Drawing on the philosophy and mission of Pan Americanism and her own life experiences, Florence Terry Griswold, created the Pan American Round Table Movement in 1916. It was as if she had been groomed her whole life to begin this great adventure. She was born on May 29, 1875 near Eagle Pass where she would spend her formative years. Thanks to a Spanish speaking maid, she learned to speak Spanish before she did English. Living so close to Mexico, she Florence Terry learned to appreciate the Mexican culture and character. She was a fun loving and vivacious girl who made friends on both sides of the border and she learned quickly to value their loyalty and devotion.
In 1894, she married Felix Shaw. They had four children and lived on one of the three Shaw ranches near Carrizo Springs. Mr. Shaw died suddenly in 1908 and Florence was left to run the ranches and educate the children. She made the house in San Antonio, which Mr. Shaw had purchased before his death, her permanent residence. As time elapsed, Florence Terry Shaw became successful in business matters as well as a leader in community and social affairs. In 1914, she married John Case Griswold.
During the period between 1910 to 1916, politics in Mexico were in an upheaval which resulted in destruction, banditry, and the displacements of many Mexican citizens. Many women and children made their way across the Rio Grande to escape the perils of revolution, only to become helpless refugees in San Antonio. This deeply troubled Mrs. Griswold. She wanted to help in anyway she could, taking many of the women and children into her own home to feed and shelter them. Mrs. Griswold tried her best to make things pleasant for the families that came and started their new homes in San Antonio. She called on them, took them to points of interest in the city and even gave luncheons and evening parties in her home so that her many friends could meet them. In all of these efforts, Mrs. Griswold called on her friends and associates for help and assistance.
These experiences created an idea in the mind of Florence Terry Griswold, the creation of the Pan American Round Table which would be modeled after the Medieval Round Table, where everyone would be an equal. Each country in the Western Hemisphere, would be represented on the table. Adopted as an insignia was a circle that had no beginning and no end, symbolizing unity. At the base of this circle, she would have the flags from the different represented countries. Calling on twenty one of her friends to join her, they quickly responded and were eager to participate. As Mrs. J. Tom Williams stated in her 1941 tribute to our Founder:
the birth“So this is what came to pass. On October the sixteenth, nineteen hundred and sixteen, in luncheon session at the Menger Hotel in San Antonio, Florence Griswold met with the women she had invited to be charter members of the proposed Pan American Round Table and we organized. For our guidon we selected of course, One for All, All for One. Mrs. Griswold proclaimed that our Pan American Round Table was strictly non-political and non-sectarian and that we had organized solely to help promote friendliness and understanding among the WOMEN of the Western Hemisphere. Once organized, we began by meeting twice a month in luncheon session at the hotel. At every luncheon we had some of the strangers within our gates to dine with us. And what charming women the strangers proved to be. We became friends.”
Florence Griswold was encouraged in her efforts to establish the Round Table by her friend Mr. John Barrett, first Director General of the Pan American Union, who helped in directing the organization of the Table so that it would coincide with the ideals of the Pan American Union in Washington, D. C. Mrs. Griswold felt that the Pan American Union Ideals could also be carried on by women. In 1967, Mrs. Clyde Trotter in delivering a talk on the Pan American Round Table Movement stated:
“She felt the ideals of the Pan American Union could be advanced by Women, these ideals being: (1) Achieving an order of peace and justice; (2) Promoting American solidarity; (3) Strengthening collaboration among member states; (4) Defending their sovereignty independence and international integrity. Mrs. Griswold felt women could, through knowledge and understanding, move toward close friendship. They could study the languages and the cultural heritage of the logo countries.
She believed the women of the Americas could join hands from Canada to the southern tip of South America, as she often said, “To forge an unbroken chain of friendship, reaching the length of the hemisphere.’ ”
In 1930, Florence Shaw Griswold best described the formation, goals, and activities of the Pan American Round Tables in a letter she sent Miss Josephine Lee Meek, a doctoral student working on her thesis. (The entire document is in the PARTT archives).
“The Pan American Round Table of San Antonio, Texas, was organized October 16, 1916, having for its object the bringing together of the women of the Western Hemisphere in a mutual understanding, believing that when women understand each other man can no longer misunderstand.
“We appreciate that the women of the Latin Republics have as much to offer in cultural gifts and responsibilities as we have. We believe that the solidarity so longed for will come through the cooperation of both the men and the women….
