This book explores the pervasive influence of pacifism on Victorian feminism. It provides an account of Victorian women who campaigned for peace, and of the many feminists who incorporated pacifist ideas into their writing on women and gender. The book explores feminists' ideas about the role of women within the empire, their eligibility for citizenship, and their ability to act as moral guardians in public life. It shows that such ideas made use – in varying ways – of gendered understandings of the role of force and the relevance of arbitration and other pacifist strategies. The book examines the work of a wide range of individuals and organisations, from well-known feminists such as Lydia Becker, Josephine Butler and Millicent Garrett Fawcett to lesser-known figures such as the Quaker pacifists Ellen Robinson and Priscilla Peckover.
This chapter identifies the diverse strands of feminist thought that began, by the turn of the century, to make use of pacifist discourses. In 1870, the outbreak of war between France and Prussia prompted many of the women active in the emergent feminist movement to consider their position on the use of physical force. Many reinforced their construction of women as moral agents who relied upon debate rather than physical force in both individual and collective relations. Some, including Priscilla Peckover, began to re-evaluate concepts of peace to argue that it meant more than simply the absence of war, and to redefine patriotism as a force which was primarily moral, rather than national, in its points of reference. These arguments were founded upon analyses that made pacifist ideas fundamentally useful for feminism. The chapter explains that the term which is perhaps most important in this work is ‘pacifist feminism’. An examination of the secondary literature shows that the earliest application of the terms ‘feminist pacifism’ or ‘pacifist feminism’ to feminist thought is in relation to the First World War.
The suffrage movement was a central strand in Victorian feminism, and one of its primary aims was confronting anti-suffragists' opposition to the enfranchisement of women. A principal argument for opponents of women's suffrage was the physical-force objection: the principle that women were unable to take up arms to defend their country, and therefore could not qualify for the franchise. In engaging with this question, many feminists began to approach the question of why and under what circumstances they might sanction the use of physical force. This led many to develop pacifist, anti-imperialist or internationalist agendas, which in turn enabled a minority to redefine discourses of patriotism. In this chapter, the feminist response includes the reassertion of arguments of sexual difference and an emphasis upon the legal anomalies that derogated women by viewing their physical abilities in terms of the prevailing domestic ideology.
Through the debates on physical force, many women active in the feminist movement were drawn to consider wider issues of military conflict and war. Such well-known feminists as Josephine Butler, Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Lydia Becker, Caroline Ashurst Biggs and Henrietta Muller intervened in debates about the role of the armed forces and the utility of warfare. These women held widely differing perspectives, and Fawcett in particular emerged as a supporter of imperialism and armed intervention. But Butler, Becker and many other feminists opposed war in principle and in practice. This chapter discusses journals that provide a history of feminist debates and disagreements over the role of force in this period. Debates on peace and war occurred in relation to a number of different campaigns. The feminist journals, discussed here, catered for a variety of political perspectives and all included coverage of international issues affecting women.
Nonconformist religion in nineteenth-century pacifism
The role of nonconformist religion in the early feminist movement is widely acknowledged. From the Unitarian Caroline Ashurst Biggs, to the Quaker Priestman and Bright family networks, feminist politics developed in significant part within the context of nonconformity. It was much the same for the peace movement. Two issues were key to religious perspectives on peace in the nineteenth century: one was Quaker theology and the commitment to testimony against war, the other, the influence of Evangelicalism. This chapter considers the importance of Evangelical religion in nonconformist pacifism, particularly the Peace Society, and the impact that theological developments within the Society of Friends had upon the peace movement. Evangelicals dominated the nonconformist peace movement for much of the nineteenth century, although the movement accommodated with apparent ease the rise of the new liberal Quaker theology in the 1880s and 1890s. Women were largely excluded from both this theology and the organised peace movement, although they were present and often active in supporting roles.
