Letter of the day#2: Letter from Schwimmer to her friends and colleagues

Rosika Schwimmer

Two West Eighty-Third Street

New York City

February 11, 1928

Dear Friends in many lands:

Fully five months have passed since a gracious message bearing also your name brightened the day which marked half a century of my very futile life.

Tragedy enough for a whole lifetime was crowded into these last months. Cancer had just robbed the world of the beautiful and valuable life of Vilma Glücklich, my dear friend and team-mate for a quarter of century in Pacifist and Feminist work. A social cancer had lead to the appealing martyrdom of Sacco and Vanzetti. Heart-rending suicides in the circle of friends have followed each other. And all the while cancer was slowly but inevitably exhausting my own bellowed Mother’s life.

The international message of friendship and of encouragement came as a flashlight into the darkness of those days. I wished to rush off my thanks to you and all the others who had united in the message of generous appreciation for my past work, and encouragement for the future. But the days following its receipt were tightly packed with events that absorbed every once of my mental and physical health.

Expatriated because of my pacifist and democratic principles, I sought citizenship in the New World principles of this nature used to be at home. Citizenship, however, has been denied to me in the United States because of my uncompromising pacifism, an event of crushing effect not only because of its consequences for my person but its broader and terrible significance.

In spirit of world citizen, I remain politically a “woman without country”, which means also without passport, that indispensable document of free movement. And it means above everything else exclusion from participation in the world’s work. Unable to resign myself without resistance to a file of inactivity and fruitless contemplation, I spent the past months in a last attempt for my reactivation. Having utterly failed, I must at least give in.

The time has come now to explain what kept me from thanking you, my friends, earlier for the birthday message, the flowers, the presents and the cables. All those manifestations of friendship were immeasurably precious to me and made me the more happy because they brightened the last days of my Mother, who had followed me into exile to die here.

Your encouragement to write a chronicle of efforts for peace during the war, will help me to take up the book I had started to write several years ago but abandoned because I lacked the spirit for the work. It is not an empty phase if I say I consider myself blessed with the best friends any one can have. Without them, their loyalty, life would long ago have ceased to be bearable to me.

In thanking you so late for your kind birthday message, I trust you will forgive the delay and continue to support me with your generous sympathy.

To those of you who kindly expressed their condolence at the death of my Mother and their regrets at the refusal of citizenship, I wish to add another word of apology for the delay in thanking them for these manifestations of friendliness.


Rosika Schwimmer

February 11, 1928. New York Public Library Manuscripts and Archives Division. Rosika Schwimmer Papers, Box 485.

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