Women's Peace Meeting, October 22, 1904



One of the most interesting gatherings of the International Peace Congress in Boston was the great meeting for women in Park Street Church.

Mrs. Lucia Ames Mead presided. She said in part:

"I am sorry that Mrs. May Wright Sewall, chairman of the Peace and Arbitration Committee of the International Council of Women, cannot be here tonight to take the chair. In her absence it falls to me to preside. Dr. E. E. Hale once said to me, 'When you have to make a speech, never pay any compliments, never make any apologies, never have any preliminaries, but begin.' I shall try to follow his three rules [tonight]. We are all here for definite business, and we have a definite, practical program. I hope we shall each of us go out from here as a missionary, not for general talk in behalf of peace, but to tell what definite, practical steps should be taken to bring it about.

"One day in England, during the Boer war, my husband and I were trying to get into Queen's Hall, and we found ourselves in an angry crowd which seemed ready to resort to violence, and we could not get in, and had to go away. Mrs. W. P. Byles, who will now speak to us, was inside the hall on that occasion, and Dr. Darby, who is also with us [tonight], found it hard to get away with a whole coat, because they opposed the Boer war."


Mrs. W. P. Byles of England said:

It is a wonderful inspiration to stand face to face with such an audience as this. That meeting to which Mrs. Mead has referred was the most electric peace meeting I ever saw. We had a roughish time to go through, but it was the making of the peace party in England. It weeded out the faint-hearted, and left thousands who knew the reason for the faith that was in them.

The shadow of that dreadful war in the Far East is over us [tonight], we have to find a way out.

I deplore any seeming separation between the interests of men and women, which are identical. I know this separate meeting for women is held only because three large halls are not enough to hold all the people who want to attend the Peace Congress. I feel that the solution of the problems that beset us can only come out of the upbuilding of a new type of national character, and in this upbuilding the part of the women is as necessary as that of the men. People say of the angels' song of "Peace on earth," "Oh, that song is written for angels. It won't do for men; it won't do for women." We need a change of heart. Nations and individuals alike are shipwrecked on conduct and character. In every nation, force and expense are our gods. We have to shape the new character and conduct. Dr. Johnson said that patriotism was the last refuge of a scoundrel. It is our duty, by voice and by vote when we have it, – we women, alas! have not, – to inculcate not he law of war, but the higher law of mutual aid and cooperation. Darwin's theory has been dwelt upon till it has grown [lopsided] in the popular mind. He did not merely assert the survival of the fittest. He also said that those communities flourish best that contain the greatest number of sympathetic individuals. When we fully realize this, it will make the world go round to a very different tune from that to which it has gone round for thousands of years.

My husband and I, in our journey through America, have been so glad to see no soldiers. Don't have any more, my friends; the present number is quite enough. Instead of military [maneuvers], we saw in Kansas City a wonderful fire drill that excited our amazement and admiration. Victor Hugo said that the only army recognized by civilization is the army of school-teachers; and with those you are better equipped on this side the great ferry than any other country, except perhaps little Switzerland. May you do your part – I fear you will have to do more than your part, to make up for those who don't do anything – to realize Victor Hugo's prediction that in the 20th century war would cease.

Mrs. Mead said: "You all know what Miss Jane Addams has done for the cause of industrial peace. After giving her address here, she is going down to be the only woman speaker at the great peace meeting of the labor organization in Faneuil Hall. She has written a new book, which Macmillan is about to bring out, called 'New Ideals of Peace.' Jane Addams needs no introduction."


Miss Addams said:

I am afraid our chairman forgot Dr. Hale's advice to pay no compliments.

The peace cause for a century has had friends and promoters in three lines: [page 2] First, preachers, like Channing. They appeal to the sense of righteousness, and preached peace as a dogma. It was a noble one, but dogma belongs more to the 18th than to the 20th century.

The second class is best represented by two great Russians. They appeal to pity. Tolstoy, in his enormous book "War and Peace," takes us through the whole war, not with the commanders, but with the common people – with a poor old man who does not understand very well what it is all about, and who is sure that if the French only knew what a good fellow he was, they would not try to kill him. [Vereshchagin], the artist, painted war as it really was. He also appealed to compassion.

