A hundred-year-old Peace Petition signed by almost 400,000 Welsh Women had an emotional welcome back to Wales on Wednesday the 5th April 2023, coinciding with the announcement of an award of nearly £250,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to bring the story to life.
The Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA) has been awarded £249,262 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) to support the Women’s Peace Petition Project. The project will be managed by Academi Heddwch Cymru and the WCIA on behalf of the Women’s Peace Petition Partnership. The NLHF funding will enable the Partnership to actively engage with the community of Wales to share and celebrate the story as well as enabling people to play an active role in transcription efforts to support the National Library’s work.
The chest and petition arrived at the National Library of Wales to a warm welcome by the people involved in the Women’s Peace Petition Partnership who have worked over many years to bring it back home. This return signals the first step in making it accessible to the people of Wales. Over the next year, the petition will now be catalogued, digitised, and opened to the public to crowdsource its transcription, along with several exhibitions at Amgueddfa Cymru - St Fagans, Wrexham Museum, and the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.
The 1923 campaign and its presentation to the USA
In 1923 with the horrors of World War One having galvanised a whole generation against conflict, the women of Wales organised a campaign for world peace. In a Welsh League of Nations Union conference held at Aberystwyth University, it was proposed that a campaign should be launched to ensure that the women of the USA should hear the voices of the women of Wales and work together for a world without war.
A total of 390,296 women signed a peace petition. Within seven months, Annie Hughes-Griffiths, Mary Ellis, Elined Prys and Gladys Thomas had reached the USA with an oak chest containing a petition that was said to be 7 miles long. In New York, it was presented to the women of America by the peace delegation from Wales. Since then, the chest has been preserved and exhibited at the National Museum of American History, in Washington DC.
The peace petition returns to Wales
The Women of Wales for a World without War Partnership began working in 2019 with the National Library of Wales to borrow the chest and some of the petitions. The subsequent discussions with the National Museum of American History eventually resulted in this transfer to the National Library of Wales.
Once in Aberystwyth expert staff at The National Library will digitise its contents. This will enable the public to view the Peace Petition and participate in a national campaign to transcribe the names of petition signatories creating a publicly available and searchable resource for the first time.
Suzie Ventris-Field, Chief Executive of WCIA said:
“WCIA is extremely honoured to be part of the Women’s Peace Petition Partnership and thankful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for their award which will bring this incredible story to life. Centenary celebrations and outreach funded by the NLHF will help the Partnership start a conversation with communities about how Wales can develop as a Nation of Peace and inspire the next generation of peacemakers.”
Mererid Hopwood, Peace Petition Partnership Chair said:
“Against the backdrop of today’s troubled world, it’s an enormous privilege to remember how the women of Wales, a century ago, were bold enough to work for global peace. It’s our hope that through the Peace Petition project this spirit of international co-operation, focussed on creating a fair and violence-free world, will find new voices.”
Andrew White, Wales Director of The National Lottery Heritage Fund said:
“Five years before they won the vote in 1928, 400,000 Welsh women reached out across the Atlantic in a historic show of solidarity to take a stand against the horrors of war by signing this petition. It’s our incredible privilege to be awarding almost £250,000 to bring the petition and the chest in which it travelled back to Wales at a time when sadly the shadow of war looms over Europe and the need for peace and solidarity is as great as it has ever been.”
Dawn Bowden, Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, said:
“I am delighted that the 1923 Peace Petition has returned to Wales a hundred years after it was taken to the USA. I would like to thank the Smithsonian Institution for the generosity of this gift to the National Library of Wales. The gathering of almost 400,000 signatures from women across Wales as a campaign for peace is inspiring. I hope that the return of the petition to Wales will inspire and motivate a new generation of advocates for peace.”
