International Women's Day: Remembering Wales' Peace Builders

On International Women's Day, 8 March 2016, Wales for Peace are spotlighting the central role women of Wales have played in the search for peace - and in preparing to mark the 90th Anniversary of the (May 1926) North Wales Peace Pilgrimage, WCIA are launching a call for communities and individuals to share these 'Hidden Histories'. 

The theme of IWD2016, #PledgeforParity, echoes the aspirations of women 100 years ago who were calling for universal suffrage - parity to vote. An 'International Woman's Day' was proposed in 1910 by German Socialist Luise Ziest, and was first marked on March 19 1911 primarily across the Austro-Hungarian nations with a focus on women's right to vote. It was first held on March 8th in 1914, as the clouds of WW1 loomed. In 1977 the date was adopted as the official United Nations International Womens Day.

Women in Wales and WW1

As the events of WW1 unfolded, the role of women in Wales and the wider UK was to change forever - culminating in 1918 in some women finally attaining the vote after many years of campaigning for women's suffrage (the right to vote). The contribution of women to the war effort, as well as to the anti-war campaign, was huge and unprecedented. The fight for suffrage and the experience of greater freedoms filling roles left by men whilst at the Front meant that women developed a confidence in their ability to influence the traditionally male domain of politics. Many found their voice through the numerous campaigns for peace that emerged as a response to the horror and loss of life of WW1.   

The Welsh Women's Appeal to the Women of America

Women's Petition Title.jpg

In 1923-4 390,296 women across Wales mobilised and signed a beautifully crafted petition to the women of America, asking them to use their influence to persuade the country to become a full member of the League of Nations, safeguarding peace for future generations. The binding of this inspirational petition has been held in the library of the Temple of Peace since it's opening in 1938 - but the petition itself is believed to have been sent to Philadelphia.

Wales for Peace are seeking volunteers and historians who might be able to help us uncover the story of the petition - and for any with American research contacts, the ultimate coup would be the rediscovery of the actual petition manuscript and the potential to reunite the two parts.  

"From an era long before internet or campaigning tools... What would it take today, to reignite such a passion for peace?" 

The 1926 North Wales Women's Peace March

On 26 May 1926, 2000 women from villages around the town of Penygroes in Caernarfonshire arrived at the market town carrying the blue flag of peace. This was the beginning of the Peace Pilgrimage; the group travelled 150 miles in cars and charabancs, holding 15 meetings including in the ruins of Conwy castle, in Colwyn Bay and Rhyl, before 'joining forces' at Chester with women from the North West to march on Hyde Park in London, where over 10,000 gathered.

‘We members and supporters of the Peacemakers’ Pilgrimage, believing that law should take the place of war in the settlements of international disputes, urge His Majesty’s government to agree to submit all disputes to conciliation and arbitration, and by taking the lead in the proposed Disarmament Conference of the League of Nations to show that Great Britain does not intend to appeal to force’

"Could we mark the 90th anniversary of the women's peace pilrimage this May 2016, by retracing the steps of our pioneering peace builders?" From Penygroes to Caernarfon, Bangor, Conwy, Bodelwyddan, Rhyl and Chester... we'd love to retrace the steps of this historic pilgrimage. If you would be interested in being part of recreating history, and creating a new history and inspiration for women peace makers - please get in touch with the Wales for Peace team (see details below)!

The Peace Pilgrimage led to the formation of the North Wales Women’s Peace Council, and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

Active Peace Heroes Today

Women continue to be at the forefront of Wales' peace movements today, through local peace and justice groups, movements such as Cymdeithas y Cymod, CND Cymru, the Quakers in Wales and Gwerin y Coed.

In September 2015, 4 Gwynedd women made national headlines for protesting against drone testing (unmanned reconnaisance and bombing aircraft) in Wales. 

And Welsh women are playing an active role in standing up for human rights and peace today, such as Wales for Peace's own Learning Coordinator Jane Harries who in 2015 travelled to Israel and Palestine as a human right monitor and produced this short film / learning resource on peace making.

Later in 2016, WCIA will be launching a Peace Heroes competition with schools across Wales, where young people will have the opportunity to nominate women

Call for Peace Histories

WCIA hopes over 2016-17 to build a comprehensive and openly accessible archive of Wales' Peace Heritage, and the role of women is central to that story. If you know of individuals, groups or stories from your community who could contribute to this we would love to hear from you!

Visit our Hidden Histories page and downloadable resources

E-mail walesforpeace@wcia.org.uk     

Ring 02920821051 (S Wales) or 01248 672104 (N Wales).

 

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