Like the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR), the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) began out of the horrors of the First World War. It also grew from the first wave of international feminism. As women in Europe and North America were struggling for the vote (suffrage) and equal rights with men, they also were leading the way to more just and compassionate societies. Many of the women involved in the struggle for women’s rights had also been part of the movement to abolish slavery and some were still struggling for equal rights for minorities. Many were working to end child labor and for better housing and working conditions for the poor. They also worked for international peace. In fact, it was widely believed at the time that women would more likely vote for peace and against war–this was an argument many feminists themselves used–that femalWhioe suffrage would transform the world because women were more naturally just and compassionate and peaceful than men. (This belief in female moral superiority was also used by men to argue AGAINST female suffrage.)
While subsequent history has proven that women are just as fallen and sinful as men are, it is true that the early feminists were also campaigners in many moral and social causes, and none more so than the budding peace movement of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Thus, the eruption of the First World War in 1914 was seen as a horror and a huge mess by many of these leaders. True, some women rallied round the flags of their various nations–reverting to nationalist militarism–and others, like Alice Paul, used the contradictions of a supposed “war for democracy” when women did not have the vote to put pressure for passage of women’s suffrage. But for many of the leaders of this first wave feminism, stopping the war became the most essential cause of their lives.
The war began in August 1914. In April, 1915, some 1300 women from Europe and North America, both from countries at war with each other and from neutral countries, gathered for a Congress of Women at the Hague in the Netherlands. They were responding to the call of Dr. Aletta Jacobs, M.D., a Dutch suffragist and feminist, who urged that women concerned for peace come to the Hague. The purpose of the Congress of Women was to protest the killing then raging throughout Europe–which would soon spread to Europe’s colonies in Asia and Africa and would draw in the United States as well. The Congress issued some 20 resolutions: some short-term such as calls for cease fire and resolution by binding arbitration from neutral parties, and others with more longterm goals–to lay the foundations to prevent future wars and produce a world culture of peace. They called on all neutral nations to refuse to join sides in the war, to pressure the belligerant nations to cease fire and to pledge to help solve their differences through binding arbitration. They called for a league of neutral nations (an idea that U.S. President Woodrow Wilson would later use in his argument for a League of Nations–in fact, most of Wilson’s 14 point peace plan came originally from the Congress of Women’s 20 resolutions!).
At the end of the Congress, the women elected small teams of delegates to take the messages of the conferences to the belligerant and neutral states of Europe and to the President of the U.S.A. These delegations managed to visit 14 countries (during wartime!) between May and June 1915. They also decided to form themselves into a permanent organization with an international headquarters and national branches. This beginning of WILPF was first called the International Women’s Committee. They elected Jane Addams (1860-1935) of the U.S.A. as the first president of the Congress and as the delegate to Pres. Wilson. Addams was already famous throughout North America and Europe as a pioneer in what today would be called social work and community organizing. (See Hull House.) Addams had been raised a Quaker, though her father had served in the U.S. Calvary and was a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln. The adult Addams left her Friends meeting, tried for a time to be a Unitarian (because of their greater acceptance of male/female equality), but eventually became a baptized member of the Presbyterian Church. She had been elected to the Chicago City Council on a reform ticket. Upon returning to the U.S. from the Hague, she not only presented the views of the Congress to President Wilson (who, as I said, “borrowed” heavily from them when he formed his own peace plan), but formed the Women’s Peace Party to try to keep the U.S. out of the war.
When the U.S. entered the war in 1917, the rights of pacifists and conscientious objectors were greatly trampled. Speaking out against the war was prosecuted as treason, as was counseling draft resistance or even refusal to promote the buying of war bonds! Freedom of the press and speech were greatly curtailed–even ignored–during the war fever. Addams, who continued to protest the U.S. involvement in the War, did not end up in jail as so many, but she had her passport revoked and lost much of her prestige, attacked in the press. She was kept a virtual house prisoner for some time. Addams’ younger associate, Emily Greene Balch (1867-1961) lost her post as Professor of Sociology at Wellesley College due to her refusal to support the war or sign a loyalty oath. Other International Women’s Committee women in other countries faced similar or worse hardships, some even being thrown into prison for the duration of the war.
