Dorothy Detzer

Dorothy Detzer

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Dorothy Detzer was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on 1st December, 1893. Her father, August Detzer, was a drugstore owner and her mother, Laura Goshorn Detzer, was a librarian. She later described her childhood in her autobiography: "In my early teens there was a brief period when I decided to be a toe dancer and, as a dying swan, to swoon in a heap of tulle and tossed bouquets just as Pavlova did. As I was a fairly good dancer this dream was not wrought merely out of romantic fantasy, but it was a dream which received little encouragement from my wide-awake family. I was reminded that I was no beauty, and that the success of a professional dancer lay along a road paved with grueling work and perpetual heartbreak. So the dream died like the swan, leaving no tangible residue except a correct posture and overmuscular ankles. During this period, I certainly never thought about the issues of war and peace. I learned from snatches of grownup conversation that the Spaniards were dreadful people who had once blown up an American ship, and that the droopily mustached Dewey whose picture dominated the center of some blue World's Fair plates was a great American hero. Then there was also the bedtime story of Jackanapes. From it I gathered that war was a sad but beautiful adventure. Its closing paragraphs led one through a series of rhetorical questions to noble heights."

In her late teens Detzer spent time travelling in the Far East before settling in Chicago, where she went to live in Hull House where she met Jane Addams, Ellen Starr, Julia Lathrop, Florence Kelley, Edith Abbott, Grace Abbott, Alice Hamilton, Charlotte Perkins, William Walling, Charles Beard, Mary McDowell, Mary Kenney, Alzina Stevens and Sophonisba Breckinridge. Working-class women, such as Kenney and Stevens, who had developed an interest in social reform as a result of their trade union work, played an important role in the education of the middle-class residents at Hull House. They in turn influenced the working-class women. As Kenney was later to say, they "gave my life new meaning and hope". Detzer also studied at the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy while working as an officer of the Juvenile Protective Association.

During the First World War her twin brother, Donald Detzer, served in the United States Army. In 1918, while serving in a Field Hospital, he was a victim of a mustard gas attack. His lungs were badly damaged and he eventually died from a related illness. As a result of this, Dorothy became a pacifist. She later recalled: "Yet the movement for peace which developed during the crucial years which spanned two wars was never a private crusade; it was a co-operative, shared adventure. A movement rises out of the expanded aspirations of a few, and those who are identified with it soon recognize that painful but paradoxical truth: how unimportant to a movement is any individual - and how important."

After working for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Europe she returned to the United States and became national secretary of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). Her primary job was to lobby senators and representatives in Washington D.C. In Appointment on the Hill (1948) she argued: "I became a lobbyist. No doubt, to many Americans, such an avowal can only appear as a bold and shameless confession. For I know that to the general public, lobbying is a vocation tainted with many unsavory connotations. Perhaps this is natural since virtue is rarely news, and hence it is the disreputable lobbyists who invariably make the headlines. But there are good lobbyists as well as bad, and the good ones, I believe, have contributed in no small measure to the vitality and integrity of American political democracy. For American political democracy is no myth; it is a manifest reality. Out of my own long experience as a lobbyist in Washington, that fact, I believe, stands out in my mind more sharply than any other. Moreover, it is a fact which never ceased to surprise me. For the United States covers an enormous geographic area; it functions under a complicated, and sometimes clumsy, government machinery; it is infested by alert, moneyed interests; it is always contaminated by the unethical and unscrupulous breed of lobbyists."

According to Harriet Hyman Alonso: "Legislators respected Detzer for her thorough research, persuasive manner, and great integrity, knowing full well that the fashionable, outspoken Lady Lobbyist (as she was known) would accept no personal favours, private dinners or backroom deals that would compromise her work." Detzer lobbied Congress for legislation to allow alien conscientous objectors to become U.S. citizens, to end lynching, for the removal of U.S. troops in Haiti and Nicaragua and for the 1928 Kellog-Briand Pact. Along with Mabel Vernon she co-ordinated the petition campaign that collected more than half a million U.S. signatures in support of universal disarmament.

In 1933 Dorothy Detzer approached Gerald P. Nye, George Norris and Robert La Follette and asked them to instigate a Senate investigation into the international munitions industry. They agreed and on 8th February, 1934, Nye submitted a Senate Resolution calling for an investigation of the munitions industry by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee under Key Pittman of Nevada. Pittman disliked the idea and the resolution was referred to the Military Affairs Committee. It was eventually combined with one introduced earlier by Arthur H. Vandenberg of Michigan, who sought to take the profits out of war.

Public hearings before the Munitions Investigating Committee began on 4th September, 1934. In the reports published by the committee it was claimed that there was a strong link between the American government's decision to enter the First World War and the lobbying of the the munitions industry. The committee was also highly critical of the nation's bankers. In a speech in 1936 Gerald P. Nye argued that "the record of facts makes it altogether fair to say that these bankers were in the heart and center of a system that made our going to war inevitable".

Hede Massing met Dorothy Detzer at the home of Noel Field in 1935: "A friendship with her started that was to last. She was, at the time, the secretary of the Woman's International League for Peace and Freedom in Washington... Here was a person I liked, who taught me more than anyone else about the workings of democracy in the United States.... I am proud to say that we are intimate friends today, and that our friendship has only deepened through the years."

