The Mothers for Peace movement began in 1981 when four mothers travelled to the Soviet Union and four mothers travelled to the United States with messages of peace.

It was founded by Lucy Behenna and Marion Mansergh, who were concerned about the on-going Cold War and the escalating arms race. They hoped that mothers from both of the superpowers would meet during this hostile period and realise that they all shared a common wish for a safe and secure future for their children. This was a success, and in 1982 return visits by Soviet and American women took place.

From these small beginnings Mothers for Peace began to grow and continues to do so. In 1989, in order to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Mothers for Peace, it was suggested that the organisation should make their own quilt dedicated to peace. It was hoped that the quilt would be an opportune way to reach people and create a focus for talking to people.

After a design meeting, it was agreed that the quilt would be of a bridge with ‘bricks’ embroidered by Mothers for Peace members in the UK and abroad as this would symbolise bridging the gulf between nations and creating links. Squares of material were sent to women across the globe and they embroidered on their material what Mothers for Peace meant to them. This is then accompanied by a quote from a poem by Maude Meehan that states ‘make a bridge of your sharing’. 

Similarly to the Mothers for Peace quilt, the Grassington and District Peace Group and Skipton and Airton Quakers have started making their own quilt to commemorate the centenary of the First International Women’s Peace Congress that was held in April 1915. This congress was called to end the First World War and was attended by nearly two thousand women from fourteen different countries. Although it did not bring the war to an end, the conference report was influential in forming the basis for the charter of the League of Nations and the United Nations and it also set up what became the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

The new proposed quilt will consist of squares of material featuring images symbolising women and peace. You can view the Mothers for Peace Banner, and get information about the Grassington and District Peace Group and Skipton and Airton Quakers quilt, by visiting The Peace Museum or The Peace Museum website: peacemuseum.org.uk  

Written by Helen Anderson. Helen is a student of International History and Politics at the University of Leeds and Volunteer at The Peace Museum.