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Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

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Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
TypeNon-Governmental Organization

The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) is a non-profit non-governmental organization working "to bring together women of different political views and philosophical and religious backgrounds determined to study and make known the causes of war and work for a permanent peace" and to unite women worldwide who oppose oppression and exploitation. WILPF has national sections in 37 countries.

The WILPF is headquartered in Geneva and maintains a United Nations office in New York City.

Organizational history[edit]

"Peace issues discussed with president, Washington, D.C. Sept. 30, 1936. Delegation from the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom leaving the White House today after discussing peace issues with President Roosevelt. The women plan to campaign during the month of October. In the group, left to right: (front) Miss Dorothy Detzer, recently returned from the world Peace Congress in Brussels; Mrs. Hannah Clothier Hull, President of the League; Dr. Gertrude C. Bussey, of Goucher College; Mrs. Ernest Gruening. Back row, left to right: Mrs. Frank Aydelotte, of Swarthmore, Pa., and Mrs. Mildred S. Olmstead, who just made an expensive trip through the West and Middle West speaking on the need for peace"

WILPF developed out of the International Women's Congress against World War I that took place in The Hague, Netherlands, in 1915 and the formation of the International Women's Committee of Permanent Peace;[1] the name WILPF was not chosen until 1919.[2][3] The first WILPF president, Jane Addams, had previously founded the Woman's Peace Party in the United States, in January 1915, this group later became the US section of WILPF.[4] Along with Jane Addams, Marian Cripps and Margaret E. Dungan were also founding members. The British Maude Royden remained vice president of the international WILPF.[5] As of 1920 the US section of WILPF was headquartered in New York City.[6] Marian Cripps, Baroness Parmoor, who later served as president of its British branch.[7][8] Richard J. Evans described the founders of WILPF as "a tiny band of courageous and principled women on the far-left fringes of bourgeois-liberal feminism".[9]

Furthermore, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom is opposed to wars and international conflicts. The major movements of the league have been: open letter to UN secretary general to formally end the Korean War, a statement on weapons and an international day for the total elimination of nuclear weapons, gender-based violence and women human rights defenders.

Woman's Peace Party (US)[edit]

A forerunner to the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, the Woman's Peace Party (WPP) was formed in January 1915 in Washington, D.C., at a meeting called by Jane Addams and Carrie Chapman Catt. The approximately 3,000 women attendees approved a platform calling for the extension of suffrage to women and for a conference of neutral countries to offer continuous mediation as a way of ending war.

WPP sent representatives, among them the hounralist and novelist Mary Heaton Vorse, to a subsequent International Women's Congress for Peace and Freedom, held in The Hague from April 28–30, 1915.[10]

International Congress of Women, The Hague, 1915[edit]

The 1915 International Congress of Women was organized by the German feminist Anita Augspurg, Germany's first female jurist, and Lida Gustava Heymann (1868–1943) at the invitation of the Dutch pacifist, feminist and suffragist Aletta Jacobs to protest the war then raging in Europe, and to suggest ways to prevent war in the future. The Congress opened on April 28,[11] wound up on May 1,[1] and was attended by 1,136 participants from both neutral and belligerent nations.[12] It adopted much of the platform of WPP and established an International Committee of Women for Permanent Peace (ICWPP) with Jane Addams as president. WPP soon became the US Section of ICWPP.

Second International Women's Congress for Peace and Freedom, Zürich, 1919[edit]

Jane Addams met with President Woodrow Wilson and is said to have worked out some common ground on peace. However, at their second international congress, held in Zürich in 1919, ICWPP denounced the final terms of the peace treaty ending World War I as a scheme of revenge of the victors over the vanquished that would sow the seeds of another world war. They decided to make their committee permanent and renamed it the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.[4] WILPF moved its headquarters to Geneva to be near the proposed site of the League of Nations, although WILPF did not endorse empowering that organization to conduct food blockades or to use military pressure to enforce its resolutions. The League called for international disarmament and an end to economic imperialism.[4] The US branch of WILPF grew in recognition and membership during the post-WWI era, despite some attacks on the organisation as "unpatriotic" during the First Red Scare.[4] The WILPF supported treaties such as the Washington Naval Treaty and the Kellogg-Briand Pact, regarding them as stepping stones to a peaceful world order.[4]

Later work[edit]

