The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) is an international non-governmental organization (NGO) founded in 1915 by women from twelve countries who came together in The Hague, Netherlands, to promote lasting peace and justice through political, economic, and social change. It is the oldest women’s peace organization in the world. WILPF’s mission is to work for the prevention and removal of all forms of violence and the promotion of peace, justice, freedom, and democracy for all. It works to achieve this by engaging in advocacy and campaigning, research, education, and networking with other organizations. WILPF also works with the United Nations and other international bodies. WILPF is composed of national sections in over 30 countries and is a member of the International Peace Bureau.
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Marian Cripps, and Emily Balch
Margaret E. Dungan
The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) is a non-profit non-governmental organization working “to bring together women of different political views and philosophical and religious backgrounds determined to study and make known the causes of war and work for a permanent peace” and to unite women worldwide who oppose oppression and exploitation. WILPF has national sections in 37 countries.
“Peace issues discussed with president, Washington, D.C. Sept. 30, 1936. Delegation from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom leaving the White House today after discussing peace issues with President Roosevelt. The women plan to campaign during the month of October. In the group, left to right: (front) Miss Dorothy Detzer, recently returned from the world Peace Congress in Brussels; Mrs. Hannah Clothier Hull, President of the League; Dr. Gertrude C. Bussey, of Goucher College; Mrs. Ernest Gruening. Back row, left to right: Mrs. Frank Aydelotte, of Swarthmore, Pa., and Mrs. Mildred S. Olmstead, who just made an expensive trip through the West and Middle West speaking on the need for peace”
WILPF developed out of the International Women’s Congress against World War I that took place in The Hague, Netherlands, in 1915 and the formation of the International Women’s Committee of Permanent Peace; the name WILPF was not chosen until 1919. The first WILPF president, Jane Addams, had previously founded the Woman’s Peace Party in the United States, in January 1915, this group later became the US section of WILPF. Along with Jane Addams, Marian Cripps and Margaret E. Dungan were also founding members. The British Maude Royden remained vice president of the international WILPF. As of 1920 the US section of WILPF was headquartered in New York City. Marian Cripps, Baroness Parmoor, who later served as president of its British branch. Richard J. Evans described the founders of WILPF as “a tiny band of courageous and principled women on the far-left fringes of bourgeois-liberal feminism“.
Furthermore, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom is opposed to wars and international conflicts. The major movements of the league have been: open letter to UN secretary general to formally end the Korean War, a statement on weapons and an international day for the total elimination of nuclear weapons, gender-based violence and women human rights defenders.
Woman’s Peace Party (USA)
A forerunner to the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the Woman’s Peace Party (WPP) was formed in January, 1915 in Washington, D.C., at a meeting called by Jane Addams and Carrie Chapman Catt. The approximately 3,000 women attendees approved a platform calling for the extension of suffrage to women and for a conference of neutral countries to offer continuous mediation as a way of ending war.
WPP sent representatives, among them the hounralist and novelist Mary Heaton Vorse, to a subsequent International Women’s Congress for Peace and Freedom, held in The Hague from April 28–30, 1915.
International Congress of Women, The Hague, 1915
The 1915 International Congress of Women was organized by the German feminist Anita Augspurg, Germany’s first female jurist, and Lida Gustava Heymann (1868–1943) at the invitation of the Dutch pacifist, feminist and suffragist Aletta Jacobs to protest the war then raging in Europe, and to suggest ways to prevent war in the future. The Congress opened on April 28, wound up on May 1, and was attended by 1,136 participants from both neutral and belligerent nations. It adopted much of the platform of WPP and established an International Committee of Women for Permanent Peace (ICWPP) with Jane Addams as president. WPP soon became the US Section of ICWPP.
Second International Women’s Congress for Peace and Freedom, Zürich, 1919
Jane Addams met with President Woodrow Wilson and is said to have worked out some common ground on peace. However, at their second international congress, held in Zürich in 1919, ICWPP denounced the final terms of the peace treaty ending World War I as a scheme of revenge of the victors over the vanquished that would sow the seeds of another world war. They decided to make their committee permanent and renamed it the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. WILPF moved its headquarters to Geneva to be near the proposed site of the League of Nations, although WILPF did not endorse empowering that organization to conduct food blockades or to use military pressure to enforce its resolutions. The League called for international disarmament and an end to economic imperialism. The US branch of WILPF grew in recognition and membership during the post-WWI era, despite some attacks on the organisation as “unpatriotic” during the First Red Scare. The WILPF supported treaties such as the Washington Naval Treaty and the Kellogg-Briand Pact, regarding them as stepping stones to a peaceful world order.
During the 1930s, Vera Brittain was the WILPF’s Vice-President.
Prior to the outbreak of World War Two, the League also supported measures to provide relief for Europe’s Jewish community.
WILPF and the United Nations
WILPF has had Consultative Status (category B) with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) since 1948 and has Special Consultative Relations with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), as well as special relations with the International Labour Organization (ILO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other organizations and agencies. WILPF has advocates and lobbies for the democratization of the UN, the Security Council and all other UN organizations and agencies; monitors Security Council and General Assembly activities in order to promote reforms; opposes the privatisation and corporatisation of the UN, especially the global compact with corporations; and advocates for the abolition of the Security Council veto.
