Helena Lucy Maria Sickert Swanwick to Jane Addams, December 22, 1920

Women's International League


26 Lawn Crescent
Kew Gardens

Dear Miss Addams,

I have your interesting letter dated Nov. 30. I can't tell you how glad I am that it should be you at the head of this Commission. We want America to know the truth & we would like the best American people to express what they think about the truth. Public opinion alone can alter these hideous conditions & one wants the sober people to express their opinion. The wild ones have the ear of the press, but the others will be heard in time. But not unless they speak.

With regard to our formulating a statement to be put forward by the international officers of the W.I.L.P.F., I think we could do no other than say what we have already said in the summarized "Recommendations" at the end of the report of our mission. Your reprint is from an article I wrote for our news sheet. This was subsequently amplified & slightly modified by the other members of the mission & printed in a pamphlet which I enclose. They did not, however, alter my "four points," the last of which was also ratified by unanimous vote of our [page 2] Council meeting. So that it actually represents the considered opinion of the whole British Section. We sent it to Ireland & I am glad to say it was warmly welcomed by the Irishwomen's International League, as completely satisfying them. I enclose also ↑the last number of the News Sheet which "subs in" what we have to fear in the future.↓

We are not at present attempting to originate or cooperate with any movement for compromise & I think we shall probably keep out of such entanglements. We have no power but that of reason, so we have nothing to bargain with.

The Labour Party is calling a national conference on the 29th Dec. & I shall attend that as a party delegate. They, of course, have some power & they may decide to use it.

Before you get this, you will have seen Mrs Annot Robinson & Miss Wilkinson & have heard their story of how they nearly were held up altogether. It was difficult to know whether it was right for them to go but I am satisfied it was right to risk it. We sent [pars?] to all the English papers saying they would not be interviewed or make speeches on Ireland, so as to scotch lies before they could be uttered. [page 3]

I should have supposed that Miss Bennett & Miss Whittey would be valuable witnesses. They supported the policy of the ↑Irish↓ railwaymen in refusing to carry soldiers or munitions & they were consistent, from the passive resister's point of view. I am a brutally hard-headed person & see little purpose in passive resistance in the middle of an actively resisting world. The policy of the railwaymen was suiting the government, because it was enabling it to starve the Irish people & win their trade without shocking the British public. If the English railwaymen had struck it would have seemed to me worth while. But they won't. As I say, however, Miss Bennett was quite consistent & if you feel you can't carry munitions, why, you just can't. You will see that the Irish railwaymen have decided to yield. I don't think there is much left of the non-resistance policy -- we have killed that. There are desperate people & cowed people, -- ↑very few others left.↓

Your outline interested me -- I am glad you are concentrating on the economic revival of Ireland. The wickedness of the destruction of that slow growth is a nightmare. I hope you [page 4] will be seeing that touchingly beautiful character, Sir Horace Plunkett. I find him & his colleagues more illuminating & more heartbreaking than any. They embody the creative impulse which politics had nearly sterilized in Ireland.

I see Sylvia Pankhurst's name in your list. May I say that we all found her an extraordinarily foolish & untrustworthy person & that it would greatly discredit your commission in this country, if her name were connected with it. It is not the fact that she is "extreme" that matters; it is the fact that one has learnt by painful experience that one cannot trust her.

I will communicate with Margaret Bondfield. She is a little jewel. I wish you could have witnessed her electrify the Albert Hall audience whom Mr Asquith & the persons had nearly driven to desperation.

I have ventured to ask Miss Balch if she would suggest to the National Sections that we would welcome their public expression of their opinion on Ireland.

My love & good wishes for the New Year to you,

H. M. Swanwick.