Theme Peace Movements 1900 to 1960

Peace Movements

Written by Hilary Summy, The University of Queensland

First-wave feminists from the late 1800s, who were attracted to peace issues, gained valuable experience from their struggles to counter the oppression of women, including demanding the right to vote. An anti-war position seemed a natural extension of their campaigns for social justice and formed an intrinsic part of it. Conversely, for some, their anti-war experience stimulated recognition of the importance of civil rights to achieve their ends.

Although Australian women had begun to make some headway in their peace struggles by 1900, they were nevertheless invisible as leaders in the anti-Boer War campaign from 1899 to 1902. While their numerical participation was considerable, leadership roles were overwhelmingly in the hands of men, mainly representatives from the working class and a sprinkling of middle-class academics and clergymen. Women remained in the background managing much of the organisational work for the two new peace organisations that emerged, the Peace and Humanity Society (PHS) in Victoria in 1900 and the Anti-War League (AWL) in New South Wales (NSW) in January 1902. Ada Holman deserves a mention as secretary of the latter organisation. She was married to William Arthur Holman, an outspoken leader of the AWL and a future premier of NSW. She was a journalist and a feminist of some note and spoke out against the Boer War in her position as secretary of the AWL. However, her peace activism appears to have ended with the termination of the Boer War and the closure of the AWL. (The PHS also collapsed.) (Saunders & Summy, 15; Radi, 'Holman', ADB)

A more enduring peace group formed in Melbourne in 1905 to protest against war in general, the Melbourne Peace Society (MPS). Most members were pacifists and similar groups soon appeared in Sydney, Adelaide and Hobart. Like the earlier groups, women's participation was numerically large but their leadership limited. Notable exceptions were Rose Scott (Allen, 'Scott', ADB) and Marian Harwood (Jordens, ADB) as mainstays of the Sydney Peace Society (SPS). Scott founded this pacifist organisation in 1907 after being approached by the influential Reverend Charles Strong, a former Presbyterian minister and founder of the progressive Australian Church in Melbourne in 1884. Strong had been an outspoken anti-Boer War campaigner with the PHS and was now president of the MPS (Saunders & Summy, 16; Allen, 1994, 208).

Scott was first and foremost a feminist but she had also deplored the Boer War and Australia's participation in it. She equated the might of the British Empire conquering the weaker Boer nation with the domination of men over women (Allen, 1994, 143). Hers was a maternalist feminism, a defining feature of first-wave feminism based on the idea that women's nurturing qualities could provide a moral force to counter the baser instincts of men. The welfare of women and children and a recognition of women's interests and rights were prime concerns in a male-dominant society (Lake, 49-71).

Over the next decade, Scott threw herself into peace activities to combat what she saw as a growing military spirit in Australia. She vehemently opposed the principle of compulsory military training and promoted arbitration as a means of settling international disputes. Judith Allen has noted that Scott's work with the SPS enabled her to introduce her pacifist views to the National Council of Women (NCW), an umbrella organisation comprising delegates from most women's groups, and also connected her with peace-minded women overseas (Allen, 1994, 213). However, it appears her pacifism had little influence in Australia as most NCW delegates supported the First World War. It was not until after that conflagration that a number of the NCW's high-profile members joined the peace movement, mostly as pacifici-cists.

Marian Harwood, also a feminist/pacifist, assisted Scott in the formation of the SPS and was appointed a vice-president in 1909. She asserted that during World War I it was common for peace activists to be ostracised by friends and acquaintances for their dissenting views. She remained a committed worker for peace well into her later years and was regarded by fellow peace activist Eleanor Moore as 'one of our great pioneer pacifists' (Moore, 109). Perhaps Harwood's greatest peace legacy was her founding and editing of the journal, Pax, from 1912 until its demise in 1916, and her endowment of a school children's peace prize (Jordens, ADB).

