Elisina Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, April 19, 1915
April 19th 1915Monday.
It was a bitter disappointment! and the reason of your absence added to our grief. I do hope you are better to-day. I rejoice unselfishly that you have decided to go away.Mildred Barnes Bliss was in England by June 1915. But before you go I must really see you. I have a great many things to say, and to tell you about.
I’ll come at any time you may find convenient, except tomorrow at 6 p.m. when I go to see Mrs. Wharton. I promised her my help long ago for her Franco Belgians.Edith Wharton was instrumental in procuring shelter, food, medicine, and employment for the Belgian and French refugees that fled to Paris in 1914. This effort resulted in the establishment of the American Hostels for Refugees (Accueil franco-américain aux réfugiés belges et français) in cooperation with the Foyer franco-belge, another private relief organization. The efficiency of the American Hostels led the Belgian Government to ask her to provide similar services for orphaned and refugee children, and in 1915 she established the Oeuvre des enfants des Flandres (the Children of Flanders Rescue Committee), which operated six large houses, two of which were also lace schools where lacemaking was taught to older girls according to the methods of the École normale of Bruges. In 1915, Edith Wharton made Elisina Tyler a vice president of both charities and put her effectively in charge of the Children of Flanders Rescue Committee. See Alan Price, The End of the Age of Innocence: Edith Wharton and the First World War (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996), 29–30, 34-36, 48-52, and 101–2, and Edith Wharton, “My Work Among the Women Workers of Paris; Noted American Novelist Tells How Her Ouvroir Gave Support to an Army of Women Left Without Employment by the War,” New York Times, November 28, 1915. For Elisina Tyler's role in these charities, see letters of April 27, 1915; May 17, 1915; June 6, 1915; July 4, 1915; August 21, 1915; August 10, 1916; September 12, 1916; September 30, 1915; and October 6, 1915. If she doesn’t need me, can you employ my energies? I have to ask her first, because she asked me first—you see, don’t you? What I would like above all things is to supervise babies. I know very few people understand the biberon“Baby bottle.” in this country. William is my triumph and my guarantor. The doctor spoke very seriously about me to Royall before I left England, as I was five weeks in bed with empyaemia—in the face, if you please! It was quite horrid.
One’s powers of resistance are diminished in these mournful if heroic times.
Best love to Robert and to you, from the 3 of us.