During the 1930s, Vera Brittain was the WILPF's Vice-President.[13] Prior to the outbreak of World War Two, the League also supported measures to provide relief for Europe's Jewish community.[4] Two WILPF leaders have received the Nobel Peace Prize for their peace efforts and international outlook and work with WILPF: Jane Addams, in 1931 and Emily Greene Balch in 1946.[14] During the 1960s and 1970s, WILPF was involved in the Anti-war movement and worked to free political prisoners, such as Mrs. Ngo Ba Thanh, a Vietnamese activist and the leader of the Vietnamese Women's Movement for the Right to Live.[15]: 109–110, 126 [16]: 90 

Although WIPLF membership is restricted to women, several male peace activists have contributed to WIPLF meetings and publications, including Bart de Ligt[17] and J. D. Bernal.[18]

As long term supporters of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, Inter Parliamentary Union, League of Nations, International Labour Organization, International Peace Bureau and United Nations, they remain a flagship organisation in the Peace Movement.

WILPF and the United Nations[edit]

WILPF has had Consultative Status (category B) with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) since 1948 and has Special Consultative Relations with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), as well as special relations with the International Labour Organization (ILO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and other organizations and agencies. WILPF has advocates and lobbies for the democratization of the UN, the Security Council, United Nations Disarmament Commission and all other UN organizations and agencies; monitors Security Council and General Assembly activities in order to promote reforms; opposes the privatisation and corporatisation of the UN, especially the global compact with corporations; and advocates for the abolition of the Security Council veto.

WILPF today[edit]

A Women's International League for Peace and Freedom banner at a counter-recruitment event in 2005

Mission and vision[edit]

Work areas

  • Building the movement
  • Redefining security
  • Leveraging feminist perspectives on peace
  • Promoting socio-economic justice[19]

Broad areas of concern are:


The Women in Peace and Security Programme (WIPSEN or "PeaceWomen") was founded in 2000. It monitors the UN's work in field of women, peace and security, taken part in advocacy and outreach.[21][22] WIPSEN-Africa was founded in 2006 by Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee, Nigerian activist Thelma Ekiyor, and Ecoma Bassey Alaga, and is based in Ghana.[23][24][25]

Notable members[edit]

WILPF's list of members include Jane Addams, Dorothy H. Hutchinson, Gertrud Woker, Aletta Jacobs, Alice Walker,[26] Coretta Scott King,[27] Madeleine Rees, Madeleine Zabriskie Doty, Cornelia Ramondt-Hirschmann, Rosamond Jacob, Selma Meyer, Brandy G. Robinson, Margaret Hills (née Robertson), Sheyene Gerardi, Shina Inoue Kan, Harriet Connor Brown, Emily Greene Balch, Kathleen Innes, Else Zeuthen, Madeleine Rolland, Lucy Biddle Lewis,[28] and Lena B. Mathes.[29]

Congresses and Congress Resolutions[edit]

