THE WAUKESHA FREEMAN
Waukesha, Wisconsin, April 7,1898
WILL CLUB WOMAN WEEP
With The Mother
whose boy went Down With The Maine!
Mrs. Ellen M. Henrotin, President of the General Federationom of Woman's Clubs, sent a letter bearing on the present crisis to President McKinley recently. Mrs Isaac Shillington, the body of one of whose sailor sons lies in the wreck of the battleship Maine in Havana harbor and whos other son is a sailor on board the United States cruiser Alliance, also spoke from the standpoint of a mother on the same subject.
Mrs. Henrotin, representing the Woman's clubs, sent the following letter to the President:
"Chicago, April 1, 1898.--To the President of the United States: The General Federation of Woman's Clubs is an organization which embraces twenty-nine State federations of woman's clubs, which number in membership 1,823 souls: and over 500 other clubs are also united in the membership of the general federation. The individual membership of these clubs baries from twenty-five to 1,000 woman. The largest State federation of individuals is that of New York with 25,000 woman members; Massachusetts and Illinois rank next, the former with 15,000, the latter with 13,000. Ohio has about 7,000 women members of the State federation. It is estimated the general federation has over 250,000 woman in membership.
The members of the general federation would condemn a war which was undertaken for aggrandizement or for territorial acqusition, as the federation is founded on the principle of fraternity and reciprocity; but its members recognize the fact that this nation, in the vanguard of all republics, must stand alone for the cause of humanity, for the cause of the weak against the strong, for right as against might. We feel that you "represent this cause. Therefore, as a federation, we tender you our sympathy and express to your our confidence in your wisdom and your devotion to the highest good of this dear country of ours.
While most of the members of the federation represent no vote on subjects of national politics, we do represent great influences. On us war will fall the heaviest, for we must give our son's and during and after the war must help to repair the ravages and lossess and mitigate the sufferings which such a terrible event must inevitably bring in its train. Therefore we have the best right to an expression of our opinion. We pledge to you, while it is a question of humanity, that you may count on the moral support of this organization.
I am, with sentiments of the highest consideration, truly yours, ELLEN M. HENROTIN, President of the General Federation of Woman's Clubs."
Mrs. Shillington sat in her home, 216, Indiana street and fondled some tortoise shell trinkets that her son Harry, who was killed in Havana harbor when the Maine was blown up, had sent her last Christmas from Florida. She was shown Mrs. Henrotin's letter and asked if she thought it spoke for all the mothers of America. Mrs. Shillington could ot read any farther than the line: "On us war will fall the heaviest, for we must give our sons."
"I've already given one of mine." she said. "My Harry. But one boy buried in the mud of Havana harbor and another on board a United States cruiser that may be the first to be sunk in the case of war, I have no appeals to make to the President for peace. I am mother, and I have suffered as perhaps not many of the mothers who have joined in Mrs. henrotin's appeal have suffered, but I do not shrink at the notion of war." "We must think of our own and heaven knows no one could have thought more of her boy than I did of the one who died on the Maine, but there are mothers in Cuba who must be thought of--mothers who have seen their little ones starve to death by their sides. Their homes have been destroyed and families sundered and men and women and children permitted to die lie cattle. I have to think of those things". " You see, I believe there are other things in the world besides business interests. Of course I know the money interests of the country are entitled to full share of consideration, but I believe, too..in honor. I believe it and I taught it to my children, and I think they learned the lesson, for the officers of the Maine have written to me that Harry never swerved from the strict line of his duty, that he never did a thing taht his mother could not have known and that he loved his country and wanted to fight for it and if need be, die for it. He never shrank from what was right and heither will I and I can give my other boy to my country if need be, as I did my oldest son."
"Charlie sailed on the government cruiser Alliance today. His last letter to me said taht how he had but one thoght and that was revenge. You see, he is only a boy of 17 and the death of his brother filled him with hate for those who caused it. I do not feel, of course the same about it that he does. I do not feel any spirit of revenge."
"I only want to see the honor of the country vindicated so that my boy, who is a sailor on board a United States ship, can walk the streets of a foreign city and feel that the blue uniform that he wears is respected and that if he dies, his government will demand atonement and that he is something more than the iron guns or the plating on the side of the ship that can be left buried in the muddy bottom of a harbor and forgotten."
Crew of the Maine, 1898
"I have no criticism to make on the women who have joined in Mrs. Henrotin's petition. They want to be spared the loss of their loved ones and I pray to God that they may be. But if he should let them suffer even as I have suffered, still..if it is for the sake of the dead and dying in Cuba, if it is for the sake of our country and her flag and for the sake of the boys who were killed on the Maine, I only say to them as I say to myself a hundred and a thousand times a day, It had to be, it had to be. There was no other way."
"I have given one boy to his country. I offer another one. If it were possible, I would go myself, but for we women, we can only wait at home while the days drag by and hope against hope. But if I could, i would go myself and fight the Spaniards and I would never stop fighting until our country won or I was as still as the men who lie in the new-made graves in the Havana cemetery."
"That is the way I feel. I think more of the flag, more of honor and more of suffeering humanity than I do of business interests."
Mrs. Shillington did not say all this at once. She sobbed whenever she spoke of her boys and then when she talked she fingered the trinkets they had sent her. She often paused to look for minutes at a time at the picture of the son killed in Havana harbor.
Mrs. Shillington shrinks from noteriety. She did not wish to talk for publication and what she said is only printed to show the way one mother feels, besides the 250,000 that Mrs. Henrotin claims to represent. She belongs to the class of American mothers who lived in revolutionary times, who lived in '61, who gave to their country what was dearer to them than their own lives and said through tears, "Thy will be done."