An Independent Woman: The Life of Lou Henry Hoover

By Anne Beiser Allen; Jon L. Wakelyn | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
Life on the Home Front

Although the United States did not enter the war against Germany and her allies until April 6, 1917, there were already signs of trouble brewing when the Hoovers came back to America in January. Bert's fund-raising tour for the CRB was shadowed by Germany's decision on January 31 to resume unchecked U-boat warfare and the subsequent severing of diplomatic relations between the United States and Germany. When he returned to Europe in March, he began phasing out American staff, replacing them with volunteers from Holland and Spain. While the upper echelons of the CRB would continue to be filled by Americans, the actual distribution of relief would be taken over by workers from neutral nations.

In late April Hoover went back to Washington. As part of the war effort, Woodrow Wilson had asked him to take charge of America's food distribution system. He would have cabinet rank, but only as long as the war continued. Hoover accepted the job, but refused to accept any salary. After some discussion, the new post was given the title of food administrator, a term Bert found less intimidating than the alternatives of food czar or food commissioner.

From his temporary headquarters in the Willard Hotel, Bert wired Lou to come east and join him. While he assembled his staff -- including Edgar Rickard as his deputy, Ray Wilbur as chief of conservation, and Judge Curtis Lindley as chief counsel -- Lou scouted around for housing. She was assisted by Gertrude Bowman, whose sister-in-law Florence Stewart had worked with her in London, and Alida Henriques, a society matron whom Lou met in her first days at the Willard Hotel. They helped her to find a furnished house on 16th Street that she could rent as a temporary shelter for the forty-some men on Bert's staff, many of whom would

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