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Women peace delegates aboard the ship where Rozsika Schwimmer spoke

Women Resist War

At the Quaker Meeting House on 2 May, there was an event themed around women who resisted the First World War, shining a light on those women who aren’t widely known yet, whose stories form part of the wider history of the war. John Enefer writes.

Rozsika Schwimmer

Rozsika Schwimmer

Local activist Gabriel Carlyle spoke about Rozsika Schwimmer, a Hungarian feminist who, before women even had the vote, sailed to America and met with US president, Woodrow Wilson to discuss the conflict. Carlyle described the packed meetings she spoke at during a tour of America, as she tried to mobilize support for mediation to end the war.

Emily Hobhouse

Emily Hobhouse

Carlyle also spoke about Emily Hobhouse, an English Welfare Campaigner who became well known when she exposed British concentration camps in the Boer War and who undertook a secret one-woman-peace-mission to Berlin at the height of World War One. Gandhi described her as ‘one of the noblest and bravest of women.’

Historian Ann Kramer gave a short talk about the No Conscription Fellowship (NCF), an organisation which campaigned against conscription and offered support to men imprisoned for refusing the draft for reasons of conscience or political convictions. She explained that, as more and more men involved in the NCF were ‘marched off to prison’, the organisation came to be run by women. She highlighted ‘an extraordinary conference’ in The Hague attended by well over a thousand women from 12 different countries in 1915. The conference lasted for three days and afterwards, delegates went to governments all across Europe trying to advance the cause of peace.

Alice Wheeldon (source unknown)

Alice Wheeldon (source unknown)

Local artist and Peace News co-editor, Emily Johns spoke about the impact the First World War had on Alice Wheeldon and her family. The family was involved in anti-war activity and gained worldwide notoriety when they were alleged to have plotted to kill Prime Minister Lloyd George by the bizarre method of blowing poison darts at him.

Emily Johns related that the family was entrapped by a man who had been working for a branch of the government’s secret service, but posed as a conscientious objector. The man was a convicted blackmailer and had twice been declared criminally insane. After a short trial, Alice Wheeldon, one of her daughters and her son-in-law received prison sentences, including hard labour. Alice Wheeldon died a couple of years later. Her great grand-daughters are now trying to clear her name with the support of a number of solicitors and a local history group in Derby, where she lived.

During the evening, local choir Las Pasionarias gave a spirited rendition of songs connected to the First World War, including All the Fine Young Men by Eric Bogel.

After the meeting, Emily John’s said: ‘It’s important to remember and commemorate the people who resisted the First World War, because to stand up against the war machine takes a vast deal of courage and it isn’t just the young men in the trenches who displayed bravery and suffered.’

The event was organised by Hastings Against War.

The group will be holding another public meeting, titled ‘Responses to Trump’, at the Quaker Meeting House, 5 South Terrace, Hastings, on June 6th, beginning at 7.00pm.


People who attended the Hastings Against War meeting

Posted 08:06 Tuesday, May 9, 2017 In: Grassroots

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