“The organization is composed of twenty-four members, twenty-two women representing twenty-one American Republics and Canada. A large associate membership is enjoyed, many of them being Mexican women. The organization has followed the plan used by the Pan American Union. In its incipiency, Hon. John Barrett, former Director General, proved most sympathetic and helpful in working out our problems. Today we enjoy the friendship of Dr. Leo S. Rowe, who at all times cooperates with our organization.
“From the parent organization four Round Tables have been organized, until today the State Pan American Round Tables of Texas are functioning. A former member of the San Antonio branch moved to the City of Mexico and she has organized a splendid Round table in the City of Mexico, and enjoys having among its members many prominent Mexican women. It is the privilege of this Table (in the city of Mexico) to entertain the Ministers and Ambassadors of the South America Republics and have them serve on the program.
“The Pan American Round Tables meet twice a month in luncheon session and discuss the problems of the Latin Republics, that is questions pertaining mostly to women, children and education. As an organization we are nonpolitical and non-sectarian.
“In the beginning of our organization - 1916-1917 – it was our privilege to entertain many outstanding Mexican women, who were political refugees within our boundaries, as this was our opportunity to prove to our sister republic that we had cultural, artistic and musical organizations. In this manner we could offset the propaganda and the bad manners so often displayed by the tourist class who went to Mexico in the early days.
“We are non-political, for we have not found that politics have accomplished much in creating understanding between the United States and the Latin Republics, and we have observed that it is necessary to be nonsectarian, as we prefer to be known as “humanitarian”. It has further been our observation that when too much church enters into a question often times religions become too much “churchanity” and not enough “christianity”. I wish to call your attention that the first meeting of the Pan American Round Table in October, 1916 , Father Quinn of the Catholic Church blessed our organization and we took this means of showing our Latin sisters that we recognized their religion as most of us were protestants.
“We try to imbue our children with toleration, love, and respect for the other Americas, and appreciation of our common heritage of geographical neighborlines, together with such influence as must inevitably inhere in the unparalleled territorial grandeur of the Western Hemisphere. We feel that future peace is assured through treaties; these treaties to be based upon truth and justice with respect for others. Long ago we found that the countries to the south of us have ideals and ambitions, just as we have ideals and ambitions. They may be different ideals and ambitions, but at least they belong to them, and should be encouraged. (I am enclosing copy of letter addressed to me by President Obregon, which will prove that he accepted the plan for creating a Mexicanization Board to conform with our Americanization Board). I am attaching press notice in Spanish that will bear me out in this. Please return this notice to me.
“It was the privilege of the Pan American Round Table of San Antonio in 1923 to visit the Republic of Mexico at the invitation of the Federated Chambers of Commerce of the Republic. One afternoon was set aside for our Organization to present a program, this being the first instance of women participating in such conference. It was my privilege as Director General of the organization to be seated on the rostrum with the President of the Republic, Alvarro Obregon, and members of the cabinet, and the courtesy to speak was accorded me the morning the conference opened. This is the first time an American women ever addressed a Mexican group of officials. This was under the suspices of the Federated Chambers of Commerce, in June 1921.
“It was the privilege of the Pan American Round Table to secure representation for the Pan American Conference held under the auspices of the National League of Women Voters in Baltimore, April 1922. President Obregon immediately upon receiving the request from the Pan American Round Table for delegates from the Republic of Mexico to the Pan American Conference referred the matter to the Minister of Education, Vasconcellos, who appointed five delegates to represent the Republic. We considered this a “feather in our cap”, as Mexico and the United States were not recognizing each other at the time and Secretary Hughes invited the women of South America to the Conference but could not invite or did not invite the women of Mexico, therefore it was our good fortune not only to invite them but to accompany them from the border to Baltimore.
“The Pan American Round Table during the same year received from Mrs. Obregon a beautiful Mexican flag, valued at $600.00, to be presented to the women of Philadelphia and to be placed in Independence Hall. The delegation who attended the Pan American Conference in Baltimore went to Philadelphia, accompanied by Mrs. S. E. Leonard of Laredo, Mrs Roy Campbell of San Antonio, and Mrs. J. C. Griswold of San Antonio, Director General, and were received by Mrs. John B. Roberts, President of the New Century Club at that time and other prominent women. The flag was received by these women, who in turn presented an American flag to the Mexican delegation to be carried back to Mexico. It was a beautiful picture and one long to be remembered. Today the Mexican flag rest in the archives of Independence Hall and will be displayed on state occasions.