Detzer left the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in 1946. She now spent her time looking after her ageing parents and writing her memoirs, Appointment on the Hill (1948). A close friend of Norman Thomas, she was also active in his Post War World Council, a group that was committed to developing plans for peace that would prevent all future wars.

In 1954 Detzer married the journalist and long-term friend, Ludwell Denny. They spent the next few years working for the Scripps-Howard organization. After her husband's death in 1970 she moved to Monterey, California, where she died on 7th January, 1981.

In my early teens there was a brief period when I decided to be a toe dancer and, as a dying swan, to swoon in a heap of tulle and tossed bouquets just as Pavlova did. So the dream died like the swan, leaving no tangible residue except a correct posture and overmuscular ankles.

During this period, I certainly never thought about the issues of war and peace. Its closing paragraphs led one through a series of rhetorical questions to noble heights.

"The only good histories," said Montaigne, "are those written by the persons themselves who commanded in the affairs whereof they write." But if there is validity in this contention, there is also a flaw. No one individual ever commands alone in the affairs whereof he writes, nor do mutual experiences bring the same impacts, the same emotional response to those who share them. For no two chroniclers can see events with the same eyes; feel the compulsions of those events with the same heart; nor measure their significance with the same mind. Therefore, Montaigne's good histories will reflect not only the dogmas and bias, the aspirations and values of the participant who reports them, but they will inevitably spotlight him in the most conspicuous place upstage.

This book is no exception. It is a personal record, and like all personal records, it is heavily encrusted with "the most disgusting pronoun."

Yet the movement for peace which developed during the crucial years which spanned two wars was never a private crusade; it was a co-operative, shared adventure. A movement rises out of the expanded aspirations of a few, and those who are identified with it soon recognize that painful but paradoxical truth: how unimportant to a movement is any individual-- and how important. He is unimportant since the Cause alone is paramount; he is important only because every deflection, every hesitant loyalty weakens that Cause. And if the Cause exists only for the promotion of a principle, and offers none of the seductions of power, it will attract a leadership which is both disinterested and dedicated.

From the morning in 1925, when I first went to see William Borah, the Capitol became a central focus of my work, and I became a lobbyist. Perhaps this is natural since virtue is rarely news, and hence it is the disreputable lobbyists who invariably make the headlines.

But there are good lobbyists as well as bad, and the good ones, I believe, have contributed in no small measure to the vitality and integrity of American political democracy. For the United States covers an enormous geographic area; it functions under a complicated, and sometimes clumsy, government machinery; it is infested by alert, moneyed interests; it is always contaminated by the unethical and unscrupulous breed of lobbyists.

Nye's young, he has inexhaustible energy, and he has courage. Those are all important assets. He may be rash in his judgments at times, but it's the rashness of enthusiasm. I think he would do a first-class job with an investigation. Besides, Nye doesn't come up for election again for another four years; by that time the investigation would be over. If it reveals what I am certain it will, such an investigation would help him politically, not harm him. And that would not be the case with many senators. For you see, there isn't a major industry in North Dakota closely allied to the munitions business.

There was a brief period, before the Nazi party became an active menace to the world, when life seemed to open up a new pathway to peace. Germany had a republican government; Russia was busy with her "new experiment" - and Geneva was busy with hers. So between 1928 and 1934, the activities of the peace movement forged ahead steadily both in Europe and America. The ridicule and suspicion, which had beset most peace efforts during the decade following the First World War, were gradually being dissipated, and a season of fruitful promise seemed to open just ahead. Not that the officers and members of the peace organizations saw a warless world as any easy or imminent possibility. They held none of the wistful illusions expressed by a young newspaperwoman who, on interviewing Jane Addams, inquired what her next activities would be "now that peace was just around the corner." For those who worked in the field of peace knew too well the complexities and tensions of contemporary international life; and they minimized none of the difficulties. But by the nineteen-thirties, the peace movement had come of age; it was alive, vigorous, self-conscious.

Beyond Great Men & Great Wars

This statement is a summary of the sharply criticized and deeply problematic Great Man Theory which nonetheless continues to pervade how we teach, and therefore understand, history. Simplistic as the theory is, and despite falling from favor among historians after World War II, history is still largely taught by jumping from great man to great man, major event to major event. AP US History students are shepherded through the dawn of the 20th century, World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II as the highlights of a single historical period (beware, link contains comic sans).

What could be called a military corollary to the Great Man Theory was recently explored by Angry Staff Officer, who used the language of land navigation to note that “when the Army, and by definition those in it, looks at its history, it tends to reflect on its own significant terrain features, i.e., wars.”

Between major terrain features—great men and great wars—hide the driving forces of history. Angry Staff Officer discovered surprisingly relevant gems on leadership, budgets, and force reductions in “an edition of the now-defunct “Coast Artillery Journal,” of the even more defunct Coast Artillery Corps.”

I once came across an gem in an otherwise “boring” interwar area—1930s congressional committees and hearings—which has only become more interesting with time.

Trick question: What congressional special committee held over 90 hearings, calling more than 200 witnesses, over a two year period, and found very little hard evidence of an actual conspiracy?

Nope, not #Benghazi.

While it seems that the Benghazi hearings will never end, modern Congressional Republicans have not entirely eclipsed the dirt-digging of the 1930s. In May 2014, Politico lamented that the “wide-ranging probe,” a series of investigations by several different House and Senate committees, “has already spanned 13 hearings, 25,000 pages of documents and 50 briefings.”

