This project is no longer actively updated, external links may be broken.

Women Peace Activists During World War I

U.S. Delegation to the International Congress<br/>of Women for a Permanent Peace, The Hague, 1915 <br/><small>Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Records,<br/>Swarthmore College Peace Collection</small>
U.S. Delegation to the International Congress
of Women for a Permanent Peace, The Hague, 1915
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Records,
Swarthmore College Peace Collection

As the war loomed in Europe, women who had been involved in suffrage and social reform movements became increasingly engaged in the peace movement. In 1915, U.lS. activists Jane Addams, Carrie Chapman Catt, and others formed the Woman’s Peace Party (WPP). Later that year, the WPP sent a delegation to the International Congress of Women for a Permanent Peace, held at The Hague (Netherlands). Selected delegates of the Congress – including Jane Addams and Emily Greene Balch of the United States, Chrystal McMillan (Great Britain), Dr. Aletta Jacobs (Netherlands), Rosa Genoni (Italy), Rosika Schwimmer (Hungry), and Cor Ramondt-Hirshmann (Germany) -- visited leaders of 14 European countries including Russia, asking them to sign a non-aggression pact.

Women’s peace sentiments were not typically recorded officially by their governments, but information about female dissenters may be found in their memoirs, in the records of women's peace organizations, and in newspaper articles and letters to the editor that relate their activities and sentiments. Some of the women active during World War I, and who can be researched at the Swarthmore College Peace Collection include (but not limited to):


Jane Addams, circa 1915<br/><small>Jane Addams Collection,<br/>Swarthmore College Peace Collection</small>
Jane Addams, circa 1915
Jane Addams Collection,
Swarthmore College Peace Collection

- American Jane Addams, known around the world for her work with refugees at Hull-House in Chicago (Illinois), became one of the key leaders of the peace movement.

- American Jeannette Rankin, of Montana, elected to the U.S. Congress in 1916; a year later she voted against the United States' entry to war (she lost her seat in Congress during the next campaign but was reelected in 1940 and cast the only vote against the United States' entrance into World War II).

- Queen Marie, of Roumania, who wrote: "Cannot we women who in our hearts hate war and undeserved death, do something to save the future from folly more hideous even than the folly of the past?"

- Martha Freund-Hoppe, of Germany, who gathered a large archive of peace literature and ephemera, some of which she sent to America for safekeeping.



A. Ruth Fry<br/><small>A. Ruth Fry Papers,<br/>Swarthmore College Peace Collection</small>
A. Ruth Fry
A. Ruth Fry Papers,
Swarthmore College Peace Collection

- A. Ruth Fry, of Great Britain, who served as general secretary of the Friends Relief Commission in 1914-1924, a committee organized by British Quakers to provide help for refugees and others ravaged by the war. Fry toured the war zones as a traveling commissioner.

- American Lella Secor Florence, who acted as a reporter on the Henry Ford Peace Expedition, and was on board when the ship, the Oscar II, sailed in December 1915 for Europe; Katherine Devereux Blake was another member of the delegation.

- American Dorothy Detzer, whose twin brother, Don, was gassed during the war and died; this propelled her into relief efforts and to working actively for pacifist causes, including the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

- Americans Tracy D. Mygatt and Frances Witherspoon, who lobbied for the rights of conscientious objectors who were mistreated in military camps and prisons, establishing the New York Bureau for Legal First Aid (later called the New Bureau for Legal Advice) in May 1917. This organization was a forerunner of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Anna B. Eckstein, of Germany, who saw as her greatest work the collection of signatures for "The World Petition to Prevent War Between Nations," to be signed by heads of the 44 signatory powers of the Hague Conventions. She presented the first version of the petition in 1907 to the second Hague Conference with some two million signatures, at which time she was received by the Queen of the Netherlands and her Ministers. Eckstein began to prepare another petition for the 3rd Hague Conference. She had some 6 million signatures when her efforts in this regard were ended by the advent of World War I.