“The first Pan American Conference ever called between the women of the United States and Mexico was held in San Antonio December 3, to December 6, 1919. A most worthy program was prepared and presented. I am enclosing clipping I ask you to return, as it is the only one I have. It will give you in detail the things we strive for. It is true it was but a beginning.
“I am trusting you with other clippings and letters so that you will understand truly how real we are.
“Three members of the Pan American Round Table were invited by President Obregon and transportation provided by the Republic, to attend the first Feminist Congress ever assembled in the Republic. It was the privilege of
Mrs. Eli Hertzberg, member of the Pan American Round Table, representing Mexico, to write their rules and regulations to be used by the Feminist Congress at their first meeting.”
She continued in her letter to Miss Meek:
“The Pan American Round Table of San Antonio was invited to send delegates to the women’s Auxillary Committee of the United States of the Second Pan American Scientific Congress. Mention this to show that we have received recognition from this august body. “On June 8, 1926 I was empowered to name delegate to the Inter-American Congress of Women, which met in Panama, of which Mrs. Esther de Calvo of Panama City was Chairman. Of course this delegate was to represent the Pan American Round Table.
“We instituted in San Antonio public schools a Pan American Essay Contest on the subject of Pan-Americanism, offering two prizes. This feature has been widely copied in the public schools of the border states.
“It has been the privilege of the Pan American Round Table to entertain many flyers from the Republics to the south of us, at one time seating six representatives of six Republics.
“In recognition of the aims of the Pan American Round Table, the Gunter Hotel of San Antonio, has decorated for our special use a Pan American room. This room was dedicated November 15, 1927, with fitting ceremony. The twenty-two women who represent the Republics of South America had the privilege of reading at the dedication a message from the Minister or Ambassador from the Republic that each represented.
“The President of the Republic of Mexico was represented by Mrs. A. P. Carrillo, who presented a beautiful flag from her country for use in the room. Three border states of the Republic of Mexico were represented by women,
their expenses being paid by the Governors of the respective states. They were quite impressed by our Mexican sisters. They are rapidly overcoming their timidity and each brought a greeting to the dedcation and seemed unafraid
when called upon to speak.
“We feel that we have played a rather important part in bringing together the United States and Mexico in friendly relations for we have embraced every opportunity to create sentiment for a better feeling, for we appreciate that Mexico’s progress and success means our progress and success.”
She continues: “It was our privilege to entertain the Secretary of State, Aaron Saenz, when he passed through San Antonio enroute from Cuba to the City of Mexico. For the first time in the history of the State the flag of Mexico and the flag of the United States hung side by side from our municipal hall. This does not seem much, but the Secretary was greatly pleased at the courtesy, and of course as we are blessed with the largest fort in the United
States we can always count upon the cooperation of our leading generals to add dignity and formality to these occasions.
“During the slight disagreement that existed between Bolivar and Paraguay, it was our duty and pleasure to telegraph the Presidents of these republics at the glad Christmastime, requesting that they, in the spirit of Him Who said “Learn to love thy neighbor as thyself”, try to settle their differences without bloodshed. It is pleasing to state that the President of Paraguay replied in a most gracious manner.
Mrs Griswold 1931Mrs Griswold San Antonio schools
Mrs Griswold 1934
“I wish to state that Charles W. Alexander of Philadelphia was the instigator of the thought of sending a flag from Mexico to Philadelphia, believing that it was time for the politician to know that the Republic of Mexico enjoys a flag, that the United States ends at the Rio Grande and Mexico begins directly on the other side.
“In March, 1930, a conference of the State organization was called and we organized into the Pan American Round Tables, and this means that we will try to carry the work throughout the Western Hemisphere. I repeat that we are non-sectarian and non-political. It is useless as yet to introduce suffrage for women into the Latin Republics. This will come in time. We do believe that the women of the Western Hemisphere have much in common and we will earnestly strive to create a Court of Justice for the Western Hemisphere.
“It was the privilege of the Pan American Round Table when we attended the Conference of the Federated Chambers of Commerce of Mexico in a body, as mentioned herein previously, to be provided with two special cars and two diners and five servants for our comfort enroute to the city from the port of Nuevo Laredo. We spent ten days in the City of Mexico, returning home with no other thought than of working more faithfully and diligently for friendship and understanding wih the women to the South.
“This Hemisphere is but a melting pot where a distinct nationality will be developed and the next generation, by the help of informed Christian women, will be a dynamic force behind civilization.”
