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Elisina Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, August 21, 1915

Semur-en-Auxois, Côte d’Or

21 Aout 1915Saturday.

Dearest Mildred,

I am very sorry to hear that you don’t think MarthaMartha has not been identified. has much chance. It is too dreadful to see children die when a little prudence, a little care would have saved their lives. In spite of the unquestionable devotion of which the good nuns are capable, their insensibility in this respect makes my blood boil.Edith Wharton also complained about French attitudes toward personal hygiene. In a letter to the editor of the New York Times, “Mrs. Wharton’s Work, The War on Tuburculosis in France—Education of the People,” written on April 20, 1917, and published on May 6, 1917, she stated: “How many are aware that in most French convent schools the children are never given a bath, and that bathing the whole body is considered indecent and immoral?” It isn’t necessarily the fault of their religion. I was surrounded by a very religious atmosphere at St. Anna,Chiesa e Convento di Sant’ Anna, Pisa. The church and the convent were built in 1406 for the Benedictine order of nuns. The church was consecrated in 1426 and restored with the cloister by Girolamo Ammannati at the beginning of the fifteenth century. Between 1741 and 1747, it was completely reconstructed by the Pisan architects and painters Giuseppe and Francesco Melani. The convent opened a school for girls in 1809. See letter of April 12, 1910. but we were taught to be as clean as one could wish and every care was taken of our health and well-being. These nuns have the fatalism of the contented poor, or of the despondent rich,—I can’t quite say whether it’s the one or the other.

The two Laurie childrenThe Laurie children have not been identified. who are coming to you today are very good subjects, I am told, merely delicate, not vowed to tragedy. Bless you for all the good you are doing.

I wanted to say to you again how much I wish you to come on our committee. You will see the inside working of the Oeuvre,The Oeuvre des enfants des Flandres ( Children of Flanders Rescue Committee) 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 two charities, the American Hostels for Refugees and the Children of Flanders Rescue Committee, over the latter of which Elisina was effectively in charge. For Elisina Tyler's role in these charities, see letters of April 19, 1915; April 27, 1915; May 17, 1915; June 6, 1915; July 4, 1915; August 10, 1916; September 12, 1916; September 30, 1915; and October 6, 1915. and how the 0,50 given us per child and per day by the French Government, enables us to take care of many more than we otherwise could, while leaving us in every way quite independent.

I am recovering from my accumulations of fatigue, in this peaceful spot under the quiet trees, and among the ugly familiar furniture of the house you know.Beginning in 1913, the Tylers rented the Château de Genay in the small village of Genay near Semur-en-Auxois in Burgundy. See letter of May 30, 1913. For the "ugly familiar furniture," see letter of July 13, 1913. William is doing simple lessons, one of his achievements being that he has learnt to play Lotto. He has a kind Madame Bonvet to watch over him, and of course his faithful ManéMadeleine Lavie. See letter of December 8, 1914. in tow.

Royall sends you his love, and the same to Robert. I add mine, and I am ever, my dearest Mildred,

Your very devoted


Associated Places: Semur-en-Auxois (France)