APRIL 22, 1950
NEW YORK, Friday—The Human Rights Commission yesterday morning was visited by the First Lady of Chile, Senora de Gonzalez Videla.
We had been told that she wanted to sit as part of the audience, so it was not surprising to find her a rather shy and retiring person but very pretty, charming and attractive. The cars taking her to Lake Success with her party passed us on our way out to the morning session, but she did not actually come in to sit at the session until about 11:30 and then she stayed listening to the translations very attentively until after noon.
Miss Minerva Bernardino, a Dominican Republic minister to the United Nations, gave a lunch for her in the delegates' dining room and invited many of the women working in the secretariat and in other agencies to meet her. I was a little late because our commission only ends its work at one o'clock. Nevertheless, luncheon progressed quickly and at a quarter to two Miss Bernardino made a graceful speech welcoming all the ladies and introducing Senora de Gonzalez Videla and explaining some of her interests.
Then a charming young woman spoke for the Status of Women Commission and Senora de Gonzalez Videla responded in Spanish, her speech being translated by Miss Ana Figuera.
Miss Figuera responded also in a very thoughtful and charming speech when I welcomed Senora de Gonzalez Videla in the Human Rights Commission.
The women of Chile have gained their right to vote since President Gonzalez Videla came into office and so they still are feeling their way in the use of their political power. They told me how interested they were to find that we have women in Congress in both houses and they evidently thought that the mere fact that I could preside over a commission was a remarkable achievement.
I inquired what were Senora de Gonzalez Videla's chief interests and discovered that she has inaugurated the clearing out of certain slum areas, and the rebuilding of inexpensive but better housing for the whole area.
I was told that her particular preoccupation was to provide social workers so that the people moving into these new houses would be encouraged to learn better sanitation and home skills of various kinds, which would not only mean better living conditions but provide them with ways in which they could increase the family income. She has succeeded in building a few hundred units this year and next year they hope to build several thousand.
Today Senora de Gonzalez Videla will visit modern housing in this city, but she fears that it will be a much more expensive type of housing than they can afford to build in Chile. Apparently much of what she has been able to do has been done by volunteer assistants. Architects draw the plans and donate them; people who make plumbing fixtures donate those, and so forth all the way down the line. This, of course, is not what we would do in this country, since our housing is on a sound economic basis.
These are new experiments, however, for Chile, and before such an innovation can become business enterprise people must be interested in improving working and living conditions as a whole.