OCR Interpretation

The day book. (Chicago, Ill.) 1911-1917, January 10, 1914, NOON EDITION, Image 6

Image and text provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library, Urbana, IL

Persistent link: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045487/1914-01-10/ed-1/seq-6/

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"There's no use trying to help the individual; he may not be worth
helping, he may he getting just what he deserves. Our aim is to collect
statistics on what causes poverty and perhaps- in twenty-five or fifty years
from now we may know enough about the situation to be able to cope with
it But at present we are collecting statistics."
That statement was made by Ernest Bicknell, then superintendent of
the Bureau of Charities, which later became the United Charities. Bicknell
is now national superintendent of the Red Cross Society.
It was made to a nurse who had appealed to Bicknell to assist one of
the most pitiful cases that had ever been brought to her attention.
The nurse is not temperamental, she is not sentimental; she Is a very
well balanced woman whose long experience has taught her to take a very
practical view of things.
"But really that case was awful," she said to me. "In a round about
way we had received "word that a man was dying of tuberculosis in a
I went there and had quite a little trouble finding him, but finally located
him in a room in the rear.
It was in the winter, the thermometer was below zero; he was lying on
a mattress and he had no covering i
but the rags he wore. There was no
heat in the place. He was in the last
stages of tuberculosis.
"Accustomed as I have been to suf
fering, there was something terrible
In the man's condition, in his isola
tion, in the abject misery that made
one almost feel as if God had forgot
ten him, too.
"I called up my superior and she
advised that I get in touch with the
United Charities.
"I got Bicknell on the 'phone and
I told him the story as it had impress
ed me.
" 'Oh, you mustn't be so sentimen
tal,' he said. "You cannot expect to
help the individual,' and then he
made the speech of which I have told
you, adding:
" 'How'do you know but that the
man deserves just what he has got?
He may have been a drunkard or a
loafer that wouldn't work. That's
what we have got to find out what
causes poverty, before we can do
anything with it. That's why we are
collecting statistics now. Some day
we can lay our finger on the cause
and then remove it, but we can't do
it now. .
"And the Bureau of Charities did
not lend me any assistance, but my
superior got the man In a Home for
Bicknell's attitude seems to have
been a prophecy of the future work
of the United Charities it is a col
lector of statistics on poverty. It is
an amateur scientist making micro
scopic studies of what causes pover
ty, and how much it hurts, and how
long the patient is able to endure and
what the sufferer will do when he
reaches the limit of endurance.
On one of their records that I read
was the statement that a woman,
mother of three children and expect
ant mother of a fourth, had come to
the office of the U. C. for assistance
almost a week after she had been
given a dollar to support herself and
family, and that "when we gave her
another 50 cents, she became hyster
ical with gratitude."
And yet, why should the United
Charities bother collecting statistics "
on why poverty exists? It has been
with us since Christ spoke "so many
centuries ago: "The poor ye have
always with you."
And if the United Charities wants

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