What is the Eight and Forty

In researching some of the old files and letters of the first days of Eight and Forty, we found the formation of the Eight and Forty very interesting and believe that the information would be helpful in understanding the purpose of our organization and why we function as we do.

At a National Executive Board meeting of the American Legion Auxiliary held in Indianapolis, Indiana in June, 1922, one of the leading Auxiliary members first suggested the idea of a playground society for Auxiliary members and women members of the Legion. This was to be a sister organization to the 40/8, which was the fun organization of the Legion. At the

New Orleans Legion Convention in 1922 the new group was recognized by the 40/8 as a sister organization.

A committee for the La Societe 40/8 met with a committee of the Ladies Auxiliary and the Legion women to form an association in connection with the Ladies Auxiliary and the Legion. A committee for the 40/8 was appointed to formulate plans and draw up a Constitution and resolution to be submitted to the Promenade National and the same was approved by the National officers and National Cheminot of the 40/8.

In the first Bylaws the purpose of the organization read as follows: “For God and Country and to defend and uphold the Constitution of the United States of America, and to all times help preserve the American Legion platform, and to preserve the dignity and prestige of the women of The American Legion and the Ladies Auxiliary; to collect and compile into records the songs and traditions, with stories of our men and women in the service of our great United States of America; to observe Memorial Day and Decoration Day and days set apart by The American Legion as days to be observed; and to cooperate with the La Societe Nationale 40/8 to establish an orphans fund; and further assist to Americanize our country one hundred percent; and last, to hold dear to our hearts the memories of those who served, and a sacred memory for those who paid the supreme sacrifice.”

The next change in the Constitution and Bylaws with regard to the purpose of the organization read as follows: La Societe Des 8 Chapeau et 40 Femmes shall be an organization composed exclusively of women of the American Legion Auxiliary in good standing; to provide a playground for female membership of The American Legion and the Auxiliary; for wholesome relaxation of mind and spirit. All partners of La Boutique shall be known as Chapeau Americans, and all eligible non-partners shall be known as Chapeau Brittaques (later changed to Etrangers.)'

The 40/8 titles of officers, etc. were derived from the French railway system and we all know the story of the 40 men and 8 horses in one box car. Therefore, the Eight and Forty also used French titles. Since we were in no way connected with the railway, it was decided to use titles relating to hats (dear to a woman's heart - at least in those days,) and the first National Chapeau was known as Le Grand Chapeau - “the big hat”.

The first annual Marche Nationale was held in New Orleans in October 1922 with a membership of 56 representing 33 Auxiliary Departments. Mrs. Ada Sangster of Michigan was the first National Chapeau.

The second annual Marche was held in San Francisco in October 1923 with a membership of 200 representing 38 Departments. At this Marche a Child Welfare program was adopted and during the administration of this year, May Day and the collection of funds associated with it for child welfare work, was instigated.

It was not long, however, before the 40/8 were treating the organization like an Auxiliary and not like a sister organization. They were making all the decisions, formulating all the programs, and in short, we found ourselves being governed solely by La Societe. Inasmuch as this was not the original intention of the organization, some of the leaders of the organization took action and at the Omaha Convention in 1925 it was recognized by the Legion as a playground and honor society for the women of the Legion and the Auxiliary, and at the ratification meeting in

New York, following the Paris Convention, the Auxiliary gave its official recognition as an affiliated organization and subsidiary of the Auxiliary in 1933.

In 1932 the Executive Committee of the National Child Welfare Committee of The American Legion assigned to the Eight and Forty as a special assignment, “preventative Tuberculosis service along educational lines and with financial assistance within it's limitations in providing care and treatment of children in cooperation with recognized agencies and methods.” It was then decided by the Auxiliary that only projects national in scope shall be considered by the Eight and Forty as recipients of child welfare donations and all such projects shall be subject to authorization of the National President and National Finance Committee of The American Legion. It is for that reason that the National Jewish Hospital was assigned to us by The American Legion.

In 1956 we were authorized to have the special project of scholarships for nurses to encourage them to go into Tuberculosis work. We were also allowed to make contributions to The American Legion Child Welfare Foundation for research in Tuberculosis. During the course of the years other changes took place. Tuberculosis became less of a threat but was replaced with Cystic Fibrosis, lung and other respiratory diseases. Therefore today our responsibility is in the field of lung diseases and contributions to The National Jewish Center are made for maintenance of the hospital and for research in these areas. Also, the nurses' scholarships are granted to graduate nurses for furthering their education in the field of lung diseases.

We wonder if the partners of Eight and Forty ever stopped for a moment and considered just what we stand for. First of all, before we are eligible to belong to Eight and Forty, we must be active members in good standing in the Auxiliary and have done something which has helped the Auxiliary. That requires a good deal, and means that the membership of the Auxiliary must be composed of worthwhile women. Then, add to that the things that Eight and Forty stands for and we can almost hear those early leaders stating “ Pard , we've got to buckle our belts up a little tighter and hustle to fill the demands.”

When we look at our Emblem it sends just a little thrill of pride down our backbones because we women have had the courage to attempt to do the things that it stands for, and we can feel these same backbones stiffen with the desire and determination to live up to our Emblem.

The blue stands for FRIENDSHIP . We have heard a good deal of the friendships of men and the stories that have come down to us through history in some of the greatest masterpieces that we have in literature. We have heard very little about the friendship of women. We know it exists and we have the chance in Eight and Forty to show ourselves and others what the friendship of women can be. Remember, when we become partners in Eight and Forty we are suppose to leave behind us the little petty things that women sometimes do to each other and be loyal and true to each other.

The red of our emblem stands for GOOD FELLOWSHIP . Sometimes we women are a little skeptical when we hear a man say that another man is a good fellow, but you know men are a little more generous to each other than women are apt to be, and they give the other fellow the credit for the good they do. They seem to know how to forget their differences and just enjoy each other, and that is what we are trying to do in the Eight and Forty, to develop the friendships started in the Auxiliary and to forget our differences and to learn to appreciate each others' good qualities.

Then, last but not least, is the white background of our emblem which stands for CHILD WELFARE . It is such a wonderful thing to be able to work for a little child and to take up the task laid down by so many of our service men and women when they gave up their lives for our country. This is a sacred privilege to us and makes us interested in all little children who are needy in a material or moral way. While our organization has departed from the over-all child welfare program of its early days, we have now specifically turned our efforts to children with Tuberculosis, Cystic Fibrosis, lung and other respiratory diseases. So, let us be proud of our partnership in Eight and Forty and glad of the privilege of living up to its high ideals and carrying on its work.

The more you learn about Eight and Forty the more you will want to become deeply involved. We have handbooks and rituals available, which will enable you to become more familiar with our organization. Gather all this information to yourselves and learn what it means to share fellowship with so many women through this wonderful country of ours. It is truly expressed in the words of the following song:

“Here is to the Eight and Forty

For the world is bright and gay.

When we meet with all our partners,

In a friendly sort of way,

For there's fellowship and service,

And pleasures added too,

That's the reason Eight and Forty

Means so much to me and you!”

Sing the above song at your Petit meetings. It is sung to the tune of “When It's Springtime in the Rockies.” When your meeting has adjourned form a circle, holding hands, and sing this song and just feel the thrill that you have in knowing that indeed “blessed be the tie that binds.”

To paraphrase the Marines, “The Eight and Forty is always looking for a few good women”, and you are urged to reward your active and dedicated Auxiliary members by inviting them to join the Eight and Forty, to join the fun and fellowship, but most of all, the very important task of caring for those afflicted children and giving them the opportunity to grow into useful and productive adults.