The 1934–36 Special Committee on Investigation of the Munitions Industry, better known as the Nye Committee (named so after its chairman, Republican Senator Gerald Nye of North Dakota) consisted of over 90 hearings conducted over two years, calling on more than 200 witnesses including J. P. Morgan, Jr. and Pierre du Pont. The investigation, which focused on the munitions industry, bidding on government shipbuilding contracts, war profits and the eventual US entry into World War I, ended abruptly in early 1936 when Nye stepped out of bounds and suggested that President Woodrow Wilson had withheld information from Congress as it considered the 1917 declaration of war against Germany.

Although the committee fell short of its aim to nationalize (and thereby reign-in) the arms industry, it fundamentally inspired the Neutrality Acts of 1935, 1936, 1937, and 1939 which delayed American entry into World War II and is largely cited as a core reason the US was unprepared for the war.

In 1961, President Eisenhower summarized the military-industrial complex in his farewell address. Eisenhower, in a powerful and meaningful speech, said that “until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry” and that the “conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry” was new to the American experience. He was somewhat wrong. While the arms industry by the 1960s vastly outpaced any period before, as did the the overt participation of the government in arms development, a noting of complex interrelationship between technological progress, the arms industry, and the American military machine can be seen much earlier in the pages of the Nye Committee’s 1936 report.

The report goes beyond merely accusing munitions companies of bribery to note that

The Nye Report paints a complex picture depicting the interplay between war, politics, and business that Eisenhower later called attention to. Eisenhower certainly said it best, but he did not say it first.

Nye Report, 1936: “The committee finds, further, that the constant availability of munitions companies with competitive bribes ready in outstretched hands does not create a situation where the officials involved can, in the nature of things, be as much interested in peace and measures to secure peace as they are in increased armaments.”

Eisenhower, 1961: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

Pacifist Dorothy Detzer, Denied Passport, Then Granted Waiver

Dorothy Detzer, Executive Director of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and a pacifist, was initially denied a passport to travel overseas because of her pacifist views.

At issue was her refusal to take the oath to defend the United States, which she interpreted as potentially supporting participation in military action. She was finally granted a passport on this day, and traveled to Europe for an international pacifist conference.

The case was one of many in the twentieth century where the U.S. government denied passports to American citizens or visas to people from other countries because of their political views. See, for example, the cancellation of the passport of Paul Robeson, the noted African-American singer and left-wing political activist on August 4, 1950. And on August 23, 1985 the best-selling Canadian writer Farley Mowat was denied a visa to enter the U.S. by the administration of President Ronald Reagan.

On the rights of pacifists in the 1920s and 1930s, see the case of Rosika Schwimmer (Schwimmer v. United States, May 27, 1929), in which Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, in dissent, articulated the now-famous principle of “freedom for the thought we hate.”

The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom was founded on April 28, 1915, and continues its work today.

Read her memoirs: Dorothy Detzer, Appointment on the Hill (1948)

Learn more about pacifism: Charles Chatfield, For Peace and Justice: Pacifism in American, 1914–1941 (1971)

Read about Dorothy Detzer here

Learn about the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom today here

Let there be light.

In the beginning of the 21st century, as military corporations and compliant public officials continue to drive the United States into war, the WILPF Challenge Corporate Power, Assert the People's Rights Campaign finds inspiration in the efforts of "the WIL" between World War I and World War II, and particularly in the contributions of Dorothy Detzer, executive secretary of WILPF from 1920-1947. Like Jane Addams and other WILPF women, she recognized that achieving peace and freedom in the world necessitated work that exposed and challenged the relationships and practices of a militarist political economy.

Detzer's memoir of her experiences, An Appointment on the Hill, was published in 1948. At that time The New York Times described Detzer as "the most famous woman lobbyist" and The Nation cited her on its "Honor Roll" several times. Throughout the book, Detzer described herself as a lobbyist who suggested legislation, drafted bills, wrote speeches, and organized hearings. She also testified before Congress on behalf of WILPF and other peace organizations. As the title of the book suggests, Detzer had an extraordinary level of access to top government officials, including President Roosevelt, the Assistant Deputy Secretary of State, and members of the U.S. Congress.

During the First World War, the whole Detzer family was immersed in war activities, but for young Dorothy, Hull House became her "home front." It was at Hull House, working with Jane Addams, that Detzer was first introduced to the concept of nonviolence, and began to question the declared purpose of the War ("to make the world safe for democracy"). Subsequent years of humanitarian work abroad led her to become a Quaker, and on returning to the States, she assumed the secretaryship of WILPF.

Central to Detzer's work was her faith in the legislative process as the cornerstone of American political democracy. Despite the clumsy government machinery, the moneyed interests, and the unethical lobbyists, Detzer appreciated the work and commitment of Congress. She also had an underlying faith that "powerful interests can be checked and controlled by the will of an active and alert citizenship." But, in order to check and control those interests, she believed that citizens needed "more light." Detzer made it clear that as she lobbied on behalf of WILPF for the causes of peace and disarmament, she was ultimately a lobbyist for "light." She held that "Light is needed to clarify issues and to expose for the public the conflicting forces shaping a national policy" (emphasis added).

