Friday, December 21, 2012

Fatherless Children of France

Here are two postcards promoting Fatherless Children of France, which was a popular charity in the United States during and after World War I. I am including the messages on the backs, which I think are interesting. (My transcription of the second one is missing a couple of key words that were written over the printing on the card.)

 Dear Liela?
A very Merry Christmas and the happiest of New Years. My Christmas present to you will, I am afraid reach you very late. I had it marked, or rather left it to be marked early in November, and I have not received it yet. I am so disappointed, but you will get it some time. So much love, Annie

Dear Mother,
I wish you a happy Birthday. I have no Birthday card so this will pass this time. I will come home Friday morning if I do not get the Flu. If anything happens will ... to you. Meet me ... at the train ...

The New York Times of December 2, 1917 had an article about another fatherless Children of France postcard, with the suggestion that it could be bought instead of  a gift.

An article in the Rochester Sentinel (Indiana) of  December 2, 1918, described the fundraising efforts there (source):
The Fatherless Children of France, an American organization, has asked Rochester to support 16 or more French orphans, for a year, at the rate of 10 cents a day. Fort Wayne headquarters has placed A. L. Deniston in charge of the work here. The quota is one child to each 250 persons in the community.

It is the purpose of the society to have 200,000 war orphans adopted in the United States, by December 25th, as a Christmas present to France. Lodges, churches and church societies, factories and individuals will be asked to contribute the $36.50, the money to be paid monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or for the year.

The work, however, is largely that of children for children, and it is urged that wherever possible, pledges or contributions be made thru a child, or in the name of a child. Where responsibility to meet the pledge can be placed with children, it should be done, certain grades or certain Sunday school classes forming teams to reach the desired amount. As soon as this is raised, the name of the French child or children will be forwarded, together with certificates for each orphan and badges for all who aid in raising the funds.

Steps will be taken at once to reach the city's quota, it being felt that more than 16 should be supported here. At least one Rochester organization of women has already acted.
Fatherless Children of France, Inc. had its headquarters in New York. The society was organized in 1916 to provide relief to needy French children whose fathers had been killed in the war. The children remained in their own homes to be brought up by their mothers.

According to a 1918 overview (source), there were 128 American committees on December 31st, 1917 and 180 on May 1st, 1918. The organization was described as follows:
There are at the present time fifty-four French Orphan Societies affiliated with our Society. These societies having applied to and been approved by our Paris Committee, have the privilege of submitting to our Paris Committee lists of needy children eligible for support under our rules. These names are then verified and catalogued by our Paris Committee and sent to the National Executive Committee in New York, which in turn distributes them among our various committees throughout America. 
The funds collected for the adoption of these French children by American adoptors are remitted direct by the local American committees to Messrs. J. P. Morgan and Co. in New York; by that firm the money is transmitted through its Paris office to our committee in Paris and by it is distributed to the orphans through the French post office.
When the funds were distributed in France, they were accompanied by letters from the Paris Bureau explaining the friendship of America and instructing the child or its mother to write a letter of acknowledgment to the American benefactor (source).
Some of the letters written by the fatherless children of France to their American godparents were published in a 1917 book that can be viewed online here. This is an example of one of the letters included in the book.

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  1. What a wonderful idea for Christmas giving! A lot of us do the same kind of "giving" today -- contributions to various charities. Best to you this holiday season!

  2. And still children all over the world need saving.
    Have a Happy Christmas/

  3. I had never heard of this charity, but I like the idea of honoring someone with a donation to a good cause. Merry Christmas!

  4. If you replace the word "French" with "Afghanistan" or "Congo", it is evident that the world hasn't improved much over the last century. Nevertheless, a Merry Christmas to all.

  5. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Different century, different wars and children are still the victims. Maybe someday we'll get it right.

    Nevertheless, Happy Holidays to you!

  6. I wonder if they ever met? Charities like this still exist here. A monthly contribution for children of third world countries. In the seventies we used to have children in the summer holidays from an organisation called
    "Brot für Brüder". We got children from all over Europe for about 2-3 month. Sometimes we spoke 2 or three different languages in the family.

  7. What a wonderful but sad post. I have never heard of that charity either but there are hundreds of needy kids out there for sure. All the blessings of the holidays to you and yours.

  8. Definitely a different angle here,
    but one most worthy as it comes back to the simple virtue of sharing/giving.

    Thanx 4 sharing!!
    Happy Holidays!!

  9. A few of my friends now give to charity rather than to individuals for Christmas. I know Oxfam is one organisation they like. It's a great idea.

  10. Very interesting cards and a thoughtful post for Christmas. One of the many tragic consequences of the Great War. Lately I have added several cards of boys bands from French and Belgium orphanages which had hundreds of boys and girls.

  11. I haven't heard of that organization before. I bet that they helped so many. The message on the second postcard was kind of funny. I wonder if she was spared the flu and if her mother had to go to the train station to not find her daughter and worry that she DID have the flu.

    Merry Christmas,

    Kathy M.

  12. I think it's interesting that they asked the people of a city to support a certain number of children. More can be accomplished when people work together. The postcards are beautiful. I enjoyed reading Alexandre's letter, too. Happy New Year to you, postcardy.


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