For International Women’s Day, March 8 #IWD2020 – under the global theme #EachforEqual – WCIA is remembering the achievements of some of Wales’ most remarkable peacemakers… a whole generation of Welsh women who, after WW1, took action for global peace and equality through the 1923 Welsh Women’s Peace Petition to America. Signed by 390,296 women Wales-wide in an extraordinary door to door campaign, ‘a petition 7 miles long’ (according to the press of the time) remains in a great oak chest at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington to this day. On Monday 9 March, the Welsh part of the Peace Petition will be publicly displayed at the Senedd for the final WW100 ‘Cymru’n Cofio / Wales Remembers’ event.
In particular, WCIA are celebrating the contribution of inspiring Welsh Internationalist Annie-Jane Hughes Griffiths – known to history until recently as ‘Mrs Peter Hughes Griffiths’ – who led a delegation of Welsh women to America in Feb-March 1924 to present the Petition to President of the United States Calvin Coolidge. Annie wrote a diary of their 2 month ‘Peace Tour’ of the US, which was recently rediscovered in the archives of the National Library of Wales.
Annie’s Diary offers an unprecedented and rich first hand account of the Welsh Women’s Peace Petition, in the pen and the ‘voice’ of the 1920s women who made history, and has been made available through WCIA and the National Library of Wales both as a digitised resource and as a transcript by volunteers (for further research and development), along with press cuttings from the time gathered by the Welsh League of Nations Union.Women's Peace Petition Resources Page Download / Print Booklet 'Inspired by Annie'
Over the course of 2014-19, the story of the Petition has been gradually uncovered by volunteers, researchers and community groups; and for #IWD2020, WCIA have drawn together a dedicated webpage , with research and resource updates from the last 12 months including:
- The Peace Petition Memorial itself, digitised from display in the Temple of Peace.
- Annie’s Diary – view digitised pages of Annie’s Diary, held in the National Library of Wales collections.
- Transcription ‘Book Club’ – draft transcript by volunteers, for future development.
- Press Cuttings from 1924
- County Organising Committees for the Welsh Women’s Peace Petition Campaign of 1923.
- Wales’ Peace Schools scheme and Classroom Resources
- ‘Inspired by Annie’ Peacemakers Feature article
A short film has been produced by Tracy Pallant and Amy Peckham of Valley & Vale Community Arts, capturing the experience of WCIA’s ‘Book Club’ volunteers in transcribing and unveiling Annie’s Diary from her 1924 trip to America. This opened the doors to many new insights and areas of research – including Doctoral Research on the Welsh League of Nations Union by Swansea University, and cross-curricular learning resources and projects by Alaw Primary School in the Rhondda – and so the story continues to evolve.
The Petition in Wales was organised by the Welsh League of Nations Union – forerunners of today’s Welsh Centre for International Affairs – for whom Wales’ Temple of Peace and Health was dedicated in 1938. With WW2, the Petition itself became somewhat forgotten – a ‘hidden history‘ – until the beautiful binding of the Memorial was ‘found in plain sight’ in the Temple Archives in 2014, when scoping ideas for the WW100 Wales for Peace project.
The first International Women’s Day occurred in 1911, supported by over one million people; IWD has been formally celebrated by the United Nations since 1975, and adopted as a UN Day since 1977. Explore the history behind International Women’s Day here.
“IWD is about celebrating women’s achievements, raising awareness and taking action for equality. The IWD 2020 campaign theme is drawn from a notion of ‘Collective Individualism.’ We are all parts of a whole. Our individual actions, conversations, behaviors and mindsets can have an impact on our larger society. Collectively, we can make change happen.
We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world. A gender equal world can be healthier, wealthier and more harmonious – so what’s not great about that?” International Women’s Day website
In Wales, through the Women’s Equality Network, #IWD2020 events are being coordinated nationwide.
For IWD 2019, WCIA supported Gwynedd Museums and Heddwch Nain Mamgu to display our Women War and Peace Exhibition in Storiel, Bangor over Feb-April 2019. The exhibition has also travelled to Swansea, Criccieth, Caffi Croesor, and the Senedd in Cardiff over 2017-19. When not on loan to local venues, the Women War & Peace exhibition – produced by WCIA with photojournalist Lee Stow – can be viewed in Wales’ Temple of Peace, or as part of WCIA’s regular ‘Temple Tours and Open Doors‘ days. These also spotlight WCIA’s wider work on Women Peacemakers, such as Minnie James and the Mothers of Peace (the ‘war bereaved mothers of Wales and the world, who opened Wales’ Temple of Peace in 1938); and the anti-nuclear Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp of the 1980s-90s.
Whilst World War Two may have eclipsed the ambitions of the Welsh Women’s Peace Petition, the post-WW2 United Nations was the realisation of so much the interwar generation of women peacemakers had campaigned for. Over 2020-24, WCIA will be marking UN75, the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations, by marking contributions of Welsh men and women to post-WW2 internationalism and human rights, and to anti-nuclear campaigning.
Alongside this, it is WCIA’s ambition to celebrate the forthcoming Centenary of the Petition in 2023-24 through drawing the many and varied contributions of community groups Wales-wide together; alongside working with others, including the Smithsonian, to digitise and / or reunite the chest of signatories from America, with the Memorial Declaration and archives in Wales – and to share this remarkable story of women’s empowerment and leadership in international affairs with Wales and the world.
Visit Heddwch.Cymru or email WalesforPeace@wcia.org.uk if you would be interested in getting involved either as a WCIA supporter, community partner organisation, or archives researcher / volunteer writer.