Request to Eliminate Five-Dollar Registration Fee for Red Cross Workers - August 11, 1917

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Request to Eliminate Five-Dollar Registration Fee for Red Cross Workers - August 11, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 11, 2017

Despite the Red Cross’ international reputation and President Wilson’s endorsement, the aid organization was by no means perfect. In a letter dated August 11, 1917, a St. Paul woman describes what she views as a very serious imperfection, namely the organization’s practice of charging a five-dollar fee to all of its workers. Ms. Ludlow points out that numerous women would like to contribute their time and labor, but they cannot afford the five dollars to become a Red Cross worker. The five-dollar fee is a “petty class distinction” that actually deprives the Red Cross of additional workers. Furthermore, Ms. Ludlow notes that “the poor man’s son is required to go to war and fight in the trenches beside the rich man’s offspring.” If no class distinction exists at the front, she reasons that no equivalent distinction should exist on the home front.

Red Cross Membership Fee

A peculiar condition exists at Red Cross Headquarters in St. Paul. If any woman wishes to donate a portion or all of her time to Red Cross Work she is required to pay a membership fee of $5.00 for the PRIVILEGE of working. The woman who has no desire to help in Red Cross Work pays nothing and DOES NOTHING - but the woman who wants to devote some of her time to the work must pay AND work. When asked why a fee is charged for the privilege of working the reply is: "We must have funds!" Why ask the WORKERS to donate. Why not ask those who cannot or do not work to donate? There are women who cannot afford to pay who would like to do their bit, but they are denied the privilege because they cannot do both. It has been said that the fee is demanded because there is a certain "class distinction" in Red Cross work. However - the poor man's son in [sic] required to go to war an fight in the trenches beside the rich man's offspring. Why should this poor boy's mother or sister be denied the privilege of doing their bit because they cannot pay a membership fee in the Red Cross organization. If the desire is to make it a rich woman's organization - make the membership fee five hundred dollars instead of five. This is a time when men and women alike regardless of "class distinction" should put their shoulders to the wheel and DO THINGS. This petty class distinction will not win the war - neither does it do St. Paul any good. This is the only city in the United States that I know of where this condition prevails.
A Traveler
R.J. Ludlow
91 E. 6th St. St. Paul