Of far more significance in terms of peace leadership and long-term involvement in the peace movement is the work of Eleanor Moore (Colligan & Saunders, ADB). She served the peace movement as a steadfast pacifist from the time of the First World War until her death in 1949. The bedrock of Moore's peace activism was her strong belief in the promotion and practice of Christian ethics and social reform. Like a number of other peace-minded women, she was initially inspired by the Reverend Charles Strong. War, he believed, was incompatible with democracy, and women, as voters, should exercise their responsibility in campaigning for its abolition. He encouraged the women of his congregation to form a women's peace group. A women-only group would provide a supportive environment for women to operate away from the dominating influence of men. Hence the Sisterhood of International Peace (SIP) was formed in March 1915 (Saunders, 80-1). Moore was elected international secretary at the inaugural meeting and maintained throughout the rest of her life a leadership position within that organisation and its successor, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), formed in 1920 as the Australian chapter of the international body. In 1915, she represented SIP at an international congress of women at The Hague presided over by Jane Addams (pre-eminent American social reformer, feminist and, in 1931, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate). Moore attended a follow-up congress in Zurich in 1919 when WILPF's international body was formed. In 1928, she represented WILPF at a Pan-Pacific Women's Association conference in Honolulu where Jane Addams again presided. While Strong may have been Moore's mentor, Addams provided the role model; Moore considered her 'the greatest human being I have ever met' (Moore, 50).

Although Moore's views were firm and uncompromising, her leadership style was cautious and considered. This was particularly evident during World War I when she feared that it would be counterproductive to go against the tide of war-time fervour. Instead, SIP focused on peace education through such activities as conducting study circles, giving lectures and publishing pamphlets and a monthly journal, Peacewards, a joint publication with Strong and the MPS. Schools were a particular target to counter the prevailing jingoism. While SIP did not wish to appear disloyal to the war effort, it was forced to take a stand during the volatile conscription debate and campaigned vigorously for a 'No' vote. As a public speaker, Moore did not emerge entirely unscathed from the hecklers. She was also publicly condemned by some women who supported the war effort. She had been ostracised at meetings of the Victorian branch of the NCW in late 1915 for promoting 'the humanizing influence of women' in opposing the war and felt compelled to resign from that body (Moore, 39). Her SIP colleague, Janet Strong, also resigned her position as vice-president of the NCWV in 1915. Moore was criticised for her unwavering pacifist views from both within and outside WILPF but particularly from other peace organisations and individuals who did not insist on peace at any price.

By the end of the war, Moore had adopted a more forthright approach to her peace activism. She was a leading participant in the Australian section of the World Disarmament Movement (WDM) culminating in 1931. A highpoint of the campaign was a disarmament petition that she organised on behalf of WILPF, with the cooperation of the WDM, as part of an international women's initiative headed by Jane Addams. Around 118,000 Australian signatures were collected and presented with much fanfare to Prime Minister Scullin at a 'great' meeting in the Melbourne Town Hall. The presentation was preceded by a march that the January 1932 issue of Peacewards declared 'the biggest peace demonstration ever held in Melbourne' (in H. Summy, 2007, 96). The signatures were subsequently delivered to Geneva, along with declarations from around the world, for submission to the World Disarmament Conference (H. Summy, 2007, 95-7).

Although Moore worked alongside a number of other outstanding Australian women leaders throughout her career-notably Janet Strong (married to the Reverend Charles Strong), Jane Kerr, Mabel Drummond, Lucy Paling, Amelia Lambrick and Doris Blackburn (whose peace work extended into the 1960s and beyond)-Moore stands out for her unshakable pacifist principles, her enduring commitment to world peace and her exceptional leadership qualities. Her lasting legacy is her 1949 publication, The Quest for Peace as I Have Known It in Australia, the first published history of the Australian peace movement. In the book she focuses on the activities of WILPF, the oldest continuing peace organisation in Australia.

A second women's peace organisation, the Women's Peace Army (WPA), was created in Melbourne in 1915 (four months after the formation of SIP) under the leadership of well-known suffragist and feminist Vida Goldstein (Brownfoot, ADB). Although she had also attended Strong's Australian Church before converting to Christian Science and was no doubt influenced by his liberal views, Goldstein's peace activism, like Rose Scott's, stemmed from her feminist roots. By 1899, she was the leader of the radical women's movement in Victoria. In 1903, she founded and became president of the Women's Federal Political Association (later Women's Political Association) to support and promote women's rights and social reform. She stood (unsuccessfully) as an independent for federal parliament five times between 1903 and 1917. In the lead-up to World War I, the Women's Political Association adopted a pacifist policy, which caused a split among its members. Subsequently, the pacifist Goldstein formed the WPA for the sole purpose of dealing with issues of peace. This move also allowed women in the Labor Party, which in late 1914 had proscribed the Women's Political Association, to continue to cooperate with the WPA in their anti-war work (Smart, 1992, 15).