“The time is propitious for the women of the United States of America to make themselves felt in affairs of the Nation more directly and purposefully than ever before, for never in its history has the country so needed the guiding
hand of intelligence and devotion of every citizen in every task of public service. We need women who appreciate and understand that the youth of today is the man of tomorrow, and to make Nations we must begin by making
men, men who are willing to include within “the scope of International laws men as subjects and not as objects of these laws.”
As Mrs. Griswold stated in her letter to Miss Meek, the Pan American Round Table Movement began to flourish from its beginnings in San Antonio. Texas’ cities followed and organized their own Round Tables, Laredo and El Paso in 1921, Austin in 1922. The 1930’s and 1940’s saw more growth and more enthusiasm for the Pan American Movement. Today there are 20 Pan American Round Tables in Texas.
There are also tables in Florida(2), Washington D.C.(1), Oklahoma(1), New Mexico(6), and California(3). The movement has also spread to the rest of the Western Hemisphere with 65 tables in Mexico, 21 tables in Central America and the Caribbean, and 50 tables in South America. Florence Terry Griswold had a dream and that dream became a reality.
The PART Movement continued to grow even after the death of its founder in 1941. She entrusted to us a legacy to follow. As Mrs. Claude R. Nobles stated in her 1966 tribute to Mrs. Griswold and featured in the Panamericana Texana:
“The word that best sums up her character is HEART, a heart full of sympathy, compassion and Christian charity; a heart tender enough to be moved with pity at a neighbor’s plight; a heart resolute enough to plan a crusade in that neighbor’s behalf; a heart strong enough to lay well the foundation for a structure which even in her time gained wide recognition, and which, if we-you and I are faithful to our trust, will live to bring reverence, honor, and respect to her name as long as freedom and democracy- and the very Hemisphere itself- shall endure.
“ What is this trust, this heritage left by our Founder to you and to me? FAITH is the is righteousness of our cause; HOPE is the ultimate realization of our ideals; LOVE and DEVOTION to the work; COURAGE in the face of disappointment; VIGILANCE and ALERTNESS to changing conditions; STEADFASTNESS in duty to fellowmen; CONFIDENCE in cooperation of all peoples of the Western Hemisphere in our efforts to bring about that perfect understanding and good-will among the American nations that will present to the world a united front under the unconquerable manner of a living Pan Americanism! We will succeed: for we build on knowledge, understanding and friendship.”
Mrs Florence Terry Griswold
Mrs. Griswold’s Rules
Try to remember that a Pan American Round Table is not a club in the ordinary sense of the word. Your purpose will not be to have a grand big time among yourselves, but to work for understanding among the women of the Americas, North, South, and Central.
First, there is the necessity of overcoming ignorance, especially your own. Study, think, discuss, learn. Don’t wait for somebody to come and tell you. Find out for yourselves.
Never neglect the Round Table concept, which is a coming together to discuss, to share the things you have learned, to ask questions. Never let your Round Table come to depend on speakers who may only entertain you. If you study and watch and learn about all the countries of our Americas, you will become authorities yourselves. Think what it means to know the geography, history, and culture of a Hemisphere.
Be careful what you do with your money. Use it only for the stated purposes of the Pan American Round Tables. Never, never, NEVER, let your Round Table become just a tail to some other kite. If you don’t stick to one purpose, you will lose your way.
Don’t try to be too big. Be busy. Check on yourselves to see if you are accomplishing what the Round Tables are intended to do.
Try to think about the other Americas as if they were as precious as your own country. If you will work on this you will find that Argentina and Peru, and Mexico will seem as important to you as Louisiana and Arkansas – neighbors, parts of a whole.
Now, one thing more, a little delicate. If you find yourselves with a member who is forgetful of the purposes of the Round Tables and seeks and struggles for her own glory – make her the custodian of the flags. There is enough glory in these American flags for anybody.
Panamericana Texana, November, 1964
The will of Florence Terry Griswold
“I, Florence Terry Griswold, mindful that the day will come when I can no longer lead you along the path we have chosen, do hereby GIVE, DEVISE, and BEQUEATH to you, Members of the Pan American Round Table, all of my faith in the righteousness of our cause, all of my hope in the ultimate realization of our ideals, my love and devotion to the work, my courage in the face of disappointments, my vigilance and alertness to changing conditions, my steadfastness in my duty to my fellowmen, my confidence in the cooperation of all peoples of the Western Hemisphere in our efforts to bring about that perfect understanding and good will among the American nations that will present to the world a united front under the unconquerable banner of a living Pan Americanism. Because of the great love and devotion I bear you, all this I leave unto you, and through you to all the Women of the Americas.”
Panamericana Texana, June, 1985