** Mae'r datganiad yma hefyd ar gael yn y Gymraeg**
For more details and picture, contact: Rhodri ap Dyfrig, Head of Marketing and Audiences, National Library of Wales
email@example.com / 07855362206
Notes for Editors
- On May 23 1923, 'The Appeal' was launched at Aberystwyth University during the Welsh League of Nations Union Conference
- Two paid officers and 400 local organizers set about organizing the petition and collecting names
- By December 1923 Mary Ellis was sailing to America to prepare the ground for receiving the petition
- She collaborated with illustrious and progressive women such as Carrie Chapman Catt, Ruth Morgan and Harriet Burton Lees Laidlaw
- By February 1924 Annie Hughes Griffiths (accompanied by her friend Gladys Thomas) and Elined Prys crossed the Atlantic to join Mary Ellis, with the chest containing 390,296 signatures.
- The delegation from Wales received an enthusiastic welcome and a grand dinner at the Biltmore Hotel, New York was the start of an exceptionally busy visit, where the peace campaigners from Wales tirelessly travelled through the USA addressing audiences.
- Among the places they visited were Chicago, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Utica and also Washington and the White House where they were welcomed by President Calvin Coolidge
- During the Cymru'n Cofio/Wales for Peace project (2014–18) in the Temple of Peace and Health, Cardiff, a plaque was found commemorating the petition (the Memorial as it was called, made of beautiful Moroccan leather and gold lettering). This is when the questioning began: What? Who? Why?
- This inspired the formation of the Heddwch Nain / Mam-gu yng Nghymru (Our Grandmother’s Peace) group here and in the USA, and a Partnership that includes:
- Academi Heddwch Cymru (the Wales peace institute)
- Welsh Centre for International Affairs
- National Library of Wales
- Museum Wales
- Heddwch Nain / Mam-gu – Wales
- Heddwch Nain / Mam-gu – USA
- Women’s Archive Wales / Archif Menywod Cymru
- Welsh Government
- Elin Jones, Senedd President
- Academi Heddwch Cymru is chaired by the Rt. Revd and Rt Hon Dr. Rowan Williams and its MoU is singed by all of the universities of Wales, as well as The Learned Society of Wales, Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol and the Welsh Centre for International Affairs. Its group membership includes Urdd Gobaith Cymru, Race Council Cymru, Future Generations Office, and representatives from the peace movement in Wales.
- The Partnership has worked eagerly over the last three years to secure a way to digitise the content of the original Petition so that today we can learn about the women from Wales who wanted to see a world without war, and be inspired to resume their important work.
ABOUT THE WOMEN’S PEACE PETITION PROJECT
The aims of the Women’s Peace Petition Project are:
Our aim is to engage 10,000 people in discovering, sharing and learning about the role of women in Wales’ peace heritage through sharing and developing a collective knowledge of the 1923 Women’s Peace Petition – a story which remains largely untold. We will invite people to collaborate in a national effort to transcribe the Petition’s 390,296 signatures enabling every participant to connect with the Petition on a personal level and contribute to its legacy. We will also link this story with today’s conflicts and people’s current views on achieving peace, inspiring a new generation of peace activists who work towards the vision of Wales as a Nation of Peace and of a warless world.
The objectives of the Women’s Peace Petition Project are:
- To mark the centenary of the Women’s Peace Petition in 2023/24 working with Welsh and international partners.
- To inspire a new generation of peace activists who work towards the vision of Wales as a Nation of Peace and of a warless world
- To engage and support a large-scale, collective transcription effort that will give global access to the Women’s Peace Petition as a key part of Wales’ peace heritage for current and future generations.
- To support the Women’s Peace Petition Partnership to develop and deliver bilingual, vibrant, cultural and historical interpretation events and activities to celebrate the centenary attracting diverse communities.
- To support the development of educational materials and encourage schools, young people’s organisations & community groups to participate in centenary activities and events.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL LOTTERY HERITAGE FUND IN WALES
Using money raised by the National Lottery, we inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.
Thanks to National Lottery players, more than £30 million goes to good causes across the UK every week.
Follow @HeritageFundCYM on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund.