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At the Beginning of the Great War
When the news came to America of the opening hostilities which were the beginning of the European Conflict, the reaction against war, as such, was almost instantaneous throughout the country. This was most strikingly registered in the newspaper cartoons and comments which expressed astonishment that such an archaic institution should be revived in modern Europe. A procession of women led by the daughter of William Lloyd Garrison walked the streets of New York City in protest against war and the sentiment thus expressed, if not the march itself, was universally approved by the press.
Certain professors, with the full approval of their universities, set forth with clarity and sometimes with poignancy the conviction that a war would inevitably interrupt all orderly social advance and at its end the long march of civilization would have to be taken up again much nearer to the crude beginnings of human progress.
The Carnegie Endowment sent several people lecturing through the country upon the history of the Peace movement and the various instrumentalities designed to be used in a war crisis such as this. I lectured in twelve of the leading colleges, where I found the audiences of young people both large and eager. The questions which they put were often penetrating, sometimes touching or wistful, but almost never bellicose or antagonistic. Doubtless there were many students of the more belligerent type who did not attend the lectures and occasionally a professor, invariably one of the older men, rose in the audience to uphold the traditional glories of warfare. I also recall a tea under the shadow of Columbia which was divided into two spirited camps, but I think on the whole it is fair to say that in the fall of 1914 the young people in a dozen of the leading colleges of the East were eager for knowledge as to all the international devices which had been established for substituting rational negotiation for war. There seemed to have been a somewhat general reading of Brailsford's "War of Steel and Gold" and of Norman Angell's "Great Illusion."
It was in the early fall of 1914 that a small group of social workers held the first of a series of meetings at the Henry Street Settlement in New York, trying to formulate the reaction to war on the part of those who for many years had devoted their energies to the reduction of devastating poverty. We believed that the endeavor to nurture human life even in its most humble and least promising forms had crossed national boundaries; that those who had given years to its service had become convinced that nothing of social value can be obtained save through widespread public opinion and the cooperation of all civilized nations. Many members of this group meeting in the Henry Street Settlement had lived in the cosmopolitan districts of American cities. All of us, through long experience among the immigrants from many nations, were convinced that a friendly and cooperative relationship was constantly becoming more possible between all peoples. We believed that war, seeking its end through coercion, not only interrupted but fatally reversed this process of cooperating good will which, if it had a chance, would eventually include the human family itself.
The European War was already dividing our immigrant neighbors from each other. We could not imagine asking ourselves whether the parents of a child who needed help were Italians, and therefore on the side of the Allies, or Dalmatians, and therefore on the side of the Central Powers. Such a question was as remote as if during the Balkan war we had anxiously inquired whether the parents were Macedonians or Montenegrins although at one time that distinction had been of paramount importance to many of our neighbors.
We revolted not only against the cruelty and barbarity of war, but even more against the reversal of human relationships which war implied. We protested against the "curbed intelligence" and the "thwarted good will," when both a free mind and unfettered kindliness are so sadly needed in human affairs. In the light of the charge made later that pacifists were indifferent to the claims of justice it is interesting to recall that we thus early emphasized the fact that a sense of justice had become the keynote to the best political and social activity in this generation, but we also believed that justice between men or between nations can be achieved only through understanding and fellowship, and that a finely tempered sense of justice, which alone is of any service in modern civilization, cannot possibly be secured in the storm and stress of war. This is not only because war inevitably arouses the more primitive antagonisms, but because the spirit of fighting burns away all those impulses, certainly towards the enemy, which foster the will to justice. We were therefore certain that if war prevailed, all social efforts would be cast into an earlier and coarser mold.
The results of these various discussions were finally put together by Mr. Paul Kellogg, editor of The Survey, and the statement entitled "Toward the Peace that Shall Last" was given a wide circulation. Reading it now, it appears to be somewhat exaggerated in tone, because we have perforce grown accustomed to a world of widespread war with its inevitable consequences of divisions and animosities.
The heartening effects of these meetings were long felt by many of the social workers as they proceeded in their different ways to do what they could against the rising tide of praise for the use of war technique in the world's affairs. One type of person present at this original conference felt that he must make his protest against war even at the risk of going to jail—in fact two of the men did so testify and took the consequences; another type performed all non-combatant service open to them through the Red Cross and other agencies throughout the years of the war although privately holding to their convictions as best they might; a third, although condemning war, in the abstract were convinced of the righteousness of this particular war and that it would end all wars; still others felt, after war was declared in the United States, that they must surrender all private judgment, and abide by the decision of the majority.
I venture to believe, however, that none of the social workers present at that gathering who had been long identified with the poor and the disinherited, actually accepted participation in the war without a great struggle, if only because of the reversal in the whole theory and practice of their daily living.
