Quotable Women for Peace

Primary Source Analysis and Research


Women have always spoken out against war. Below find short quotes by women expressing various opinions about peace and war, and the need to work with each other across national boundaries. Followed are ways to use the quotes for discussion and group interaction.

1) “I believe that peace is not merely an absence of war, but the nurture of human life, and that in time this nurture will do away with war as a natural process...Only in freedom is permanent peace possible. To unite women in all countries who are opposed to any kind of war, exploitation and oppression, and who work for universal disarmament...and by the establishment of social, political, and economic justice for all without distinction of sex, race, class, or creeds.”
Jane Addams (1860-1935) U.S.A.

2) “The half of humanity that have never bourne arms is today ready to struggle to make the brotherhood of man a reality. Perhaps the universal sisterhood is necessary before the universal brotherhood is possible.”
Bertha von Suttner. Speech, 1912, Austria

3) “Women will soon have political power. Woman suffrage and permanent peace will go together. When a country is in a state of mind to grant the vote to its women, it is a sign that that country is ripe for permanent peace. Women don’t feel as men do about war. They are the mothers of the race. Men think of the economic results, women think of the grief and pain.”
Dr. Aletta Jacobs, (1851-1929) Holland

4) “You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.” And, “The work of educating the world to peace is the woman’s job, because men have a natural fear of being classed as cowards if they oppose war.”
Jeanette Rankin, (1880-1973) U.S.A.

5) “If you insist upon fighting to protect me, or ‘our’ country, let it be understood, soberly and rationally between us, that you are fighting to gratify a sex Instinct which I cannot share; to procure benefits which I have not shared and probably will not share;....For, the outside will say, in fact, as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world...”
Virginia Woolf (1882 - 1941) England

6) “If brains have brought us to what we are in now, I think it is time to allow our hearts to speak. When our sons are killed by the millions, let us, mothers, only try to do good by going to the kings and emperors without any other danger than a refusal.”
Rosika Schwimmer, Speech at International Congress of Women at the Hague, 1915

7) “Peace and the enjoyment of human rights by all cannot be imposed by outsiders....True peace and equality, the crafting of bonds of trust and confidence, which hold families and communities together, cannot be created overnight....This takes time and patience and the involvement of all sectors of society. Contributions of all those who lived through the violence - particularly, in this case, Afghan women and girls - must be central to peace-Building efforts, Without women’s contributions, peace, and the stability it brings, will be fleeting.”
Angela E.V. King, Speech, Afghan Women’s Summit for Democracy, Brussels, 4 December, 2001

8) “The women at the conference were calling for peace. We wanted to stop the war, but we wanted to listen to the Iraqi people who were saying we want peace but we don’t want to kneel to George Bush, and we agreed, because everybody wants peace, but not in exchange for slavery.”
Nawal El Saadawi, conference of women from 26 countries regarding the conflict between Iraq and Kuwait, and other conflicts in the Middle East. March 1991

Activity Suggestions

Student chose, or are assigned, a quote. They stand up and read it.

Ask class: Do you agree with the quote? (Does it cause a positive or negative, or ambivalent reaction ?) Do the beliefs of the speaker hold true today? Are the reasons going to war the same, or different?

Research: After researching the woman and her times, either orally or in writing, students answer these questions: Who was this woman? When and where did she (or they) live? Does this quote tell us anything about her personality? What? Does it tell us anything about the period she lived in? What? What else was going on in this country, or the world at this time?

Analyze Bertha von Suttner’s use of the term “universal sisterhood.” What might she have meant? Where might it exist and where could it be questioned? Is it necessary to have universal agreement to create peace?

Display: On posters or card stock, place the quotes around the room, one per week. Students task is to write a response paragraph to the quote. Use some of the questions above for them to respond to.
Students might find other quotes to be added to these opinions about the nature of peace.

Link Back:
Women's Ways to Cross Cultural Borders

Lyn Reese is the author of all the information on this website
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