Although this feeding program was the first official effort by the United States to address the hunger and malnutrition that haunted Germany after World War I, Quakers had been aware of the problem for several years. This is the story about what led to their knowledge.
The events that gave birth to the American Friends Service Committee began with a meeting of fourteen Friends on the last day of April 1917 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the beginning of that month, the United States declared war on Germany and its allies, and Friends foresaw an approaching crisis for young Quakers, who would be subject to the draft. In this initial meeting,* they discussed what constructive work might be done in the battle zone of northern France and how those conscientiously opposed to war might carry out alternative service there.
This House Not for Sale was a project growing out of concerns of residents of northwest Pasadena and was an effort to help stabilize changing neighborhoods and keep property values at their current levels. Householders who intended to stay where they lived were encouraged to display the signs. The project (carried out in conjunction with All Peoples Christian Church in Los Angeles) was a precursor to further AFSC efforts through its Fair Housing Program.
1960s The "era of activism" saw AFSC staff and volunteers participating in the Civil Rights Movement and protesting the war against Vietnam. They advocated for fair housing in Pasadena, organized nonviolent civil disobedience trainings and demonstrations, conducted teach-ins on Vietnam at Caltech and elsewhere, and in 1967 alone over 1,400 men received draft counseling through the AFSC network.
These bags of flour were donated by Pasadena citizens in 1922 for Russian famine relief through the AFSC. The flour was shipped by way of the Panama Canal to New York, and then on to Russia.
Quaker presence in Southern California can be traced back to the founding of the first Monthly Meeting in the region in 1884 by Friends from Iowa—in a community that two years later would become incorporated as the city of Pasadena. In 1887, in what would become the city of Whittier (named after the Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier), Friends established a Monthly Meeting that eventually became known as First Friends Church.
As early as 1929, the papers relating to the work of the American Friends Service Committee were being organized and collected at Haverford College in Haverford, Pennsylvania. Mary Hoxie Jones helped arrange additional papers in the l930s while she was writing "Swords Into Ploughshares," a history of the AFSC up to that point.
Several temporary employees and volunteers kept the records in reasonable order until a part-time archivist was hired in the early 1950s. A full-time archivist has been on staff since 1969.
AFSC is a Quaker organization devoted to service, development, and peace programs throughout the world. Our work is based on the belief in the worth of every person, and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice. Learn more
Where we work
AFSC has office around the world. To see a complete list see the Where We Work page.