Several organizations were formed during the next few months, with which we became identified; Miss Wald was the first president of the Union Against Militarism, and I became chairman of what was called the Women's Peace Party. The impulse for the latter organization came from Europe when, in the early winter of 1914, the great war was discussed from the public platform in the United States by two women, well known suffragists and publicists, who nationally represented opposing sides of the conflict. Mrs. Pethwick Lawrence of England first brought to American audiences a series of "War Aims" as defined by the "League of Democratic Control" in London, and Mde. Rosika Schwimmer, coming from Budapest, hoped to arouse American women to join their European sisters in a general protest against war. Occasionally they spoke from the same platform in a stirring indictment of "the common enemy of mankind." They were unwilling to leave the United States until they had organized at least a small group pledged to the advocacy of both objects; the discussion of reasonable terms of peace, and a protest against war as a method of settling international difficulties.
The Women's Peace Party itself was the outcome of a two days' convention held in Washington concluding a series of meetings in different cities addressed by Mrs. Lawrence and Madame Schwimmer. The "call" to the convention was issued by Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt and myself, and on January 10, 1915, the new organization was launched at a mass meeting of 3000 people. A ringing preamble written by Mrs. Anna Garlin Spencer was adopted with the following platform:
1. The immediate calling of a convention of neutral nations in the interest of early peace.
2. Limitation of armaments and the nationalization of their manufacture.
3. Organized opposition to militarism in our own country.
4. Education of youth in the ideals of peace.
5. Democratic control of foreign policies.
6. The further humanizing of governments by the extension of the suffrage to women.
7. "Concert of Nations" to supersede "Balance of Power."
8. Action towards the gradual re-organization of the world to substitute Law for War.
9. The substitution of economic pressure and of non-intercourse for rival armies and navies.
10. Removal of the economic causes of war.
11. The appointment by our government of a commission of men and women with an adequate appropriation to promote international peace.
Of course all the world has since become familiar with these "Points," but at the time of their adoption as a platform they were newer and somewhat startling.
The first one, as a plan for "continuous mediation," had been presented to the convention by Miss Julia G. Wales of the University of Wisconsin, who had already placed it before the legislature of the State. Both houses had given it their approval, and had sent it on with recommendations for adoption to the Congress of the United States. The plan was founded upon the assumption that the question of peace was a question of terms; that every country desired peace at the earliest possible moment, that peace could be had on terms satisfactory to itself. The plan suggested an International Commission of Experts to sit as long as the war continued, with scientific but no diplomatic function; such a commission should explore the issues involved in the struggle in order to make proposals to the belligerents in a spirit of constructive internationalism. Miss Wales not only defined such a Commission, but presented a most convincing argument in its behalf, and we deliberately made the immediate calling of a Conference of Neutrals the first plank in our new platform.
The officers of the newly formed society were Mrs. Anna Garlin Spencer and Mrs. Henry Villard of New York, Mrs. Lucia Ames Mead and Mrs. Glendower Evans of Boston, Mrs. Louis F. Post and Mrs. John J. White of Washington. From Chicago, where headquarters were established, were Mrs. Harriet Thomas as executive officer, Miss Breckenridge of the University of Chicago as treasurer, and myself as Chairman.
All of the officers had long been identified with existing Peace organizations, but felt the need of something more active than the older societies promised to afford. The first plank of our platform, the Conference of Neutrals, seemed so important and withal so reasonable, that our officers in the month following the founding of the organization, with Louis Lochner, secretary of the Chicago Peace Society, issued a call to every public organization in the United States whose constitution, so far as we could discover, contained a plank setting forth the obligations of internationalism. These organizations of course included hundreds of mutual benefit societies, of trade unions and socialist groups, as well as the more formal peace and reform bodies. The call invited them to attend a National Emergency Peace Conference at Chicago in March, and to join a Federation of Peace Forces. A very interesting group responded to the invitation, and the Conference, resulting in the formation of the proposed Federation, also held large mass meetings urging the call of a Conference of Neutrals.
The Women's Peace Party, during the first few months of its existence, grew rapidly, with flourishing branches in California and in Minnesota, as well as in the eastern states. The Boston branch eventually opened headquarters on the first floor of a building in the busy part of Boylston Street, and with a membership of twenty-five hundred, carried on a vigorous campaign among the doubting, making public opinion both for reasonable peace terms and for a possible shortening of the war. A number of the leading organizations of women became affiliated branches of the Women's Peace Party. Women everywhere seemed eager for literature and lectures, and as the movement antedated by six months the organization of the League to Enforce Peace, we had the field all to ourselves.
