The fifth chapter of The Power of Nonviolence: Writings by Advocates of Peace brings us into the 20th Century with a section from Jane Addams 1907 book Newer Ideals of Peace. She is the first woman’s voice we hear in The Power of Nonviolence. Her approach to peace work is informed by her work battling poverty, furthering feminism and engaging in electoral politics.
Addams paid a dear price for her pacifism. She was attacked by the newspapers of her day, including the New York Times, for her opposition to entering World War I. Dr. King was similarly attacked the leading newspapers, including the Times, for his opposition to the Vietnam War. Despite this she worked for peace internationally and became founding president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Some believe her opposition to participation in World War I, was the reason he Nobel Peace prize was delayed until 1931.
The first paragraph from the selection from Newer Ideals of Peace subtly brings forward her belief that women are needed in politics to bring forward peace to create a “change in men’s attitude toward war”. This became the focus of her argument for women’s suffrage.
As a reformer, Addams argues that more is to be gained by enacting the components of a pacifist world rather than only hoping for a complete secession of hostilities. In a similar vein, we are working on bringing you ways to live compassionately, especially how we interact with the consumer economy.
Addams mourns war as a waste of human life and of “treasure”. As we have detailed on this site — most sharply in the #AfghanistanTuesday and Bring the War Dollars Home posts — we are still mourning the same loss a century later. Addams particularly takes the “church founded by the Prince of Peace” to task for its “explicit indifference” to the peace movement.
Addams uses her experience with the local immigrant communities to show the international nature of the peace movement. She argues that the same patriotic fervor that is brought to a political campaign or war, can be kindled for “internationalism” and peace.
The selection end with her reflections on the Thirteenth Universal Peace Congress held in Boston in 1904. She found that none of the statements of the living attendees matched the words of the prophet Isaiah as to social justice:
Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.
And even more famously Isaiah admonition to turn away from war:
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
- Power of Nonviolence Thoreau CD: Peace Book Chapter 4 10/10/11 (peacecouple.com)
- Power of Nonviolence Emerson War: Peace Book Chapter 3 10/3/11 (peacecouple.com)
- Power of Nonviolence Mighty Penn: Peace Book Chapter 1 of the Week 9/19/11(peacecouple.com)
- Power of Nonviolence Zinn-troduction: Peace Book Chapter of the Week 9/12/11(peacecouple.com)