News | April 6, 2023

100 Year Old Women's Peace Petition to Return to Wales from the US

Public Domain

Presentation of the Welsh Women's Peace Petition Memorial at the White House in Washington, February 21, 1924, by Welsh League of Nations Union (WLNU) and American women's peace representatives. L-R: Mrs Ruth Morgan, President of the American League of Women Voters; Elined Prys (later Elined Prys Kotchnig) from Talgarth, Radnorshire; WLNU / World Student Christian Movement; Annie-Jane Hughes Griffiths from Llangeitho, Carmarthenshire; Chair of the WLNU movement; Mary Ellis (later Mary Gwilym Davies) from Dolgellau, Gwynedd; WLNU / Inspector of Schools in Wales.

A hundred-year-old Peace Petition signed by almost 400,000 Welsh Women is to return to Wales as the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History transfers the oak chest and petition to the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.

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 seven 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 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. The trunk is now on its way back and should reach its new home at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth within the next few weeks.

The Welsh Government contributed £150,000 to finance the return of the chest and petition to Wales. Once in Aberystwyth, expert staff at The National Library will digitise its contents. This in turn will enable the public to search the Peace Petition to find out who exactly were these women of Wales who went in search of peace.

Working with the Peace Petition Partnership and volunteers Wales-wide, an exhibition will be organised during 2023-2024 to present the chest and petition at three locations – Aberystwyth, St Fagans and Wrexham.

Jill Evans, Chair of Heddwch Nain/Mamgu (Our Grandmothers’ Peace), a group which has been instrumental in drawing attention to this story, said: "This unique and remarkable peace mission by women in Wales a hundred years ago inspired so many people and continues to do so. This history belongs to all of us. We need to remember and share the story, to celebrate their achievements but also to reaffirm their aim of a warless world. Heddwch Nain/Mam-Gu was set up to continue the women’s campaign for peace."

Anthea M. Hartig, the Elizabeth MacMillan Director of the National Museum of American History said: 
"This petition from the women of Wales on behalf of the women of the United States, is a beautiful example of supportive sisterhood. For nearly two decades the trunk was on display in our museum to illustrate the use of women’s networks in promoting peace."