This chapter describes the declining emphasis upon the importance of Christianity within the peace movement during the second half of the century. The Peace Society had developed, by the 1870s, into a political and pragmatic movement that employed, albeit on a limited basis, liberal and non-absolutist arguments against war. However, it simultaneously sought to control the contributions of women and to restrict the role of feminism within the movement. This is particularly noteworthy given that Quakers dominated the Evangelical wing of the peace movement, a sect from which many feminists of this era originated. One consequence of this was that feminists were drawn into the International Arbitration and Peace Association (IAPA) as the radical wing of the peace movement, rather than the Evangelical and absolutist Peace Society. The chapter explains the process by which the Peace Society resisted its work, refused to collaborate with women who were not under its control and established its own organisation for women interested in promoting peace.
This chapter reviews the study of the Peace Society and suggests that it was simply impractical to expect pacifists divided by Christianity in the peace principle to work together. Yet the work of one of the most active women in the late nineteenth-century peace movement demonstrates that it was possible for absolute pacifists to work closely with non-absolutists, even when differences of opinion and principle occurred. Priscilla Peckover provides a key example of interorganisational co-operation, especially in respect of the mass movement she generated: the Local Peace Associations. Her methods of working drew upon both Quaker ideals and domestic ideology. In contrast to the Peace Society's approach, which was often both defensive and, to some extent, uncooperative, Peckover was influenced by gendered norms of behaviour that, when combined with her Quaker background and the context of the peace movement, gave rise to more collaborative and conciliatory methods.
In late 1894, Priscilla Peckover handed the Ladies' Peace Auxiliary and the Local Peace Association movement over to Ellen Robinson, a fellow Quaker and long-standing colleague in the peace movement. Robinson reorganised the Auxiliary, renaming it the Peace Union, and began to work for the establishment of a union of women's peace societies across Europe and North America. This union, despite the Peace Society's reservations in relation to the International Peace Bureau about linking itself with European movements, received notice in the Herald for its ‘truly international and widely useful’ work. This chapter explores how the fact that both Robinson and Peckover's first work was done locally suggests that their approach differed significantly from the men's peace movements of this period. The contributions of Peckover and Robinson to pacifist feminist ideas can be seen in the impact that both had upon the roles of women within the peace movement, especially the Peace Society.
The International Arbitration and Peace Association
This chapter explores how the International Arbitration and Peace Association (IAPA), founded in 1880, was the main secular peace organisation in Britain and the one which experienced the greatest conflict with the Peace Society. The absolutist Peace Society dominated the British peace movement throughout most of the nineteenth century. However, its absolutism was increasingly challenged from mid-century onwards, and it became apparent by the 1870s, as a result of republican nationalist campaigns in Europe, and in Britain the rise of working men's peace groups and the growth of the women's movement, that there was also some demand for a secular peace organisation. As an organisation, the IAPA drew together discourses of liberalism, socialism, Evangelicalism, feminism and internationalism, a blend that made it central to both the British and European peace movements. The chapter also outlines the IAPA's contribution to the late Victorian peace movement and the role of women in its work.
The International Arbitration and Peace Association (IAPA) had a women's auxiliary almost from the date it was founded, as between 1881 and 1882 a number of women in the Peace Society's Auxiliary attempted to formally attach their organisation to the IAPA. The Auxiliary split, with one organisation,the Women's Peace and Arbitration Auxiliary (WPAA), attaching itself to the IAPA, the other reconstituting itself and remaining with the Peace Society. The social purity politics and Evangelicalism of the WPAA did not appeal to other women members of the IAPA, however, and a second female auxiliary was founded in 1887, entitled the Women's Committee. This chapter considers why such an inclusive organisation as the IAPA had two separate female auxiliaries, and examines the politics of each. It is possible that the WPAA offered the most obvious common ground between the Peace Society and the IAPA, blending as it did the moral and religious concerns of the older organisation and the radicalism of the new. The meeting saw widespread co-operation between members of different peace societies, despite the fact that the main concern of the Moral Reform Union was the promotion of social purity.