#AnniesDiary100: Southampton, ‘The Last Post’ – and the Women’s Peace Legacy

RMS Olympic sailing up the Solent – Wikimedia Commons

““A Diolch mawr am hynny – Rhyfeddol mor dda mae Duw wedi bod i ni heb anhap na ddamwain. Diolch lddo!”

Last entry in Annie’s Diary – reflecting her strongly Methodist upbringing – approximately translating to:

“It’s amazing how good God has been to us, without mishap or accident. Thanks be to Him!”

Thursday March 27th 1924

Page 62

Went on deck early & had lunch and dinner up there. Ship going very steadily. Read John Galsworthy’s. Mr John Davies very attentive [purser of the RMS Olympic, who had looked after Annie whilst very ill on the voyage home]. Sat up until nearly 10pm had better night. Ship’s run 511 miles. A little rusty & wet at night.

Friday March 28th 1924

Have sat indoors writing letters most of afternoon. This a.m Mr Jones took us round the ship. The kitchens, store rooms, first class accommodation etc. Getting nearer & nearer home a diolch mawr au hwey –“A Diolch mawr am hynny – Rhyfeddol mor dda mae Duw wedi bod i ni heb anhap na ddamwain. Diolch lddo!

Copied out article for S.W.D news – not very good.

*image of memorial cover*

Saturday March 29th 1924 – The End?

RMS Olympic dismebarking at Southampton Docks

Annie Hughes Griffiths American Diary ends with her entry of 28th March – the day of arrival back in the UK must have been busy and exhausting, and perhaps ‘back to normal’ for a woman of Annie’s incredible industry! On 29 March 1924. the RMS Olympic sailed passed the Isle of White and the Solent to dock in Southampton, from whence Annie would have caught the boat train home to London and her eagerly awaiting husband Peter Hughes Griffiths and son Thomas Iorwerth Ellis, then approaching his 25th birthday.

And this, our friends and followers, sadly is the end of Annie’s Diary from 1924 – as she disembarked the Olympic and made her way homewards, and into history. Annie indeed had her own 51st Birthday to look forward to a few weeks later (having been born 5 April 1873) – she had certainly made the most of her 50th year, into which had been crammed the entire Women’s Peace Appeal to America from inception in Aberystwyth, a campaign engaging 390,296 women, the 2 month peace tour of America, wordwide media profile and triumphal return to Wales and the WLNU, of which she became President.

There continued to be considerable press coverage of the Women’s Peace Petition to America, with many ‘retrospectives’ articles exploring the impact of the movement on Wales’ standing in the world – examples of which can be explored in the WLNU’s Press Cuttings book which remains in the WLNU Archives at the National Library, Aberystwyth and is digitised on People’s Collection Wales (below):

WLNU Press Cuttings from the 31 March South Wales News, reflecting on the achievements of the women’s peace tour. Explore more on People’s Collection Wales at: https://www.peoplescollection.wales/items/1886471…

What happened next? Legacy of the American Peace Tour

In the weeks following their return, Annie alongside her Peace Delegation partners Elined Prys and Mary Ellis were in tremendous demand to give talks about their remarkable ‘Peace Tour’ of America. Annie’s was the ‘spotlight address’ 2 months later at the Welsh League of Nations Union conference in Aberystwyth, where she was elected to become President of the WLNU.

US President Calvin Coolidge with delegates of the 1925 ‘Conference on the Causes and Cure of War’ in Washington

There she read out first responses from the women of America, in which they committed to establishing a ‘Conference for the Cause and Cure of War’, as a token of their gratitude for the efforts of the Welsh women who had vefy much inspired the coming together of US movements invlving over 18 million women.

The Welsh League of Nations Union Annual Report for 1925, ‘Wales and World Peace’ applauded the efforts of the Women’s Delegation, and carried a ‘letter of response from America’ (image 8 in scan / page 12 of yearbook) from Mrs Carrie Chapman Catt, President of the National American Women Suffrage Association, following their first Conference on the Cause and Cure of War. (RH)

Held in 1925 by 9 organisations (representing 5 million American women) who were initially brought together for the Welsh Women’s Peace Petition delegation visit, the initial CCCW conference was so successful they were held annually until 1941. After WW2, the work of CCCW continued as the ‘Committee for Education on Lasting Peace’.

