Women-Led Antiwar Movement of WWI

Jane Addams & fellow women delegates of the International Women’s Congress, 1915. Photo by Wikimedia Commons

By Jessie Mai Mitnick, age 12

During World War I, young men from all over the country were drafted into the war to fight. This left many women at home, living in fear of what could happen to their families and themselves. 

Although many women were against the war, some were torn, specifically suffragists, because the war — and the absence of men — brought on many advances in the societal roles of women. Facing this moral conundrum, the women’s antiwar efforts became divisive, with some radical women seizing the opportunity to prove themselves as equals, and others continuing to promote antiwar sentiment.

The Women’s Peace Parade on August 29, 1914, was a nonviolent parade of mourning and, according to Bowery Boys History, was one of the first antiwar protests led by women. Women dressed in black and silently marched from 58th Street to Union Square in New York City. At this time in history, parades and public forms of protest did not occur very often, especially ones led by women. Many people did not even understand the concept of a peace parade.

In 1915, more than 1,100 women traveled to Amsterdam and gathered at The Hague to propose a set of peace negotiations. This International Congress of Women, chaired by Jane Addams, co-founder of the Women’s Peace Party, proposed negotiations which were predominantly based on gender equality, social justice and human rights. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover called Addams “the most dangerous woman in America.”

Although their efforts to end the war were not successful, their movement has stayed relevant through time, as they not only developed different forms of politics, they also developed the politics of international cooperation and peace, according to History Today.

Conundrum: A confusing and difficult problem or question.
Divisive: Tending to cause disagreement or hostility between people.

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