Amy Woods to the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, United States Section, November 13, 1924 Also known as: Amy Woods to Jane Addams, November 13, 1924


November 13, 1924.

To The National Board of the W.I.L., Section for the United States.

Dear Members:

In place of the usual report of the Secretary, I am asking you to accept this letter and to place it on file with the other permanent records of the League.

I am prompted to do this by a letter of friendship which I have received this week from Mrs. Hull, our National Chairman, in which she speaks of "the misunderstandings." I hope that this letter will clarify my position in the minds of the Board and wipe out any misunderstanding which may have been developed by me.

The deferred action upon my resignation in March I full realized was based on emergency needs. The resignation which I asked you to act upon at the June meeting was presented because I realized that the unfortunate circumstances which developed at that time might leave the Board as well as myself in an embarrassing position after the Congress.

With the International Congress, the Pax Special and the Summer School successfully accomplished and all debts paid I could have left the work in June with a sense of satisfaction that we had weathered a difficult period by cooperative action in keeping with the principles of the League.

However, instead of accepting my resignation the members of the Board present asked me to accept a position of Field Secretary instead of National Secretary. This I declined. I was then asked to stay until October or December. This suggestion I also declined, as I felt any action but acceptance of my resignation or reaffirmation of the Board's confidence in me as National Secretary would place both the League and myself in an equivocal position since there had been malicious newspaper reports during the Congress of purported internal discussions in the League centering around me, which only positive action by the Board could [counteract]. Further action was deferred at this meeting because so many of the Board were absent (6 members present).

During the summer I received a letter from Miss Balch which owing to an unfortunate mistake in the writing of July for June and reference to an opinion of Miss Addams, left me no alternative but to write Mrs. Hull. A paragraph of my letter of August 3 to Mrs. Hull was as follows:

"You know that my interest is bound up in the principles of the W.I.L. I believe that with the undivided, cooperating working Board to formulate definite policies and ot aid and sustain the executive in carrying them out, the United States Section has perhaps the most strategic position in the United States, and perhaps in the world at this present moment to accomplish our program, but without unanimity, enthusiasm, and mutual confidence the Board I believe can do less than nothing. As it is self-evident that the first condition does not now exist, I have decided that my resignation offered in May holds, to take effect September 1." [page 2]

Soon after this Miss Balch visited me and later I visited Miss Addams and both mistakes appearing in Miss Balch's letter were discovered. No action had been taken by the Board in July as I had been led to suppose, and Miss Balch in her letter was referring to the unfortunate delay to the work because of the failure to obtain decisive action at the June meeting.

Miss Addams wrote me that she was "desolated" by my resignation. Mrs. Hull wrote "We (the Board) are united in the chief thing -- that we want you to remain with us. We realize that you will have to work in the place ↑in↓ which you feel you can best serve and we are having such confidence in each other that we know things will work their way through."

Miss Balch wrote me that we "were all being involved in a cob-web of misunderstandings which only you can brush away" and that the League needed me for many reasons which she named.

I wrote a letter to Miss Balch dated September 1 in which I agreed with her and said "it is absurd how words both written and spoken can sometimes involve us in such a burlesque of grievances." I offered to do my share to brush the cob-webs away.

We all wanted Miss Balch's help in the National work. It had been suggested in June that she give two days a week in an advisory capacity; I, therefore, outlined a plan which Miss Balch enthusiastically agreed to submit to the Board on September 12. It was in general: that the fall months Miss Balch and I should divide the work of the National Secretary, and the salary, each to give three days a week, later in the fall to secure an assistant or office secretary with ability to carry out the plans already formulated for the campaign on the Outlawry of War; I should be granted a leave of absence from January to April to visit South America, and after January first Miss Rankin should be engaged to speak on the Outlawry of War through the middle and far West.

Miss Balch presented the plan to the Board on the evening of September 12th. On the following day with Miss Balch absent because of sudden illness, the Board accepted my plan in emasculated form. That is, Miss Balch and I were to share work, time and salary until December 1, but without leave of absence for me. No explanation was given whether that meant that I could not be spared after December first or that the Board wished to terminate my engagement at that time.

Again the members present (five in number) felt that they were too few to reach a more permanent decision.

I felt that with Miss Balch absent and sick I could do nothing else but accept this plan without further question or comment.

