Women, War and Peace

Women in Wales & WW1     Suffragists Movement & Right to a Voice      1924 Womens Appeal to America    1926 Womens Peace Pilgrimage: North & South Wales     Women of the World and Wales' Temple of Peace      Womens Campaigning between the Wars      Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp      Welsh Women Peacebuilders Today     Women War & Peace Exhibition      Contributing Hidden Histories     'Heddwch Nain/Mamgu' Campaign, 2018-25

Women in Wales and WW1

As the events of WW1 unfolded, the role of women in Wales and the wider UK was to change forever - culminating in 1918 in some women finally attaining the vote after many years of campaigning for women's suffrage (the right to vote). The contribution of women to the war effort, as well as to the anti-war campaign, was huge and unprecedented. The fight for suffrage and the experience of greater freedoms filling roles left by men whilst at the Front meant that women developed a confidence in their ability to influence the traditionally male domain of politics. Many found their voice through the numerous campaigns for peace that emerged as a response to the horror and loss of life of WW1.   

The Suffragists Movement: Right to a Voice

6th February 2018 marked the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, culmination of generations of campaigning for the vote to be extended - not just to women, but also to working class men returning from war. Even though it would be another 10 years till equal voting was extended to women in 1928, the impact of the suffragettes and suffragists movements was to secure the right to a voice for future generations - and one that would be built upon by Peace Campaigners through the 1920s (below).  

Through 2018 WCIA look forward to supporting the Welsh National Opera's forthcoming tour exploring the story of suffragette and activist Lady Rhondda, and how the right to a voice has inspired peace builders and ordinary citizens from WW1 to today to campaign for a better world.   

The Welsh Women's Peace Appeal to America

Women's Petition Title.jpg

Read our Peacemakers Feature Article 'Inspired by Annie: The Welsh Women's Peace Petition to America'.

Blog Feature: Those Marvellous Women: Welsh Women’s Petition For Peace

In 1923-4 390,296 women across Wales mobilised and signed a beautifully crafted petition to the women of America, asking them to use their influence to persuade the country to become a full member of the League of Nations, safeguarding peace for future generations. The binding of this inspirational petition has been held in the library of the Temple of Peace since it's opening in 1938 - but the petition itself was presented to the President of the United States, Calvin Coolidge, and then lodged with the Smithsonian Institute in a great oak chest - which rediscovered in 2017. 

Wales for Peace are seeking volunteers and historians who might be able to help us uncover the story of the petition - and for any with American research contacts, the ultimate coup would be the rediscovery of the actual petition manuscript and the potential to reunite the two parts. 

The 1926 Women's Peace Pilgrimage

On 26 May 1926, 2000 women from villages around the town of Penygroes in Caernarfonshire arrived at the market town carrying the blue flag of peace. This was the beginning of the Peace Pilgrimage; the group travelled 150 miles in cars and charabancs, holding 15 meetings including in the ruins of Conwy castle, in Colwyn Bay and Rhyl, before 'joining forces' at Chester with women from the North West to march on Hyde Park in London, where over 10,000 gathered.

‘We members and supporters of the Peacemakers’ Pilgrimage, believing that law should take the place of war in the settlements of international disputes, urge His Majesty’s government to agree to submit all disputes to conciliation and arbitration, and by taking the lead in the proposed Disarmament Conference of the League of Nations to show that Great Britain does not intend to appeal to force’.

The Peace Pilgrimage led to the formation of the North Wales Women’s Peace Council, and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

90th Anniversary of the Women's Peace Pilgrimage

In September 2016, for international peace day, WCIA and women peace activists from across North Wales marked the 90th anniversary by inviting Gwynedd communities to join a re-enactment of the women's peace pilgrimage, a women's peace march for today. A memorial slate plaque, funded by HLF and Wales for Peace, was unveiled on the 'South of France', the old Slate Quay on the waterfront outside the walls of Caernarfon Castle; and an exhibition celebrating Gwynedd's peace heritage was displayed in Oriel Pendeitsch throughout Autumn 2016, as part of the programme of community events accompanying the Poppies: Weeping Window sculpture.       

View the original Pathe footage from Caernarfon Castle of the women's peace pilgrimage.

View a short clip of the 2016 Women's Peace March.

View Flickr album of the Oriel Pendeitsch Peace exhibition.

Discover more about the Caernarfon Peace Trail.

Calling Volunteers and Community Groups: there was also a South Wales Womens Peace Pilgrimage from Swansea in 1926 - a hidden history about which little is known! It is referenced in WILPF records and writings of suggragist and peace campainer Maude Courteney. Could you help WCIA uncover the story behind this?

Women of the World open Wales' Temple of Peace

Wales' women's movements were instrumental in the creation of the WW1 Book of Remembrance, campaigning and fundraising for the construction of Wales' Temple of Peace to house the book.

In 1938, Minnie James of Dowlais, accompanied by women representatives from across the world, opened the door to the Temple, dedicating it "to the memory of those gallant men and women who gave their lives in the war that was to end war... This building may come to be regarded by the people of Wales as a symbol of our determination to strive for justice and peace in the future." 

Women's Peace Campaigning between the Wars - Useful References


Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp - the March from South Wales

Women continue to be at the forefront of Wales' peace movements, through local peace and justice groups, activism and societies such as Cymdeithas y Cymod, CND Cymru, the Quakers in Wales and Gwerin y Coed

From 1981 until 2000, Welsh women played a leading role in the Greenham Common Peace Camp in Berkshire, protesting against nuclear weapons. Wales for Peace have been working with school groups to facilitate 'intergenerational learning' projects between ex-Greenham activists and young people today, through schools in Gwynedd, Rhondda and Cardiff.

Welsh Women Peacebuilders Today

In September 2015, 4 Gwynedd women (right) made national headlines for protesting against drone testing (unmanned reconnaisance and bombing aircraft) in Wales. 

Welsh women are playing an active role in standing up for human rights and peace today, such as Wales for Peace's own Learning Coordinator Jane Harries who rergularly travels to Israel and Palestine as a human rights monitor. 

Women, War and Peace Exhibition, 2017-18

Over 2017-18 WCIA have been delighted to work with international photojournalist Lee Karen Stow to produce a Welsh tour of her renowned exhibition "Women, War and Peace" (previously debuted at Liverpool Museum). This builds upon WCIA's work to date with Welsh communities uncovering women's histories from the 1920s peace movements, and launching a memorial to the North Wales Women's Peace Pilgrimage. Through Lee's photographic exhibition and interviews with Welsh women today, '#WomenWarPeace' brings some of these individual stories alive. 


Portrait Photos: Lee Karen Stow

Contributing 'Hidden Histories' on Women, War & Peace

WCIA hopes to continue building a comprehensive and openly accessible archive of Wales' Peace Heritage, and the role of women is central to that story. If you know of individuals, groups or stories from your community who could contribute to this we would love to hear from you.

In particular, we are seeking volunteers to help WCIA find out more about the South Wales Womens Peace Pilgrimage from Swansea in 1926 - a hidden history about which little is known. It is referenced in WILPF records and writings of suggragist and peace campainer Maude Courteney. Could you help uncover the story behind this?

Visit our Hidden Histories page and downloadable resources, or email walesforpeace@wcia.org.uk.

'Heddwch Nain / Mamgu' Campaign

A world-wide campaign is being launched in 2018 to commemorate thousands of women who signed a peace petition following the First World War. The ‘Heddwch Nain/Mam-gu’ (Grandmother’s Peace) launch will be held to celebrate International Women’s Day on 8th of March, with the photography exhibition 'Women, War and Peace' and workshops at Oriel Caffi Croesor, Croesor, Snowdonia. MORE
Photo: Lee Karen Stow

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