On the 5th of April, 2023, a hundred-year-old Peace Petition signed by almost 400,000 Welsh women was returned to Wales, marking the centenary of a women-led, Welsh anti-war effort.
The Peace Petition Returns to Wales
It was in 2019 that The Women of Wales for a World without War Partnership began working with The National Library of Wales to borrow the chest and some of its petitions. Eventually, these discussions with the National Museum of American History resulted in the transfer of the chest to the National Library of Wales, as supported by funding from the Welsh Government. The National Lottery Heritage Fund has awarded The Welsh Centre for International Affairs £249,262 to support the efforts of the Women’s Peace Petition Project.
The History of the Peace Petition
Since 1923, the petition had been preserved and exhibited by the National Museum of American History, in Washington DC. Its journey began when a group of women from Wales determined to undertake a campaign for peace, five years after the horrors of the First World War had shattered Europe. In a Welsh League of Nations Union conference at Aberystwyth University, an initiative to unite the women of Wales and the United States of America in a shared effort to fight for a world without war was begun.
Said to be 7 miles in length, the petition was signed by 390,296 Welsh women and was taken to the USA in an oak chest by Annie Hughes-Griffiths, Mary Ellis, Elined Prys, and Gladys Thomas, where it was then presented to the women of America by the Welsh peace delegation.
Access to the Peace Petition
Work is underway to catalogue and digitise the petition at The National Library of Wales and some of the boxes are now available to browse online. More detail about the content of the petition papers can be found in our new catalogue record. When viewing the petition on the web, select a specific paper by clicking on 'Index' tab on the left-hand side of the digital viewer.
Petitions from box 1
The Crowdsourcing Initative
Next steps involve launching a national effort to transcribe the names of signatories in the Library's crowdsourcing platform with a view to delivering an accessible and interpretive resource to global audiences. The campaign is a unique one, in that it will involve inviting people to take part in efforts to transcribe the 390,296 signatures contained in the petition, allowing all to contribute to this, as of yet largely untold, legacy. The information acquired through this process will allow us to discover who these women of Wales searching for peace truly were.
The petition is to be exhibited at various institutions throughout the country. Academi Heddwch Cymru and the WCIA will be managing the project on behalf of the Women’s Peace Petition Partnership with a view to engage 10,000 people in discovering, learning about, and sharing the role that women in Wales played in the country’s peace movement and heritage, thus contributing to a collective knowledge of the 1923 Peace Petition. To find out more about this project or keep up to date with updates and opportunities to take part complete this registration form or scan the QR code to record your interest.
It is hoped that the resulting educational resources, as made possible by this project, will consequently encourage schools, young people’s organisations and community groups to learn about and participate in Welsh peace heritage. In the context of a world where conflict continues, such projects are given a deeper poignancy, leaving us space to discuss and consider hopes of global peace, and inspiring new generations to strive for a warless world.