The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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HYDE PARK, Sunday—In England, they do succeed in getting a great deal done through voluntary work. For instance, I found that, in the children's court in London, magistrates sit without compensation, each one giving one or two full days a week.

Perhaps that is the spirit that has made it possible for Lady Reading to keep her Women's Voluntary Services so fully organized even in peacetime. The members of this organization do on a voluntary basis what we would consider professional work. They get complete recognition from the Government and are called upon to do very responsible and important jobs throughout the United Kingdom. They may even be asked to go as far away as Australia or some other part of the British Commonwealth to undertake some piece of work.

* * *

I went one day with some of Lady Reading's workers to the Netherne Hospital, a county hospital for the mentally ill. Because of the shortage of paid help, the county organizer of the WVS has found regular voluntary helpers for this institution. They work with the occupational therapists in the needlework room, and make dressings and swabs. They take old ladies out for walks and help generally in the wards. They serve meals, and count cutlery and crockery after meals.

As I went through this hospital—an attractive collection of buildings surrounded by shrubs and flowers and a pleasant countryside—I could not help thinking of the conditions in some of our state mental hospitals. There was nothing there to remind you even faintly of the photographs taken by some of our conscientious objectors who worked in our institutions during the war and were horrified by the conditions they found. Their photographs were published in an effort to arouse our public conscience and improve the care given to mental patients.

At Netherne Hospital, there are about 1600 patients, 800 of whom are allowed out on the grounds under a parole system. The hospital's own farm provides milk and other necessities which would not be obtainable in any other way. An unusual feature is a cafeteria where patients can bring their friends and wait on themselves. A great amount of freedom is given. The treatment is completely up-to-date, and the percentage of cures this past year was 77.5—a record of which they must be proud.

* * *

I visited a class in the training school for attendants, went through several wards, and saw some of the occupational therapy work. I was sorry I did not have a chance to look at a book of paintings done by patients. Many of them have never painted before, and to a psychiatrist I'm sure these paintings would tell volumes about the mental condition of a patient in different stages of his illness. None of them receives instruction. They just paint what they have in their minds and want to put on paper.

The hospital authorities, like everyone else in England, have had to use great ingenuity to obtain any kind of materials. For instance, the library, which is just being started, has bookcases, benches and counter made from little strips of wood which once formed frames for wire put over the windows to protect the rooms from flying glass when bombs fell in the neighborhood during the war. As I looked at those tiny pieces of wood fitted together, I could not help thinking how impatient we would be if we had to make shelves with this kind of material.

My whole visit to this hospital was most stimulating and interesting, and I am sure that the material I was given there will be of interest to psychiatrists in this country.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Isaacs, Stella, Marchioness of Reading, Baroness Swanborough, 1894-1971 [ index ]
         British philanthropist; founder of Women's Royal Voluntary Service
         [ Wikidata | SNAC | UK Nat. Archives | ODNB ]
  • Hyde Park (Dutchess County, N.Y., United States) [ index ]
Other Terms and Topics

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, May 3, 1948

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
[ ERPP bio | LC | VIAF | WorldCat | DPLA | Wikidata | SNAC ]

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

  • Brick, Christopher (Editor)
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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.