I returned, therefore, to Washington to carry out this plan, but because of Miss Balch's health continued on full time to October 1 when she was well enough to take up half time work.

Miss Balch and I worked together for the first 17 days in October. The Board met in Washington on October 13. Mrs. Hull absent because of illness. (4 members only present -- 3 elected at the annual meeting, 2 of whom were present for the first time at any Board meeting.) [page 3]

It was voted that a quorum of the Board should consist of those members present; that my engagement with the League be terminated December 1, and that a committee of two be authorized to secure candidates to present to the November meeting of the Board.

In all instances ↑when↓ my tenure of office has been discussed I have not been present and no reasons for decisions have ever been given me. During the two years that I have been the National Secretary of the League, the Board never as a body nor through a committee has advised or criticized me in the method of carrying out the work. I am ignorant today of the real facts upon which this summary action has been taken. The rumors which have come to me unofficially are largely based, as nearly as I can judge, on false assertions or misunderstandings. 

My recent volunteer trip to the Branches in order to maintain the group interest until the Board should begin the winter's work and to gather pledges of contributions for the work of 1924-5 showed an eagerness to push forward our work, a readiness to respond to requests for funds and a friendliness toward me because of our closer intimacy at the time of the Congress and the Pax Special. The Branches are not aware of the action which the Board has taken, and everywhere there was an assumption that I was to have a leave of absence for my trip to South America and would be back in the spring.

I have given the above details at length because I think such a policy menaces the integrity of the W.I.L.

I am a member of the League and a contributor, as well as an employee of the Board, and I believe that this letter should receive as serious consideration of the Board as a letter from Miss Fisher on the Dawes Plan, the Protocol, or the methods of obtaining the outlawry of war.

The situation as it affects me personally is not the question. Its bearing upon the advancement of the work of women and of Peace organizations, particularly the W.I.L., I believe is serious. We stand for Justice and friendship and mutual understanding, economic freedom, open diplomacy based upon conference around a table, for mutual [goodwill] and cooperation.

I find myself asking, "Would this method of ours in the last year be acceptable in a Court of International Justice or a democratic League of All Nations?"

How could we have saved the present situation. Suppose in June or September or even October you had invited me to sit in with the Board and to have known the difficulties you were having; or suppose you had consulted with me about what you felt were the weaknesses of the administration of the work, perhaps those weaknesses could have been corrected and a greater bond of strength secured because of this mutual consideration of them. If they had proved irremediable mightn't we have worked out some plan like this: you would have accepted my resignation as of June 15 and acknowledging my [continuance] in office until December 1 have bid me god speed on my way to South America. [page 4]

Or perhaps you would have been still more generous and granted me the leave of absence which I asked with a tacit understanding between us that my resignation would be received again and accepted before my return. Then I could have gone with joy to South America proud to represent the Section for the United States, and we would have had the prestige of granting to our National Secretary a leave of absence to represent us in South America. The Board would have had time to test out our new worker and it would have given her an opportunity to assume her responsibilities in an orderly way and not to be plunged into haphazard work, three months after the season's work should have been underway. Best of all, it would have given the members of the League a chance to know that a change was contemplated and to feel that they were taken into the confidence of the Board and had been represented by its action.

I ask myself would not such method have presented a better front of solidarity of Peace to the strong opposing forces outside the League? Wouldn't it have conserved our financial, our nervous and our spiritual resources for the real work we have to do?

Please do not think this is a disagreeable "preachment." There is no value in going through such a wastage of energy unless we can profit by the experience.

I am frankly puzzled by it. I do not know what I have done or left undone in my two years with the League to have precipitated or to have justified the policy of the Board. These are questions I keep asking myself, and I ask you out of courtesy and comradeship to share them with me.

"Justice between Nations and between peoples can never be achieved without mutual understanding and goodwill."

Amy Woods [signed]

National Secretary

*Members present at these Board meetings:

June 13 Sept. 12 Oct. 18
Mrs. Hull Mrs. Hull
#Miss Balch Miss Balch Miss Balch
#Miss Blake Miss Blake
Mrs. Lewis Mrs. Lewis Mrs. Lewis
Mrs. Post Mrs. Post
#Miss Rankin #Miss Doty
#Mrs. Taussig

↑# Present at Board meeting for the first time.↓