Detzer also believed that "cause lobbyists" were committed to full disclosure, as opposed to secrecy, and to the "overt practice of petition" rather than "the covert practice of concealment" common among business and government lobbyists. From the 1920s to the 1930s, the most prominent "cause lobbyists" were pacifist groups such as Fellowship for Reconciliation, National Council for the Prevention of War and National Council of Women. Like other women in WILPF, Detzer was a member of other groups.

She was probably best known as the woman who convinced Congress to pursue the Munitions Industry Investigations in 1933. Although WILPF and other peace groups had called for armament hearings since WWI, the 1932 breakdown of the World Disarmament Conference in Geneva and escalating conflict between China and Japan appear to have brought the issue to the forefront.

As an immediate response to the Asian conflict, WILPF advocated legislation that included an arms embargo for nations at war. Representative Hamilton Fish of New York also asked Detzer to organize congressional hearings on the issue. Yet after the hearings were abruptly and inexplicably cancelled, she found evidence linking the munitions industry to the State Department. An article buried in the Washington Times described how large quantities of nitrates--believed to be headed for the Chinese-Japanese conflict--had been shipped from the Atmospheric Nitrogen Company (ANC) in Virginia. Detzer then discovered ANC was a subsidiary of Allied Chemical and Dye Company, which was interlocked with the U.S. Steel and Gulf Oil corporations. Gulf Oil Corporation was owned by Andrew Mellon, the Secretary of the Treasury.

Two months later, after Detzer reported her findings at the organization conference, WILPF passed a resolution calling for a government investigation of the munitions industry and its influence. With this mandate from WILPF, Detzer found Senator Gerald P. Nye of North Dakota to sponsor a resolution.

Public hearings before the Senate Munitions Investigating Committee began in early 1934 and lasted two years. The final report described how munitions corporations (including General Electric, Du Pont, Boeing, and Colt) bribed foreign officials, and how the extraordinary sales of munitions produced fear, instability, and hostility, increasing munitions orders in neighboring European, South American, and Asian countries. The report also held that European and American munitions dealers greatly profited from German rearmament.

In Appointment, Detzer expressed her deep disappointment that the Senate committee's important service and recommendations--presented as interlocking legislative measures that "supplied bulwarks to safeguard the rights of the American people"--were never passed. Detzer felt that the compromise bill that did pass, the Neutrality Act, was significantly undermined by "half-measure provisions."

Shortly before Detzer called for "light" in 1948, the Supreme Court upheld an antitrust suit against the Associated Press, and affirmed that citizens in a democracy need access to diverse and antagonistic sources of information. This decision, like Detzer's concept of political democracy, assumed a pluralist, liberal process with government acting as a neutral arena in which different groups jockey for power and influence.

Yet over the past 50 years what we've witnessed is the growth of an increasingly impenetrable and unaccountable military/corporate industrial complex. We've seen a government that is not responsive to the needs of its people and a corporate-controlled media that doesn't question those in charge. In recent years we've been faced with leaders using the idea of national security as reason to trump our basic rights to assemble, to express dissent, to participate in decision-making and to presume full governmental transparency.

The Challenge Corporate Power, Assert the People's Rights (CCP-APR) campaign's study of history reveals that this increased appropriation of power is enabled by a political system biased to serve a propertied and privileged minority. This results in corporations having more legal rights than human beings. Meanwhile, the corporate media continues to shape public opinion and divert attention away from democratic processes and expectations.

Detzer's post-WWII belief in the ability to influence the political process does differ from our campaign's present day thinking. Today, given the new realities and our understanding, the CCP-APR campaign is focused on more than influencing corporate and government decision-making through lobbying and regulation. Instead, we assert the people's fundamental right to decide and define their future. This process involves changing the culture and our laws so that we can do more than pressure munitions corporations and instead be empowered to actively define how, why and what they produce. It also involves advocating a concept of real democracy, and a deep sense of what a people's sovereignty means and looks like.

As the WILPF Vision Statement makes clear, the CCP-APR campaign envisions a just, sustainable democracy in which "the needs of all people are met in a fair and equitable manner" and where "all people equally participate in the decisions that affect them." To realize this democracy, and the possibilities of peace, it is essential to directly challenge the legitimacy of corporate rights.

Corporations should have no voice in the halls of Congress or state legislatures. They should have no presence in our electoral or legislative process--no lobbying or political contributions. Representatives of corporations should only enter the legislatures when we, the people, invite them, because we need information. The people should be sovereign, not corporations. This is the light that we can "turn on" for others.

“…it seems to me that any study of the Munitions Investigation requires first of all a real comprehension of the tempers, tone, spirit of the country at the time…”

Dorthy Detzer, peace activist and ironically, given the large defense industry lobby today, a lobbyist.

Writing about the Nye Committee in 2009 as an undergraduate history student, I became fascinated by a quote from Dorothy Detzer in a letter to historian John E. Wiltz. Detzer, a peace activist rarely mentioned in textbooks alongside the committee was the behind-the-scenes driving force in its creation and ultimate direction. In a 1960 letter to Wiltz, Detzer wrote that “…it seems to me that any study of the Munitions Investigation requires first of all a real comprehension of the tempers, tone, spirit of the country at the time…”

The first World War, at the time called simply the Great War, ended 16 years before the investigation. It was an immediate memory for the American public, who had lived through the war, and served as the temporal grounding point for the investigation. In addition, the Great Depression engendered a broad anti-business sentiment in the public sphere. The Great War and the Great Depression marked the temper and tone of the time, and the spirit was born from the outrage of peace activists and machinations of isolationist politicians who suspected that those who profited from war could very well be interested in it occurring more frequently.

