The origins of WILPF
On 28 April 1915, 1200 women from both warring and neutral nations gathered in The Hague at an lnternational Congress of Women. These women were ambitious suffragists and peace activists wanting more than an immediate end to this carnage. Their vision and passion was to eliminate the causes of war. The Resolutions they passed at this Congress laid the basis for the formation of the League of Nations and later the United Nations, determining that international conflict should be resolved by negotiation in a council of all nations, in which women and men would be equally represented. The vision of these women, who founded the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom was to banish militarism, and build institutions dedicated to preventing war and upholding principles of justice and human rights: building durable peace and above all claiming women’s right and responsibility to participate in decision-making on all aspects of peace and security.
In Australia in 1915, the Sisterhood of International Peace (SIP), and the Women’s Peace Army (WPA), formed separately to mobilise women in relation to war. They had differing but overlapping objectives. The WPA was more activist and outspoken in opposing war and militarism, the SIP placed more emphasis on educating themselves on the causes of war and educating the young for peace. In 1919, however, inspired by WILPF’s international vision both organizations sent delegates to the second international congress of women, where they became a united delegation. So it was that the Sisterhood, and remaining members of the disbanded Peace Army formed the Australian Section of WILPF in 1920, both organizations being important in the new organisation’s development. Branches formed soon after in Hobart, Newcastle, Perth and Rockhampton.