The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
AUGUST 27, 1962
HYDE PARK —I have just come across a striking example of the way the Communists in various parts of the world so often manage to grab the credit for local aid provided by other nations or individuals. In this case, the benefactor is an American public health nurse named Miss Prouty, whose remarkable work in Santiago over a period of more than two decades has set a model for similar projects elsewhere in Chile, and, indeed, all over South America. The details of her story came to me from the wife of an American professor of sociology who has been giving a summer course in the university in Concepcion.
Miss Prouty came to South America "almost by accident 23 years ago and stayed," she writes. "She conducts a nursery in Santiago which she built up into a model for the whole of South America during all those years she worked here. When she came, she found an empty building, hungry and sick children of the poorest, with venereal disease, tuberculosis and malnutrition, who come from homes that consist of a few wooden boards on four sides and a few boards on top. These `shanty towns,' with one house leaning on the next, extend for miles, as far the eye can see. They have no light, no water, no floors, no beds, no food, no care.
Miss Prouty took about 100 of these children and started to work with them. At first she had no material, no equipment of any sort and no money. Her annual salary at that time was $600, and she used all of it to get equipment and material. She started to take these children 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, teaching them—and also their mothers—how to get well, to keep well and to become social human beings, for in the beginning they were like little beasts.
"Her institution has by now become the training center for kindergarten teachers, nurses, doctors, dentists and social workers. She takes the children when they are 10 days old until they are 6 years old. This woman has devoted her whole life to this work, never got married and intends to carry on as long as she can. She is being supported by private donations from Americans, from rich Chileans and from church organizations in the States.
"The American women of Concepcion have made it one of their duties to build such a nursery school here in Concepcion. It started, when we arrived here, with 15 children, but they want to increase the number. Miss Prouty came here to guide and instruct them. She told us that she was invited to a conference which was concerned about setting up this kind of nursery school all over Chile, and possibly all over Latin America.
It turned out that the organization sponsoring this conference was the Communist Party. If they set up these schools all over the continent, they will have the future. This certainly is meeting a great need—but it is also a measure whereby you can indoctrinate the youth in any way you wish."
It is important for Americans to realize that the Communists, looking for the best way of indoctrination, choose to back projects of this kind. What an effect it will have in Chile to show that they back the education and health of the children of the impoverished! Was there no American organization that could have been interested in calling such a conference? It is true that there are many American subscriptions, but the original sponsoring was by these Communists. This strengthens the party in Chile and weakens our opportunity for showing the values of our civilization.
Of course, it is not often that one finds an individual like Miss Prouty with the courage and the devotion to put through a project of this type, which might easily spread to other countries as well as Chile, and we can only be grateful when such a person devotes her life to doing something of this kind. But the fact that she is an American will not be enough to establish the backing of the people of the U.S. as long as the Communists can say, "We were the ones who were the first sponsors." We should be more alert as individuals when we find ourselves living in parts of the world where communism is trying by peaceful means to show the "greater" value that they think they have to offer.
(Copyright, 1962, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)
About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, August 27, 1962
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)
- Regenhardt, Christy (Associate Editor)
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