The following year, in 1925, their actions also inspired the Churches of Wales to address a similar memorial petition to the Churches of Christ in America, which was presented in December 1925 to their gathering in Detroit by Rev Gwilym Davies of the WLNU.

In July 1926, such was the profile of Wales’ peace building efforts on the world stage, that the WLNU organised and hosted at Aberystwyth University the World Congress of the International Federation of League of Nations Societies (IFLNS) – with Annie herself presiding over a number of sessions, and photographed in the local press sharing a car with the German Ambassador Count Bernstorff (RH), who would later write that this event was one of the most profound experiences of his diplomatic career.

In 1928, Wales hosted a group of American Women Peacemakers who joined forces with Welsh women to campaign on the Kellogg Pact.

In 1931, women of Wales alongside WLNU members nationwide reignited the flame of the petition, by gathering signatures for a World Disarmament Memorial presented in January 1932 to Arthur Henderson as Chair at the nopening of the World Disarmament Conference in Geneva.

In 1935, 1,025.040 people (yes – over a MILLION!) – across Wales signed up to the ‘Peace Ballot‘ – which has been dubbed the UK’s first referendum – which posed searching questions about how Britain should respond to the escalating situation across Europe and reinforcing the role of the League of Nations in settling disputes.

In 1938, women were at the forefront of the opening of Wales’ Temple of Peace on 23 November 1938, the honour being performed by Mrs Minnie James of Dowlais on behalf of ‘war bereaved mothers of Wales and the World’.

And then tragically, in September 1939, World War 2 broke out – shattering their dreams ‘of a warless world’.

However, out of the ashes of the secodn world war, emerged the United Nations. And there is another remarkable story to be told of the quite incredible role that Welsh Peacemakers played in ‘Uniting Nations’, shaping the foundations of this global institution – the organs of which did not energe from nowhere. Many of UN bodies were based upon proposals dreamed up – but considered in the 1920s-30s politically impractical – by the campaigns of peace makers in Wales, America and elsewhere. Rev Gwilym Davies, Hon Director of WLNU, wrote the constitution of UNESCO from Gregynog in Powys. And the staff of the nacent Temple of Peace were secondeed to organise the first UN General Assembly, the opening programme for which has more than a slight Welsh flavour: it reads like an Eisteddfod schedule!

And perhaps even more remarkably, on the American side of the Atlantic, many of the individuals touched by the 1924 peace petition campaign, were playing highly influential roles in US Government – including one Walter Kotschnig, whom Elined Prys had got engaged to in New York at the end of their ‘Peace Tour’ who by then was working with the US State Department, and a key figure ‘behind the scenes’ in US leadership of the new United Nations.

So whilst some might argue the the Women’s Peace Petition didn’t seem to have the success they sought – America had not signed ujp to the League of Nations in the 1920s as they hoped, and remained isolationist in world affairs even into the first years of WW2 – the true impact of this incredible story is to be seen two decades later, in the international insttitions that endure to this day.

Whilst the United Nations has not been able to prevent war completely in the 75 years since the UN’s founding, it remains the neraest thing our world has to an institution enshrining 390,296 Welsh Womens’ dream…

…to hand down to the generations who come after us, the proud heritage of a warless world.”

Women’s Petition to America Peace Declaration, 1924

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Explore Further:

Cant Diolch – A Hundred Thanks!

WCIA would like to give a heartfelt thankyou to Dr Eirlys Barker and colleagues from Heddwch Nain USA for their tremendous inputs throughout the course of sharing Annie’s Diary 100, filling in fantastic and previously unpublished details of the ‘American side’ of the story as they toured the states of America with the ‘Welsh Peace Message’. We also extend thanks to the descendents and family of Elined Prys, Annie’s co-delegate on the Peace Tour, who shared and gave permission to use Elined’s 1924 letters form the Kotschnig Family Archive. Diolch am Galon!

Annie Jane Hughes Griffiths some years after the Women’s Peace Tour of America – from the TI & Mari Ellis Papers at National Library of Wales (Annie’s son)
Click to order the Book, ‘Yr Apel’ by Lolfa Publishing