeper shadows, with dark eyes looking serenely out of a set white face; with red lips firmly closed, not smiling, never drooping, always looking beyond the hour of this tragedy to the France of her faith.


The_Bravest_of_the_Brave
To see the actual publication please follow the link above