The Women Who Tried to Stop the Great War: The International Congress of Women at The Hague 1915

The Women Who Tried to Stop the Great War: The International Congress of Women at The Hague 1915

John Paull (University of Tasmania, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4993-2.ch012

Abstract

The Congress of Women developed a roadmap for enduring peace. The women passed 20 resolutions including five resolutions which were “Principles of a Permanent Peace.” Theirs was a gendered response to a gendered war. The Congress was a bold and brave initiative. The war was not halted. But neither were the women in their quest for peace. This is their story.
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A Congress To End The War

The International Congress of Women was the major peace initiative of its day. The stakes were high, the odds were low. During the blood-letting of World War 1 (1914-1918), over a thousand women joined together to stop the war. The women came from neutral countries, from belligerent countries of both the Entente and the Central Powers, and from invaded Belgium. These women put their differences - and safety - aside and assembled at The Hague in 1915 (28 April to 1 May).

The Congress developed a road map for enduring peace. The women passed twenty resolutions of which five were “Principles of a Permanent Peace”. Theirs was a gendered response to a gendered war. “We women … protest against the madness and the horror of war, involving as it does a reckless sacrifice of human life and the destruction of so much that humanity has labored through centuries to build up”.

They declared that the Congress “protests vehemently against the odious wrongs of which women are the victims in time of war”. The Congress was conducted in English, French and German, yet they spoke with a united voice. Theirs was a voice of sanity flickering in a maelstrom of insanity.

Envoys were selected to carry their resolutions to “the rulers of the belligerent and neutral nations of Europe and to the President of the United States”. In the months that followed, these envoys of the Congress crisscrossed war-torn Europe pleading with political leaders to halt the madness.

The Congress was a bold and brave initiative. The war was not stopped. But neither were the women halted in their quest for peace. The voices of Congress participants have been mostly lost for a century. This is their story, revealing their hopes and fears, their aspirations, frustrations, and proposed solutions, told where possible in their own words and contextualized with other contemporaneous voices. This account includes the text of the twenty resolutions of the Congress.

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