Women for Peace

Women have been historically linked with anti war movements. While some scholars consider this position reductionist, others have argued that women's traditional roles as mothers and nurturers situate them as natural opponents of militarism and warfare. The women represented in this theme found the struggle for peace to be their life's work. Both Vera Brittain and Dora Russell were radicalized for peace by their very different experiences in England during the First World War: Brittain, a young woman who lost both her fiance and her brother in the conflict, and Russell, who saw her future husband imprisoned for his outspoken resistance. Eva Sanderson and Claire Culhane were both outspoken Canadian anti-Vietnam War activists.

In addition to the four case studies presented here, women are also featured in the counterpoint theme to this one, Women and War. They also appear elsewhere, presented in various themes: Marion S. Simpson under The Hamilton Connection, Constance Malleson and Jane Abbott in Civilians Caught up In War, and Vera Brittain once again, this time as a young woman exchanging letters with her sweetheart in the trenches Life at the Front.

From Youth to Experience: Vera Brittain’s Work for Peace in Two World Wars

Vera Brittain, pacifist, feminist, novelist and poet, was born in Newcastle-under-Lyme, England, on 29 December 1893 and grew up in Buxton, Derbyshire. She won a scholarship to Somerville College, Oxford to study English Literature. Brittain was just about to begin her studies when the First World War was declared. During the same eventful period, carefully documented in her vividly detailed diaries, she met her brother Edward’s closest friend, Roland Leighton. Edward and Roland immediately volunteered for service.

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Claire Culhane: Canadian Peace Activist and Humanitarian

Peace activism in North America was utterly transformed in the 1960s and 1970s during the years of the Vietnam War. Along with widespread student protests and sit-ins, many self-dubbed “non-political” individuals held protest signs for the first time as they joined grass-roots movements to stop the war. In Canada, protesters also wanted the government to reveal the complete nature of their country’s role in the conflict. Why was Canada, known widely for its peacekeeping efforts, selling war materials to the U.S.?

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Working for Peace: Eva Sanderson and the Toronto Association for Peace, 1958-1972

“None of us can resign from our own individual responsibility.” So wrote veteran peace activist Eva Sanderson, expressing the belief that propelled her into work within the Toronto Association for Peace (TAP). Founded in 1958, TAP was the local body, which planned and carried out activities in association with the Canadian Peace Congress. President from 1958 to 1972, Sanderson directed TAP’s efforts which focused on educating the public about threats to peace and motivating them to work for the cause.

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