Jane Addams

Woman's Special Training for Peacemaking – April 27, 1909

Jane Addams
April 27, 1909— Chicago, Illinois
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Addams gave this address at the Second National Peace Congress in Chicago on April 27, 1909

It is rather difficult to find new things to say concerning the necessity for peace in a large conference of peace people gathered from all over the nation, but perhaps there are some special things which might be said to an audience of women that would not be so applicable to an audience of men.

One of these things is, I suppose, that men very early learned to do things together, because they were obliged to fight together; that one of the things which war bequeathed to mankind and to the male portion of mankind was this ability to go out together, to go in tribes, to go in phalanxes, to go in regiments, to go in whatever body of men was the safest to those who were fighting, and to bring the most destruction to those whom they were fighting against. But we women never had this training. It is said that even when women were used as beasts of burden, which began very early, one woman always went by herself or went with another beast, but two women never pulled together. Whether that is true or not, I think it is certainly true that the thing which is happening now to this special generation of women is the ability and the learning how to act together.

This very meeting, with representatives from women's organizations of all sorts, shows that at last women are learning to pull together, to pull in bodies. We may call those bodies clubs or we may call them benefit societies, or we may call them this, that and the other, but they are all bodies of women as such, and they are going out to do away with such evil as they see and to bring about such good as they may be able to perform.

There is one thing which the theory of evolution has given to us. It is very hard for use to detach ourselves from the past. That is, whether we call ourselves evolutionists or not, whether we think much about it or not, it has so changed our point of view that unconsciously we realize we are children of the past. The things which we are now are the results of the things which have gone before us. If at last in the fullness of time it has come about that Anglo-Saxon women have received a larger measure of freedom, if they can go to clubs without being accused by the men of their family, or by the newspapers, which are often much worse, of neglecting their children at home, in their cradles; if various things have happened so that we can without detaching ourselves too much from the past, organize into these clubs and movements, it is now up to us -- if I may use that phrase -- to see what we are going to do with this power of organization and with this new ability to act together. If men learned it in fighting, it may be harder for them to forget the method by which they learned it. It may always be harder for a body of men to go out to do things, to reform, than it will be for women. They are not quite free from the fighting instinct yet.

It is said that one of the charms of political life -- of course we will have to speak of that entirely by hearsay; we cannot even have any reminiscences in our blood, I suppose, of that -- is the fighting element that still remains; the consciousness that you are one of a large body of men going out to battle against your enemy of the other party. If we lack all of that training and have now come into this new movement with the power of acting together, we ought to bring a distinct factor into the peace of the world. We ought to make it clear that bodies of people can act together without this fight spirit, without the spirit of competition, without the spirit of rivalry; simply moved by a common impulse, going out to do the things which ought to be done, and finally we have at last learned to do them together.

So it seems to me we are, as women's organizations, bringing into the civilizing forces -- or shall I say social forces? -- or those things which make for progress, a new combination which while it does make for progress will make for peace as perhaps no organizations have ever done before. I hope that it is not fantastic, and I hope we will show that it is true. (Applause.)

"Woman's Special Training for Peacemaking." National Peace Congress, Proceedings (1909): 252-54.

Speech from Addams, Jane, “Woman's Special Training for Peacemaking, May 1909,” Jane Addams Digital Edition, accessed November 1, 2018, https://digital.janeaddams.ramapo.edu/items/show/4950.