Celebrating the International Day of Peace – Part III: The Voice of Women fonds

In earlier posts to celebrate International Day of Peace, we discussed Julia Grace Wales and Thérèse Casgrain, two Canadian women who played key roles in the international peace movement. Today, we will conclude by discussing the Voice of Women fonds held at Library and Archives Canada (LAC).

Women in North America have long been active in trying to put an end to conflicts around the world. In the early 1960s, when the threat of nuclear war loomed over many nations, our own Canadian Voice of Women for Peace (VOW) was formed. Since then, the organization has been promoting peace and disarmament, particularly in the context of nuclear war.

VOW has organized unique activities to draw attention to its cause. In 1963, it collected and tested thousands of baby teeth from children across North America to demonstrate the fallout from the atmospheric testing of Strontium 90, a harmful radioactive isotope. During the Vietnam War, the Ontario VOW organized the Knitting Project for Vietnamese Children. Over a ten-year period, the group sent thousands of hand-knitted garments and other aid to the child victims of the war and their families.

Over time, VOW has expanded its focus to include human rights and civil liberties, preservation of the environment, as well as economic and political issues.

LAC’s Voice of Women fonds includes correspondence, reports and subject files about many campaigns for peace. Digitized photos are also presented in LAC’s Women and Peace Flickr set.

Please remember that not all of our material is available online. For more information, consult the article How to Consult Material that Is Not Yet Available Online.

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!

Celebrating International Day of Peace – Part I: Julia Grace Wales

Black and white photograph of a woman with her hair pulled back and a faint smile.

Julia Grace Wales (MIKAN 3361984)

September 21 is recognized as International Day of Peace. To celebrate this event, our blog will feature Canadian women who played a key role in the international peace movement, as documented in the collections of Library and Archives Canada (LAC). We will begin by presenting Julia Grace Wales, who played a key role in promoting peace during the First World War, an unusual role for a woman at this time in history. LAC holds the Julia Grace Wales fonds. Born in the Eastern Townships of Quebec in 1881, Wales was an academic who pursued her studies first at McGill University in Montreal, and later at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where she taught English literature. Horrified by the news reports of the brutal struggle under way in Europe, Wales responded by proposing a plan to end the fighting.

In December 1914, Wales produced a draft of the now famous document entitled “Continuous Mediation Without Armistice,” which later came to be known as the
Wisconsin Plan. This plan proposed that the United States organize a conference composed of intellectuals from all neutral nations to act as mediators. These individuals would propose solutions that incorporated not only their own ideas, but those of warring nations.

The work of Wales was immediately endorsed by the newly formed Wisconsin Peace Party. State officials around the United States also supported it. The  National Peace Party was so impressed that it sent a delegation to Washington to present the idea to President Woodrow Wilson and Congress. In Europe, Wales presented the plan to the International Congress of Women, whose members unanimously selected it as the solution to the war. They had it printed in four languages and distributed throughout Europe and North America.

By 1916, however, the peace movement began to decline and, despite the efforts of influential citizens like industrialist Henry Ford and leading pacifists, the plan never gained official support from the American government. The entry of the United States into the war in 1917 essentially meant that the mediation plan of Julia Grace Wales was no longer up for discussion.

After returning from Europe in 1917, Wales continued with her academic career, but always maintained an interest in the peace movement. She published articles on the subject, as well as one book. She returned to Quebec in 1947 to retire, and died there in 1957.

For more information, consult the digitized copies of the writing of Julia Grace Wales and other images in our Flickr set or consult her fonds.

Please remember that not all of our material is available online. To learn more, consult the article How to Consult Material that Is Not Yet Available Online.

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!