April 7, 1943
Although all who know me are aware that I am now an old lady, quite beyond the possibilities of active participation in public affairs, I nevertheless am moved to entreat you to consider thoughtfully the proposal I am about to make.
When this war comes to an end, as it will ere long, a re-arrangement of international relations will be made and the status of each nation within the plan will be defined. The peace, prosperity, and the public welfare of all the peoples on earth will depend upon the wisdom and justice of this arrangement.
Unless the coming Peace Conference differs from all others recorded in history, the victors will largely dictate the terms of the peace which can only be a compromise of the opinions represented in the Conference. The millions of men who have made the supreme sacrifice at their country’s call, the millions of men who have fought the war to a conclusion, and the millions of men and women who have paid for the war, will have little to say about that settlement. Yet many are thinking seriously about the future world and it is reported that more than one hundred groups are at work in our own country upon plans, although no two are in agreement. The large number and variety of the theories developed may easily produce so bewildering a confusion as to make any unified action by a Peace Conference quite impossible. It would not be the first time that the progress of the world has been checked by too many diverse opinions.
There is a remedy which women could provide. Whatever the post-war world plan shall be, its primary declaration should be the absolute ABOLITION OF WAR. Women agree fairly well on this point. Madam Chiang Kai-shek voiced it the other night: “We must not let this terrible war recur.” So say we all, but the groups studying plans do not say it. They imply the hope, but make no declaration. The Preamble of the League of Nations was a noble statement, but it, also, was a hope and a doubt, not a declaration. This time the terms of peace and the plan for the future world should be introduced by a definite resolve, a clear-cut, unequivocal pledge to make an end of war. There is a wide difference between a hope and a determination. The peace terms should follow and support the declaration, not lead. The document must permit no weak phrases through which any nation may crawl out and begin a war. The document should be a declaration with the cooperation and solemn pledge of all nations on earth. Any further expression would be mere details of the plan for enforcing the declaration.
How can women bring this about? By providing the unafraid spirit, the dauntless faith, the bold, unshakeable confidence and the perfect unity of the demand. Let women unite, as individuals, organizations, churches, and schools, - all sponsors of such a declaration, all supporters of every step that leads up to it; that is, resolutions in Congress, Legislatures, political conventions, rallies and meetings, large and small; for public opinion is the only influence that counts in a democracy.
A new organization is forming now to take the place of the former Committee on the Cause and Cure of War [The CCCW became The Women’s Action Committee for Victory and Lasting Peace which was later renamed The Committee on Education for Lasting Peace]. It invites all women to join its forces. It should become a powerful group by the close of the war. It will organize state by state and, meanwhile, will invite the women of all lands, of all nations and continents to join its crusade. Thus it would become the United Women of the World, all pleading, all insisting, all demanding the positive end of war. This can be achieved when women are ready. But why women, do you ask?
Women are the sex which never began a war, fought a war, or made a peace after a war. The appeal would go to the Congresses and the Peace Conference, all controlled by the sex which has begun all the wars, fought all the wars, and written the peace in which conditions were protected which were certain to start another war.
There is no motive to persuade women to continue the policy of wars between nations, but a thousand motives exist to persuade groups of men to uphold the institution of war – opportunities for political preferment, trade advantages, prestige, inventions, manufacture, many varieties of exploitation, all carrying the promise of profit. Do you not see that women, as a whole, are more unhampered in their effort to consider the two sides of the question? Shall war be forcefully abolished or left uncontrolled as in the past? Men are giving their lives to win this war because they must. Will you not do as much to save the peace?
The plan for the organization must be one satisfactory to all. Its size, its unity, and its “grit and go” are the main qualifications needed. men will thank you for the aid you give. The generations to come will bless you for the service you render.
Civilization, that urge put upon mankind to try new paths to progress, is calling us. We are qualified. We know what caused this war and why no other should be allowed to come. We know how to organize, to write appeals, and make speeches, and thus to make converts. Why should we hesitate?
What we can do, we ought to do, what we ought to do, let us resolve to do.
Carrie Chapman Catt