The WPA's objectives were similar to those of SIP: both stressed the role of peace education and the humanising role of women in promoting world peace. Both supported the abolition of compulsory military training, a general reduction of armaments and the concept of arbitration to resolve international disputes. And, like Moore, Goldstein was an absolute pacifist. However, Goldstein's leadership style differed fundamentally. She believed in confronting the issue of militarism head on. She was greatly assisted in this campaign by Cecilia John (Gowland, ADB), Jennie Baines (Smart, ADB) and Adela Pankhurst (Hogan, ADB), the latter two with backgrounds in the militant suffragette movement in pre-war England. Cecilia John attracted the ire of the military authorities for singing anti-war songs at public meetings. The banning of I Didn't Raise My Son to be a Soldier did not prevent enthusiastic audiences from joining in the chorus with great gusto (H. Summy, 2006a, 77,78).

The WPA women also differed from their SIP colleagues in their more radical ideological position. Goldstein embraced the principles of socialism and promoted the concept of nationalisation and public control of the means of production, distribution and exchange. She also supported the 1917 Australian general strike as a protest against the war and established a commune at WPA Guild Hall headquarters to assist striking wharfies and their families (Smart, 2008, 113-32). Goldstein believed that capitalism was the primary cause of the war. However, the issue of socialism was contentious and not all WPA members agreed with her more radical views. The WPA carried out its peace propaganda mainly through public forums and demonstrations on the Yarra Bank. It also published pamphlets and expressed opinions through the Women's Political Association journal, the Woman Voter, though much of the material was censored under the War Precautions Act. These activities exposed the women to extreme verbal and physical abuse, especially by military men, and a number of violent incidents have been recorded. For their behaviour, the WPA women were deemed unpatriotic. They challenged the idea of soldiers as 'real men' and the epitome of manhood. The women's militant style also challenged assumptions of how women should behave. These upheavals against the status quo were amplified during the anti-conscription campaigns. Nowhere was this more evident than in Brisbane where Margaret Thorp (also known as Watts) (Rutledge, ADB) headed the WPA (H. Summy, 2006a; 2006b, 59-76).

Thorp's peace values were strongly embedded in the Quaker tradition of the Society of Friends. She arrived in Australia from England with her family in 1911 (aged nineteen), shortly after the implementation in Australia of compulsory military training for all males aged twelve to twenty-six. Before her departure from England, she had attended a Young Friends Conference at Swanwick, which endorsed a politically active role as well as the traditional spiritually based Quaker approach to peace-making. According to Thorp, it 'gave new direction and depth of vision to nearly all present … Whatever the social pressures, there would be no compromise with militarism' (in H. Summy, 2006a, 24). After her arrival in Australia, she participated in the anti-conscription movement in South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania where she played a leadership role in the creation of the Australian Freedom League (AFL) to oppose compulsory military training (H. Summy, 2006a, 24-8).

Thorp moved to Brisbane in October 1915, where she continued her peace mission at a time when the vast majority of Australians supported the war. She was approached by Adela Pankhurst and Cecilia John to promote the WPA in Queensland. She found little support for her peace position from women's organisations and open hostility from the churches. However, she discovered an ally in Emma Miller (former suffrage activist, champion of the proletariat and now anti-war advocate), who introduced her to other members of the women's labour movement. She also established a close relationship with Mabel and Ernie Lane, which gave her the opportunity to meet a number of local and interstate activists of the labour movement. As chairman of the Brisbane branch of the Australian Workers Union (AWU) and a member of the Queensland Central Executive of the Australian Labor Party, Ernie Lane wielded considerable influence within labour circles. He was also a leading figure in the nascent anti-conscription struggle that had emerged under growing suspicions that conscription for overseas service would be introduced (H. Summy, 2006b, 62).

