The Women's Peace Movement and Feminism in WW I


Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
International Program
Park, Jinyoung
Term Paper, AP European History Class, November 2007



Table of Contents


I. Women's Peace Movement and Political Actions
I.A Women's Positions on the War
I.B The War and Women's Suffrage
II. Women's Effort in Pacifist Movements
II.A Women's Peace Party in the USA
II.B International Conference of Women at The Hague
II.B.1 Short Term and Long Term Resolutions of the Conference
II.C Criticism on Women's Peace Movement
II.D International Committee of Women for Permanent Peace & Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
III. Conclusion
IV. Notes
V. Bibliography



I. Women's Peace Movement and Political Actions

I.A Women's Positions on the War
            The early twentieth century was an important era for women, as it consisted of dynamic and conspicuous feminist, suffragist, and pacifist movements. We often get the impression that the war expedited the domination of feminism, and the feminism and pacifism are intimately related. But the truth is that not all women supported feminism, and even among feminists quiet obvious line was divided between pro-war and anti-war positions. For example, both the most conservative anti-feminist women and feminists like Pankhurst - Emmeline Pankhurst was pro-war while her daughter Sylvia Pankhurst was a pacifist - supported the war. But, it is also true that women in key positions as administrator in governmental organizations, NGOs, and political and trade unions as well as many writers were feminists and it can be stated with little doubt that practically all pacifist women were also feminists (1).

I.B The War and Woman's Suffrage
            There is also much controversy on whether the granting of voting rights to women was the outcome of WW I or part of a progressive movement of Western democracies. Countries such as New Zealand (1893), Australia (1901), Finland (1906) or Norway (1913) enfranchised women before the war began, whereas others such as Denmark (1915), Iceland (1915), the Netherlands (1917) or Sweden (1918) gave voting rights to women during the war without being involved in it. In the USA, President Woodrow Wilson ratified the 19th Amendment to enfranchise women in 1920 as a way of thanking women for their contributions to the war effort. So did Canada in 1917. In Germany, women got the vote in 1918 by one of reform policies of Social Democrats in government. In France, not only feminists were mostly pro-war and refused to take part in the Hague conference but women also got the vote only after WWII in 1945 along with the women in Italy. Jo Vellacot, in her article Anti-War Suffragists, concludes that in the end, the war had "very slight" effects on women suffrage, and that women "neither earned it by their war work nor jeopardized it by their wartime opposition.", though it seems evident that women's pacifist movements were helpful for, at least, the advancement and effective presentation of their political power.

II. Women's Effort in Pacifist Movements
            The Peace Movement brought together women from all social classes and all kinds of interests. When the Military Service Act of 1916 enforced the conscription of men between the ages of 18 to 41 in England, British women pulled all of their political and emotional might to protest against the conscription. Some reacted by joining the Union of Democratic Control and the Non-Conscription Fellowship among other organizations. Others like Ottoline Morrell contributed to the movement by turning their own homes into centers where influential figures like Bertrand Russell developed their pacifist efforts.

II.A Women's Peace Party in the U.S.A.
            In the twentieth century, the evident exemplary women's peace organization was the Women's Peace Party (WPP), founded in January, 1915 by American feminist leaders Jane Addams and Carrie Chapman Catt. In Washington D.C. Jane Addams, a social reformer, pacifist, founder of Hull House, and the first chairman of the WPP, and Carrie Chapman Catt gathered a conference of 3000 women to call for peace, the limitation of armaments, nationalization of weapons manufacture, opposition to militarism in culture and government, and economic sources of conflict. Many pacifists, including Jane Addams, were attacked as unpatriotic traitors to the American war effort

II.B International Conference of Women at The Hague.
            Furthermore, the WPP and Dutch pacifist feminist Aletta Jacobs with the help of German feminists Anita Augspurg and Lida Gustava Heymann organized an International Conference of Women at the Hague in 1915, three months after WPP's founding, to call for mediation to protest the killing and destruction of the war raging in Europe. Jane Addams, the chairman of the WPP, also chaired the conference. Despite the travel problems and government obstacles, 1,136 voting delegates from 150 organizations in 12 countries, both from belligerent and neutral countries (Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Sweden and the United States), attended the conference. The participants were "a quite extraordinary group of gifted, courageous, and altruistic pioneers." (2)

II.B.1 Short Term and Long Term Resolutions of the Conference
            The delegates of the conference issued 20 resolutions, some of immediate importance to end the conflict and mediate the differences and others with long-term aims leading to permanent peace. They called on neutral government to lay pressure on belligerent countries to stop fighting and negotiate their differences and to continuously suggest mediations through establishing a conference of neutral states.
            Of immediate importance: the delegates called for a conference of women to take place at the same time and same place while the 'conference of powers' frames the terms of the peace settlement and to submit their practical proposals for a lasting peace to those power states. They also resolved to send envoys to suggest their proposals in the resolutions of the Congress to the neutral and belligerent states in Europe and to the president of the USA. Small delegations visited 14 countries during May and June 1915. Jane Addams also personally met President Wilson to present the resolutions of the conference. According to the records, Wilson said that the Congress' resolutions were by far the best formation for peace, and even 'borrowed' some of their ideas for his own proposals he later announced.
            Of long-term aims: the delegates called for disarmament, equality between genders and among nations, world-wide institution providing continuous machinery to mediate international conflicts and prevent wars. They sought the transformation by non-violent means from 'the culture of militarism and war to a culture of peace and non-violent'.

