‘For nearly three years the war has gone on, and we women have been afraid, afraid to trust our own judgement, afraid to speak, afraid to act. The ghastly slaughter of our sons, our husbands, our brothers has gone on and the spirit of fear has paralysed us. We believed our Government until it has been convicted so often of dishonesty that we are forced to think and act for ourselves … The people of Russia have appealed to the common people of every country to let their voices be heard demanding peace without annexations and without indemnities! They have called to us to subdue our Imperialists as they have vanquished theirs … It is to the Common People that the people of Russia have appealed. Shall we remain silent any longer?’
The Women’s Peace Crusade was ‘the first truly popular campaign in Britain, linking feminism and anti-militarism’ (Jill Liddington).
Denounced by the right-wing Morning Post as ‘one of the most active and pernicious propaganda organisations in the country’, its central demand was ‘a people’s peace’: a negotiated end to the war without annexations or ‘crushing indemnities’.
Born in Glasgow in 1916, by the end of 1918 it had 123 branches across the UK, from Aberdale to Ystradgynlais. 3,000 marched through Bradford; 300 marched in Birmingham (though their banner was torn up); and in Leicester a crowd of 3,000 assembled in the marketplace to listen to an all-women platform of speakers.
The Crusaders faced government repression, mob violence and a massive government propaganda campaign.