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Review: Yr Apêl/The Appeal: The Remarkable Story of the Welsh Women’s Peace Petition

10 Dec 2023 6 minute read
Yr Apêl/The Appeal: The Remarkable Story of the Welsh Women’s Peace Petition is edited by Jenny Mathers and Mererid Hopwood and is published by Y Lolfa

Celeste Shockley

Yr Apêl/The Appeal tells the astonishing story of the 1923 movement that not only impacted Wales, but also stretched out an open hand to America as well.

A collection of chapters by various authors details this story throughout several different aspects, such as who the key players in this petition were, how the petition came to receive 390, 296 signatures or about 60% of the women in Wales, and how it was sent to the United States with three women at a time where travel wasn’t quite as easy as it is now.

Their mission was to encourage the women of the United States to get behind a goal of persuading the USA to join the League of Nations or at least be as instrumental toward the cause of peace as they could be.

It is a remarkable tale of these women’s dedication to seeing that peace was spread as far as it could be and another war like World War One never happened again.

As a modern audience, we know that there would be another world war, but it’s incredible how these women worked so hard in cooperation for peace anyway.

Ideals

The petition had its origins in the Wales League of Nations Society, a group dedicated to the ideals on which they believed the League of Nations was founded on. A group of women within this larger group decided they wanted to take a petition signed by women and for women around Wales and then to the USA as well.

The women went around the country gathering signatures, sometimes walking miles to attain them. It wasn’t as simple a task as a petition would be today.

They did this at a time where you couldn’t just post the petition on your Facebook or Instagram and encourage people to like and share. In many circumstances, they couldn’t even call people up on the phone to gain their signatures either.

Instead, these women formed committees in their towns and cities, and sent groups around by foot to reach women in smaller villages and achieve their goal. The amount of effort that takes in comparison to how we might organize a petition today makes their almost 400,000 signatures even more amazing.

Bipartisanship

Another thing they insisted on within their efforts was bipartisanship. The book says that “Two aspects repeatedly stressed at the launch meetings and when organizing were that the action must be non-political and non-denominational.”

It was their mission to make sure that nothing got in the way of their goal of promoting peace.

As a woman from America, who’s moved to Wales for the year and enjoys learning about history, I find this story to be rather refreshing. The dedication and can-do attitude of these women is something that should be applauded.

At a time when women’s voices were drowned out, these amazing ladies sought to make their cause heard farther than just the country in which they resided. They called to a nation that hadn’t joined the League of Nations to do so, when it might have been easier to just leave it alone.

Instead of saying nothing, they forged an epic connection with the United States and even went so far as to send a group over to speak to the women there. At their meeting in New York City, they had a really good turnout, even including women who would go on to be leaders, like Eleanor Roosevelt.

These women most certainly left an impact on the women in America. Women from my country, whose legacies would then go on to impact the world around them, and eventually the one that I’ve grown up in.

The delegation of women who took the historic peace petition to the United States of America in 1924 was led by Annie Hughes-Griffiths who is pictured holding the appeal on the steps of the White House in Washington DC with (L-R) Gladys Thomas, Mary Ellis and Elined Prys). Photo credit: Welsh Centre for International Affairs.

Message

Unfortunately, this story doesn’t get discussed very often when talking about the events that unfurled during the interwar period.

However, The Appeal: The Remarkable Story of the Welsh Women’s Peace Petition seeks to bring this piece of history to light and encourages readers to hear and act on the message that this story has.

One thing that really struck me about the making of this petition is the bipartisanship. These women, though they came from all different sorts of backgrounds and denominations and wealth-class-categories, put their differences aside to achieve a common goal.

They believed that what they were working for was far greater than all the petty squabbles that could arise from their differences. Perhaps, especially in present-day America, where division is rife, we ought to take a page out of these ladies’ books.

Shared humanity

Peace is still a cause worth fighting for, especially in a world where the news seems to always be giving us updates on multiple wars raging across foreign soils.

It’s almost Christmas as well and I think of John Lennon’s “Happy X-Mas (War is Over)” and, though it’s not on most people’s Christmas playlists, Paul McCartney’s “Pipes of Peace”. The latter, because of its music video, reminds me of another example of putting aside differences for something bigger and better: the Christmas Truce between the soldiers in 1914.

Though in the midst of a war, soldiers took the time to reflect on the meaning of Christmas. For one day, they stopped all the fighting and instead spent their time playing football, chatting, and sharing a holiday meal.

Despite knowing that the next day they’d be back in their respective trenches and the war would continue on, they took the time to revel in their shared humanity and spread love and joy if only for just one special day.

Fellowship

This Christmas season, we ought to follow the example of the ladies who signed this peace petition and do our best to share warmth and fellowship with all those around us.

If we want to seek change and peace, the way these women did, it starts with things that might seem small. A friendly smile to a stranger whose day might not have been the best, or a hearty ‘thank you’ to the bus driver. Maybe a compliment to the small shopkeeper whose Christmas market stall has brought a warm grin to your face.

Small gestures like these go a long way and tend to multiply when acted upon. This holiday season let’s make our own petitions for peace and act on them, by spreading kindness whenever we have the opportunity.

Yr Apêl/The Appeal: The Remarkable Story of the Welsh Women’s Peace Petition is edited by Jenny Mathers and Mererid Hopwood and is published by Y Lolfa. It is available from all good bookshops.


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Arthur Owen
Arthur Owen
2 months ago

It worked as well,the USA joined the League of Nations and there have been no major war since the Great War.

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