A special one-day conference is being held at Aberystwyth University this month to mark the centenary of a historic peace petition signed by almost 400,000 Welsh women.

Launched on 23 May 1923 at a meeting held at the university, the appeal called on the women of the United States of America to urge their government to join the League of Nations (the forerunner of the United Nations) in the hope of achieving a lasting peace following the horrors of the First World War.

Over the next five months, the signatures of 390,296 women were collected in a major door-to-door campaign, reaching all parts of Wales and all echelons of society.

The reams of signed pages were placed in a bespoke carved oak chest and presented in New York in 1924 to the women of the United States by a delegation of three women, led by Annie Hughes-Griffiths, an alumna of the University and Chair of the Welsh League of Nations Union at the time. It was later presented to the President of the USA in the White House.

Since then, the petition and chest have been held in the collections of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC but were gifted back to Wales in April 2023 and are now in the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.

The petition was started in Aberystwyth in 1923 and attracted nearly 400,000 signatures before being taken to America
The petition was started in Aberystwyth in 1923 and attracted nearly 400,000 signatures before being taken to America (n/a)

The remarkable story behind this unique international peace appeal will be explored at the one-day conference which will be held in the University’s Department of International Politics on Penglais campus on Tuesday, 23 May.

Speaking at the event will be the contributors to a book about the Welsh women’s appeal (forthcoming from Y Lolfa later this year), who have carried extensive archival research to piece together this extraordinary story.

They include Eirlys Barker; Meg Elis, author and translator; Jill Evans, Heddwch Nain Mamgu and former MEP; Mererid Hopwood and Jenny Mathers, Aberystwyth University; Craig Owen, Welsh Centre for International Affairs; Annie Williams, author and researcher; and Catrin Stevens and Sian Rhiannon Williams, Women's Archive Wales.

Co-organiser Mererid Hopwood, Professor of Welsh & Celtic Studies at Aberystwyth University and Secretary of Academi Heddwch Cymru, said: “Thank you to everyone who has helped bring this remarkable campaign to light – both here in Wales and in the United States. A century after the original petition, the need for world peace remains as pressing as ever, and it's good to have a story like this to inspire us.”

Co-organiser Dr Jenny Mathers from the University’s Department of International Politics said: “We hope that this conference - along with the book which will be published in November 2023 - will raise awareness about the women’s appeal and how it fits into the history of wider Welsh efforts to achieve peace.”

Admittance to ‘The Women of Wales for a World Without War’ conference is free but places are limited and delegates need to register in advance on Eventbrite.