When the war ended in 1919, the International Women’s Committee attempted to be true to its promise to hold a parallel Congress to the official peace meetings of the belligerant nations. Because the French government would not allow German delegates to meet in France, the IWC’s Congress met not at Versailles as they’d planned, but in Zurich, Switzerland. A small number of women “ran shuttle” from the Zurich meeting to the governmental deliberations at Versailles–though they do not seem to have made much of an impact. The Treaty of Versailles was so brutal in its treatment of Germany and other defeated nations that historians widely credit it with sowing the seeds of the rise of Naziism and the Second World War. The Women’s Congress denounced the terms of the Treaty of Versailles as revenge of the victors and correctly predicted that it would lead to another global war. They decided to make the International Women’s Committee permanent, called it the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and stated its purpose as “to bring together women of different political views, and philosophical and religious backgrounds, to study and make known the causes of war and to work for a permanent peace.” That remains the purpose of WILPF to this day.
In 1922, WILPF tried to get the League of Nations to convene a World Congress to renegotiate the Treaty of Versailles at a “Conference on a New Peace.”
In 1924, correctly seeing the development and global sale of arms as a major cause of war, WILPF worked to mobilize scientists to refuse to work on weapons of war or on projects funded by the military.
In 1927 WILPF first went to China and Indochina, moving beyond the European and North American scope of its concerns.
In 1931, first WILPF president Jane Addams, now in failing health, was belatedly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but she was too ill to travel to Oslo to receive it. (Addams would finally die in 1935.)
In 1932, WILPF delivered over a million signatures for complete global disarmament to a disarmament conference.
From 1940 to 1945, WILPF found ways to aid victims of fascism, Naziism, and Japanese imperialism.
In 1946, WILPF was at the founding of the United Nations and pushed for the concept of mutual security–urging that security be based on justice and freedom from want, rather than on military might and prestige. WILPF gained official UN status as a non-governmental organization (NGO) at that founding meeting of the UN.
In 1946, Emily Greene Balch, first International Secretary of the WILPF, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1958, WILPF sent missions to the Middle East. In 1961, WILPF convened the first of many meetings between American and Soviet women to break down the barriers of the Cold WAr.
From 1963 onward, WILPF was a major force urging an end to the Vietnam War, undertaking investigative missions to North and South Vietnam. In 1971, they went to Chile, where the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) had just toppled the elected government of Salvador Allende and installed military dictator Pinochet, to investigate Pinochet’s human rights abuses.
From Northern Ireland to the Middle East to East Timor, WILPF has been a force for peace. With an International Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, WILPF has a UN Office in NYC, and national “Sections” on every continent except Antartica. There are 36 national Sections in all. WILPF works on peace, disarmament, racial justice, economic justice, environmental health, the democratization of the United Nations (especially the reform of the Security Council), defense of human rights. It also pushes for greater roles for women in negotiating peace treaties since women and children are often disproportionally affected by war and conflict. And it recruits young women peacemakers for the next generations.
As WILPF approaches 100 years of work (2015), it’s vision is still that of its founding:
- the equality of all people in a world free of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia.
- the guarantee of all to fundamental human rights including the right to sustainable economic development
- an end to all forms of violence: rape, battering, exploitation, military intervention, and war.
- the transfer of world resources from military to human needs, leading to economic justice within and between nations
- world disarmament and the peaceful arbitration of conflicts through the United Nations.
The U.S. Section has a Jane Addams Peace Association (JAPA) that focuses on peace education among children.
In addition to Nobel Prize winners, Addams and Balch, WILPF has had numerous amazing members and leaders including Coretta Scott King, Phyllis Bennis (whom I suggested as Under-Secretary of State for the Middle East, though no one took me seriously), Evelyn Peak, Dr. Elise Boulding, and many others. I urge women who read this blog to check out WILPF and its national sections and men to pass this page on to the powerful peacemaking women in your life.