Most supporters from the labour movement did not endorse Thorp's religious views, nor did they support her strong anti-war position. The peace commitment for the vast majority only extended to an anti-conscription position. Nevertheless, Thorp had the ability to bridge the gap between people of diverse backgrounds and ideologies by focusing on the immediate goal of anti-conscription. She was also able to find common ground with their socialist ideology since her Christian pacifism dovetailed with certain features of socialism, principally its criticism of capitalism's abuses. When Pankhurst and John arrived in Brisbane to help set up a branch of the WPA (and a branch of the Australian Peace Alliance (APA) that had been formed in Melbourne as a coalition of affiliated peace groups), they were met with much fanfare by a large crowd-principally union leaders, and anti-conscription activists. Over the next few days before the departure of the Melbourne women, a series of meetings and lectures stressed the important contribution of women to building support for the anti-conscription cause. Thorp was elected secretary and treasurer of the newly established WPA, while Mabel Lane and Emma Miller were included on the executive committee. Clio Jensen was subsequently elected president and worked closely with Thorp (H. Summy, 2006a, 69-82).

Not all the WPA women held Thorp's strong pacifist principles, although they opposed not only conscription but also the war, or at least this war. Thorp could also connect with the feminist analysis of war. She spoke about the antagonism of militarism to true democracy and claimed that women suffered most from war and its consequences. Militarism, insisted Thorp in the first issue of Voice of Australian Democracy (1916), 'has been the curse of women from the first dawn of social life' (in H. Summy, 2007, 35). At one of her study circles she introduced the writings of South African pacifist/feminist Olive Schreiner, who had personally witnessed some of the horrors of the Boer War. While Schreiner believed that women suffered most in war, she also held that they had it in their power to contribute to the cause of peace. She proposed a free and independent education for women to help them realise their full potential as contributors to the cause of peace (Saracino, 103-4).

Education received a high priority under Thorp's leadership. Apart from conducting study circles, she gave public lectures, talked to school children and set up a Children's Peace Army to teach children peace ideals. She gave talks at regional schools where she was appalled at the prevailing 'spirit of jingoism'. In her public addresses, she pressed for a system of arbitration to settle international disputes, with women participating in the process. Other WPA branches were formed in the Queensland towns of Rockhampton and Ipswich (H. Summy, 2006a, 86-8).

After the federal government's announcement of a referendum in October 1916 to decide the issue of conscription for overseas service, the work of the WPA became increasingly difficult, both in Brisbane and in Melbourne. The women were frequently denied the use of public halls, meetings were often violently disrupted, and notices and articles were censored in newspapers (Damousi, 8, 10-15). The Brisbane struggles culminated at a pro-conscription women's meeting in the School of Arts building in the lead-up to a second referendum in December 1917. Thorp was viciously attacked and physically thrown out by hostile women who denounced her and her views. Not to be defeated, a dishevelled Thorp returned accompanied by a policeman who claimed she had every right to address a public meeting. After he had left, she was again attacked and thrown out, only to reappear once more, although she was unable to get a hearing amidst the uproar. At the end of the meeting, according to the Daily Standard, she called, 'three cheers for no conscription', and withdrew with her supporters to the accompaniment of catcalls and howls for conscription. Thorp was praised by supporters, both locally and from afar, for her courage and persistence and 'for her plucky stand for democracy and free speech' (in H. Summy, 2006a, 98-100).

Margaret Thorp was also praised for her general leadership in the anti-conscription campaign, earning the title 'Peace Angel' from her colleagues in the labour movement and WPA. She was instrumental in bringing together the various factions in Queensland in the struggle against conscription, which proved to be a major factor in the defeat of both referendums. Nevertheless, she had paid a price for standing up for her principles in such a hostile environment. And, while she had the support of the labour movement for the anti-conscription cause, she deplored labour's lack of opportunities for women. Equality between men and women had long been an accepted feature of Quaker doctrine (H. Summy, 2006a, 110).

After the war, the peace bodies that had been formed specifically to oppose conscription and/or the war eventually disbanded, apart from SIP, which became the Australian section of WILPF. Divergent ideologies, which had been accommodated to a certain extent during the anti-conscription campaigns, now caused a deepening rift between liberal pacifists and pacifi-cists on the one hand and socialist/labour militants on the other. The socialist wing concentrated on anti-imperialist campaigns while the middle-class liberals on the whole turned to the League of Nations, leading to the formation of the League of Nations Union (LNU) for which branches were established in all states.

