Women, War, and Babies, July 31, 1915

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Women, War, and Babies

President, Woman's International Peace Party

MANY women throughout the world have set their faces unalterably against war. This is our reason for our organization against war. I head a movement planned to unite womanhood, in all parts of the world, in a great protest against Europe's war. It is called the [Woman's Peace Party] and is international in scope. It began its existence at Washington, and is increasing in membership with astonishing rapidity.

As women we are the custodians of the life of the ages and we will not longer consent to its reckless destruction. We are particularly charged with the future of childhood, the care of the helpless and the unfortunate, and we will not longer endure without protest that added burden of maimed and invalid men and poverty-stricken women and orphans which war places on us.

We have [built] by the patient drudgery of the past the basic foundations of the home and of peaceful industry; we will not longer endure that hoary evil which in an hour destroys or tolerate that denial of the sovereignty of reason and justice by which war and all that makes for war today render impotent the idealism of the race.

Therefore we demand that our right to be consulted in the settlement of questions concerning not alone the life of individuals but of nations be recognized and respected, that women be given a share in deciding between war and peace.

Some of the objects we are working on to obtain, are limitations of armaments and the nationalization of their manufacture; organized opposition to militarism in our own country and education of youth in the ideals of peace; democratic control of foreign policies; the further humanizing of Governments by the extension of the franchise to women; "concert of nations" to [supersede] "balance of power;" action toward the gradual organization of the world to substitute law for war.

We also believe in the substitution of an international police for rival armies and navies; removal of the economic causes of war; the appointment by our Government of a commission of men and women, with an adequate appropriation, to promote international peace.

At the present moment women in Europe are being told: "Bring children into the world for the benefit of the nation; for the strengthening of future battle lines; forget everything that you have been taught to hold dear; forget your long struggle to establish the responsibilities of fatherhood; forget all but the appetite of war for human flesh. It must be satisfied and you must be the ones to feed it, cost what it may."

This war is destroying the home unit in the most highly civilized countries of the world to an extent which is not less than appalling. Could there be a more definite and dreadful illustration of the tendencies of war to break down and destroy the family unit? All such consequences of war mitigate against the age long efforts of woman to establish the paternity of her child and the father's responsibility for it.

In the interest of this effort the State has made marriage a matter of license and record, and the Church has surrounded it by every possible sanctity. Under the pressure of war, however, both of these institutions have in a large measure withdrawn their protection.

All that women have held dear, all that the Church has worked for and the State has ordered, has been swept away in a breath -- the hot breath of war -- leaving woman in her primitive, pitiable state of the necessity of [self-defense], without the strength with which to compass self-defense. So long as a State, through the exigencies of war, is obliged to place military authority above all civil rights, women can have within it no worthy place, no opportunity for their development, and they cannot hope for authority in its councils.

THOUSANDS of them in Europe, as in the United States had become so thoroughly imbued with the idea that the recognition of the sacredness of human life had at last become established, throughout the world, that the news of this war to them came as an incredible shock. Women are entitled in all justice to some consideration in this matter of war making, if only because they have necessarily been paramount in the nurture of that human life which is now being so lavishly spent.

The advanced nations know very accurately, and we have begun to know in America, how many children are needlessly lost in the first years of infancy. Measures inaugurated for the prevention of infant mortality were slowly spreading from one country to another. All that effort has been scattered to the winds by the war. No one is now pretending to count the babies who are dying throughout the villages and countrysides of the warring nations.

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