Though the women were unable to stop the war, they had set the ground work for decades of intercontinental peace efforts, including the WPP’s successor (the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom), which still works on behalf of women’s issues and for peace around the world. Often vilified during the World War I years for their outspoken cries against the horrors of war -- women who wanted their men to live and contribute to society rather than supporting the bloodshed, starvation, and death that was occurring – in later times they have been praised as examples of brave truth-tellers and as agents of change. Jane Addams, Emily Greene Balch were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 and 1946 respectively, and Rosika Schwimmer was given the World Peace Prize in 1937.


By Anne M. Yoder, Archivist, Swarthmore College Peace Collection [AMY]

Officers of the International Congress of Women for a Permanent Peace, The Hague, 1915<br/><small>Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Records, Swarthmore College Peace Collection</small> U.S. Delegation to the International Congress of Women for a Permanent Peace, 1915<br/><small>Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Records, Swarthmore College Peace Collection</small> Womens Peace Parade, New York, 1914<br/><small>Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Records, Swarthmore College Peace Collection4</small> Woman's Peace Party members before demonstration, New York, New York, 1916<br/><small>Lella Secor Florence Papers, Swarthmore College Peace Collection</small>

Peace Collection holdings are organized by the name of an individual or by the title of an organization and contain a variety of original and published documents created by the person or organization. The collections listed here have on line finding aids (lists detailing documents folder by folder). The documents themselves are not on line. There are dozens more collections on women peace activists during the World War I era with original documents, photographs, posters, and other items in the Peace Collection which do not yet have a finding aid or a digital presence online.

The Peace Collection is open to the general public throughout the year. See the full website at:

Resources at the Swarthmore College Peace Collection on women peace activists during World War I:

Jane Addams Collection and photograph exhibit
Fannie Fern Andrews Collected Papers
Emily Greene Balch Papers and photograph exhibit
Katherine Devereux Blake Collected Papers
Dorothy Detzer Papers
Anna Eckstein Collected Papers
Lella Secor Florence Papers
Rose Dabney Forbes Papers
Martha Freund-Hoppe Collected Papers and photograph exhibit
Anna Ruth [A. Ruth] Fry Papers
Henry Ford Peace Expedition Records
Jessie Wallace Hughan Papers
Edwin Mead and Lucia Ames Mead Papers
Tracy D. Mygatt and Frances Witherspoon Papers
New York Bureau of Legal Advice Collected Records
Jeannette Rankin Collected Papers
Rosika Schwimmer Collected Papers
Anna Garlin Spencer Papers
Helena Maria Swanwick Collected PapersWomen’s International League for Peace and Freedom Records: Woman’s Peace Party material (1915-1919) and photograph exhibit

Women’s Peace Society Records

See also the following pages on this site about resources from the Swarthmore College Peace Collection:

Conscientious Objection During World War I
Opposition to the War in the United States

Peace Congresses Leading Up to World War I
Quaker Civilian War-Relief in the Great War and its Aftermath, 1914-1922


Related Articles:

"Doing Her Best for Uncle Sam": WWI in Girls' Series Fiction

An overview of three girls' series books that had heroines who participated in the war effort at home and abroad.

Not Waiting for the Call: American Women Physicians and World War I

War has always upended women’s lives; left at the home front to care for their families and returning soldiers in a society where all of the usual economic and social structures have disappeared. But by the onset of World War I, women were poised to play a more active role than that of the homemaker struggling to hold families and some semblance of civil society together with diminished resources.

To Strike For Freedom: The 1916 Easter Rising and the United States

The United States played a critical role in the planning and aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising. This article examines the ways in which the Irish American community supported the Irish nationalists involved in the 1916 Rising with material, logistical, and moral support. Although the Easter Rising did not immediately result in the establishment of an Irish Republic, the assistance of the Irish American community helped the Irish nationalists establish an independent nation in the years following the Rising.


Last Modified: 2023-08-03 16:20:52