This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Members of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom redistribute red poker chips, symbolizing global military spending, as they see fit. Photograph: Mir Grebäck von Melen/WILPF via the Guardian
Above, members of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom at the Hague in April redistribute red poker chips, which symbolize global military spending. Photograph: Mir Grebäck von Melen/WILPF via the Guardian

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @MWPalen

Who’s afraid of a feminist foreign policy? To mark the centenary of the Woman’s Peace Congress and the corresponding international peace conference held at the Hague this past week, here are this week’s top picks.

Who’s Afraid of a Feminist Foreign Policy?

Jenny Nordburg
New Yorker

Last month, Saudi Arabia abruptly cut ties with Sweden, recalling its ambassador and announcing that it would issue no new visas to Swedish business travelers. The cause, according to Saudi Arabia, was some remarks made by Margot Wallström, the foreign minister of Sweden.

Wallström, a sixty-year-old Social Democrat who has spent almost her entire career in politics, was appointed foreign minister last fall, when Prime Minister Stefan Löfven took office. She immediately announced that she intended to pursue a feminist foreign policy and went on to explain, in a talk in the U.S., that “striving toward gender equality is not only a goal in itself but also a precondition for achieving our wider foreign, development, and security-policy objectives.” [continue reading]

The Forgotten Link Between World War I and Women’s Rights

Helen McCarthy
History Today

More than 1,100 women from warring and neutral states gathered at The Hague in April 1915 for a special set of peace negotiations. They were not diplomats representing states and they were not present to press national demands. Most were unable even to vote in parliamentary elections in their own countries. They were feminists and pacifists and it was their commitment to these twin ideals that drew them together as conflict raged across Europe.

Their vision of a peace founded on gender equality, social justice and human rights did not bring the war to a close. Nor was it embraced by the male powerbrokers meeting in Paris in 1919 to conclude peace terms. Yet the Women’s Congress of 1915 is important because it reminds us that the First World War not only mobilized armies but nurtured alternative forms of politics, not least the politics of international cooperation and peace. [continue reading]

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Marks 100th Anniversary as War Rages on Worldwide

Amy Goodman
Democracy Now!

We are broadcasting from the World Forum in The Hague where 100 years ago this week over 1,000 female peace activists gathered from around the world to call for an end to war. The extraordinary meeting, known as the International Congress of Women, took place as World War I raged across the globe, and marked the formation of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. It was organized by Dutch suffragist Dr. Aletta Jacobs. The event took place in The Netherlands because of its neutral position during World War I. Two future Nobel Peace Prize winners took part in the U.S. delegation: Jane Addams, the co-founder of Hull House, and the sociologist Emily Greene Balch.

“They saw, quite rightly, that the absence of women in making decisions in government meant there was greater likelihood of war. And they were right,” says our guest, Madeleine Rees, WILPF’s secretary general. She has joined thousands of women from around the world who have gathered again in The Hague to call for peace and to mark the group’s 100th anniversary as wars rage on in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and other countries. [continue reading]

Peace Activists at The Hague Decry $1.8tn Global Military Spend in 2014

Liz Ford

There is no mistaking Anne Scott’s opinion of nuclear weapons. Standing outside a conference hall in The Hague on a chilly Tuesday lunchtime, the secretary of the Scottish branch of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) sported a bright blue T-shirt with the words “NHS Not Trident” defiantly emblazoned on the front. Scott, from Edinburgh, had taken a handful of red poker chips from a table and placed them on a tarpaulin, marked “health”, as a symbolic gesture of where she would like government spending on the military to be diverted.

“Nuclear weapons [in Scotland] are taking out money from health, education, welfare and human rights,” she said, defending the Scottish National Party leader, Nicola Sturgeon, for her stance on diverting current UK spending on nuclear weapons towards public services. Khedijah Mohammed-Nur, from the Network of Eritrean Women, placed some of her chips on the health pile and some on a sheet marked “education”. [continue reading]

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