In the early months of 1915, it was still comparatively easy to get people together in the name of Peace, and the members of the new organization scarcely realized that they were placing themselves on the side of an unpopular cause. One obvious task was to unite with other organizations in setting out a constructive program with which an international public should become so familiar that an effective demand for its fulfillment could be made at the end of the war. This latter undertaking had been brilliantly inaugurated by The League of Democratic Control in England, and two months after our Washington Convention, "The Central Organization for a Durable Peace" was founded in Holland. The American branch of the "Association for the Promotion of International Friendship Among the Churches" also was active and maintained its own representative in Europe. As a neutral, he at that time was able to go from one country to another, and to meet in Holland with Churchmen from both sides of the conflict. We always found him most willing to cooperate with our plans at home and abroad. His successor, George Nasmyth, was also a sturdy friend of ours, and we keenly felt the tragedy of his death at Geneva, in 1920.
Through the very early spring of 1915, out of our eagerness, we tried all sorts of new methods of propaganda, new at least so far as peace societies were concerned. A poem which had appeared in the London Nation portraying the bewilderment of humble Belgians and Germans sent suddenly to arms, was set to Beethoven's music and, through the efforts of the Women's Peace Party, sung in many towns and cities in the United States by the Fuller sisters, three young English women, whose voices were most appealing. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace gave us a grant of five thousand dollars with which we financed the Little Theatre Company of Chicago, in the production of Gilbert Murray's version of the Trojan women by Euripides. The play was given throughout the country, including the Panama Exposition at San Francisco. The beautiful lines were beautifully rendered. An audience invariably fell into a solemn mood as the age-old plaint of war-weary women cheated even of death, issued from the darkened stage, reciting not the glory of War, but "shame and blindness and a world swallowed up in night."
In March, 1915, we received an invitation signed by Dutch, British and Belgian women to an International Congress of Women to be held at The Hague, April 28 to May 1, at which I was asked to preside. The Congress was designed as a protest against war, in which it was hoped women from all nations would join. I had previously met several of the signers at the International Suffrage Conference and elsewhere. I knew them to be women of great courage and ability, and I had long warmly admired Dr. Alletta Jacobs of Amsterdam, whose name led the list.
A delegation of forty-seven women from the United States accepted the invitation, most of them members of the new Women's Peace Party. All of the delegates were obliged to pay their own expenses, and to trust somewhat confidingly to the usefulness of the venture. We set sail for Holland in the middle of April, on the Dutch ship Noordam, in which we were almost the only passengers. We were thus able to use the salon for daily conferences and lectures on the history of the Peace Movement. As the ship, steadied by a loose cargo of wheat, calmly proceeded on her way, our spirits rose, and all went well until, within four days of the date set for the opening of the Conference, the Noordam came to a standstill in the English Channel directly off the cliffs of Dover, where we faintly heard booming of cannon, and saw air and marine craft of every conceivable make and kind. The first English newspapers which came on board informed us of the sharp opposition to the holding of our Congress, lest it weaken the morale of the soldiers. We were called "Peacettes" and the enterprise loaded with ridicule of the sort with which we later became only too familiar. During the three days the ship hung at anchor there was much telegraphing to all the people of political influence whom any one of us knew in England and several cables were sent to Washington.
Whether due to these or not, the Noordam finally received permission to proceed on her way and we landed in Rotterdam two hours before the opening of the Congress. We from the United States were more fortunate than the English delegation. The North Sea had been declared closed to all traffic the very day they were to start, and eighty-seven of them waited at a port during the entire session of The Hague Congress, first for boats and later for flying machines, neither of which ever came. Fortunately three Englishwomen had arrived earlier, and made a small but most able delegation from Great Britain.
Excerpted from Peace and Bread in Time of War by JANE ADDAMS. Copyright © 2002 by Katherine Joslin. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS PRESS.
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Introduction Katherine Joslin.................... ix
1. At the Beginning of the Great War.................... 3
2. The Neutral Conference plus the Ford Ship.................... 17
3. President Wilson's Policies and the Woman's Peace Party................. 30
4. A Review of Bread Rations and Woman's Traditions.................... 43
5. A Speculation on Bread Labor and War Slogans.................... 53
6. After War Was Declared.................... 62
7. Personal Reactions during War.................... 76
8. In Europe during the Armistice.................... 87
9. The Aftermath of War.................... 102
10. A Food Challenge to the League of Nations.................... 114
11. In Europe after Two Years of Peace.................... 127
Posted September 30, 2012
This is a brief history of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom formed in early 1915. Their goal was to do everything in their power to create international relations based on good-will, making war impossible. This book was written in 1925. 138 pages.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.