A bilingual history of an amazing petition that sought world peace has been published and will be launched in Aberystwyth this weekend.
The petition was started in Wales in the wake of the First World War. It asked American women to work alongside the women of Wales in the name of peace and held almost 400,000 signatures – a significant percentage of the female population of the day.
This year marks the petition’s centenary and, for the first time, the inspiring story is available in book form. The Appeal – The Remarkable Story of the Welsh Women’s Peace Petition 1923–24, published by Y Lolfa is edited by Mererid Hopwood and Jenny Mathers.
The various contributors to The Appeal recount how the petition was organised and transported to America, how it was lost and found again a century later. This account of how women challenged the establishment is told with photographs accompanying the text.
In 2014 the text of the appeal made in 1923 saw the light of day at the Temple of Peace and Health in Cardiff. It was found as the Welsh Centre for International Affairs in Cardiff was preparing to commemorate the centenary of the First World War with their programme ‘Wales for Peace’. The peace petition called for America to join the League of Nations to prevent another war after the First World War’s unprecedented slaughter.
Under the leadership of Annie Jane Hughes Griffiths (of Cwrt Mawr), a delegation from Wales travelled to the USA with the aim to connect with the women of America. They presented the petition to representatives of American women’s peace organisations that together had a membership of many thousands of women, meeting with some of the most influential women in the country. They also presented it to President Calvin Coolidge at the White House, where they were warmly received.
The petition was found in storage at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, still kept in the impressive oak chest carved by J A Hallam to transport it. In April 2023, in its centenary year, the petition was returned to Wales as a gift to the nation with support from the Welsh Government. It will now reside at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth where funds from the National Heritage Lottery will make it possible to ensure that people in Wales and further afield can learn about this intriguing chapter in our history.
Mererid and Jenny said: “It is our hope that reading the story will inspire us to continue to act in the spirit of the women of Wales who imagined, organised and signed the appeal. It offered its readers a vast vision. That vision remains as vast and as valid today.”
In her introduction to the book, Jill Evans, chair of the Peace Petition Partnership Research Committee, said: “The story of women transcending political, ideological and cultural differences to assemble and take action for peace. It is clear that there were organisers and signatories of the 1923 Petition in communities throughout Wales. One strength lay in the fact that they were inclusive and non-elitist.”
The Appeal will be launched at 5pm on 3 November in the National Library of Wales as part of Aberystwyth University’s 2023 Festival of Research, The Pursuit of Peace.