Members of the Wales Women’s Peace Partnership and Welsh Government celebrate the arrival of the 1923 Peace Petition and chest at the National Library of Wales.
A 100-year-old Peace Petition signed by almost 400,000 Welsh women had an emotional welcome back to Wales yesterday (Wednesday).
The welcome home coincided with the announcement of an award of nearly £250,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) to bring the story to life.
The Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA) has been awarded £249,262 from the NLHF to support the Women’s Peace Petition Project, managed by Academi Heddwch Cymru and the WCIA on behalf of the Women’s Peace Petition Partnership.
The NLHF funding will enable the partnership to actively engage with the people of Wales to share and celebrate the story as well as enabling them to play an active role in transcription efforts to support the work of the National Library of Wales, based in Aberystwyth.
The chest and petition were welcomed at the national library by the people involved in the partnership who have worked over many years to bring them home.
Over the next year, the petition will now be catalogued, digitised and opened to the public to crowdsource its transcription, along with several exhibitions at Amgueddfa Cymru - St Fagans, Wrexham Museum and the national library.
In 1923, with the horrors of World War One having galvanised a whole generation against conflict, the women of Wales organised a campaign for world peace.
At a Welsh League of Nations Union conference held at Aberystwyth University, a campaign launch was proposed to ensure that the women of the USA heard the voices of the women of Wales and that they worked together for a world without war.
A total of 390,296 women signed a peace petition. Within seven months, Annie Hughes-Griffiths, Mary Ellis, Elined Prys and Gladys Thomas had reached the USA with an oak chest containing a petition that was said to be seven miles long.
In New York, it was presented to the women of America by the peace delegation from Wales. Since then, the chest has been preserved and exhibited at the National Museum of American History, in Washington DC.
The Women of Wales for a World without War Partnership began working in 2019 with the national library to borrow the chest and some of the petitions. The subsequent discussions with the National Museum of American History eventually resulted in this transfer to the national library in Aberystwyth.
National library will now digitise its contents to enable the public to view the Peace Petition and participate in a national campaign to transcribe the names of petition signatories, creating a publicly available and searchable resource for the first time.
Suzie Ventris-Field, WCIA chief executive, said: “WCIA is extremely honoured to be part of the Women’s Peace Petition Partnership and thankful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for their award which will bring this incredible story to life.
“Centenary celebrations and outreach funded by the NLHF will help the partnership start a conversation with communities about how Wales can develop as a nation of peace and inspire the next generation of peacemakers.”
Mererid Hopwood, Women’s Peace Petition Partnership chair, said: “Against the backdrop of today’s troubled world, it’s an enormous privilege to remember how the women of Wales, a century ago, were bold enough to work for global peace.
“It’s our hope that through the Peace Petition project this spirit of international co-operation, focussed on creating a fair and violence-free world, will find new voices.”
Andrew White, The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Wales director, said: “Five years before they won the vote in 1928, 400,000 Welsh women reached out across the Atlantic in a historic show of solidarity to take a stand against the horrors of war by signing this petition.
“It’s our incredible privilege to be awarding almost £250,000 to bring the petition and the chest, in which it travelled, back to Wales at a time when sadly the shadow of war looms over Europe and the need for peace and solidarity is as great as it has ever been.”
Dawn Bowden, the Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, said: “I am delighted that the 1923 Peace Petition has returned to Wales 100 years after it was taken to the USA.
“I would like to thank the Smithsonian Institution for the generosity of this gift to the National Library of Wales. The gathering of almost 400,000 signatures from women across Wales as a campaign for peace is inspiring.
“I hope that the return of the petition to Wales will inspire and motivate a new generation of advocates for peace.”
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