JULY 15, 1939
HYDE PARK, Friday—Someone has sent me a page from a letter contest carried on by a Chicago newspaper. The winning letter in answer to the question:"Who is it in this world you would most like to know?," is a letter which sets forth the reasons why Gandhi is the person, above all others, the writer would like to become acquainted with. Gandhi has been given by his followers the name "Mahatma," which means "great soul." I think that it is rather fine that, in our materialistic country, someone should be moved to recognize in him a personality they would like to know above all others.
May G. Schaefer, President of the Soroptimist Club of Alhambra, California, writes me that they have become very much interested in the California Institution for Women at Tehachapi. Two years ago they set aside a small sum of money to be disbursed for the discharged women prisoners under the personal direction of the state parole officer. She tells me that this fund was not expected to be a revolving fund, but that it is working out that way. The sums given are usually very small, to meet such small needs as a new hat, a night's lodging, or a dress to be cleaned, and so far the women have almost always looked upon the sums given them as loans and returned them as soon as possible.
This is interesting, for it shows a feeling of responsibility on their part for other women in similar circumstances and a desire to give those women the same chance which they, themselves, have had.
In addition, the club feels that "much of crime is due to economic maladjustment. We felt that the developing of new fields of work, new interests behind prison walls, would make these women fit members of society upon their return to the world which we all know." To help in this readjustment, the club has subscribed to a garden magazine, a magazine teaching knitting and other handwork, and one teaching the dressmaking crafts, and made them available to the inmates.
They are now starting to collect books which will form the nucleus of a circulating library within the prison and contain not only fiction, but an English dictionary and books teaching shorthand. Undoubtedly this club is doing a great deal for the women inmates of the prison, but I am inclined to think the members of the club are deriving just as much good from what they are doing as are the women they are helping. These personal contacts and observations which will give them an insight into human nature, an understanding of the difficulties and problems met by all types of human beings, cannot help but be educational for the women who are making this opportunity for themselves.