Carrie Chapman Catt

A Call for Action - March 25, 1943

Carrie Chapman Catt
March 25, 1943— New York
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It is already known that this war has produced more problems than could possibly be settled around the peace table and, with the differences of opinion which are certain to arise, the seeds of another war are likely to be sown in the final peace as has always been the case heretofore. Action, which will provide for the elimination from the peace discussions of many of these problems, is the only certain way to reach a permanent peace.

There is a difference in the attitude of men and women toward war. Apparently, wars have existed ever since the human race stepped foot upon this earth. In time, a division of labor came and war was the business of men. Women never began a war, fought a war, or completely made a peace after a war. They have suffered the catastrophes of war, the loss of husbands, brothers, sons, and the destruction of homes. This was accepted through the centuries as the natural experience for women, but, in this twentieth century, there is no longer the same division of labor. Women are conscripted too. The accepted rules of battle sink ships containing women and children, bomb hospitals, schools, and homes wherein women, children, and old men reside. This war has been a war of murder and highway robbery. It has closed schools, put teachers in concentration camps, taken professors from colleges, presidents of women's organizations and other outstanding men and women as hostages. Many of these have died because of the tortures and hardships of the kind of life given them and, without doubt, many hostages have been coldly murdered.

For many a century the prostitute has followed the army and only then most civilized of the nations have stopped this contemptible and criminal practise, but there is ample proof that both Germany and Japan have seized virtuous women of other lands and compelled them to this dissolute life. There surely is not a woman anywhere in all this world with so little intelligence and understanding as not to see that women, in large numbers, should fearlessly arise and, together, demand of the nations of the world that war shall cease and thus put these shocking experiences to an end. The demand primarily, should be a single one: a plan for world peace, so definite in its aims, so disciplinary in its conduct, so compulsory in its enforcement, that it will certainly abolish war.

Surely, in this twentieth century, there is intelligence enough to find the solution be peaceful means of any disputes or differences between nations. No nation yet, in all the world, has said, in bold terms, "We are against war and will do our utmost to put it out of existence". Perhaps the reason is that women have accepted wars with tears and broken hearts, but have made no genuine protest. We believe that the time has now come for this form of action and there should be millions of women in the world ready to arise, unite, and act.

When the Civil War was going rather badly, Abraham Lincoln gave the usual annual message to Congress on December 1, 1862. I note that many people are quoting from it now and we, too, may borrow wisdom there. Said he: "We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of earth". Let this go forth as a call to you, women of New York, the United States, the entire world that this Peace shall not be lost through your indifference.

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Catt, C. C. (1921). Carrie Chapman Catt Papers: Speech and Article File, 1892 to 1946; Speeches; "A Call for Action," and Mar. 25, 1943. [Manuscript/Mixed Material] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,