Jane Addams to Aletta Henriëtte Jacobs, December 10, 1918


International Committee of Women for Permanent Peace

The Section for the United States of America
The Woman's Peace Party
Office: 116 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois

December 10th, 1918.

My dear Dr. Jacobs:

The Executive Committee of Five met in New York on November 24th, with a number of the delegates to the Congress After the War and also with the Board of our National Section, to discuss plans for the immediate future. Although the armistice had been signed two weeks earlier, the date of the Official Peace Conference had been definitely announced only a few days before.

As you know at The Hague we had assumed with all the rest of the world in 1915, that the Official Peace Conference would be held in a neutral country. We now find that it will be held in France. It is moreover to be divided into three sections:

first, the preliminary Inter-Allied Conference, beginning December 15, 1918.

second, the formal Peace Conference, beginning probably the first week in January, 1919.

third, the Conference of the various commissions left in Paris to consider the many details which will not have been provided for in the general terms adopted by the formal Peace Conference and embodied in the treaties, beginning probably May 1, 1919.

In view of these changes from the situation we predicted in 1915, it is difficult to determine the best course of action. Three possible plans suggest themselves which we wish to submit for your judgment and advice. I am sending copies of this letter, also a brief cable, to all the members of the International Board, as well as to yourself. To Chrystal Macmillan, Thora Daugaard, Emily Balch, Anna Kleman, Martha Larsen, Eva Moltesen, and Rosa Manus. I am sending our Secretary two copies, that she may transmit one to [page 2] the tenth member of the Board. I am hereby asking each of these members of the International Board to communicate with you at our Central Office in Amsterdam, cabling approval of one of the plans proposed, designating these plans as 1, 2 or 3. I should also be grateful to have each member of the International Board cable directly to me, in Chicago, as well. But in any event I should hope to hear from you by cable in the next ten or fifteen days, giving the result of the vote.

The following three plans seem to our Committee of Five feasible under the changed condition.

Plan 1:

Our International Congress  may be held in Paris February first, 1919. This would be according to our original arrangement which provided for it at the place of the Official Peace Conference, in the fifth week of the Conference. If we follow this plan, probably none of the women of the Central Powers can attend, owing to their inability to obtain passports. Fewer women also from the Neutral and Entente countries will be granted passports than would be the case if they were going to a Congress in another country. Our Congress therefore, if held in Paris February first, would prove to be a relatively small meeting of women from the Neutral and Entente countries and would lose its distinctively international character.

Plan 2:

Our International Congress may be held at The Hague, February first, 1919. In this case we would meet before the peace is signed, during the period of armistice, when war regulations still hold. Objections to our Congress even in a Neutral Country, may be made on the ground that women from the Entente countries are discussing with the women from the Central Powers matters still in negotiation between their respective governments. We must face the possibility that such an objection might be made against our Congress by those hostile to our purpose.

Plan 3:

Our International Congress may be held either in Paris or at The Hague, [page 3] early in May, 1919.

This assumes that the main treaties will have been signed, but that an opportunity will remain to influence supplementary matters under consideration by the various commissions left in Paris, some of these Commissions would undoubtedly deal with the status of women in social and labor matters. This plan presents the advantage that passports could be secured more easily at this later date and that the general conditions would be more normal. If you vote for this plan, please vote "3 -- Paris," or "3 -- Hague."

May I offer a suggestion which I hope may receive the hearty [cooperation] of our national sections. Five men representing leading Trade Unions have received passports from the United States to sit in Paris during the negotiations. It is not formally announced but it is generally understood that they will be consulted concerning labor affairs. Very likely other countries are also sending labor men in a like capacity. It might be possible that five women could be sent to Paris in the same way from all the various countries, constituting an unofficial body to be consulted on matters pertaining to women and children. The forming of such a group, if it could be secured, would go far towards the recognition of women in international affairs. I am sure we would all wish to [cooperate] in any such effort, quite irrespective of the recognition accorded to our own membership or of the effect of such a group on our own Congress.

When one of these three plans has been adopted by the votes of the members of the International Board, will you, Dr. Jacobs, from the Central Office, kindly notify by cable all of the National Sections of our International Organization.

If plan number one or plan number two is adopted the Committees of Five from each of National Sections, even if they left their respective countries as late as January first, (considering the United States one of the remoter countries) would still have [page 4] two weeks together in which to make preliminary arrangements for the Congress. This, of course, would not apply to the Sections from Australia, British India or Uruguay, but even if these Committee of Five had started as soon as the time and place of the Official Peace Conference, had been announced, they would scarcely arrive at Paris before January first and could be reached through their respective Consulates there.

The Section for the United States is wiring at once five hundred dollars for the immediate expenses of cabling. A larger sum of fifteen thousand dollars which has been collected here for the use of the Congress itself, can only be made available when the time and place have been determined.

Feeling grateful, dear Dr. Jacobs, that the details of this difficult readjustment, necessitated by the unprecedented conditions of the Official Peace Conference, can be so confidently left in your capable hands and hoping that I shall see you soon, I am,

Faithfully yours,

Jane Addams [signed]