Women continue to make progress in Baptist life around the world–everywhere except the increasingly far-right and cultic Southern Baptist Convention. My friend Dan Schweissing reports that back on 01 March of this year, Margarita Campos became the first woman ordained to the ministry in CHILE. See his full report here. In the ’90s such firsts happened in Nicaragua, Cuba, and Bolivia. At the turn of the millenium, such firsts happened in several Eastern European nations. Meanwhile, a Southern Baptist “scholar” blames wife abuse by conservative Christian men on the supposed failure of women to submit to their husband’s “God-given authority” quickly enough.
For the sake of my daughters, I rejoice constantly that, although I remain a Baptist from the (U.S.) South, I have long since ceased to be a Southern Baptist. My daughters have grown up knowing that their mother is an ordained Baptist minister (and formerly a pastor), having a woman for a pastor, women as over half of the diaconate in the congregation. They worship in a congregation of several racial/ethnic groups (at one time, we had 5 separate racial/ethnic groupings in the membership, though “whites” remain the numerical majority) and with out gay and lesbian Christians. A congregation that works hard to be accessible to its members in wheelchairs and which contains a wide diversity of education levels. We have to let middle-aged white men like myself preach at least twice a year just so the children know that it’s allowed. 🙂
I just worry that they won’t be able to find many congregations like this when they go off to university. But the news from Chile suggests that things are changing all over the globe. Hallelujah.
Last night CBS’ famed 60 Minutes weekly newsmagazine aired an excellent segment by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, “War Against Women in the Congo.” It concerns the systematic use of rape against women and children in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The tragedy of the Darfur region of the Sudan is horrid and should not be underplayed, but it gets far more coverage in the U.S. than the horrors in the DRC–even though both the United Nations and Human Rights Watch conclude that what is happening in the DRC is the worst human rights tragedy in the world, currently. Further, although women have been raped in all wars, this is the most systematic use of rape as a weapon of war anywhere–making even the rape camps during the Balkans civil war which broke up Yugoslavia in the ’90s or the rapes in the Darfur refugee camps now look small in comparison. DAILY GANG RAPE is now the norm–and reaches children as young as 3 and women in their ’90s–and is leaving entire villages traumatized.
The video is disturbing and not for the squeamish. We need to make ending this a high priority of the U.S. State Dept. and the U.S. and international human rights groups and campaigns.
The blog, Texas in Africa, run by a Texas poli-sci grad student whose dissertation is on Congo’s health system and who has spent considerable time in Africa, has regular updates on all matters African, especially Congo related. Texas in Africa is a pseudonymn for a young Baptist woman (a graduate of Baylor University, Yale, University and now finishing her Ph.D. at the University of Texas, Austin) who also lived for some time in Kenya. One can also find good information on the crisis in Kenya by regularly reading her blog.
News of the Weird: Southern Baptists are still growing ever more cultlike and farther away from anything resembling mainstream Christianity–even mainstream EVANGELICAL Christianity. The proof is in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s new “homemaker” degree program. You can’t make this stuff up. Here is the debate on “Fox & Friends” (itself a strange world) between Dr. Paige Patterson, President of SWBTS, and Dr. Robert Parham, Executive Director of the independent Baptist Center for Ethics on “Should Women Stay at Home?” Two white males debating the role of women. TOO weird for words.
Pat McCullough & Jim West have started discussions on how few “biblio-blogs” (blogs mainly concerned with biblical studies) are run by women—an even greater imbalance than the female to male ratio of female biblical scholars. Thanks to their efforts, at least I know of some more female biblio-bloggers than I did yesterday. I will be updating my blog-roll to reflect this. Check Pat’s site for a beginning list. If you know of others (or are a female biblioblogger), tell either Pat or Jim (the latter can get you more traffic) or even me. And encourage your biblical studies-minded female friends to BLOG.
