Minnie E. Blood, POW advocate.

Photo of Minnie E. Blood
Minnie E. Blood, from the 6 Aug 1915 Boston Globe

Born in Lynn, MA, Minnie Emma Blood (1863–1942) was one of eight children of Mary and Josiah Blood; her half-sister, Alice Frances Blood, became a leading professor in home economics at Simmons College. Her father founded J. B. Blood & Co., the largest grocery store in Lynn. She completed the Chautauqua home study course in 1887 and was a student at Radcliffe in 1898–99. By 1900, she was working as a stenographer.

In July 1907, she headed for Germany and remained there for eight years. Thus she was a witness to Germany’s declaration of war in 1914, which she wrote about in “In Munich, August, 1914,” which is printed in When Good Men Meet from Foe to Foe, her 1916 book of war poetry:

I stood with the people in the street,
As the war declaration was read,
And saw the faces of mothers and wives
Grow deathly pale with pain and dread.

I saw the public automobiles
All filled with soldiers riding free
To their affairs, or taking once more
A pleasure drive, as it might be.

I saw the handkerchiefs wildly waved,
And children hang over balcony bars,
And girls and gray-haired men bring out
Bouquets and boxes of cigars.

I saw the guards by the station gates,
And heard the wistful farewell cheers
Of the departing soldier boys,
The while my eyes ran over with tears.

I thought of all the good and brave
Who must perish in the fearful game,
And my soul cried out in agony,
Oh, who—who—who is to blame! (3)

As explained in the 21 November 1915 Boston Sunday Globe, Blood sought to help prisoners of war at a camp in Traunstein, which had been converted from a salt works and eventually housed at least 1,000 prisoners. She collected clothing, as the Germans did not provide this for prisoners, as well as books and games for them. As the May 1918 Radcliffe Quarterly noted, she also conveyed their letters to the US legations for forwarding that, according to the 6 August 1915 Boston Globe, caused her trouble with the German authorities and required US diplomatic intercession. Said Blood in the Boston Sunday Globe:

. . .[I]t seems to me more satisfactory and consistent for a neutral people [the US was neutral at this point in the war] to be helping these prisoners than those men who are actually on the firing line. It is said that the life of interned men, separated from their families and gathered in prisons, is more unbearable than that of those at the front and I believe it. (“Declared Germans Are Not Unselfish” 2)

She noted in the August 1915 Boston Globe article that the Germans only gave the prisoners food at the subsistence level and did not permit them to buy bread to supplement their meager rations. The prisoners’ presence is constant in Blood’s war poetry such as in “Nights When I Cannot Sleep” that includes the lines “I think of prisoners of war / Awake on their huddled sacks of straw” (16) and more fully in “The Coming of the Prisoners”:

. . . . The murmur of the crowd is hushed,
We hear the stern command,
“Fall back! Fall back!” The train moves on,
And comes again to stand.

The passengers to earth get down,
A motley company,
French, English, Russian, Servian [Serbian]—
Two hundred there may be.

Old men and young with downcast eyes,
Or straight-out glances bold,
And with them boys that seem not more
Than ten or twelve years old.

And some are trimly, finely dressed,
And carry tourist bags,
While others, who no luggage have,
Wear rough clothes worn to rags.

Into the old salt works they go,
These prisoners of war,
‘Tis strange to think that all alike
Must sleep on sacks of straw.

‘Tis sad to think that women too,
And children not half grown,
Are taken from their homes to be
Into such prisons thrown.

And stranger, sadder still to know
That to sleep on sacks of straw
Is but a trifling incident
In this revolting war. (12–13)

Blood returned to the United States on the Canopic in August 1915. After the war, she continued to work as a stenographer. She died in 1942.

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