War and Society, March 7, 1915



Miss Addams on War --

Jane Addams spoke at Smith College recently on the subject, "War and Society." Miss Addams said in part:

"Women have a special place in this war. The trail of the battle affects the lives of the women and children more than the real battle affects the lives of the men. The first record which England made was made before any battle had been fought by the English. It was made while the regiments were getting ready. This shows that the [infant] mortality leaped up higher than [it] had for ten years. Lately a law [has] been passed in France which [says] that illegitimate children are as [of] much use as any children for [war] purposes. The baskets for [foundlings] have been placed in the [churches] again. It means that the [domestic] life, the basis of society, is to [be] broken surreptitiously for the sake of war. Women in Europe are beginning to organize for the [purpose] of staying the evil consequences. They are aiming to discover [three] things, namely what has happened, how to change it, and how to prevent future war. [page 2]

"Let me turn back to the immigrants. I remember during the Balkan War the priests blessed [200] young Balkans one Sunday before they set out for their country. On the same day, a group of Bulgarians marched down the street. Here were two sets going to fight each other. When the survivors returned one of them showed us pictures which he had taken and told us incidents he had experienced. Both pictures and incidents were horrible, but he told the tales and exhibited photographs with the utmost unconcern. We had lost out in the sensibilities of that man. It makes us feel that we here have a vested interest in the sensibilities and thoughts of men. If we cannot stand up and make good, no one else can do it. We might almost say no one else is fitted as we are to do it.

"Some of us have dared to believe that there are hopes for international reconciliation. Why not? If we say this war is not a war of differences, it is no reason why it should not be settled by a court. If Russia needs a warm water port; if Germany needs a seaport for the outlet of her great supplies, why not judicate?

"Women, in the third month of the war, met in Stockholm and sent out to their sisters of the belligerent nations words of sympathy. Later a group of women met in Switzerland. Some of these women were from the countries at war. They said: 'We cannot speak at home. Here, however, we will tell you of some of our terrible experiences.' [page 3]

"Not long ago a number of women in America met in Washington and organized a woman's peace party. We decided that if earthly peace is to be secured anywhere a group of people must begin to think of those things which bring peace. All but one foreign minister in Washington received the message which we formulated and sent it to the women abroad. The last cablegram in answer came from Amsterdam. It begged us not only to organize public opinion but also to speak out boldly. If the same diplomats and high officials make peace who declared war, no woman can live with a sense of security, for she knows hostilities may break out at any time.

"The bulk of society have said that war was passing, that peace would come about in the natural course of events. But evolution in society depends on the human will and on human energy. Scientists and philosophers will never yield to the storm of nationalism. We have looked in vain during this war for a thinker who would say the word beyond the battle. One after another the scholars have put themselves to the task of self-justification, one of the lowest tasks which exists. It seems as if everything were so disturbed that there is nothing on which to depend. Women, however, will continue to understand each other and to sympathize and when all is over they will hold together. [page 4]

"Among the immigrants in this land, the Poles help the Italians and the Russians help the French, for they are all so poor that they cannot stop for race differences. On this knitting of human experiences we shall have to depend in this crisis. I beg of you at this time to acquaint yourselves with the literature of peace, not only with the literature of arbitration, but also with documents such as David Starr Jordan writes. It has been said 'the nations in war cannot lift up their heads, but what in heaven's name is the matter with the neutral nations?' Why is it harder to make a United States of Europe than a United States of America? In the early days Virginia did not love Massachusetts, nor did the religious sects live in concord. People were afraid to carry their cases to the supreme court. Is it that America is so afraid now that it has had its experiences, that it is going to let the world go its own way?"

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