This imbalance is also seen in the dearth of women who have theology blogs. Female pastors with broadly pastoral blogs can be found in the blog-ring RevGalPals. And Christian (and Jewish, etc.) women with personal blogs that sometimes or regularly speak to broadly religious themes are far more common. But academically-oriented theology blogs run by women are fairly rare–despite the growth of feminist theology and female theologians in both ecclesial and academic posts. In some Ivy League divinity schools the number of female students is actually larger than male students and this has been true for over a decade. So, I am not entirely certain why this is not reflected in the “blogosphere”–unless it just means that the women are (a) too busy having real lives, (b) too busy writing BOOKS instead of blogging.
Here are the few female-run theology blogs of which I am aware. If you know of others, let me know.
Cynthia Nielsen, an adjunct instructor in philosophy and graduate student in philosophy, has a great blog called Per Caritatem. The focus is usually on Medieval theology and philosophy of religion–and the synthesis in the Middle Ages was so close that the line between those disciplines was very blurred.
Parables is the personal blog of a Mennonite theology student (and subject of an upcoming Peace Blogger interview), Abigail Miller, using the nom de blog, “espiritu paz,” or Spirit of Peace. She blogs on many subjects, but theology is definitely in the mix.
Pam Garrud (Pam BG) is a British Methodist “probationer minister,” originally from the U.S. PamBG’s Blog often contains theological reflections. She also has a separate book blog where she is currently blogging through Stephen Sykes’ The Story of Atonement. (Pam will also be interviewed in the Peace Blogger interviews as soon as I can get them going again.)
Maggi Dawn is an Anglican priest and a published author on theological topics.
Sister Bloggers is a group blog of Catholic and Anglican nuns (women religious), novices, and those discerning a possible calling in that direction. As they put, they are women, hear them blog. 🙂
Talk with the Preacher is the blog of Rev. Amy Butler, Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Washington, D.C. She gets into theology from time to time.
Musings from the First Year Out (previously called “Musings Out of the Seminary Fog”) is the blog of a young female Baptist pastor and recent graduate of Duke Divinity School now working somewhere in Maryland.
Peace Pastor is Donna Simon’s blog. She is, by her own description, “a typical vagabond lesbian Lutheran pastor,” and the pastor of Abiding Peace Lutheran Church, North Kansas City, KS.
Sarah Conrad Sours, a candidate for ordination in the United Methodist Church and a Ph.D. student in Christian ethics has an apt-named blog, Christian Ethics, Ph.D. I just discovered her blog. Considering my own doctorate is in theological ethics, I shall be checking her blog out often, I think.
An anonymous female Quaker philosophy teacher runs the interesting blog, Embracing Complexity. She calls herself a contemplative scholar, which sounds like a good combination to me.
Any others? These are all I have discovered. If you know of other theology-related blogs by women let us know. And if you know of women theologians you can hook on blogging, try that, too. 🙂
UPDATE: I forgot about Locust Years–Pilgrim 2.0 which is the blog of an anonymous woman using the name “Pilgrim at First and Lake.” She seems to have been an attorney and is now entering a Ph.D. program at Duke University in Christianity in Antiquity–so, her blog also crosses into biblical studies (New Testament). However, she blogs infrequently, so I am not sure whether her blog will remain active in her grad program.
Thom Stark (of Semper Reformanda fame) let me know of Donna Claycomb, UMC pastor in Washington, D.C. with the blog, Words from Washington. It looks good, but the title is rather ominous considering the shape Washington, at least OFFICIAL Washington, these days. I mean, imagine you lived in 1st C. Palestine and received “Words from Rome!” Or, for that matter, suppose you lived in contemporary Palestine–you would hesitate to read a blog entitled “Words from Tel Aviv,” and would probably think, “What NOW?!” But give Donna a chance–we can’t all have blogs with great titles.
UPDATES FROM THE COMMENTS:
1) A blog that regularly includes theology is Weekend Fisher. [Link Fixed] I had seen comments from Anne, the Fisher, over on Ben Myers’ Faith and Theology blog, but I overlooked her because I didn’t know Weekend Fisher was a woman. If I had read her blog more often this would have been clear. Thanks for solving a mystery and giving us another link, Anne.