The third class consists of those who appeal to the sense of prudence. They say, "Property is valuable, and has been gathered with groans and backache, and must not be wasted." Of these is De Bloch, and those who call attention to the fact that one first-class modern battleship costs as much as all the land and buildings of Harvard University.

Now we have come to a new century, and we ask if there is not something more dynamic than either of these three lines of appeal. I am very fond of Tolstoy, but I always wince when people call him a non-resistant. He longs to pour into the reservoir of moral energy all the force that now goes into aggression and resistance. We must drive people into the newer paths because they are so much more alluring than those of war. Suppose the British have gone into a virgin country to establish law and order, peacefully if possible, but, if necessary, by the bayonet. They may kill the most precious germs of some new contribution that these simple people were ready to make to civilization. If the soldier were a philosopher, he would try to develop the most delicate, most nascent thing in the world, a group of people coming together to form a government. The soldier is negative, impotent, old-fashioned. It is easy to kill a man; it is not easy to nourish him and develop him. We are not all going to march down one straight, ugly British or American road. War is negative, peace is positive and creative. War is the played-out thing. The last pit the devil digs for the feet of the righteous is to make them fear to turn aside from the old way when it is no longer righteous. The easy way, the traditional way is that of the Roman road, going in a straight line over and through everything; but if we had any moral enterprise, if we really believed in democracy (we don't trust democracy; every nation is setting up a little fort in Asia, if only by way of experiment), we might try letting the people develop in their own way. The result would not necessarily be Anglo-Saxon civilization, but it would be something very valuable. I wish I could fire young men and women with this new spirit. Let us get a multitude of young men who will say, "It is easy to go and trade where harbors have been swept clear by warships, but that is not what we want. We want to go and open markets by finding new needs and supplying them." This passionate idea of new world conquest begins in a few groups of people, and of course there are more such groups in Boston than elsewhere.

It is not much use to preach righteousness, pity, and prudence as incentives to peace. As the individual begins to show age when he loses the power of self-sacrifice, so a nation begins to show decline by the same sign. A nation, too, must be able to forget itself at high moments. We cannot afford to be too calculating and too careful of our national life, any more than of our individual life. The idea of youth is that the world is a theatre for noble action; and the nation that forgets itself, like the individual who forgets himself, will ultimately come out ahead.

Mrs. Mead said: When I said that a battleship like the Oregon costs as much as all the land and buildings of Harvard, I understated the case. It costs as much as all the land and buildings of Harvard, plus all the land and buildings of Hampton, plus all the land and buildings of Tuskegee.

Ruskin says one of the most dangerous things in fooling good people is "masked words." There are lots of them floating about in our pulpits and schools and over our teacups. "Colonies" is a masked word for "dependencies." When people are sent out of fill an empty country they are a colony. When you go to a country already full and annex it by force, you make it a dependency. Miss Dunhill will tell us about the condition of India as a dependency of Great Britain.

Miss M. E. Dunhill said:

Salaam! India's three hundred millions thank you for this great opportunity.

I have travelled all over India. What does a woman see in India? Seventy thousand young soldiers, and 13,000 fresh ones coming over every year. How long do they stay? Five years. What do they carry back? What the woman's eye recognizes – the results of State-regulated vice. They go back to England and Scotland with seed sown in their hearts that their mothers weep over, and with seed sown in their poor bodies which they never get rid of. But we are speaking not for the soldier but for the woman of India. What does it mean to her? You can hardly realize the horror that comes into her heart when she hears of State-regulated vice. Out of the 300,000,000 inhabitants of India, 250,000,000 cannot read; but they can read lives. No man is so prominent in India as the British [page 3] soldier. How does this affect the man of India? The canteen has come into India with British rule. Fifty years ago, in all India there was only one brewery. Now there are 24. The government brews 6,000,000 gallons of beer every year, and buys most of it for the soldiers, and they buy more for themselves. The man of India, whose average wages are two cents a day, sees this. The British soldier has on average only one hour's work a day. The rest of the time he wanders among the natives, and they look up to him and learn his ways. Look at this woman in the zenana. She has been shut up all her life. She is twelve years old and has two babies. She is the dear little shrinking child-mother of India. How does she drown her sorrows? In "wickedness water." She has seen the British soldier staggering by. Perhaps he is the only white man she has ever seen. The government gives the British soldier in India only one hour's work a day. What can he do but idle about, and drink, and do worse? In India even the grandmother has the heart of a child, and likes to play with dolls.