The spirit of 1934 is a small ghost wandering the pages of interwar history, a forgotten child of the “Great War” and the Great Depression. She reminds us that history is not only a cast of great men conducting a series of great wars, but also a multitude of bit parts, played by dickering politicians, lobbyists, and a public swayed by time and temper.

Angry Staff Officer concluded that “it might behoove leaders and historians alike to look away from the dramatic terrain features of history and instead examine some of the paths less trodden.”

He couldn't be more right. You’d be surprised what can be found by looking into defunct journals and old committee reports, and astounded by the lessons we can learn by peering into the shadows of great men and great wars.

Catherine (Katie) Putz is the special projects editor at The Diplomat. She studied American conflict & diplomatic history and then ran off to Kentucky to study international security. She writes about foreign policy, national security, and countries that end in -stan, among other things.

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3. An Effective World Peace

28 “We know what we have to face and we know that we are ready to face it.” With these few words Eleanor Roosevelt counseled Americans in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl It was her voice that announced to the nation that the war had finally come home. Due to FDR’s physical disability, she had to embody the administration’s war efforts throughout the country. Her presence had to inspire Americans and convince them that democracy would triumph over dictatorship. To this end, she gave assistance to the director of the nation’s civilian defense program. On countless occasions, Americans soldiers all over the world had the opportunity to see her as a tangible sign of the White House presence. She paid many visits to hospitals where she copied the names and addresses of the wounded she encountered, so that she could write letters to their relatives once she returned home. The first lady thus became a symbol of national unity and throughout the war her popularity soared.xxxi

29 The war, however, not only gave Mrs. Roosevelt’s personality and evocative rhetoric great prominence, it also accentuated her distinctive pragmatic pacifism. Amidst increasingly belligerent tones and pro-war campaigns, she was able to make the difficult trade-off between her public role and personal beliefs and pacifist stands. As Allida Black argues, Eleanor Roosevelt understood, “the complex relationships between war and peace,” and always tried to explain the rationale behind the necessity of fighting dictatorships.xxxii Already in 1939, when the war had just erupted in Europe, she noted that the world situation would inevitably affect U.S. domestic affairs and she warned her fellow citizens about the tensions and the psychological effects that the new conflict would generate at home.xxxiii She pragmatically defended the idea that the main goal for the U.S. in this war was to ensure an independent nation for American children.xxxiv She expressed the desire to continue to live in an independent country based on individual freedom and equal opportunities.xxxv She also advocated women’s active participation in war mobilization, an element that she considered crucial in avoiding further negative consequences.

30 The first lady, indeed, fiercely promoted the deterrent value of preemptive mobilization: “Our only hope of keeping the peace which we so prize, is to prove before there is any involvement in war, that we are a unified nation for defense.”xxxvi She believed that the participation of the whole population in what she defined as a “people’s war” would be the key to defeat Nazism and Fascism. What she was supporting was, in essence, a people’s democratic revolution against tyranny.xxxvii In a radio address in October 1941, she commended even the conscientious objectors for the dogged service they were providing in medical facilities.xxxviii She asked every American to do the most efficient possible job in order to “shorten the horrible period” of war.xxxix She reminded young people and ordinary citizens that the ultimate ends for which they were fighting were freedom and “a different and better future world.”xl Exquisitely realist as well as purely exceptionalist, the core of Eleanor Roosevelt’s message was that the sooner the U.S. faced up to the fact that this war was its own war, the sooner American citizens would do the job which other men and women were doing all over the world.xli That job, according to the first lady, was nothing less than defending democracy.xlii

31 Given her pragmatic pacifism and political realism, Eleanor Roosevelt existed in a quandary in which “the peace movement wanted her to be its voice within the administration and the administration expected her to defend its position with its anti-war critics.”xliii Since she did not want to gainsay FDR’s pro-war stance, she decided, on the one hand, to defend practical causes such as conscientious objection and, on the other hand, to promote the general idea of world peace.xliv This last attitude occasionally rendered Eleanor Roosevelt a voice outside the chorus of the overt political realm and the public debate. As she later recalled, it was not enough to talk about peace, since “one must work at it.”xlv During the war, the cause of world peace became so central to Mrs. Roosevelt’s public efforts that many historians, for instance Joan Hoff, use the expression “apparent incongruity” to describe her internal conflict between the necessity of fighting the war and at the same time promoting world peace.xlvi That incongruity epitomized, instead, the search for a delicate equilibrium between Eleanor Roosevelt’s pragmatism and idealism.xlvii In the end, she accepted World War II as a route to the achievement of a stable international peace.