Mission and vision
- Building the movement
- Redefining security
- Leveraging feminist perspectives on peace
- Promoting socio-economic justice
Broad areas of concern are:
- Global programs
- Human Rights Programme
- Women, Peace and Security Programme
- Disarmament Programme
- Crisis Response Programme
The Women in Peace and Security Programme (WIPSEN or “PeaceWomen”) was founded in 2000. It monitors the UN’s work in field of women, peace and security, taken part in advocacy and outreach. WIPSEN-Africa was founded in 2006 by Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee, Nigerian activist Thelma Ekiyor, and Ecoma Bassey Alaga, and is based in Ghana.
WILPF’s list of members include Jane Addams, Gertrud Woker, Aletta Jacobs, Alice Walker, Coretta Scott King, Madeleine Rees, Madeleine Zabriskie Doty, Cornelia Ramondt-Hirschmann, Selma Meyer, Brandy G. Robinson, Margaret Hills (née Robertson), Sheyene Gerardi, Shina Inoue Kan, Harriet Connor Brown, and Emily Greene Balch, Kathleen Innes, Else Zeuthen.
Congresses and Congress Resolutions
WILPF’s international records are held at the University of Colorado Boulder. They contain the reports of the congresses.
- 1st, The Hague, 1915
- 2nd, Zürich, 1919
- 3rd, Vienna, 1921
- 4th, Washington, D.C. 1924
- 5th, Dublin, 1926
- 6th, Prague, 1929
- 7th, Grenoble, 1932
- 8th, Zurich, 1934
- 9th, Luhačovice, 1937
- 10th, Luxembourg, 1946
- 11th, Copenhagen, 1949
- 12th, Paris, 1953
- 13th, Birmingham, 1956
- 14th, Stockholm, 1959
- 15th, Asilomar, 1962
- 16th, The Hague, 1966
- 17th, Nyborg Strand, 1968
- 18th, New Delhi, 1971
- 19th, Birmingham, 1974
- 20th, Tokyo, 1977
- 21st, Hamden, 1980
- 22nd, Gothenburg, 1983
- 23rd, Woudschoten-Zeist, 1986
- 24th, Sydney, 1989
- 25th, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, 1992
- 26th, Helsinki, 1995
- 27th, Baltimore, 1998
- 28th, Geneva, Switzerland, 2001
- 29th, Gothenberg, 2004
- 30th, Santa Cruz, 2007
- 31st, San Jose, Costa Rica, 2011
- 32nd, The Hague, 2015
- A Single Woman, play
- Anti-war movement
- Danske Kvinders Fredskæde
- Gender and Security Sector Reform
- Jeannette Rankin
- People’s Council of America for Democracy and Peace
- Raging Grannies
- List of women pacifists and peace activists
- List of anti-war organizations
- List of peace activists
- List of women’s organizations
- Helene Stähelin (mathematician) — President of the WILPF’s Swiss section 1948–1967
- Gertrude C. Bussey — President of the WILPF’s American section 1939–1941, and Honorary National President 1960–1961 who wrote much of WILPF’s history.
- Feminist peace research
- Harriet Hyman Alonso, Peace as a Women’s Issue: A History of the U.S. Movement for World Peace and Women’s Rights Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1993.
- Gertrude Bussey and Margaret Tims, Pioneers for Peace: Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom 1915-1965. Oxford: Alden Press, 1980..
- Carrie A. Foster, The Women and the Warriors: The U.S. Section of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, 1915-1946. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1995.
- Catherine Foster, Women for All Seasons: The Story of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1989.
- Melinda Plastas, A Band of Noble Women: Racial Politics in the Women’s Peace Movement. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2011.
- Leila J. Rupp: “Transnational Women’s Movements,” European History Online, Mainz: Institute of European History, 2011.
- Ethel Snowden, A Political Pilgrim in Europe, New York: George H. Doran, 1921.
- Wiltsher, Anne (1985). Most dangerous women: feminist peace campaigners of the Great War (1. publ. ed.). London: Pandora Press. ISBN 0863580106.
- Official website
- WILPF Australia Section official website
- Jane Addams Peace Association
- Peace Women
- Reaching Critical Will
- Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, International Headquarters records, University of Colorado at Boulder
- Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, American Section records, Collection DG 043, Swarthmore College
- Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, British Section records, London School of Economics, Archives Division
- Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom selected papers and photos included in Peace and Internationalism Digitised Collection, LSE Digital Library
- Records, 1915-1977. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University
- Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Collection (ARS.0056), Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound
- Archives of the British section of WILPF
- Newspaper clippings about Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in the 20th Century Press Archives of the ZBW
- Anti-nuclear organizations
- Anti-war movement
- Anti-war organizations
- Conscientious objectors
- Culture of Peace
- List of peace activists
- Peace and conflict studies
- Peace camp
- Peace churches
- Peace commission
- Peace conference
- Peace congress
- Peace education
- Peace movement
- Peace psychology
- Peace treaty
- War resisters
- Anti-nuclear movement
- Direct action
- Peace Testimony
- Simple living
- Soviet influence on the peace movement
- World peace
- International Day of Non-Violence
- International Day of Peace
- Dialogue Among Civilizations
- List of peace prizes
- List of places named Peace
- Monuments and memorials
- Peace journalism
- Promoting Enduring Peace
- University for Peace
- World Game
- World Peace Bell Association
wars or their aspects
- War of 1812
- American Civil War
- Second Boer War
- World War I
- World War II
- Vietnam War
- War on Terror
- Iraq War
- Afghanistan War
- Military action in Iran
- Sri Lankan Civil War
- 2011 intervention in Libya
- Anti-war protests in Russia (2014)
- 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine
- Military taxation
- Nuclear armament