NOVEMBER 7, 1955
MILWAUKEE—In New York on Wednesday I had the pleasure of lunching with Commissioner of Correction Anna Kross and a number of other interesting people, including Mrs. Whitlaw Reid, Miss Fannie Hurst and Mrs. Borg. After lunch we were given the opportunity to look over the House of Detention for Women.
I had always thought this was a place where women were brought for a very short period of time, just while awaiting trial. I find, instead, that it is used as a real prison even though it is not planned for that purpose. Nothing necessary to rehabilitate or even to give proper living conditions for a long period is possible here. A great deal has been done since Commissioner Kross decided to make it as decent as possible, but the space for recreation is hopelessly inadequate. No shops are provided, and no programs of learning can be carried on because there is no adequate provision either for space or equipment.
We went into what is supposed to be a beauty parlor where girls can be trained to do work that might earn them a decent living when they return to society. These are mostly girls who got themselves into trouble originally because they actually had nothing else to do. Yet they can learn nothing in this beauty parlor because there are no driers, no basins, no equipment of any kind. Again, in the sewing room there is only one sewing machine—at least that was all I could see.
Altogether, one could hardly go through the House of Detention without feeling that we are totally neglecting to do a modern job in this big city. Somehow, as I looked at these poor girls, I felt we owed them something better than this. Democracy is supposed to give people opportunity—even people who have made a mess of their lives.
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Now let me turn for a moment to the meeting held at the Park Sheraton Hotel last week by the American Cancer Society. It was devoted to a review of a decade of research and brought together 500 leaders in the society's far-flung research, service and education programs. Two hundred of these leaders were women. They came from all over the country, representing many professions, economic levels, faiths.
Mrs. E. Lee Ozbirn, newly elected vice-president of the American Cancer Society, is a five-foot, brown-haired, slim, young-looking grandmother from Oklahoma City who has for many years done a remarkable job of helping save the lives of cancer victims. She is the organization's only woman vice-president.
Mrs. Ozbirn made the trip to New York despite a broken back which has kept her in a cast for months, but which failed to halt her valuable work for the society.
This dynamic little woman is a strong advocate of education to combat cancer. She is working now on a project to have cancer information taught in the secondary schools. For, as she sees it, if young people are taught the facts about cancer at an age when they can view cancer objectively—and not as a threat to themselves—the knowledge may save their lives later, should cancer strike them in adult life. And cancer, we must not forget, does strike one out of four.