Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) was born out of protest.
In 1915, women gathered in The Hague to protest World War I as well as to “study and make known the causes of war and work for a permanent peace.” Women from all over the world came to participate in the International Women’s Congress, a gathering of 1,100 delegates. The congress established an International Committee of Women for Permanent Peace (ICWPP) with notable social reformer and activist Jane Addams as the president.
This meeting led to the creation of WILPF in 1919. WILPF is the oldest continuously active peace organization in the United States.
The founders of WILPF include two Nobel Peace Prize winners: Jane Addams, its first international president and the first woman from the U.S. to win the Nobel Peace Prize, and Emily Greene Balch, its first international secretary. At the time WILPF was formed during the first World War it considered radical to speak out against the war. The founding members of WILPF faced public backlash for being outspoken activists against war. Emily Greene Balch lost her professorship at Wellesley College, and Addams was declared “the most dangerous woman in America.”
In 1968 WILPF organized the Jeanette Rankin Brigade, a protest against the Vietnam War in Washington DC with 5,000 women participating in the march. At the time the Jeanette Rankin Brigade was the largest march by women since the Women’s Suffrage Parade in 1913.
The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom is still an active pacifist organization that. The organization continues to argue that patriarchy, militarism, and neoliberalism as three inter-related causes that push towards more conflict. Their solution to the problem is to include more women in leadership positions. The believe that women can play their rightful role in decision-making and help shape the responses that affect their lives and communities.
The work WILPF does includes analysis, awareness-raising, advocacy, activism, and building alliances. They build coalitions and partnerships, share knowledge, and convene women from all around the world.
Today, WILPF has broadened its mission of peace and demilitarization to include issues such as opposing oppression of all sorts and supporting environmental sustainability. WILPF chapters and members are still involved in protests around the world, including the Women’s Marches of the United States and Ban the Bomb Marches around the world. The group currently is headquartered in Geneva and maintains a United Nations office in New York City.