Purple plaque honours ‘forgotten’ Welsh peace campaigner
A purple plaque honouring a largely forgotten peace campaigner is being unveiled at her former home in Aberystwyth.
Described as a “force of nature”, Annie Hughes Griffiths spearheaded the organisation of a remarkable peace petition signed by nearly 400,000 women in Wales in 1923 – estimated to be three quarters of all the women in Wales at the time. All the sheets of signatures, if put together, would reach seven miles long.
Annie went on to lead a women’s peace delegation which, in 1924, took the petition across the Atlantic. With the help of American women’s organisations it was presented to a huge gathering of women in New York representing thousands of activists from across the USA. The delegation then made their appeal to US President Calbin Coolidge at the White House and another gathering of prominent women in Washington.
Annie then toured America taking the message of the peace appeal to the American Welsh and helped give a new impetus to the women’s peace movement in the US. The petition, which was started as a reaction to the horrors of World War One, was bequeathed to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC in 1924. It has now been repatriated to Wales and will reside in the National Library in Aberystwyth.
Annie Hughes Griffiths was born Annie Jane Davies in 1873 in the Ceredigion village of Llangeitho. She became a well-known figure in London Welsh circles and was deeply involved in the Welsh League of Nations and efforts to create a lasting peace after World War One. Her involvement with the peace petition marks her out as one of the movers and shakers in the 1920s bringing women’s voices to the fore.
Annie was from a well-connected family and was privately educated. Her first husband was MP for Merionethshire, Thomas Edward Ellis, but she was widowed after only a year of marriage and brought up her son alone. She remarried and became Annie Hughes Griffiths in 1916.
Her purple plaque is the 14th to be unveiled in Wales. Sue Essex, chair of Purple Plaques Wales, said: “We think Annie truly embodies the spirit of Purple Plaques Wales. The fact that she was able to lead on a project which touched so many women right across Wales and emboldened them to sign a petition for peace was remarkable in itself – especially in an age without mass communications. To then go on and present it to the US President and tour it across the United States was an amazing achievement. I’m so glad we can mark this with a Purple Plaque.”
Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt, who will be attending the unveiling in Aberystwyth, said: Annie Hughes Griffiths was a trailblazer in the women’s peace movement in Wales and it is right she is remembered for her remarkable efforts with a Purple Plaque. I’m thrilled her legacy is now being recognised and the petition she spearheaded has been repatriated to the National Library in Aberystwyth.”
The Purple Plaque ceremony is part of the programme for Aberystwyth University’s annual Festival of Research, whose theme this year The Pursuit of Peace was inspired by the centenary of the Welsh Women’s Peace Petition.
Following the unveiling, a bilingual, multi-authored book edited by Professor Mererid Hopwood and Dr Jenny Mathers from Aberystwyth University will be launched at the National Library of Wales.
Hopes and dreams
Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “The signatures on the petition were not just ink on paper; they represented the hopes and dreams of countless women in Wales who shared a vision for a world where conflicts could be resolved through diplomacy, co-operation, and dialogue.
“Among those who helped to organise this monumental effort was my own great aunt, Auntie Dil. Her involvement in this historic movement serves as a poignant reminder of the personal connections we have to the pages of history and the desire this rekindles in some women in Wales today to call for peace.
“A century has passed since that historic peace petition of 1923, and now, today the world watches yet another conflict unfold across the Middle East. Every day we bear witness to the devastating scenes of anguish, suffering and destruction that fill our screens on both sides of the conflict.
“The toll of innocent suffering escalates as this deeply intricate conflict unfolds. Those innocents who yearn for peace and stability find themselves tragically ensnared in unrelenting cycles of fear and anguish. As bombs continue to rain down on Gazan hospitals, these havens of safety have been transformed into theatres of despair -undermining their fundamental right to healthcare.
“A hundred years ago the women of Wales were advocating for the League of Nations to be instrumental in that conversation for peace. Last week, the successor body of the League of Nation, the UN, called for an immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce in Gaza leading to a cessation of hostilities. It stated that all parties should immediately and fully comply with obligations under international humanitarian and human rights laws, particularly in relation to the protection of civilians.
“As a relative of one of those women who signed the peace petition 100 years ago, I believe that we in Wales today should align ourselves with that UN resolution. An immediate ceasefire will save hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent lives. On top of this, we must call for Israeli hostages to be released and the world must stand together to condemn the vicious Hamas attacks of October 7 and the rise in antisemitic behaviour.
“Within the complex landscape of modern politics, the pursuit of peace can often seem elusive and unattainable, particularly with an organisation as brutal as Hamas. But history has proven that diplomacy, dialogue and the power of discourse can be instrumental in resolving even the most entrenched conflicts, even if this means using other actors in the region whom we would not normally think of as allies to influence those positions. The danger of this conflict spreading is all too real, and if that happens, it won’t just be the people of Gaza and Israel who will suffer, it will touch every one of our lives.
“An end to the cycle of violence must be possible. Our global community must be bold in their stance as mediators to prevent the horrors of today becoming the scars of tomorrow. The lessons from history and the vision of those Welsh women 100 years ago should guide our actions and inspire us to choose the path of peace over violence. We must encourage dialogue over retaliation, and unity over division.
“In the midst of tragedy, whatever the rights and wrongs of the reasons for conflict, the pursuit of peace should be a timeless principle that guides our actions and we must all hold onto the belief that humanity can prevail.”
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