2)Stephanie, who blogs as Ms. Theologian, has a unique blog, Surviving the Workday, which brings theological reflection into the workplace. Stephanie describes herself as being a former Ivy League female theologian, doubtless a reference to my remark that women are at least 50% of the seminarians enrolled at many Ivy League seminaries/divinity schools in the last decade or so. Welcome Stephanie, er, Ms. Theologian. 🙂
3) Mark Olsen points out that Intellectuelle is a group (evangelical) theology blog run by women.
The U. S. holiday of “Mother’s Day” was not originally a sentimental holiday to make money for the greeting cards and flowers companies. Originally, it was an organizing of women and mothers to oppose war and militarism. I usually write on these themes come Mothers’ Day or even point people to contemporary ways to tap back into the original radicalism of this tamed holiday.
But I just can’t work up much enthusiasm for this time. This year, the entire holiday has me down. A few years back, I lost my mother to a rare lung disease. My mother-in-law was lost in complications from routine surgery several years earlier. So, this week, when one of my daughters remarked that friends at school teased her about having no grandmothers (a major change from earlier in history or from global realities), I tried to console her, but it brought up unresolved issues with the loss of my mother.
All my adult life I have felt that I was working hard, and unsuccessfully, to explain myself to my mother. I never doubted her love. But as she grew older, her politics grew more conservative and I struggled to demonstrate to her that my peace and justice activism grew out of the values she gave me. She didn’t see it. She kept urging me to “get back into the ministry,” which I never thought I left. But for Mom, the only valid ministry was pastoral ministry and this was to be apolitical. At her death, all that was still unresolved.
Reflecting on that, it hits me just how hard this holiday (in the sentimental form that the churches help the greeting cards and flowers people promote) must be for so many. There are those, of course, who grieve the loss of mothers. But there are also people at odds with mothers–I think especially of gay and lesbian friends from church whose mothers disowned them when they “came out.” And then there’s all those women caught up in the “mommy wars” and trying to fit someone else’s idea of what they should be as a mother–or if they should be a mother at all. And our society is hardly organized in a way that supports parenting, maternal or paternal.
Jesus was not very sentimental about mothers, as the Gospels show us. But somewhere along the line, the churches have bought into some almagamated portrait derived in part from Victorian ideals and in part from “Leave It to Beaver.” That has to make it hard on real mothers, on women in general, and on all of us struggling to reconcile with our mothers.
So, this year, I have the Mother’s Day Blues.
Today, 08 March 2007, is International Women’s Day, commemorating both the struggle for women’s rights and the equality of the sexes, and also the struggle for global peace since women, especially in the modern & postmodern eras, have usually been at the forefront of the struggle for peace. The United Nations’ theme for this year’s commemoration is “Ending Impunity for Violence Against Women and Girls.” Nothing could be more appropriate: A few stats:
- Each year in India, around 25,000 brides are burned to death because of insufficient dowries. The groom’s family kills the bride by burning her alive and claiming that it was either accidental or a suicide. Then the groom is free to remarry. Because of pervasive sexism, the authorities do not investigate these crimes very thoroughly or attempt vigorous prosecutions or prevention.
- In India and elsewhere, many doctors are refusing to give sonograms to pregnant women because if they find out the sex of the developing fetus, they will likely abort it if it’s a girl. Boys are wanted and girls are not and so female fetuses are more likely to be aborted–or abandoned once born.
- In many countries, women who are raped are killed by their own families in order to “preserve the family honor.” Honor killings can also take place if there is voluntary sex or even marriage to someone not approved by the family. Such “honor killings” are common in Jordan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and other Persian Gulf countries.
- In Africa, female genital mutilation (sometimes called euphemistically “female circumcision,”), or FGM, is so common that UNICEF estimates that somewhere between 100 million and 140 million girls and women have been subjected to this vile practice. The idea seems to be that if the clitoris is removed and the labia sewn tighter, it will guarantee pre-marital virginity and marital chastity by removing any chance of female pleasure during sex and guaranteeing great pain. 28 African countries have massive problems with this practice–although it is outlawed in more than half of them.