WILPF's international records are held at the University of Colorado Boulder. They contain the reports of the congresses.[30][failed verification]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Paull, John (2018) The Women Who Tried to Stop the Great War: The International Congress of Women at The Hague 1915, In A. H. Campbell (Ed.), Global Leadership Initiatives for Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding (pp. 249-266). (Ch.12) Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
  2. ^ Bussey, Gertrude; Tims, Margaret (1980). Pioneers for Peace. Women's International League for Peace and Freedom 1915-1965. Oxford: Alden Press.
  3. ^ Women, peace and transnational activism, a century on History and Policy (2015)
  4. ^ a b c d e f Faith, Thomas I. (2014). "Women's International League for Peace and Freedom". In Wayne, Tiffany K; Banner, Lois W (eds.). Women's Rights in the United States: a comprehensive encyclopedia of issues, events, and people. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. pp. 272–3. ISBN 978-1-61069-214-4.
  5. ^ Grenier, Janet E. (2004). 'Courtney, Dame Kathleen D'Olier (1878–1974)'Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
  6. ^ Harriet Hyman Alonso (1993). "Former Suffragists for Peace during the Interwar Years, 1919-1935". Peace As a Women's Issue: A History of the U.S. Movement for World Peace and Women's Rights. Syracuse University Press. pp. 85–124. ISBN 978-0-8156-0269-9.
  7. ^ Oldfield, Sybil (2004). Ellis, Marian Emily. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/56644. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
  8. ^ "Sir John Lavery Portrait of The Lady Parmooor Oil on canvas, 76 x 64cm (30 x 25) Signed". Retrieved 6 January 2013.
  9. ^ Evans, Richard J. (1987). Comrades and Sisters: Feminism, Socialism and Pacifism in Europe, 1870–1945. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 130.
  10. ^ Garrison, Dee (1989). Mary Heaton Vorse : the life of an American insurgent. Internet Archive. Philadelphia : Temple University Press. pp. 15–16. ISBN 978-0-87722-601-7.
  11. ^ Charlotte, Bill. "These Dangerous Women". Voices of War and Peace.
  12. ^ van der Veen, Sietske (22 June 2017). "Hirschmann, Susanna Theodora Cornelia (1871-1957)". Huygens ING (in Dutch). The Hague, The Netherlands: Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands. Archived from the original on 30 August 2017. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
  13. ^ Deane, Patrick (1998). History in our hands: a critical anthology of writings on literature, culture, and politics from the 1930s. London: Leicester University Press. pp. 63–4. ISBN 978-0-7185-0143-3.
  14. ^ Ford, Liz (27 April 2015). "Centenary Stand: Female Activists Head for The Hague to Set a New Peace Agenda". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  15. ^ Frazier, Jessica M. (2017). Women's Antiwar Diplomacy during the Vietnam War Era. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-1-4696-3178-3.
  16. ^ Nguyen, An Thuy (March 2019). "The Vietnam Women's Movement for the Right to Live: A Non-Communist Opposition Movement to the American War in Vietnam". Critical Asian Studies. 51 (1). Milton Park, Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire: Taylor & Francis: 75–102. doi:10.1080/14672715.2018.1542522. ISSN 1467-2715. OCLC 7965329217. EBSCOhost 134057139. Retrieved 21 October 2023.(subscription required)
  17. ^ de Ligt, Bart (July 1929). "The Intellectual Class and Modern Warfare". Reconciliation. (Speech originally given at WIPLF conference in Frankfurt-am-Main).
  18. ^ Swann, Brenda; Aprahamian, Francis (1999). J.D. Bernal: a life in science and politics. London: Verso. p. 234. ISBN 1-85984-854-0.
  19. ^ admin. "Our Vision". WILPF. Retrieved 2020-01-19.
  20. ^ admin. "Our Global Programmes". WILPF. Retrieved 2020-01-19.
  21. ^ "About Us". PeaceWomen. 2014-11-28. Retrieved 2020-01-19.
  22. ^ "PeaceWomen is growing!". WILPF UK. 2019-03-07. Retrieved 2020-01-19.
  23. ^ "Founders". WIPSEN-Africa.org. Retrieved 2020-01-19.
  24. ^ Gbowee, Leymah; Mithers, Carol (2011). Mighty be our powers: how sisterhood, prayer, and sex changed a nation at war: a memoir. Sydney, N.S.W.: HarperCollins Publishers. p. 202. ISBN 978-0-7322-9408-3. OCLC 755039363.
  25. ^ "Nobel Laureate Has Close Links to CJP – Peacebuilder Online". emu.edu. Retrieved 2020-04-18.
  26. ^ "Women's International League for Peace and Freedom [WILPF] Records, Accessions from 2000-2013, Swarthmore College Peace Collection". www.swarthmore.edu. Retrieved 2017-09-19.
  27. ^ "Women's International League for Peace and Freedom [WILPF] Records, Accessions from 2000-2013, Swarthmore College Peace Collection". www.swarthmore.edu. Retrieved 2017-09-19.
  28. ^ "Mrs. Lucy Lewis, Pacifist, Dies". The Philadelphia Inquirer. 1941-01-15. p. 18. Retrieved 2023-01-18 – via Newspapers.com.
  29. ^ "Mathes, Lena Boyce Mays (1861-1951) · Jane Addams Digital Edition". digital.janeaddams.ramapo.edu. Ramapo College. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  30. ^ "WILPF Collection (DG043)". Swarthmore College Peace Collection. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  31. ^ a b "WILPF RESOLUTIONS - 30th congress" (PDF). Retrieved 2023-09-28.
  32. ^ WILPF 33rd International Congress, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 2022, Wikidata Q120174513, archived from the original on 1 July 2023

