APRIL 9, 1948
LONDON, Thursday—I think that Americans might be interested to know how people here are managing when goods of every kind are so scarce.
To buy a man's suit requires 24 coupons—and that is about all the clothes coupons a man or a woman gets for a whole year! A pair of shoes costs 9 coupons, so one cannot buy a suit in the same year that one buys new shoes.
The coupons required for a woman's dress varies a little according to the kind of dress. It is possible to buy a couple of cotton dresses and still buy some stockings and underwear and shoes. But it is not possible to buy a winter dress and a winter coat the same year. People are feeling this more now than during the war because all the clothes they had from prewar days have now worn out, and the new things they are able to buy are not of as good quality.
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It is particularly hard to dress children because they outgrow their clothes. A woman with children passes on to some other family whatever they outgrow, and still another family passes on to her what their children outgrow. This is a good system, but it leaves very little opportunity for the exercise of personal preferences.
If you know of any couple over here who are expecting a baby, I think they would bless you no matter what you sent in the way of baby clothes. And if you know any newlyweds, you may be sure they would welcome curtain materials or covers for furniture. Whatever is available to them does not offer great choice either in quality or quantity.
One woman told me that she was thankful for her work with the Women's Voluntary Services because she had to wear her uniform during the war, so that any of her prewar clothes which were in good condition could be brought out after the war and treated as new clothes. She was only sorry that she had not been more extravagant in those prewar years.
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Another interesting thing is that the very rich and even the near rich tell you they are living on their principal, and they wonder rather lightly what they will do when they have no more principal. Though wages for domestic servants are on the average about half what they are in the United States, many women today are doing work in their homes that they did not do in the past—just as with us in the United States.
It is harder here, for the houses are not planned for labor-saving. And even if the women could have some of our labor-saving devices, they would not be allowed the electricity to run them.
Even at Windsor Castle, there is a notice in every room from the Master of the Household admonishing guests and staff to use only such lights as are necessary and to remember to turn them out; also not to waste hot water. There is no heating in the castle except in the corridors and from small grate fires in every room.
This is a country which is being conditioned to saving by long discipline in handling shortages. We at home who are so wasteful will have to reform somewhat, for if the world is really to be one world, we can't do all the squandering in one place and all the saving in another.
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The other night, I had the pleasure of meeting Sir William Reid Dick, the sculptor of the statue of my husband which I am to unveil. As he never saw my husband, I confess that I am very anxious to see how he has portrayed him. However, one of the best portraits of him was painted by an Englishman, Frank D. Salisbury, and I suppose Sir William must have seen that many times.
At a luncheon given by Sir Campbell Stuart, I met the newly appointed British Ambassador to the United States, Sir Oliver Franks, and his wife. I think both of them will find themselves at home very quickly in our country. Sir Oliver has been there a number of times.
The other afternoon I went to the American Woman's Club and met Americans who are over here for various reasons, and also some of their British friends and relatives. Several hundred people came in to greet us.
Every now and then, someone came along the receiving line who had been at school with me at Allenswood near London, and I was ashamed whenever I found that I could not even recognize these old schoolmates. But I suppose that if I had a little more time to talk with them, some gesture or mannerism would carry me back to the old days.
It does not look as though I am going to have much free time, and I have begun to write my columns in the middle of the night because I cannot count on any time during the day!