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Ch. 11: The Marquise d'Andigne

THE MARQUISE D'ANDIGNÉ

 

 

The Marquise d'Andigné, who was Madeline Goddard of Providence, R.I., is President of Le Bien-Être du Blessé, an oeuvre formed by Madame d'Haussonville at the request of the Ministère de la Guerre in May, 1915. She owes this position as president of one of the most important war relief organizations (perhaps after the Red Cross the most important) to the energy, conscientiousness, and brilliant executive abilities she had demonstrated while at the Front in charge of more than one hospital. She is an infirmiére major and was decorated twice for cool courage and resource under fire.

The object of Le Bien-Être du Blessé is to provide delicacies for the dietary kitchens of the hospitals in the War Zone, as many officers and soldiers had died because unable to eat eggs, or drink milk, the only two articles furnished by the rigid military system of the most conservative country in the world. The articles supplied by Le Bien-Être du Blessé are very simple: condensed milk, sugar, cocoa, Franco-American soups, chocolate, sweet biscuits, jams, preserves, prunes, tea. Thousands of lives have been saved by Bien-Être during the past year; for men who are past caring, or wish only for the release of death, have been coaxed back to life by a bit of jam on the tip of a biscuit, or a teaspoonful of chicken soup.

Some day I shall write the full and somewhat complicated history of Le Bien-Être du Blessé, quoting from many of Madame d'Andigné's delightful letters. But there is no space here and I will merely mention that my own part as the American President of Le Bien-Être du Blessé is to provide the major part of the funds with which it is run, lest any of my readers should be tempted to help me out.[E] Donations from ten cents to ten thousand are welcome, and $5 keeps a wounded man for his entire time in one of those dreary hospitals in that devastated region known as "Le Zone des Armées," where relatives nor friends ever come to visit, and there is practically no sound but the thunder of guns without and groans within. Not that the French do groan much. I went through many of these hospitals and never heard a demonstration. But I am told they do sometimes.

[E] All donations in money are sent to the bankers, Messers John Munroe & Co., Eighth Floor, 360 Madison Avenue, New York.

To Madame d'Andigné belongs all the credit of building up Le Bien-Être du Blessé from almost nothing (for we were nearly two years behind the other great war-relief organizations in starting). Although many give her temporary assistance no one will take charge of any one department and she runs every side and phase of the work. Last winter she was cold, and hungry, and always anxious about her husband, but she was never absent from the office for a day except when she could not get coal to warm it; and then she conducted the business of the oeuvre in her own apartment, where one room was warmed with wood she had sawed herself.

To-day Le Bien-Être du Blessé is not only one of the most famous of all the war-relief organizations of the fighting powers but it has been run with such systematic and increasing success that the War Office has installed Bien-Être kitchens in the hospitals (before, the nurses had to cook our donations over their own spirit lamp) and delegated special cooks to relieve the hard-worked infirmières of a very considerable tax on their energies. This is a tremendous bit of radicalism on the part of the Military Department of France, and one that hardly can be appreciated by citizens of a land always in a state of flux. There is even talk of making these Bien-Être kitchens a part of the regular military system after the war is over, and if they do commit themselves to so revolutionary an act no doubt the name of the young American Marquise will go down to posterity--as it deserves to do, in any case.

 

 

 

 

Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton