12. Belgian Lace

Lou raising funds during a Belgium Relief Fair.

Lou Hoover was also active during World War I. A skilled organizer in her own right, Mrs. Hoover led the American Women's War Relief Committee in London, and established a knitting factory and a hospital staffed and supported entirely by American volunteers. Perhaps most notable, she played a leading role in preserving Belgium's vital lace industry, world famous since the 16th century.

More than 20,000 Belgian women were in the lace-making trade, artists whose unique abilities had been passed from generation to generation. The Commission for the Relief of Belgium sent this lace to Britain and America for sale, with every dollar in earnings returned directly to the women of Belgium. Lou Hoover found customers for their product, overcoming her dislike of public speaking to make numerous appeals at events like a Belgian Relief Fair.

For their part, German authorities reluctantly permitted Belgian lace makers to continue their output, but patriotic motifs were strictly forbidden. CRB personnel nodded their heads, then wrapped the prohibited lace around their bodies for smuggling through the port of Rotterdam.