American women's peace advocacy has roots in 19th century US and European abolitionist, suffrage, and peace movements. Throughout the last century, women peace advocates have worked inside and outside the political system to end war and promote a more just American international policy.
Nobel Prize winner Jane Addams worked for international disarmament during World War I. A pioneering reformer, Addams believed bringing people together to collaborate in local communities could be a model for international peace.
Helen Keller was recognized for her work to promote universal brotherhood and greater understanding between the races. Keller supported woman suffrage and child and adult workers’ rights.
At the turn of the 20th-century, journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett denounced lynching against African Americans as an attack against African American economic and political advancement.
Internationalist Emily Greene Balch led an interracial delegation to Haiti in 1925 that criticized the American occupation’s impact on race relations and civil liberties and encouraged greater democracy.
Peace Pilgrim walked more than 25,000 miles not only to oppose war and the arms race, but also to demonstrate peace could arise from the goodwill of people, such as those who helped her on her journey.
Anti-nuclear activist Dagmar Wilson co-founded a 1960s women’s peace movement that mentored a generation of women activists and argued women had a role to end war and atmospheric nuclear testing that endangered children’s health.
Writer and nonviolence activist and practitioner, Barbara Deming believed violence and racism had common roots. A lesbian and feminist, Deming devised a secular model of nonviolence based on respect.
Marii Hasegawa and her family were interred during World War II. Hasegawa was President of WILPF during the Vietnam War where she organized protests and led a delegation to North Vietnam.
Elise Boulding, a Quaker, was an early sociologist of peace and conflict. She envisioned a holistic approach to peace: that a peace culture could emerge through spirituality, family dynamics, and peace education.
A Jewish American lawyer and U.S. Representative, Bella Abzug worked for peace, women’s rights, racial justice and workers’ rights as a lawyer, politician, and grassroots activist.
Coretta Scott King played a prominent role as a speaker, citizen diplomat, and political strategist in the 1960s women’s peace movements WILPF and the anti-nuclear and anti-war women’s movement Women Strike for Peace.
Folk music icon, peace educator, founder of the human rights group Amnesty International, Joan Baez has led campaigns against the Vietnam war, the death penalty, U.S. policy in Central American and domestic civil rights.
Holly Near is an activist folk-singer and pioneering woman record-label owner. Through her music and her organizing Near linked international feminism and anti-war activism.
Jody Williams saw the need to coordinate non-governmental organizations in an international protest against landmines. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines successfully drafted a treaty to ban anti-personnel mines.
Nonviolence practitioner, author, and teacher, Kathy Kelly is a founder of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, a group that works in conflict areas to de-escalate violence and build foundation for alternatives to war.
At a time of large anti-nuclear protests, Samantha Smith, a young citizen diplomat, wrote to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov to understand the Soviet view and spark dialog. She also visited the Soviet Union to promote easing of relations.
American women have displayed great creativity to promote more peaceful international and domestic relations over the last century; consistent throughout is the vision that the foundations of a peaceful world are based in cooperating to address the root causes of violence and injustice.
National Women's History Museum
Amy Schneidhorst, Ph.D.