Scope and Contents
The bulk of this small collection is early correspondence (1920-1923; 1926), mostly to and from Elinor Byrns, an early vice-chairman and later the literature chairman of the Women's Peace Society. Her letters (1920-1923) were found with the Women's Peace Union records, an organization in which Byrns was also active.
There is one folder of correspondence (1920-1921) of Jessie Hardy MacKaye who was chairman of the Milwaukee branch of WPS. There is the printed letter of resignation from the Women's International League of New York by the founders of WPS (1919).
There are several WPS minutes and reports (1919-1921 and 1931), as well as printed brochures, flyers, and letters to the membership (1919-1933).
Material about Fanny Garrison Villard includes a booklet of tributes made at her 80th birthday luncheon given by WPS in 1924. The organization's News Letter (December 1926-August 1930) is available with SCPC Retired Periodicals.
Correspondents include Mary Abbott, Caroline Lexow Babcock,Christine Ross Barker, Elizabeth Black, Elinor Byrns, Stella Crossley Daljord, Marian H. Holmes, Jessie Wallace Hughan, Jessie Hardy MacKaye, Margaret Loring Thomas, Fanny Garrison Villard, Mary Winsor, and Emma Wold.
On September 12, 1919, a group of women including Fanny Garrison Villard, Elinor Byrns, Katherine Devereaux Blake, and Caroline Lexow Babcock resigned from the executive committee of the Women's International League of New York State because of "a fundamental lack of unity in the membership as a whole and in the executive committee". Some of these women were absolute pacifists, or non-resistants, and wanted to start a new organization whose underlying principle would be "a belief in the sacredness and inviolability of human life under all circumstances".
The Women's Peace Society was thus founded in October l9l9. In 1920, its letterhead read: "Universal and complete disarmament. Abolition of mob violence. Free trade, the world over."
All members were asked to sign the following pledge:
"Believing that under no circumstances is it right to take human life, I hereby apply for membership in THE WOMEN'S PEACE SOCIETY pledging myself to further its high aims by every means in my power"
A second paragraph found on many membership forms read: "And I declare it to be my intention never to aid in or sanction war, offensive or defensive, international or civil, in any way, whether by making or handling munitions, subscribing to war loans, using my labor for the purpose of setting others free for war service, helping by money or work any relief organization which supports or condones war".
This peace group was not interested in using political or economic means to end what it termed "war-madness". Rather, its members chose educational methods such as handing out literature, participating in demonstrations, speaking at public events, and holding school contests. In August 1921, it sponsored a conference at Niagara Falls where it cooperated with Canadian peace women in starting the Women's Peace Union of the Western Hemisphere. The Women's Peace Union chose to work politically and urged a constitutional amendment to remove government war-making power. Other events undertaken by WPS included a Disarmament Parade in November 1921 and a No More War Day demonstration on Wall Street on July 25, 1921.
In 1926, the Society claimed a membership of 2500 with members in every state plus Austria, Cuba, England, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey. WPS was headquartered in New York City and led by Fanny Garrison Villard (Mrs. Henry Villard, 1844-1928), the daughter of William Lloyd Garrison and mother of Oswald Garrison Villard. In the last years of Mrs. Villard's life and after her death in 1928, the work of the Society was carried on by its executive director, Annie E. Gray. In her annual report of 1929, Gray tells of distributing 200,000 pieces of literature, putting on regular radio programs, attending dinner meetings, producing plays in public schools, and trying, with ever decreasing success, to raise necessary funds. The last document printed by the Women's Peace Society at SCPC is dated 1933.