From Our Archives: Alice Park and the Peace Ship

“The time has come for a few men and women with courage and energy, irrespective of the cost of personal inconvenience, money sacrifice, and criticism, to free the good will of Europe, that it may assert itself for peace and justice with the strong probability that international disarmament can be accomplished.”

In November of 1915 famed motorist, Henry Ford invited California suffragist, Alice Park to join him aboard the Oscar II as his guest and help end World War I.

Image (31)-page-001.jpgThe goal of Henry Ford’s mission was to establish an international conference dedicated to negotiating a peaceful end to the Great War, “Out of the trenches by Christmas, never to return,” he had told the press before the expedition to Europe had left. “With twenty thousand men killed every twenty-four hours, tens of thousands maimed, houses ruined, another winter begun” Ford was motivated to gather notable American representatives such as Jane Addams and Thomas Edison and travel to Europe. Park was invited aboard the Oscar II, also known as the Peace Ship as a member of the Press Club as a representative of the Women’s Journal.

The Oscar II set sail from New Jersey on December 4th of 1915 with 63 pacifists, 54 reporters, and “four Chicago babies,” according to the Chicago Tribue, who was represented on the ship by reporter Carolyn Wilson.

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Aboard the ship Park writes about the subjects of their meetings the passengers attend. They spent their mornings, afternoons, and evenings being educated on topics such as internationalism, taxes, socialism, and education for peace.

Alice Park wrote about many of the women aboard the Oscar II, including her roommates Miss Grace Wales who originated the plan of “continuous mediation”, more popularly known as the Wisconsin Plan and Mrs. Latus from Pittsburg.

Unfortunately, the mission to end World War I was unsuccessful, the media mockingly referred to it as the “Ship of Fools”. There was infighting between the activists aboard the ship, an outbreak of influenza ravaged the passengers, and four days after docking in Noway, their first destination in Europe, Ford left the ship and returned to America.

Within the Women’s Museum of California’s Alice Park collection are memorabilia related to Park’s time aboard the Oskar II, including postcards, letters from Henry Ford inviting Park to join the mission, Park’s travel diary, and Park’s letters to her children.

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