Unlike previous peace organisations, the LNU was not a grass-roots movement. It was formed by a number of high-profile establishment figures, based on the British model, and gained the support of intellectuals, politicians, prominent business and professional men, clergymen and women's groups that had supported the war, and even conscription, but were now keen to avoid another 'Armageddon'. Feminists played an important role in the movement, believing that the League of Nations would also provide an international forum for the status of women. Bessie Rischbieth (Lutton, ADB) and Roberta Jull (Church, ADB) from Western Australia and Jessie Street (Radi, 'Street', ADB) from NSW stand out as the leading feminists. Rischbieth, representing the Australian Federation of Women's Societies (later Australian Federation of Women Voters (AFWV), persuaded the Hughes government in 1922 to appoint a woman as substitute delegate for the annual League Assembly in Geneva. Her efforts were backed by the NCW in all states. Marguerite Dale from the NSW LNU (also a member of the state affiliate of the AFWV and the NCW of NSW) was appointed (Tate, ADB), and Rischbieth herself attended in 1935. Jull attended as substitute delegate in 1929. Various LNU members were appointed on other occasions, as were other key figures in the AFWV and state and federal NCW leaders, who in many cases were also vice presidents of their state LNUs. Although regarded as something of a victory for the status of women, according to Eleanor Moore, the female substitute delegates were not given full voting rights. She claimed that one of the women was even told by the leader of the delegation when asked what her duty entailed, 'Your business is to hold your tongue' (Moore, 82). For the most part, these LNU women were politically conservative and imperial-minded-like the general LNU membership (H. Summy, 2007). Jessie Street was a notable exception. She was a radical feminist and a founding member of the more left-leaning New South Wales LNU. She joined the Labor Party in 1939 but later resigned as she was increasingly drawn towards radical socialism (Radi, 'Street', ADB; Street, 1966).

At the administrative level, the pacifi-cist Constance Duncan (Langmore, ADB) stands out for her leadership role as secretary of the Victorian LNU. Equally noteworthy was her role as an educator and publicist. She also had the ability to operate within an élite, male-dominated section of society. In more recent times, she is better known for her role as a fundraiser and a foundation member of Melbourne University's International House council. Her portrait hangs prominently in the dining room at International House named in her honour (H. Summy, 2008, 28).

Duncan was a feminist whose peace orientation developed from her work in Japan as foreign secretary for the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) from 1922 to 1933, While there, she took a particular interest in women's working conditions and Australia/Japan relations. She had majored in history and economics at Melbourne University in 1917 and, with her recent experience in Japan, was well equipped to take on the position of secretary for the Bureau of Social and International Affairs in Melbourne on her return to Australia. The Bureau acted as a coordinating body for the Victorian LNU, the Australian Institute of International Affairs (AIIA) and the Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR).

Duncan returned to Australia at a critical time for the peace movement: the World Disarmament Conference had failed and the situation in Europe was deteriorating rapidly as the great powers rearmed. A mood of despondency had descended on the peace movement as the League seemed unable to deal with the emerging world crises. Looking for new directions, Duncan made peace education one of her first priorities as LNU secretary. As well as lecturing widely and giving regular talks on the ABC, she held discussions with school children about international affairs and the League of Nations. She established a Schools Committee, which encouraged collaboration between teachers and the LNU. She was also largely responsible for the creation of League of Nations Day in Victoria with the aim of mitigating the patriotic fervour associated with Empire Day, Anzac Day and Armistice Day. Enthusiasm for League of Nations Day among school children (activities included mock assemblies, pageants and debates) led to the substantial growth of Junior LNUs (H. Summy, 2007, 125-30).

Other priories emerged for the LNU when the Movement Against War and Fascism (MAW&F) (an organisation initiated and dominated by the Communist Party of Australia) proposed a combined effort to confront the growing threat of war and fascism. Collaboration between the socialist and liberal wings of the peace movement became possible when the Soviet Union joined the League of Nations in 1934. The movement developed into the International Peace Campaign (IPC) in 1937, in line with the overseas movement. Duncan played an important role as its honorary secretary and gained a great deal of support for the campaign, especially from women's groups. The administrative work was carried out in the offices of the LNU under Duncan's supervision (H. Summy, 2007, 161-71).

