Bertha von Suttner

International Peace Through the Voice of Women - July 2, 1912

Bertha von Suttner
July 02, 1912— San Francisco, California
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This address was given at the First Congregational Church in San Francisco.

Through the voice of the women will come international peace. Not until that voice is raised will the federation of the world in brotherly love be accomplished. I consider the army of women – especially when possessed of the vote, as they are now in happy California – I consider this army predestined to win the battle which this generation has begun against the systematic massacre called war.

As war, all war, is hell, your Secretary of War is a secretary of hell, and your War Department is a department of hell. Your great generals and military men are hell lords, perpetuating barbarism.

You probably know that I am myself an old warrior in this struggle for an understanding between nations. Since you have called me, it proves that you are not only platonically in sympathy with the peace cause, but that you are to take it up and work for it. And when you begin to put your heart and soul into it, you will recognize that it is the great fundamental question of this century. In its magnitude it embraces all other questions of human needs. We peacemakers, as individuals, need be modest, but we are not modest in the world-wide appreciation of our cause. It is so universal that the personality of its adherents disappears in the ether.

When I go home and tell them in Europe about this Western country they will hardly believe me. When I tell them about the vigor, the heroic size, the beauty, and mental alertness of your women, they will think I am exaggerating. I consider the American women by far the most perfectly developed, mentally and physically, and I feel that they are a powerful influence and will continue to have even a mightier power in the progress of civilization. Teach the young men today that good will is a greater protection than armies and navies. In these days of war we are not giving the best things in life – our best education, our best wishes, our greatest patriotism, and the flower of our youth – to the family, but to the "watch-dog."

The question has been raised: What can women do to serve the cause of peace? I have to say that the women of today can do much, indeed, in the States of America where they have the right to vote; they can do as much as, or more than men. If women who have the right to vote will cast their votes only for those in public life who stand for peace, then you will have a Government which stands for peace. In those States of your great America in which women do not vote, let them join peace societies, let them sign petitions, let them use their influence, and in this way serve the great cause.

It is indeed only too natural for the women to detest war, for they are the ones who appreciate the horrors of warfare – they who stay at home and view the terrible conflict which takes from them those whom they love most dearly. To you, intelligent American clubwomen, I can suggest that your power for the good cause rests in your organization. You can raise a demand that humanity be made more worthy of the name, for humanity needs peace. War is inhumanity.

To me America is the land of promise, at least in the sense of ideals and peace. You Americans are full of strength and courage and daring, while we Europeans are filled with a struggle that never seems to attain that for which we struggle.

The strides you have made toward peace in America are immeasurable. You have organized your whole country for peace, and have federated all branch societies. Even your War Department is busy, working for the peace movement.

If I were to tell this to a European audience they would not only disbelieve my statement; they would laugh at me in derision. When the women of Europe speak to me of the future, I tell them, Go to America and look at the future, for there the future has already arrived. Americans are fifty years in advance of us ethically.

It would be good if Europeans, eager to learn and to know, might be turned to America in such throngs as Americans pour into Europe. The nations have much to learn from one another. That is better than for them to blow each other into the air. America is the only nation which, as a nation, stands for peace. The European nations think only of war. Americans do not as a people realize the position of Europeans.

The position of the European is an inherited one, like his religion, his titles, and the rest. Europeans have the need for war fastened into their vitals by the dictum of the past, and to speak for peace is considered unpatriotic and almost traitorous.

American people are interested in rooting war out of Europe, not only for ethical reasons, but as well for the reason that their coasts are a tempting target for every full-armed, jealous European government. This makes armament necessary to your welfare, and throws that useless tax upon a free people which already has the extra expense of regenerating Europe's human products of war and poverty into useful citizens.

You in America hear reports of our activity for peace. This activity is not reported in our own press, except to ridicule us as cranks. The fact that there is such a movement has not yet penetrated the brain of millions of Europeans. Our best women are all for war and its glory. Parliaments and court circles are dominated by paid diplomats in the hire of the gunmakers, who cook up scares and serve them on toast in every capital.

We Europeans will look to you American women who advocate peace and are in a position to make peace possible. To us who work in Europe for the cause of peace, America is the young nation which shall, as a regenerative race, lead the lion of European militarism and the bleeding lamb of the populace to a cessation of armament and the unendurable blight of war.