Emily Greene Balch to Fanny Garrison Villard, April 1, 1920

19, Bd Georges-Favon

↑ This letter was written but on second thought never sent out.↓

Geneva, 1st of April 1920.

Dear Mrs. Villard,

I am writing this letter to you and at the same time to other friends in the board of the Women's Peace Society but I am writing personally rather than as Secretary of the W.I.L.P.F.

And first I must take the opportunity of a letter, even a business one, in this busy world to send you quite specially and personally my greetings. There is not one of you that I do not admire and love.

Secondly I want to express my sympathy with your non-resistance, with your disgust with war as war, with capital punishment, with the whole old stupid wicked business of enforcing ↑the↓ will of a group by violence.

Thirdly, though I try very hard not to be a chauvinist with regard to a given [organization] with which I am associated any more than with regard to my country or any other group of which I am a member, may I say a few things about the W.I.L.P.F.?

I think the [organization] as a whole takes a far more advanced position on peace than is realized in some quarters. I call your attention not only to the slogan of Mlle Mélin Toutes les Femmes contre toutes les Guerres, not only to the personal vow taken with uplifted hand by every woman present at Zurich to do everything in her power to end war; not only to the consistent record of most of our individual members, women who everywhere have faced all that it means to be a pacifist in war time. Our definite solemnly voted [program] includes the following:

Resolution 36. This International Congress of Women abides by the principle laid down by the Women's Congress at The Hague in 1915, that we do not admit of war as a means of settling differences between nations.

To translate this principle into action the Congress further [page 2] voted to "Urge the National Sections to work for an International agreement between women, to refuse their support of war in money, work or propaganda."

The League stands without qualification for universal disarmament as fast as it can be got, for abolition of more violence and of violence in civil struggles even on the side of those whom we may believe to be in the right, of free trade the world over.

We are a weak and generally despised body. We have everything to contend against, especially in countries where women are not much used to taking part in public life and do not generally even desire the vote, (as is the case I think in Switzerland).

We all want the same thing -- the most far-reaching [illegible] peace action possible. The only question is how to concentrate our inadequate energies most effectively.

Fourthly, would you permit me to expound for a little my own theory as to [organization] of peace strength?

I am a great believer in many rather homogenous groups, acting freely and not hampering [one] another. I think so often people in a committee or a society neutralize one another.

I should like to see a city like New York have a half a dozen really active peace groups of different types following their own lines freely, not worried by one another's different methods, nor mutually responsible for one anothers acts or policies, but cooperating fully on all their common aims and tactics. I think ten petitions or deputations to Washington, or newspaper protests coming from ten groups of 100 people, each really a live [organization], means more than a petition, etc. from one group of 1000 people, even if the 1000 can agree on one form of words or action, and even if they can act [promptly]. Ten groups also means 30 people who are in a position to feel responsibility to be leaders and not to sheep, to think, initiate, draw in, and educate others.

Then my idea would be that the leaders of all these groups should meet frequently in local conferences, most every year in a national conference of a federal annual section of the W.I.L.P.F. and represented at the biennial conference of the International W.I.L.P.F.

I said above that the W.I.L.P.F. is small and weak and of no repute or worse than none in general public opinion. So in one sense it is and above all in comparison with its task. But even so it is the result of [five] years work and sacrifice in all these many countries. A great body of surprisingly deep and warm common feeling has been developed through it, it has acquired a considerable momentum, a tradition, so far as Europe is concerned, of absolute rejection of compromise and half measures that gives it a great moral capital of respect even from those who most disapprove. It is the only international peace society as far as I know that has not capitulated [page 3] more or less during the war.

I recognize that now, after the war, we have new questions of policy to face and I do not want to blink them. During the war the lukewarm and more-or-less-against-war people were not pressing to join us, in belligerent countries at least. This was our early Christian-in-the-catacombs period. Later we may find ourselves like the Christians under Constantine, accepted and courted. Our safety against dilution and letting down will then be in sticking to our principles. But this turn of over-popularity has not yet come, certainly not in the U.S.

In the United States the development of the League, especially while the U.S. was still a neutral, was different from that in other countries. We happened to have a group of more conservative members. Some did not believe in suffrage, some did not go much further than The Hague-and-League-of-Nations conception of peace and were not strictly eligible on either count, yet the U.S. [organization] continued, a little irregularly, to include them.

In spite of the fact that (as I believe) our common action sometimes suffered through the timidity of those who feared for instance to get together our annual meetings yet I think that on the whole we did well to keep in fellowship.

In any case our international [organization] as a whole has chosen the uncompromising path of out and out pacifism.

Now in view of all this I cannot but question the wisdom of your effort to create a new international peace [organization] of women. It seems to me very confusing to have this new society, whose relation to the W.I.L.P.F. is still undefined appealing to members of this latter to join it. Our European friends will be terribly puzzled. The chairman of the Swiss Section of our League has written to me about it, quite at sea, but others may not write.

Although my first impression is that you move in a danger of proving a means of distracting and dividing and confusing true pacifists, Miss Addams since she is one of your members, evidently does not feel that this will be your effect. But I think it is hard to realize in the U.S. just what the effect of an appeal like yours is here. And, conversely, I of course cannot judge how things are working out at home in America and there are doubtless reasons for your movement that I do not understand.

You must have your reasons and I could no more doubt your purposes than I can doubt the multiplication table (which is not a very thrilling comparison).

Please write me fully what you have in mind and help me to cooperate in the right way. That is all I want.

I enclosed a copy of the pledge that our German Section are circulating,

Yours always devotedly,

Emily Balch [signed]