II.C Criticism of the Women's Peace Movement
            However, criticism was not to be ignored. When Jane Addams tried to galvanize US opposition to WW¥°, she was accused of alienating American public opinion and besmirching the heroism of men dying for 'home, country, and peace itself', even though she argued that soldiers were also victims of the mechanized war. After the war, she was even stigmatized as a traitor, Communist, and anarchist. Jeannette Rankin, the first woman to serve in the US Congress, had to cost her second election because she was a pacifist who voted against American participation in the First World War.
            On international terms, Frederick Delano Roosevelt, yet Colonel Roosevelt and the future President of the United States, called ICW "both silly and base" and delegates "hysterical pacifists", while Winston Churchill closed the North Sea to shipping, preventing most British delegates from attending and detaining even the US delegation's ship.

II.D International Committee of Women for Permanent Peace & Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
            Despite the hardships, International Committee of Women for Permanent Peace (ICWPP) was created as a result of the conference, and WPP became the U.S. section of the ICWPP. As has been resolved at the 1915 Congress, the second International Congress of Women was held in May 1919 in Zürich, Switzerland while the final terms of Versailles Treat was arranged in Paris. It was held in Zürich, not in Paris, because the French government refused to permit the German women delegates to enter France. So, only part of delegates stayed in Versailles to receive the submissions from Zürich and get them to the participants in the governmental conference. The ICW denounced the Versailles peace treaty as a treaty of revenge of the victors over the defeated, sowing the seeds of another world war. It criticized the sanctions regime of the Versailles Treaty and sought universal free trade, arms reductions with parity for all powers, and a world league that represented all people.
            The delegates formed Women¡¯s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) to garner their will and act more permanently and chose Jane Addams as the international president and Emily Green Balch as secretary-treasurer to manage its new headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Both Jane Addams and Emily Greene Balch received the Nobel Peace Prize, respectively in 1931 and in 1946, for their global efforts on peace. WILPF's aims and missions were and still are "to bring together women of different political views and philosophical and religious backgrounds determined to study and make known the causes of war and work for a permanent peace". (3)

III. Conclusion             Women's political status advanced dramatically in twentieth century, especially around WW I. Before, during, or after the WW I, women in Europe and the USA were granted their voting rights and through possible political means actively expressed their varied political views, conservative or liberal, pro-war or anti-war. Especially women's peace movements that craved for peaceful end of WW I and further permanent peace were noteworthy. In America, feminist leaders Jane Addams and Carrie Chapman Catt founded Women's Peace Party to call for peace and settlements of ongoing conflicts. Furthermore, women delegates from all over Europe and America convened in the International Conference of Women at the Hague and issued resolutions suggesting peaceful terms of the peace treaty that would lead to permanent peace. Delegates at the conference also founded International Committee of Women for Permanent Peace and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Though women's peace movements could not bring significant change or influence on WW I and its peace treaty, we need to shed our eyes on them for their persistent and unconquerable efforts for permanent peace despite relative political handicaps. International organizations, brainchild of ICW, still actively operates for global peace, which is often ignored by powers around the world.


IV. Notes

(1)      Duffy, Michael. "Women and WWI : Feminist and Non-Feminist Women : Between Collaboration and Pacifist Resistance."
(2)      Goldstein, Joshua. "The Women of World War I."
(3)      Brief History of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.


V. Bibliography

Note : websites quoted below were visited in October 2007.
1.      "Brief History of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom." Women's International League. 15 Nov. 2007 http://www.wilpf.int.ch/history/hindex.htm.
2.      Duffy, Michael. "Women and WWI: Feminist and Non-Feminist Women: Between Collaboration and Pacifist Resistance." First World War.Com. 15 Nov. 2007 http://www.firstworldwar.com/features/womenww1_three.htm.
3.      Goldstein, Joshua. "The Women of World War I." Warandgender.Com. 15 Nov. 2007 http://www.warandgender.com/wgwomwwi.htm.
4.      Safstrom, Sarah V. "A Proud History of Women Advocating for Peace." National Organization for Women. 15 Nov. 2007 http://www.now.org/nnt/spring-2003/peace.html?printable.
5.      "Women's International League for Peace and Freedom." An Inventory of the Collection At UIC. 15 Nov. 2007 http://www.uic.edu/depts/lib/specialcoll/services/rjd/findingaids/WILPFb.html.
6.      "Women's International League for Peace and Freedom." Wikipedia. 15 Nov. 2007 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women's_International_League_for_Peace_and_Freedom.
7.      "Women's Peace Party." Spartacus. 15 Nov. 2007 http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USApeaceW.htm.
8.      "Women and the Peace Movement." National Women's History Museum. 15 Nov. 2007 http://www.nwhm.org/ProgressiveEra/peace.html.
9.      "So This Then is the Preachment Entitled Chicago Tongue (C1913) the "Illinois Way" of Beautifying the Farm (1914)." Digitized Book of the Week. Library of the University of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign. 15 Nov. 2007 http://www.library.uiuc.edu/blog/digitizedbotw/2007/06/womens_international_league_fo.html.
10.      "Aletta Jacobs." Wikipedia. 20 Nov. 2007 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aletta_Jacobs.
11.      Jacobs, Aletta, and Harriet Feinberg. "Aletta Jacobs." Aletta Jacobs Online. 20 Nov. 2007 http://www.alettajacobs.org/english/.
12.      Jacobs, Aletta, and Harriet Feinberg. "Memoirs: My Life as an International Leader in Health, Suffrage, and Peace." Sunshine for Women. 20 Nov. 2007 http://www.pinn.net/~sunshine/book-sum/jacobs2.html.
13.      Jo Vellacot, Anti-War Suffragists (1977), posted on Enfranchising Women : The Politics of Women's Suffrage in Europe 1789-1945 at Leeds Trinity & All Saints http://www.leedstrinity.ac.uk/histcourse/suffrage/document/antiwara.htm