The IPC culminated in a four-day congress held in Melbourne in September 1937 and climaxed on the final day with a dramatic peace procession that was hailed as the biggest demonstration Melbourne had ever seen (Rasmussen, 1980, 25). The apparent success of the campaign, however, provoked unprecedented anti-communist propaganda throughout Australia. Duncan herself suffered from the repercussions. She was informed by the ABC that her regular sessions were to be discontinued on the grounds that international affairs were covered adequately by other programs. A confidential report later revealed, however, that objections had been raised to her association with 'communist-inspired' organisations. Duncan resigned soon after as secretary of the IPC, not through anti-communist pressure but over the IPC's support for a boycott of Japanese goods. She turned her attention to helping refugees and was appointed director of the Victorian International Refugee Emergency Council (VIREC), a body sponsored by the Victorian LNU and the churches (except the Catholic Church). In 1942, Duncan resigned from the secretaryship of all the international societies, which were losing financial and membership support, and obtained a government position as welfare officer to investigate the wellbeing of children and working mothers. After the war she worked in the area of post-war reconstruction at a high official level (H. Summy, 2008, 40-1; Warne, 300-03).

Dorothy Gibson (Murray-Smith, ADB) had worked alongside Duncan as assistant secretary of the IPC, representing the socialist wing of the combined movement. Gibson had been attracted to socialism while working in the area of progressive education after graduating from Melbourne University. She travelled to England to further pursue this work. While in Europe, she became aware of the growing threat of fascism and the possibility of another war and joined the British Movement Against War & Fascism. She was also profoundly affected by the Depression. In 1933, she taught the children of the Soviet Union and Trade Legation staff in London, which led the following year to a teaching position at the Anglo-American school in Moscow. On her return to Australia in 1935, she became a Marxist and, in the following year, joined the Communist Party of Australia (CPA), which, she claimed, gave her new direction and hope and a sense of comradeship (Gibson, 51). She threw herself into the peace movement, and, as well as her work as an executive member of the Victorian Council Against War and Fascism and the IPC, she served as vice-president of the Friends of the Soviet Union. She helped to form the Victorian Spanish Relief Committee and worked alongside feminist and literary icon Nettie Palmer (Jordan, ADB), collecting funds to help the victims of Franco's regime, as well as signatures for a petition to end the arms embargo imposed by Britain and France (Gibson, 52-3).

In an atmosphere of growing hostility towards communists, Gibson resigned from her position with the IPC in January 1940, believing her CPA membership would have an adverse effect on the organisation. Nevertheless the IPC disintegrated a few months later (H. Summy, 2007, 194-5). Gibson continued working covertly for the CPA despite its temporary illegal status. When the Soviet Union joined the allied cause after the German invasion in June the following year, she focused her efforts on the Australia-Soviet Friendship League (ASFL) (Gibson, 59-61).

After the war, the CPA became a major force in the peace movement. Cold War tensions had begun in earnest, creating an environment that was extremely challenging, and even perilous, for peace workers. Under these grim circumstances, Gibson worked as a full-time organiser for the Australian Peace Council (APC), which held its first conference in Melbourne in 1950, essentially to gain support for the banning of atomic weapons and the destruction of all stockpiles. The only woman executive member was Heather Wakefield from the Student Christian Movement (R. Summy, 239). Two more conferences followed before the work of the APC culminated in the major ANZ Congress for International Co-operation and Disarmament in 1959. Gibson's activities included organising conferences, demonstrations and meetings, gathering signatures and circulating petitions, and writing letters. She played a big part in broadening the composition of the peace movement, which now included liberal internationalists (Christian and secular) and socialists of all hues. She continued her peace work into the 1960s and 1970s in the struggle against the Vietnam War. She and Margaret Thorp stand out as the two leaders most able to integrate into the peace movement diverse sections of society.

