Carrie Chapman Catt

Address at the International Banquet of Farm Women - June 4, 1936

Carrie Chapman Catt
June 04, 1936— Washington, D.C.
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It is not long, as time flies, since all schools, open to girls, taught the rudiments of education only. The first woman to graduate with degrees in the entire world were in the class of 1841 at Oberlin College, Ohio, and the women numbered three. The reason the world gave for the denial of education to women at that time was the opinion that women’s brains could not grasp higher learning, and even if they could, learning was inappropriate for women whose God appointed sphere was subservience.

The aim of the woman movement was to develop such self-respect in women that they would no longer willingly remain in a position of subservience and to develop in men such comprehension of equity that they would no longer attempt to exact it. The movement has traveled far since those days.

Education is now worldwide for women. In the year of 1932, 372,912 women have been were students in the colleges and universities of the United States, or about 40% of the total number of college students in 1932 were women. Colleges and universities all the world around have also opened wide their doors to women and thousands of graduates are to be found in all lands. This is an enormous change in less than a century.

In the early days women speakers in this country were pelted with bad eggs and rotting vegetables. Our famous Independence Hall in Philadelphia was torn down and set on fire by a mob, because a woman was speaking there. Now women may speak whenever they have anything to say and equally when they have nothing to say. More, women now vote in more than half the countries of the world. Within a century women have become rational, responsible human beings, endowed with an education, the right to speak, and the right to vote. What should the world expect of educated, self-respecting human beings? And what do we expect of ourselves? The old routine for women is not good enough for us now.

This is a period of problems. I sometimes think there is a problem for each human being which he is trying to persuade the world to settle for him. I do not know what most of them are about. I even lose sight of my own special problems in the chaos at times.

Farm women are probably especially interested in some of these problems: city women are interested in others. Rich women, poor women, educated women, ignorant women, each have their pet problems. But there is one thing which I am quite sure interests all women, - the women of all continents, of all races and nations, of all classes and kinds, - and that is the Abolition of War. To my mind, it outranks all other problems, because War is the father of most the problems of this day.

The world is in a predicament with its unemployment, its relief, its business stagnation, and all these troubles and many more are direct results of the Great War. Why have another before the last one is paid for? Why another, before the wounds made in civilization itself by that war are healed?

War is the oldest institution in the world, as it is the most cruel, most destructive, most uncivilized, and most unreasonable. Time was when men went forth in the spirit of adventure and returned as heroes. They killed and looted, but that was long, long ago. Modern society is too complicated, too diversified, to afford or to profit by the waste of war. The Great War cost $93.50 for every man, women, an child in the entire world. The depression, the inevitable aftermath of war, will probably cost each government as much as the war itself, while the preparation for the next war, that all the nations fear, may yet exceed the cost of both. War fills the world with hate and fear and war has kept these two evils growing for a million years. No war can stop them. Instead, each new war starts new hates and new fears.

War is as contageous as the measles. It is more destructive than an earthquake. It is ENEMY #1 of everything good in the world. Its spirit has spread to business and to politics in all lands. Is it the false foundation of civilization itself, shaping its character and giving direction to all the chief developments. There will never be a really civilized world until war and all its horrible adjuncts are abolished from the earth. “Is this possible?” do you ask. Yes, it can be done and war is as certain to go as the sun is sure to rise tomorrow. “When?” do you ask. When the people of the world demand it. They and they alone can stop war. “How?” do you say. By the conversion of the people and that can be done simply. Women can do half the work necessary.

Listen, do you farm women not know that war keeps you poor, that your nation spends too much money for guns, airships, and poison gas, and too little for farm welfare? Do you know that every nation builds too many warships and too few friendships? Do you not know that the worst blow to your farm would be the death of your son, or sons, on a battlefield? Do not forget that today no nation can secure a large enough army by volunteer enlistment. The next war will be fought by conscripted armies, as the last one was, and your sons of the right age will be compelled to go. The way to save your sons is by the abolition of war itself. Say these things to your family, your husband, and your sons, you neighbors. Will they pronounce you a fanatic? They will and it is by the activity of fanatics alone that war will be abolished. Make fanatics of your family and neighbors and you will not feel lonesome.

It is not necessary for you American women to flounder through the intricacies of neutrality, the political confusion of joining the League of Nations, or the more complicated, so-called Economic Causes of War, in order to understand war. There is no cause, real or false, that justifies war. Such talk merely wastes time and postpones the day when wars will cease. They are the “red herrings” thrown in your way to confuse you.

Become a minute woman for peace - a crusader. Make the abolition of war your chief aim in life. This is the time when a common problem and a common aim unites city and country, farm and factory. Once, grandmothers sat in a corner by the fire and knitted stockings for their grandchildren. Now they may help to save the world from war and do it while they continue to knit. There are new duties, and much more thrilling ones, for old ladies in our time. Be a crusader and leave the world with more common sense in its heads than it had when you came into it.

The abolition of war is the biggest and most stubborn problem in the world today. When war goes, most of the other problems which perplex us will disappear. Those that remain can command more money, more time, more wisdom for their settlement than is possible now. War cannot be chiseled down to moderation; it must be abolished, root and branch. Farm women, city women, all women, be crusaders for the total abolition of war. Use your education and your votes to that end. Perhaps, your emancipation from the old oppressions has fitted you to serve this particular time like Esther of old.

Crusaders for the Abolition of War, I greet you!

Catt, C. C. (1936). Carrie Chapman Catt Papers: Speech and Article File, 1892-1946; Speeches; Untitled; 1928 to 1944. [Manuscript/Mixed Material] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/mss154040425.