Today is one of those ones that makes you think: Why didn’t I learn this in school? On this day, April 28th, in 1915, the International Congress of Women convened in The Hague, in the Netherlands. Also referred to as the Women’s Peace Congress, it was created at the invitation of a Dutch women’s suffrage organization to women’s rights activists all around the woman. More than 1,200 female delegates from 12 countries (including the U.S., Britain, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Austria-Hungary), attended the Congress. Based on the idea that a peaceful international assembly of women could have a moral effect on “belligerent countries”, it was dedicated to advocating for peace and resolving World War 1. Some of of the woman present from the American delegation included Jane Addams (co-founder of the Hull House) and Emily Balch (a professor of Sociology at Wellesley College), both of whom later received Nobel Peace Prizes, and Alice Hamilton, who in 1919 became the first female faculty member at Harvard University. (Source)
The Congress resulted in the group adopting a plan for “continuous mediation with belligerent nations”. In line with this, they selected a delegation of women who met with government leaders in involved countries to discuss an end to the war. As women who held no political positions, they presented themselves as unofficial envoys, which allowed them more leniency in meeting a wide range of officials whom they had very frank, honest discussions with. Though their critics labeled them as “Peacettes” [eye roll], and said they couldn’t be taken seriously since they were woman [of course], they saw themselves as speaking on behalf of the women who had lost fathers, husbands, and children to the war. In the end, many of their proposals are still used as guidelines for negotiations between hostile nations to this day. In addition, many of their proposals and points could be found within President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points, and their congress/delega tion sparked the eventual creation of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, which still exists today. (Source)
Jane Addams and Alice Hamilton actually also published a first-hand report of this Congress, available to purchase as a book still today: Women at the Hague: The International Peace Congress of 1915.
(Picture source, also has another picture.)