International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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Woodland Kahler (1895-1981)
Executive Committee Member 1953-1971
President of IVU 1960-71

The extracts below are from 'Olga - the memoirs of Olga La Marquise de St. Innocent' published in 1974. Olga was the wife of Woodland Kahler, known as 'Woody':

[refers to 1948]. . . a dreadful thing had happened in India: Mahatma Gandhi had been assassinated. We had read books by and about Gandhi, and we admired him more than any other living soul. He was unique, a superior man, and we were devastated when we heard the news. To honor Gandhi, we decided in Littleton [New Hampshire] to follow his example - at least in one way - and from that day forward we were vegetarians. We were still willing to eat a carrot, but not an animal or a bird or a fish. We also decided not to hurt our friends who came to share our meals by forcefully imposing our ideas on them.

To tell the truth, animals had become increasingly important to me, and I had given up eating meat some months before. I had come to believe that a cow or a sheep or a chicken had as much right to life as we did. I had not been able to persuade Woody of this, but he was immediately interested in following Gandhi's precepts, especially about health.

In order to learn the art of being kind to cells of the human body we studied books on what to eat from Germany, Switzerland, France, England, and America. The following autumn, ... we motored from Littleton to Herbert Shelton's Health School in San Antonio, Texas, where we learned many things about food and fasting. On our new Sheltonian Natural regime I got rid of rheumatism, which I had had periodically since I was twenty-five, and Woody got rid of his annual hay fever....

[1949] ... We were by now very serious and strict vegetarians. We went in for organic gardening in a big way, years ahead of our time - we had been put onto this by Dr. Shelton.... We were also looking into Zen Buddhism.

[1950]... The year before, we had met Scott Nearing, the writer, at a vegetarian conference.... [refers to the 1st American Vegetarian Convention]

[1950-51 - meetings with Albert Schweitzer - extract on Schweitzer's page]

[Woodland Kahler attended the IVU Congress in Sweden, 1953, and was a principal organiser of the 1955 Congress in Paris, France, where the Kahler's were living, but none of this is mentioned in the book.]

[1956] We had long since become members of the International Vegetarian Union and Woody was soon elected one of its vice presidents. The next World Vegetarian Congress was to be held in India, and Woody was delegated to go to India to prepare the ground for it. At that time, the president of the I.V.U. was an rich American woman, Mrs. Clarence Gasque, who owned the Woolworth five- and ten-cent-stores in London and had a house in the middle of Hampstead Heath surrounded by green lawns and beautiful old trees. Mrs. Gasque flew to New Hampshire in the summer of 1954 to confer with Woody [Woodland Kahler] and she agreed to all his plans. . . .

Around New Year's [1956/57] we sailed for [sic - from] Genoa on the S.S. Victoria bound for Bombay. . . . On arrival in Bombay we were met by many Indians representing various vegetarian and humanitarian societies, who wreathed us with garlands of beautiful flowers until we staggered under them. The atmosphere was heavily scented with lilies and roses. Our effusive Indian friends took us to the Taj Mahal Hotel, and did everything possible to make us comfortable. Arrangements had been made for us to travel throughout India to prepare the ground for the I.V.U. Congress.

Nayantara Sahgal, the Wellesley-educated daughter of Madame Pandit and niece of Nehru, came to the Taj Mahal Hotel to see us. She was a beautiful young woman and her husband, Gautam, an attractive man. They belonged to what amounted to the royal family. They were charming, clever, and adorable, and through them we met other people in the government, including Dr. Prasad, the President of India, and of course Nehru. In New Delhi we were entertained from morning till night - luncheons, dinners, teas, and delicious Indian vegetarian food that soon made us quite sick, as we were not used to spices.

[Photo right - this appeared in the book with the caption:- This is one of the few times Nehru was photographed without his hat - at Olga's insistence.]

We traveled all over India and everywhere we went Woody made vegetarian speeches to huge crowds of people. From the north of India we pushed southward in a train on which there were only-third class compartments. We slept in blankets on hard benches with several Indian men in our compartment. They were vegetarians and did not smell bad. One of them, a large landowner, invited us to visit him. From the railroad station it was only fifty miles on top of an elephant - practically no distance at all! We thanked him but said we had other appointments. We stayed overnight in the small villa of a maharaja. He had been obliged to sell his huge palace and the only thing left from his former splendour was a lovely pair of diamond earrings that he always wore, and an airplane in his back-yard that had not functioned for years.

Woody and I circled India from Bombay to New Delhi, Patna, Calcutta, Madras, Bangalore, Coonor, Trivandrum near Cape Comorin, and at last back again to Bombay.

[1957] The I.V.U. Congress took place in Bombay in November 1957. [it started in Bombay but also went to Delhi, Calcutta, Madras and more] Woody was by now president of I.V.U. [he did not become president until 1960, but would have played a major role in 1957] Platforms were built, tables and benches arranged, enormous tents set up against the burning sun, all decorated with greens and flowers. It was a sight to behold. Woody had arranged for Dr. Prasad, the president of India, to make the opening speech, which was excellent. [that was almost certainly arranged by Rukmini Devi Arundale, not Woody]

[Rajkumar of Vizianagram - extracts about the story of the Kahler's meeting with him at the 1957 Congress, and their subsequent legal adoption of him as their son.]

[late 1950s, living in Paris] Woody would go for a few days to committee meetings in England or Holland or some other country, but I rarely went with him. . . .

As usual Woody continued writing essays on modern man's need to cultivate the art of being kind to himself and others. Montaigne, in his essays, pictured pain as an enemy, and was always trying to wash it away with mineral water. Woody on the other hand, grew to think of pain as a warning to take better care of oneself. Woody's essays were now being published in vegetarian periodicals all over the world and more honors were conferred upon him. He was chosen to represent the United States of America in an International Anthology published by the Centre International d'Études Esthétiques, under the patronage of the Minister of National Education, and in this same publication, I was pleased to note, Spain was represented by our old friend Salvador Dali. Woody had also been picked out by the distinguished editors of the Éditions Encyclopédiques to contribute an article on Bombay, for Les Capitales du Monde, Politiques, Économiques, et Religieuses, with a preface by Georges Duhamel of the Académie Francaise. As a matter of fact, since the death of Tolstoy, Shaw, and Gandhi, Woody had become the most famous vegetarian in the world. [in hindsight an amusing wifely flattery...]

[1960 - meeting with the Dalai Lama in India, see separate page for extracts]

[1962] . . . at that time Woody had to go to Spain to prepare for a World Vegetarian Congress [Barcelona 1963]. On his return to Paris Woody raved to me about the Spaniards and their sunshine. When I went to Barcelona for the Congress, I too fell in love with Spain. I wanted a beautiful old Spanish house o the outskirts of Barcelona, so we decided to stay for a couple of months and look around until we found something that exactly suited us. [they eventually bought an old castle and Olga died there in 1972].