5-8: For Mothers Day, Women Against War

Female Protestors and WWI

As long as there has been war–forever, I guess–there have been souls opposed to it, including and perhaps especially women. During WWI, before America was actively engaged in the war, an organized group of women (the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) met with President Woodrow Wilson (1915) to try to convince him personally to take an active role as mediator between the European combatants, rather than assume the position of commander-in-chief and send American soldiers into the conflict. At first, Wilson seemed sympathetic to the women’s cause, eventually (1917), though, he chose the latter.

This was also the period when women were fighting for the right to vote. Actually, they saw the two, peace and suffrage, as virtually one issue. The WILPF was actually the American contingent of a multi-national organization of women, the International Congress of Women. In collaboration with each other they assumed that, if they had the right to vote, by sheer numbers women would vote against wars and encourage mediation as the more practical means to keeping the peace.

Even though the WILPF continues to exist, so do wars. Regardless of why Wilson changed his mind about entering the war, the fact is he did commit our troops to the fighting. And many of the protesting women became widows. Unfortunately, this theme returns to us in a continuous loop.

Fictional Women Protest a Real War

The idea of women trying to prevent or stop wars has literary roots that go all the way back to the Golden Age of Greece. One of the  greatest of the ancient Greek dramatists, Aristophanes, wrote a prize-winning play called Lysistrata.

Athens is at war with Sparta as the anti-war play opens. Lysistrata convinces the Athenian women and then, surprisingly, the women of Sparta that together they can stop the war if they deny their men sex as long as the fighting continues. This fictional coalition–not the tactic–was almost identical to the actual ICW that fought against war in 1915. Unfortunately, each had the same result.

Wilson reneged on his pledge to keep America out of the “war to end all war.” The actual war between Athens and Sparta lasted another ten years after the production of Lysistrata.

To learn more about the International Congress of Women and their work, go to :

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/international-congress-of-women-adopts-resolutions

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