I represent only half the blood of the dominant race. I am a Eurasian. The natives look up to anyone who has even a drop of white blood.

We have spoken of the effect of militarism on the men and the women. How about the children? As a result of this military domination, a race of Eurasian children are growing up in the villages. The black mother never saw again the white military father. He has served his five years, and gone back to England and married. I appeal for these children. Oh, the burden of India! I am a national organizer for the World's W. C. T. U. Among these letters we write the Peace and Arbitration department – we write it in fourteen languages. I shall carry back reports of this Congress. In the W. C. T. U. we work under the banner of the Prince of Peace; and Christ is all in all.

Mrs. Mead said: I see in the audience two men bearing the name of Garrison. Their father was a contemporary and friend of Joseph Sturge. Sixty years ago he came here, and was the first man to suggest an International Congress. He was a friend of Whittier, Amasa Walker, and Sumner. His daughter is with us [tonight]. Her paper will be read by Dr. W. Evans Darby.

Dr. Darby said: I must disregard the excellent advice of Dr. Hale, and apologize for appearing here in the character of a lady.

Miss Sturge's paper recommended halls of peace – a beautiful idea, beautifully developed.

Dr. Yamei Kin of China gave a brief greeting. She said:

It is indeed a great privilege to meet you. I am a representative of one of the oldest nations, and one that has always stood for peace. I come to you in the pride of being a pure Chinese, and without a drop of the blood of the would-be dominant race. We, one of the oldest nations, look to you, the youngest nation, the flower of occidental civilization, to uphold the same ideal of peace.

Mrs. Mead said: Forty years ago Julia Ward Howe, then in the prime of her strength, conceived the idea of trying to arouse the mothers of the world against war. I am glad she began in the day of small things, and has lived to see the fruition of her labors. We do not want this effort to be forgotten.

Mrs. Howe's speech has already been published.

Rev. Dr. John Beckley said:

It seems only yesterday to me since the commanding and compelling voice that filled Tremont Temple and thrilled all hearts was that of the woman just back from the field, where she had been nursing the sick and wounded. We want the younger generation to look into her face. I ask the chairman to ask Mrs. Mary A. Livermore to rise and let the audience see her.

When Mrs. Livermore, who was not well enough to speak, stood up, the audience rose en masse, and greeted her with applause and waving handkerchiefs.

Miss Wilhelmina Sherriff Bain of New Zealand said:

The Maoris had many a splendid qualities, but they were full of the war spirit. Some fatal blundering brought about the war which now we all deplore. It might have been thought that we had had enough; but then came the Boer war. The country is still divided as to the rights of that whole miserable affair. In consequence of it, there are in New Zealand many sorrowful homes that once were glad. The farmers complained at the last harvest that they could not get suitable labor; and everywhere our beautiful horses are missed. Things in South Africa are worse than ever, and there is growing evidence of the futility of the war.

I represent the Woman's National Council of New Zealand. All along it has stood for peace and arbitration, and has tried to educate public opinion by lectures and debates on the subject; and every year at its annual meeting it urges gradual, simultaneous and progressive disarmament. In New Zealand we have proved the efficacy of arbitration. We have had no strikes or lock-outs for ten years. Any intelligent community which has found the good of arbitration in its domestic affairs will wish to extend it to the whole world.

Mrs. Mead said: "In a Christian audience like this, what we need is not [page 4] exhortation or inspiration, but information." She went on to make practical suggestions, which are largely embodied in the resolutions of the Peace Congress as to propaganda, published in another column. She read extracts from a letter received from Mrs. May Wright Sewall, and mentioned that the French were taking war pictures out of the schools, and that Prof. Ruyssen was getting up histories which emphasized peaceful instead of warlike achievements.

The closing address was by the Baroness Bertha von Suttner of Austria, author of "Lay Down Your Arms."

A. S. B.

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