Like Gibson, Jessie Street became a socialist, although not a communist. She was a committed feminist all her life with roots in the suffragette movement in England (where she attended school). She moved to Australia with her family and graduated from Sydney University in 1911. She participated in a number of women's organisations at a high level. In 1929 she formed the United Associations (UA), which later, as the United Associations of Women, became the New South Wales branch of the Australian Federation of Women Voters, founded by Bessie Rischbieth, whom Street considered a mentor (though they became bitter enemies after World War II). Street's work to improve the status of women carried over into the peace movement. She was a founding member of the NSW LNU in 1920 and was elected a vice-president; and she later endorsed the affiliation of the UA with the NSW branch of the IPC. Her politics became more radical after a visit to the Soviet Union in 1938 at the invitation of the Society for Cultural Relations with the USSR. There she was impressed with women's working conditions and their equality of status in the workforce. She continued on to Germany where she felt repelled by the aggressive military presence and was shocked by Britain's policy of appeasement over the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. After her return home, she joined the Society for Cultural Relations with the USSR and accepted the position of president. In the virulent anti-communist milieu, she was branded 'Red Jessie' by the anti-communist press and received a great deal of 'hate mail'. This situation was ameliorated, for the time being, after Germany's attack on the Soviet Union. Street organised to send medical supplies through the Russian Medical Aid Committee, and instigated the Sheepskins for Russia Appeal (Street; Radi, 'Street', ADB).

Jessie Street had participated in League of Nations Assemblies in 1930 and 1938, and in April 1945 she attended, as the only woman, a twelve-member Australian delegation to the United Nations Conference in San Francisco, where she pushed successfully for the inclusion of women's equality in the charter of the new organisation. After the war, she presided over the NSW division of the communist-initiated APC, a position that put her at odds with conservative feminists. While an executive member of the World Peace Council (parent body of the APC), she resided in London until 1960 (Street; Radi, 'Street', ADB). Street and Dorothy Gibson are conspicuous as women leaders of a peace movement dominated by men in the immediate post-war political milieu.

Nevertheless, in this period, an important new element of the peace movement emerged in the form of the Union of Australian Women (UAW), first established in 1950 in Sydney with branches soon to follow in other states. Membership consisted primarily of left-wing, working-class women, and, like the APC, it was initiated by the CPA (Fabian & Loh, 1). Reflecting a maternalist theme, its objectives were to promote and safeguard the interests and needs of women and children. The issue of world peace was also firmly on the agenda since it impacted on present and future generations. International Women's Day received a high priority, featuring peace marches and rallies to protest against the development and testing of nuclear weapons (Curthoys, 507-08). Members shared peace goals with the organisers of the various conferences initiated by the CPA and strongly supported the 1959 ANZ Congress for International Co-operation and Disarmament (Fabian & Loh, 60-5). The UAW was among the first groups to protest against the Vietnam War (Curthoys, 507). Some key UAW members were Alison Dickie, Freda Brown, Audrey McDonald, Joan Child and Eva Bacon.

Throughout the first sixty years of the 20th century, women played a prominent role in the development of the Australian peace movement, though their leadership role was limited during the earlier years. Most were first-wave feminists who associated the struggle for gender equality and social welfare with the issues of peace. These contributors laid the foundation of a larger, more diverse and broadly focused peace movement evident in the volatile 1960s and beyond. Most outstanding among the women leaders of this period are pacifists Eleanor Moore, Vida Goldstein and Margaret Thorp, and pacifi-cists Constance Duncan, Dorothy Gibson and Jessie Street.

Published Resources


  • Allen, Judith, Rose Scott: Vision and Revision in Feminism, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, Victoria, 1994. Details
  • Bomford, Janette, That Dangerous and Persuasive Woman: Vida Goldstein, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, Victoria, 1993. Details
  • Fabian, Sue and Loh, Morag, Left-wing Ladies: The Union of Australian Women in Victoria 1950 - 1998, Hyland House, Melbourne, Victoria, 2000. Details
  • Gibson, Ralph, One Woman's Life: A Memoir of Dorothy Gibson, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney, New South Wales, 1980. Details
  • Lake, Marilyn, Getting Equal: The History of Australian Feminism, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, New South Wales, 1999. Details
  • Moore, Eleanor, The Quest for Peace, as I have Known It in Australia, Wilke & Co, Melbourne, Victoria, 1948. Details
  • Rasmussen, Carolyn, The Lesser Evil? Opposition to War and Fascism in Australia 1920 - 1941, The University of Melbourne: Department of History, Melbourne, Victoria, 1991. Details
  • Saunders, Malcolm, Quiet Dissenter: the life and thought of an Australian pacifist : Eleanor May Moore 1875-1949, Australian National University (ANU): Peace Research Centre, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, 1993. Details
  • Saunders, Malcolm and Summy, Ralph, The Australian Peace Movement: A Short History, Australian National University (ANU): Peace Research Centre, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, 1986. Details
  • Sawer, Marian and Simms, Marian, A Woman's Place: Women and Politics in Australia, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, New South Wales, 1993. Details
  • Street, Jessie M. G., Truth or Repose, Australasian Book Society, Sydney, New South Wales, 1966. Details
  • Summy, Hilary N., "Peace Angel" of World War I: Dissent of Margaret Thorp, Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Brisbane, Queensland, 2006. Details
  • Young, Pam, Daring to Take a Stand: The Story of the Union of Australian Women in Queensland, Pam Young, Brisbane, Queensland, 1998. Details