- Rape as a weapon of war has been used in the former Yugoslavia, the Chiapas region of Mexico, Rwanda, Kuwait, Haiti, Colombia, Liberia, and elsewhere. In the U.S. in 2004 (the last year with published data), according to the FBI, there were over 94,600 reported rapes–which means that over 32 women were raped out of every 100,000. The FBI also estimates that only 37% of all rapes in the U.S. are ever reported.
I could go on, but the grim picture is easily discerned already. Because in most of the world, women are still not seen as the equals to men, their lives are less valued. Therefore, violence against women and girls is “justified” in numerous ways. Many religions, including many conservative interpretations of Christianity, consider women to be inferior to men (although the latest attempt to hide this truth is to re-brand such subordinationism with the title “complementarianism,” which claims that women are ontologically equal to men, but still must have “complementary” roles–which are coincidentally enough subordinate to the roles of men). Some religions, or versions of some religions, openly justify violence toward women and girls to “keep them in their place.” In the developed world this is no longer usually stated so baldly. Instead, religious traditionalists pretend to be apalled that any could misunderstand their teachings of subordination to include violence and they refuse to take responsibility for the way their teachings produce spouse abusers and other males who hurt women.
Usually during women’s history month (March) and on International Women’s Day, I join in celebrating the many accomplishments of women–and they are many indeed. But, today, as the father of two daughters, I find it appropriate to stick with the UN Theme. We need to stop violence against women and girls–and the greatest responsibility for this rest on us men–to give up our false senses of superiority and entitlement.
More stats on the state of women globally:
- Of the 800 million adults worldwide who are illiterate (cannot read or write in their native language), two-thirds are women since girls are not seen as worth the investment or are busy with domestic chores during schooltime.
- 2 million girls (aged 5-15) join the international commercial sex market every year. This is not a “lifestyle choice” to be left as an unregulated market, but a form of sex slavery. As the AIDS pandemic has grown the “market demand” for younger and younger girl prostitutes has grown since (a) young girls are less likely to be infected with HIV and (b) there is a widely held myth in much of the world that men with HIV/AIDS can cure themselves by having sex with a virgin!!
- 70% of the world’s poorest people are women.
- Violence against women causes more deaths and disabilities globally than war, cancer, malaria, or traffic accidents.
- Women produce 50% of the world’s food, but own less than 2% of the world’s land.
- Of the more than 1 billion people living in extreme poverty, 70% are women.
- Almost 1/3 of the world’s women are homeless or live in inadequate housing.
- 50% of all murdered women are killed by their current or former husbands or boyfriends.
- Every minute that goes by a woman dies of pregnancy complications–usually ones easily preventable with proper prenatal care and obstetrics.
- Women work 2/3 of the world’s working hours, but earn only 10% of the world’s income.
- According to some estimates, 1 out of every 3 women will be raped, beaten, non-physically coerced into sex, or otherwise abused at some point in her life.
All this, of course, makes the amazing achievements of women throughout the world and throughout all history all the more incredible. The struggle is long and hard. It is far to easy to forget that here in the U.S., women struggled for 70 years to get the right to vote–and the Equal Rights Amendment failed to get ratification by the required 3/4 of the states. Women of faith and courage have almost always struggled for justice and peace for others and not just themselves, yet men have far too often depicted feminists as “selfish.” Men of the world, especially CHRISTIAN men, I say, “repent!”
UPDATE: The U.S. has not ratified CEDAW, the U.N.’s Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. So, to commemorate International Women’s Day, Amnesty International is urging everyone in the U.S. to email their U.S. senators and urge CEDAW’s ratification as one way to help stop violence against women. You can take this action here.
Update II: Aric Clark (the Miner of the blog, Mined Splatterings) has listed some more stats specifically dealing with the U.S. treatment of women in the comments section. Be sure to see them–and repent.