The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

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The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) was founded in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1919, an outgrowth of the International Committee of Women for Permanent Peace, formed at the Hague during World War I. Composed primarily of white, educated, middle‐class women, the U.S. Section began as the Woman's Peace Party, organized by the social worker Jane Addams in 1915. Still functioning with international headquarters in Geneva, the WILPF has branches in countries across the globe.

With a peak membership of approximately 16,000 in the mid‐1930s, the U.S. Section was an active and influential organization in the American peace movement between the two world wars. This was due largely to the astute leadership of first president Addams, as well as that of the former Wellesley economics professor Emily Greene Balch and the Quaker activist Hannah Clothier Hull, and the administrative talents of executive secretary Dorothy Detzer and organization secretary Mildred Scott Olmsted. Addams and Balch were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (1931 and 1946, respectively), the only American women so far to be so honored.

Only a minority of WILPF antiwar activists were absolute pacifists, but all were committed to a world that repudiated aggression and violence as a way of resolving disputes among nations. Erroneously accused by critics of isolationism, the interwar WILPF endorsed all cooperative endeavors internationally that did not involve war or preparation for war. It supported disarmament, consultative pacts, arbitration, and the World Court, and advocated aid to Jewish and other victims of Nazi persecution, but opposed U.S. involvement in World War II.

After 1945, the U.S. Section became alarmed by the Cold War, with its escalating arms race and nuclear weapons proliferation. Now led by Olmsted, the WILPF opposed American involvement in the Korean War and the Vietnam War; continued its longtime support of equal rights for women as well as for ethnic and racial minorities; and protested American low‐intensity warfare in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
[See also Nonviolence; Pacifism; Peace and Antiwar Movements; Quakers.]


Harriet Hyman Alonso , Peace as a Women's Issue: A History of the U.S. Movement for World Peace and Women's Rights, 1991.
Margaret Hope Bacon , One Woman's Passion for Peace and Freedom: The Life of Mildred Scott Olmsted, 1993.
Carrie Foster , The Women and the Warriors: The U.S. Section of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 1915–1946, 1995.

Carrie Foster

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The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

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