Women in Peace celebrates women who have contributed to peace by nonviolent means.
As Joan Baez said, “Nonviolence is a flop. The only bigger flop is violence.”
We have included women who used violence against property (Gandhi approved Sarojini’s cutting metal fences, Alice Paul’s “watchfires” burned public documents, some women committed civil disobedience by trespassing or blocking public access, and Plowshares women disabled weapons of war). The large majority of British suffragists rejected arson of buildings, as we do.
But violence against persons is always rejected.
We have included women who originally supported violent actions such as war, but turned to nonviolent action. An admittedly difficult case is when a woman abandons nonviolence to support violent means such as war. We have included peacemakers who did not actively support war, such as German women under Hitler.
Although opposition to war itself is our main focus, we have included nonviolent resistance to all forms of oppression, including environmental threats, and violation of human rights, such as racial discrimination including Apartheid.
We have chosen to emphasize peace initiatives where women were the primary actors, without excluding partnerships such as Bruderhof, the New England Non-Resistance Society, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and Catholic Worker protests.
We welcome criticism of our choices, and we seek evidence that our choices are mistaken.
Who have we left out?
For many peacemakers we have no birthday for the calendar, so they are not included. Help us by adding names with accompanying birthdays, and add peaceful achievements!
Who doesn’t belong in the database?
Do you have opinions on women who are in our database and should be left out? Why? Please send us your reasons and we will consider removal.
We try to be accurate. Please send us errors.
We acknowledge our biases and invite your feedback:
As discussed in more detail below, some women have responded to male patriarchy using non-violent means.
Since English is our native language, we tend to have more women peacemakers who are based in countries that utilize English as their primary language (although Jim speaks and reads multiple languages).
The internet is dominated by the English language, which clearly influences our searches and results.
More on Women & Gender Inequality
Women’s peacemaking is directly related to the prevalence of male patriarchy. Modern women’s nonviolent action began with challenges to that patriarchy in England and US about 1825 (following the Napoleonic Wars). Western European feminist challenges began about the same time. By the end of the century it had spread to the British dominions: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India, and to its areas of cultural influence like Lebanon and Egypt. Challenges to patriarchy (led by demands for the vote) followed in South America, Eastern Europe and Africa. The lack of women’s peacemaking in China and the Middle East is a result of the strength of the patriarchal system (Confucianism and conservative Islam), manifested in the lack of equal rights in voting, holding office, inheritance, etc.
Throughout recorded history, women have faced gender discrimination through oppression, denial of their equality, and physical violence. Women have contributed to peace by taking public stands on issues of violence and war. In every society women begin by speaking out in public, where they are often forbidden to speak; and writing for publication, often in feminist literature. Many women begin to challenge social mores such as demanding an audience, writing petitions, or intruding into men's preserves. When ignored, women peacemakers may engage in civil disobedience and nonviolent protests, but often in a different way from male forms of dissent. Most women peacemakers do not resort to extremes or violence though risking their lives and reputations by working counter to social expectations for their role in society.