On 23 May 2023, over a hundred participants gathered at Aberystwyth University to mark the historic centenary of the Welsh Women’s Peace Appeal to America.
The conference, organised by Academi Heddwch in partnership with Aberystwyth’s Department of International Politics, was the launchpad for ‘Hawlio Heddwch‘, an 18 month project supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund Cymru to engage communities Wales-wide with the inspiring story of the 1923 Women’s Peace movement. The HLF project will be hosted by WCIA and overseen by Academi Heddwch in partnership with Heddwch Nain Mamgu, National Library of Wales, National Museums of Wales, Women’s Archive Wales, and the National Assembly for Wales.
‘The Proud Heritage of a Warless World’
Over the last year, a team of authors have been working together to research the story of the 1923 petition, co-authoring a book of 8 chapters due to be published through Lolfa in November 2023. The event programme was organised into 2 panels, with each author sharing their research and insights into aspects of the peace petition story form 1923 to today.
- Mererid Hopwood, Secretary of Academi Heddwch, set the scene including the conference of 1923
- Jenny Mathers, International Politics – context after WW1
- Catrin Stevens, Women’s Archive Wales – The Campaign in Wales
- Sian Rhiannon Jones – Mary Ellis and the Women of America
- Meg Elis, author and granddaughter of Annie Hughes Griffiths – the Peace Tour of the USA
- Eirlys Barker – The American Women’s movements and impact of the Appeal
- Annie Williams – the Welsh Women’s Peace movement through the 1920s-30s
- Craig Owen – Uncovering a Hidden History: Rediscovering the Petition
- Jill Evans – Inspiring Women’s Peace Activism, from CND to a New Generation
The event was filmed by students from Aberystwyth University’s Theatre Film & TV Department, and it is hoped to make the session recordings available over coming weeks.
NLHF: “Bring this Story to the Wider World”
Denise Lewis Poulton from the National Lottery Heritage Fund in Wales welcomed participants to the day, with a very personal appeal:
“It’s an incredible privilege for the Heritage Fund to play a part in helping you all to bring this story to a wider world, so everyone can enjoy the legacy and inspiration of these amazing Welsh women. Sadly, the need for peace and reconciliation is as urgent today as ever it was…
…Goodness, I hadn’t realised how emotional just having to say that would make me! Yet in the face of all, those women came together in an act of unity. My teenage daughter and I can’t wait to find out if perhaps our own relatives might have been involved. This really is heritage in action.”
National Library of Wales – Interactive Tour
Following the formal conference programme, participants had the oportunity to relocate to the nearby National Library of Wales to see the women’s peace petition for themselves – and to experience a uniquely interactive and participatory afternoon
Following the petition’s recent repatriation from the United States, the first exhibition display has been assembled at the head of the public gallery space, where the Memorial binding from Wales’ Temple of Peace has been reunited with the chest from America, and a selection of signed petition sheets from different parts of Wales.
Senedd Address by Llywydd, Elin Jones
The significance of the centenary conference was noted the following day with a 90-second statement on the floor of the Senedd, the Welsh Parliament, by Elin Jones MS for Ceredigion and Llywydd (Presiding Officer) of the National Assembly: Plenary 24/05/2023 – Welsh Parliament (assembly.wales).
“Here in this Senedd, we regularly debate petitions where 10,000 people or more have signed to support a cause. Imagine a petition of 390,296 signatures, all women, all signed by hand, from every community in Wales, and all collected exactly 100 years ago. This petition was kickstarted at a public conference on the women of Wales and world peace, which took place in Aberystwyth on Tuesday 23 May 1923, 100 years ago yesterday. The gathering was presided over by Mrs Annie Hughes-Griffiths, Chair of the Welsh League of Nations Union. The petition called on the women of America to join the women of Wales to ‘hand down to the generations which come after us, the proud heritage of a warless world.’
There were organising committees to collect signatures in every county, and, by early 1924, a delegation of four Welsh women had taken the petition to America on a two-month peace tour, and presented the petition to the US President, Calvin Coolidge. The petition was then kept in the Smithsonian museum, and its story disappeared from our national memory until very recently, and, with considerable effort by peace campaigners and national organisations, all seven miles of the peace petition papers have been returned for the centenary from the Smithsonian to the national library. The signatures will be digitised over the next few months and then we can check whether our mamgus or aunties signed that glorious petition for peace 100 years ago. And in the spring of next year, when we celebrate the centenary of the petition’s arrival in America, why don’t we debate on the floor of this Senedd the women of Wales’s peace petition of 1923 to 1924? It’s as relevant today as it was then.”Elin Jones MS, Llywydd