Book Sections

  • Curthoys, Ann, 'Shut up you bourgeois bitch: Sexual Identity and Political Action in the Anti-Vietnam War Movement', in Damousi, Joy and Lake, Marilyn (eds), Gender and War: Australians at War in the Twentieth Century, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, Victoria, 1995. Details
  • Cuthoys, Barbara, 'Union of Australian Women', in Australian Feminism: A Companion, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, Victoria, 1998, pp. 507 - 508. Details
  • Gowland, Patricia, 'The Women's Peace Army', in Windshuttle, E (ed.), Feminist Perspectives on Australia 1788-1978, Fontana Books, Auckland, New Zealand, 1980, pp. 216 - 234. Details
  • Murray, Suellen, 'Lee Rhiannon: A Lifetime of Political Activism', in Davis, Fiona, Musgrove, Nell and Smart, Judith (eds), Founders, Firsts and Feminists: Women Leaders in Twentieth-Century Australia, The University of Melbourne: eScholarship Research Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, 2011, pp. 232-247. Details
  • Saracino, Maria Antonietta, 'Woman, the Unwilling Victim of War: The Legacy of Olive Schreiner (1855-1920)', in Chatfield, Charles and Van Den Dungen, Peter (eds), Peace Movements and Political Cultures, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, United States of America, 1988. Details
  • Summy, Ralph, 'The Australian Peace Council and the Anti-Communist Milieu, 1949-1965', in Charles Chatfield and Peter Van Den Dungen (eds), Peace Movements and Political Cultures, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, United States of America, 1988, pp. 233 - 264. Details
  • Warne, Ellen, 'Constance Duncan: Translating Women's Leadership and Internationalism in Asia and Australia 1922 - 1958', in Davis, Fiona, Musgrove, Nell and Smart, Judith (eds), Founders, Firsts and Feminists: Women Leaders in Twentieth-Century Australia, The University of Melbourne: eScholarship Research Centre, 2011. Details

Journal Articles

  • Damousi, Joy, 'Socialist Women and Gendered Space: The Anti-conscription and Anti-war Campaigns of 1914-1918', Labour History, May 1991, pp. 1-15. Details
  • Ramussen, Carolyn, 'The Australian Peace Congress, September 1937'', Australia 1938: A Bicentennial History Bulletin, no. 3, December 1980, pp. 19 - 28. Details
  • Smart, Judith, 'Respect not Relief: Feminism, Guild Socialism and the Guild Hall Commune in Melbourne 1917', Labour History, vol. 94, May 2008, pp. 113-132. Details
  • Summy, Hilary, 'Margaret Thorp and the Anti-Conscription Campaign in Brisbane 1915-1917', Hecate, vol. 32, no. 1, 2006, pp. 59 - 76. Details
  • Summy, Hilary, 'From Missionary to Ministerial Adviser: Constance Duncan and Australia - Japan Relations 1922 - 47', Australian Journal of Politics and History, vol. 54, no. 1, 2008. Details


  • Murray, Kay, 'Irene Greenwood: A Voice for Peace', PhD thesis, Edith Cowan University, 2002. Details
  • Smart, Judith, 'War and the Concept of a New Social Order: Melbourne 1914-1915', PhD thesis, Monash University, 1992. Details
  • Summy, Hilary, 'From Hope...To Hope: Story of the Australian League of Nations Union, Featuring the Victorian Branch, 1921-1945', PhD thesis, University of Queensland, 2007. Details

Online Resources