Further reading[edit]

  • Alonso, Harriet Hyman. Peace as a Women's Issue: A History of the U.S. Movement for World Peace and Women's Rights Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1993.
  • Alonso, Harriet Hyman. "Nobel Peace Laureates, Jane Addams and Emily Greene Balch: Two Women of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom." Journal of Women's History 7.2 (1995): 6-26. excerpt
  • Balmer, Brian. "'Science was digging its own grave': the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and the campaign against chemical and biological warfare." The Nonproliferation Review 27.4-6 (2020): 323-341. online
  • Beers, Laura. "Bridging the Ideological Divide: Liberal and Socialist Collaboration in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 1919–1945." Journal of Women's History 33.2 (2021): 111-135. excerpt
  • Blackwell, Joyce. No peace without freedom: race and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 1915-1975 (SIU Press, 2004) online
  • Boutilier, Beverly. "Educating for peace and co-operation: the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in Canada, 1919-1929" (PhD. Diss. Carleton University, 1988) ProQuest Dissertations Publishing,  1988. ML46296.
  • Bussey, Gertrude, and Margaret Tims. Pioneers for Peace: Women's International League for Peace and Freedom 1915-1965. Oxford: Alden Press, 1980..
  • Cochran, Molly. "Activism and International Thought: The Women's International League of Peace and Freedom and the Problem of Statelessness in the Interwar Period." Global Studies Quarterly 3.1 (2023): ksad011. online
  • Confortini, Catia Cecilia. "Doing Feminist Peace: Feminist Critical Methodology, Decolonization and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), 1945–75." International Feminist Journal of Politics 13.3 (2011): 349-370. online; also see online book eview
  • Foster, Carrie A. The Women and the Warriors: The U.S. Section of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 1915-1946. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1995.
  • Foster, Catherine. Women for All Seasons: The Story of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1989. online
  • Hensley, Melissa Anne. "Feminine Virtue and Feminist Fervor: The Impact of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in the 1930s." Affilia 21.2 (2006): 146-157. online
  • Kreider, Angela.  "To love all that pleases: Autobiography, dialectic, and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 1919–1939" (PhD thesis, Emory University; ProQuest Dissertations Publishing,  2004. 3142158).
  • Kuhlman, Erika. "The 'Women's International League for Peace and Freedom' and Reconciliation after the Great War." in The Women’s Movement in Wartime: International Perspectives, 1914–19 (Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2007) pp. 227-243. online
  • Materson, Lisa G. "Sisterhood, Ideology, and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom: Formulating Policy on the Arab-Israeli Conflict During the 1960s and 1970s." UCLA Historical Journal 14 (1994). online
  • Meerse, Katherine C. "Peace Activism and Social Justice: The Minnesota Branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 1939–1940." Peace & Change 23.4 (1998): 500-513. doi.org/10.1111/0149-0508.00101
  • Meyer, Mary K. "The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom: Organizing Women for Peace in the War System." in Gender Politics in Global Governance (1999): 107-21. online
  • Rupp, Leila J.: "Transnational Women's Movements," European History Online, Mainz: Institute of European History, 2011.
  • Saunders, Malcolm. "The early years of the Australian section of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom: 1915/1949." Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society 82.2 (1996): 180-191. online
  • Schott, Linda Kay. Reconstructing Women’s Thoughts: The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Before World War II (Stanford University Press, 1997). online
  • Sharer, Wendy B. "The persuasive work of organizational names: The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and the struggle for collective identification." Rhetoric Review 20.3-4 (2001): 234-250. doi.org/10.1080/07350198.2001.9683384
  • Vellacott, Jo. "A place for pacifism and transnationalism in feminist theory: the early work of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom." Women History Review 2.1 (1993): 23-56. online
  • Wiltsher, Anne (1985). Most dangerous women: feminist peace campaigners of the Great War (1. publ. ed.). London: Pandora Press. ISBN 0863580106.
  • Woehrle, Lynne M., Patrick G. Coy, and Gregory M. Maney. "The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and the Challenges of Intersectionality Praxis." Peace & Change 41.3 (2016): 273-301. doi.org/10.1111/pech.12159

Primary sources[edit]

  • Women's International League for Peace, and Freedom. International Congress of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. No. 5 (1926) online.

External links[edit]