March Object of the Month
Women for Peace Quilt
This month on 8th March is International Women’s Day. International Women’s Day is an annual global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. The theme for this year is #BeBoldForChange. To mark this day The Peace Museum have a display of objects relating to women who have created significant change for peace in the main gallery including photographs and printing blocks relating to the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). Staff members are also present at Bradford City Hall’s with a stall, including objects relating to the first female Nobel Peace Prize winner, Bertha Von Suttner. Women have plaid a crucial role throughout history as peace makers and campaigners for peace in all its forms, whether it is an end to war, or an end to discrimination.
With this in mind, our object of the month this month is a commemorative quilt entitled ‘Women for Peace’, relating to the 100 year anniversary of the International Congress of Women at The Hague in Netherlands in 1915.
The aim of the Congress was to bring together women’s rights activists from around the world, including countries involved on both sides of the First World War to urge the governments of the warring nations to reach a peaceful settlement. The Congress was attended by 1200 women from neutral and warring nations and over a period of four days they worked out what they considered to be an alternative, non-violent form of resolution calling for a process of continuous mediation to be implemented until peace could be restored.
The Congress elected an international team of five Envoys who travelled across worn torn Europe and to USA during the summer months of 1915, visiting 14 countries and meeting with 24 influential leaders. In October, a Manifesto, addressed to the Governments of Europe and the President of the United States, was published explaining the mission of the Envoys was to place a proposal for a conference of neutral nations as an agency of continuous mediation for the settlement of war. Each statesman had declared himself sympathetic. But not one leader would take the first step and the war continued.
However, the Congress did make a lasting contribution to the world, with the founding of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, which still exists today, working towards a world free of poverty, violence, pollution, racism, sexism and homophobia and the building of constructive peace through world disarmament.
The idea of making the ‘Women for Peace’ quilt came from a small group made of local Quakers and members of Grassington Peace Group in 2015, a hundred years after the Congress, to celebrate the remarkable and striking effort made by women from all over the world to end the First World War. It is hoped that the Quilt will act as symbol and an inspiration to all people to speak out when injustices occur in the world. Each square of the quilt was individually made by people from as far afield as America and New Zealand and each person brought their own ideas of what peace means to them.