32 The first lady envisioned a better world after the war, a world centered on the role of people. This bottom-up approach slowly became her preferred perspective from which to imagine and design the post-war order. She defended citizens’ right to hope and asserted that the future belonged to “those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”xlviii Against the rise of arrogance and egotism, she proposed, and backed, an “enlightened self-interest” through which people of the world could understand that wars are detrimental to the whole of civilization.xlix According to her opinions, there would be no victory without removing the “armed camps” in people’s minds – those cultural barriers that kept individuals from mutual understanding.l She believed that the establishment of a universal language, as part of a universal understanding, would be a preliminary step and a “prelude to world peace.”li Replying to a boy who was looking forward “to the time when the conflict will cease and the real problems of the world can be met by thought and brains,” Mrs. Roosevelt remarked that American citizens had to keep themselves from hate, “and act with cool heads but warms hearts, both with our allies and with our enemies at the close of the war.”lii Finally, she placed great emphasis on the role of education, saying that it was one of the most vigorous boosters for peace.liii

33 With the same passionate rhetoric she used to promote world peace, Eleanor Roosevelt addressed one of the most problematic foreign policy issues of the early 1940s – the problem of the post-war cooperation. According to the first lady, the U.S. had to realize that it was “no longer an isolated nation, but part of a family of nations” that needed to be restored to normal life.liv On a number of occasions, she praised the importance of winning peace. In March 1943, for example, she attended a meeting in Philadelphia and listened to Governor of Minnesota Harold Stassen’s speech with great interest. Stassen strongly advocated a “definite United Nations government” and a worldwide vision of winning what he called an enduring peoples’ Although Mrs. Roosevelt confessed to having no particular formula for the way international cooperation should function after the war, she endorsed the idea of establishing a working United Nations Organizations, which would be a “solid foundation for world peace.”lvi Such an idea, far from being purely idealistic, took into account the differences that persisted among the nations, and particularly those differences affecting the relations between the U.S. and Soviet Russia. She clearly stated that any plan for the future world order would have to include Russia, China and all those nations that wanted to wholeheartedly subscribe to the notion of cooperation. When New York congressman Arthur Klein introduced a plan that included the establishment of “closer cooperation between all nations” as an “extension of the good neighbor policy to all the world” along with measures for “social and economic improvement,” she immediately endorsed it.lvii She used both her political channels and her connections with social movements to promote international cooperation. As a member of the women’s division of the Democratic National Committee, Eleanor Roosevelt asked her party to join the efforts of the League of Women Voters and those of several churches to discuss and formulate a proposal on world peace before the San Francisco conference.lviii The very day before the convening of that conference, she stressed the significance of setting up an organization that would be a forum for discussion, and a place where future generations would have the opportunity to build a peaceful world.lix

34 As first and most important result, Eleanor Roosevelt’s pacifism, idealism, realism and humanitarianism all converged in the shape of her ideas for what the U.N. should be. She considered “food, or relief, or even aviation” as matters that had direct bearing on the establishment of a lasting peace.lx To preserve peace, the new organization had to encompass a vast range of subjects, including rehabilitation, world labor problems, and world educational problems.lxi Mrs. Roosevelt counted the FAO, the UNESCO, the U.N. health and labor organizations, and the Economic and Social Forum as the most important means to foster international cooperation. Her main interest was to build an organization that would be as efficient as possible. “[W]hen questions reach the Security Council, we must have an organization to enforce its decisions,” the first lady liked to say.lxii

35 Hence, the roots of her internationalism were not entirely idealistic. The centerpiece of her foreign policy vision was instead a mutual recognition of interests. Eleanor Roosevelt believed that the mutuality of interests, especially in practical fields, favored international agreements. She expressed this idea in a heartfelt speech against the word tolerance, which, according to first lady’s views, could hide fear and restrain people and nations from cooperating.lxiii As regards the WHO and UNESCO, she said it was useless to support them if they were not intended to produce mutual advantages such as increasing the health standards in all nations or by improving the global educational level.lxiv

36 Accordingly, international defense of human rights had to become the principal way to achieve mutual gains. That was why the cause to which she was most committed was the issue of human rights. It was her attitude toward the promotion and the safeguard of human rights that helped President Truman solve one of his first dilemmas. In 1945, he confided to Secretary of State James Byrnes that he needed the support of two important liberals for the purpose of improving the public image of his administration, specifically Henry Wallace and Eleanor Roosevelt. The area of international affairs seemed a natural destination for such an outstanding and trustworthy figure as Eleanor Roosevelt. That was why Byrnes placed her name at the top of the list of delegates to the upcoming London conference of the United Nations.lxv In December 1945, Truman appointed her as one of the U.S. representatives to the first session of the General Assembly, which was scheduled for Westminster Central Hall the following January. She decided to write of her gratitude in the pages of her My Day column where she confirmed her desire to learn, understand and work on the problems of the world in order to build a lasting peace. Mrs. Roosevelt felt a great responsibility in being the only woman delegate from the U.S. and promised to keep in mind the enormous sacrifices of the youth who had fought in war. After all, she was going to London fully convinced that the world had become, as Wendell Willkie said, “one world” and that only by recognizing this interdependence would it be possible to secure future generations from war.lxvi

