thereby, reducing costs for administering the
programs. It was also hoped that with an increase of volunteer workers
more women could be reached.
By the time of the first
World War, about one million immigrants a year were coming through Ellis
Island. With the war there were new problems to be addressed.
Unfortunately, not all those who needed help would come forward to ask
for it. The issue of religious direction became a barrier in reaching
those in need. With the help of funds from the War Work Council of
the YWCA, Lowell's chapter of the International Institute was officially
created on May 1, 1918.
Until "suitable headquarters" could be found,
the International Institute operated out of the YWCA building on John Street.
It also hired its first employees to work with Greek and Polish women.
Work started slowly. According to the Greek worker's semi-monthly
report, average attendance in the classes was on!y eighteen.
By September of 1918,
the International Institute had moved its office to 25 Palmer Street.
At this new location, the Institute conducted cooking, sewing and canning
classes along English and Americanization classes. The regular casework
of the Nationality Secretary included medical employment and legal
advice, as well as house calls and referrals. By the end of 1918, the number
of nationalities reached by the International Institute rose to seven.
The Institute continued
to grow after the war.
In addition to the regular casework done by the
Nationality Secretaries, the Institute conducted
summer picnics, camping camping parties for girls,
and an exhibition of handicrafts from many of the ethnic communities serviced.
In 1925, the International Institute held the first of its many festivals,
the Homelands Exhibit and Festival, promoting the diverse ethnic
culture that Lowell contained.
In the Annual Report
of 1928, casework was divided into five categories:
1) Migration Service
It was also noted in that Report that the Institute
was not an agency for relief. Its mission was to cultivate cooperation
with other agencies and act as a resource in directing individuals to the
proper relief agency. This report, though not intentionally, guided
the International Institute's operations for the next sixty-five years.
The organization continued to provide referral services for the needy,
conducted educational and citizenship classes, encouraged the formation
of ethnic clubs, and worked toward obtaining citizenship for both women
In the 1930s, funding
for the Institute became harder to obtain because of economic conditions
across the country. In addition, where there was once great cooperation
between the manufactures, the YWCA, and the International Institute, there
was now animosity. The YWCA had become more active in women's rights
and issues over the