37 Eleanor Roosevelt easily won large internal support in the U.S. for the U.N. and its mission to protect human rights. This was particularly true in the case of the varied American peace movements, which immediately praised her appointment. A quick survey of Eleanor Roosevelt’s incoming correspondence in the aftermath of her nomination shows the contentment that many of the American peace movement activists found in her holding that position. Representatives of the American Association for the United Nations, labor movement spokespersons, and women’s and religious organizations sent Eleanor Roosevelt letters of congratulations, suggestions, and memoranda.lxvii One admirer called her “The Queen of Peace - Champion of the Common People - The First Lady of America.” The press defined her nomination a “splendid choice” because of her ability to both represent common people and to understand the urgency of building a lasting peace.lxviii In his comment, Washington Post columnist, Thomas L. Stokes, said that the people had gained a real spokesman, and that Eleanor Roosevelt would be more than a mere representative of the women of America. Although she would fulfill that role excellently, Stokes felt that she represented, “better than perhaps any other person, […] the little people of this country and, indeed, of the world.” She knew the common people’s yearning for peace and security. She had promoted peace even when she had realized it was necessary to fight. Accordingly, she understood perfectly why it was of the utmost importance to prevent another war.lxix Sitting at the U.N. in 1946, she was, quintessentially, the right woman in the right place.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

SRPS Shout-Out - Shonda Rhimes

Have you seen this? The amazing Shonda Rhimes was honored with the Sherry Lansing Award at The Hollywood Reporter's annual Women in Entertainment breakfast on December 10, 2014. In acceptance, she gave this remarkable speech.

Dorothy Detzer - History

Document 9: Dorothy Detzer to the Monahan Post of the American Legion, June 14, 1926, Hannah Clothier Hull Papers, Box 6, Folder 3 (Hannah Clothier Hull Paper Microfilm reel 5)


Dorothy Detzer (1893-1981), a Quaker, served as National Secretary for the US Section of the WILPF from 1922 until 1946. An effective lobbyist, Detzer negotiated a retraction of slanderous statements made about the League by the American Legion. Post leaders had labeled the organization Communist through a convoluted series of personal associations. Detzer showed how similar charges of un-Americanism could be made against the American Legion by the same process of guilt by loose association.
Here Detzer attempted to correct several false statements about the WILPF positions, including affiliation with national governments, military training, and diplomatic recognition. Through all of these issues militarists had connected the League to Russia and Bolshevism. The "Slacker's Oath," also mentioned in the letter, had plagued the WILPF since the war. Other more radical peace societies required a pledge from its members, dedicating themselves to complete non-compliance in any activity that might assist a war effort, the military, or militarism. [N] The WILPF, however, was a more moderate group, which encompassed a variety of degrees of pacifism, faiths, and beliefs. Like Balch in the previous document, Detzer attempted to locate some common ground with the members of the American Legion, suggesting that both organizations were anxious for world peace. The American Legion officers, despite maintaining their difference of opinion, were often much more willing to publicly admit their erroneous statements than were DAR officers. This willingness may perhaps have been related to their more secure position in relation to the military and militarism. As women, the DAR officers held ties to the military that were tenuous and undefined. For the remainder of the decade, at least, members of both the DAR and the WILPF struggled with locating and securing what would be the woman's place in the realm of the military and militarism.

Monahan Post, American Legion
Sioux City, Iowa.

Your letter of May 17 th has been duly received. I take it for granted from your letter that you will take the first opportunity to retract all of your article on the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom regarding which organization you are so completely misinformed.

The Women's International League is not directly or indirectly affiliated with the Communist Government of Russia or any other government in the world.

The Women's International League does not "draw much of its financial support from the Garland Fund." This organization from time to time has had contributions for certain definite pieces of work from the American Fund for Public Service. Charles Garland gave up his fortune for the establishment of the American Fund for Public Service. He has turned over this money to the Fund and has nothing whatever to do with the policies of the American Fund nor with the distribution of the money. The inference in your article that the Women's International League by receiving donations from the American Fund in any way countenances the moral code attributed to Charles Garland is slanderous.

You are correct in stating that this League of Women advocates as a part of its program to establish good will on earth, the abolition of all forms of military training in the United States. The Women's International League, however, does not advocate military training by the government of Russia or any other government in the world. It is opposed to all military training in all countries.

The Women's International League advocates the recognition of the de facto government of Russia. Diplomatic recognition of a country does not imply belief in or approval of a form of government. Our country recognized the Czarist dictatorship of Russia before the Revolution though you will agree that democratic America in recognizing Czarist Russia did not in this way give its approval of that regime. The United States Government recognizes today the dictatorship of Fascist Italy. This recognition does not imply approval of a dictatorship or of Fascist methods. The Women's International League advocates the recognition of Russia for the same reason that the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee advocates recognition of Russia--because only by normal, diplomatic contacts can we have any hope for international peace. Not to recognize a government continues to keep a country, at least diplomatically, in a state of war.

I do not know what you mean by the following statement: "It also encourages incessant agitation for the release of all persons confined in prisons and penitentiaries for crime committed during the war." Will you please retract that slanderous statement at once?

The Woman's International League is not the author of what you call the "notorious Slacker's Oath." This organization has never had a pledge of any kind. Pledges have once or twice been suggested at conventions, but have been overwhelmingly voted down. The chairman of this organization is a Quaker. 1 Jane Addams, the International President, comes of Quaker parentage. A great many of our members are Quakers. It is against the religious principles of the Society of Friends to take oaths. Other members of this organization do not believe in pledging themselves to any action whatsoever for future times.

I am perfectly confident that the ex-soldiers who make up the American Legion are as eager and as anxious to bring about international peace as this organization of women. We do not agree in method because our League feels that preparedness for war brings war, as it did in Germany, and because we agree with President Coolidge that no army is large enough to guarantee us from attack. We, therefore, believe that we should find another method for settling international disputes other than that by the duel. The fact that we may disagree with the Legion on method does not make us either vicious or unpatriotic. We do not believe that patriotism is synonymous with militarism and we realize that we are serving our country as loyally and as devotedly as are other citizens who may agree with us in principle though not in method. I am going to quote from a letter I wrote Col. MacNider 2 because I find that you was well as he seem to have the very mistaken idea that soldiers have a corner on this matter of war and peace.

"Bearing arms is only one phase of the whole awful business. The widows of France, the atrocity victims of Armenia, the women of Smyrna, the mothers of the five-hundred thousand starving children of Vienna, had a near view of war as vivid and as real as that of any soldier in the trenches and American women, some of whom in one capacity or another served on the Famine Front of Europe, truly share with the American soldier a living knowledge of that last great conflict. But those who have never been in a war zone may have as keen a desire and as intelligent a contribution in the exterminating of war forever as those who were its victims. Surely one does not have to witness or take part in a lynching in order to be vehemently opposed to that method of administering justice."

In the future, if you wish to get information from "reliable sources" regarding this organization we shall be glad to furnish you with all our literature, history program, etc. In the meantime, may I refer you also to an Iowa Legionnaire, my brother, Karl W. Detzer, captain in the late war and a loyal and ardent member of your organization. He, I am sure, will be gland to vouch for the patriotism of my organization of which his sister is executive secretary.

Will you please immediately retract all your misinformation and slander and send us a marked copy of your magazine? In the meantime we shall be very glad to submit to you the objects of this league, reports of our activities and past history, for which we have no apologies, only true American pride.

Faithfully yours,
Dorothy Detzer

1. Detzer refers to Hannah Clothier Hull who became National Chairman for the U.S. Section of the WILPF in 1924.

2. Hanford MacNider served as Assistant Secretary of War under President Calvin Coolidge and as American Legion National Commander from 1921 to 1922 and again in 1931.

Dorothy Detzer - History

mv2.jpg/v1/fill/w_180,h_145,al_c,q_80,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01,blur_2/DorothyDetzerAt1939Hearing.jpg" />

Dorothy Detzer, WILPF US Executive Secretary 1924 &ndash 1946. She , Ruth Gage-Colby and Mary Farquharson (also WILPF members) attended, as observers, the United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco , April-June 1945. This photo shows her as a witness before the Senate Committee of Foreign Affairs on 4th May 1939. She was endorsing a neutrality bill in order to remove presidential discretion from neutrality legislation.

Source: Harris & Ewing, photographer. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

WILPF US holds its annual meeting in Berkeley and sends delegates to the United Nations Conference on International Organization (UNCIO) in San Francisco.

Once the US entered WWII and the Allies signed the Atlantic Charter, WILPF started to discuss the need for a global organization postwar. To maintain peace, it would have to be democratic, nonmilitaristic, and &ldquobased on justice to all people.&rdquo The 1944 Dumbarton Oaks proposal for a United Nations organization offered by the US, Great Britain, the USSR, and China fell short. The US Section board judged that it would maintain the status quo rather than develop the &ldquojust and equitable social-economic conditions out of which alone a lasting peace can grow.&rdquo It vested too much power in the Security Council and none in the Assembly, did not provide for disarmament, did not guarantee rights of individuals or minorities, and did not require democratic institutions in member nations. WILPF&rsquos assessment was prescient.

The United Nations held its founding conference in San Francisco from April 25 to June 26, 1945, and in early May, across the San Francisco bay, the US Section held its annual meeting and celebrated WILPF&rsquos thirtieth anniversary. The US Section had three observers at the UN conference, and one of China&rsquos official representatives was a WILPF member. WILPF International&rsquos three chairs sent a message to the UN president, recalling WILPF&rsquos long association with the League of Nations. Despite its reservations as noted above, WILPF US offered four points for the conference to consider: &ldquo[1] World-wide education for a new association of nations. [2] An international Charter of Human Rights to safeguard individual freedoms in an era of large-scale planning. [3] Constructive measures of world co-operation to prevent aggression. [4] A new concept of &lsquosecurity,&rsquo not based on military power and prestige.&rdquo The participation of WILPF and other organizations in the San Francisco conference would lead to the formal recognition of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in 1948. As an NGO, WILPF would successfully recommend the creation of UNICEF and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees post, as well as the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

&ldquoPioneers for Peace: WILPF 1915 &ndash 1965&rdquo by Gertrude Bussey and Margaret Tims

&ldquoWomen for All Seasons: The Story of the Women&rsquos International League for Peace and Freedom&rdquo by Catherine Foster

Extensive WILPF archives can be found in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection.

History of Gender Commons &trade

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The Local Is Global: Broker For Human Rights “Florence Kitchelt, Connecticut Peace Activist And Feminist,” 1920-1961, Danelle L. Moon

Faculty and Staff Publications

In this paper, I will explore the role of local peace activist and feminist, Florence Ledyard Kitchelt (1874-1961) in supporting social justice, equality, and world peace. In 1924 Kitchelt accepted a paid position with the Connecticut League of Nation’s Association (CLNA), and for nearly twenty years she served as secretary and director of the organization. Working through the CLNA she canvassed the state promoting peace education and to building support for the League of Nations and the World Court. In 1925 she traveled to Geneva to study the League of Nations and attended the Assembly. Between the wars she .

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