Women fought to end war at international conference

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A gathering of women from many of the belligerent nations and several neutral countries convened in the Netherlands at the Hague in April 1915.

It was an attempt to promote the ending of the immediate conflict and to propose for the future the recognition of certain principles of inter-state relations.

These would be managed through institutions of an international and democratic nature, thereby seeking to prevent future disagreements of nations being resolved other than through peaceful mediation and the consent of all people involved.

As an underlying principle this would necessarily require the recognition of the right of all (including women) to a vote and participation in the democratic processes to be established.

Several of the fundamental principles laid down at the conference would eventually be adopted years later in the setting up of the United Nations after the Second World War.

But some of them were adopted more immediately by US President Woodrow Wilson as part of his ‘Fourteen Principles’ upon which he envisaged the settlement of the Great War and the formation of international bodies to manage disputes.

This seminal meeting, which governments of the time derided and sought to frustrate (the British government prevented almost all the UK women seeking to attend the Hague by suspending the ferry service to Flushing) will be marked by an event at The Literary and Philosophical Society building at 23 Westgate Road, Newcastle, on Monday, April 20, at 6pm.

Speakers from Northumbria and Leeds universities will examine the significance of the Hague conference and its relevance to the resolution of the war and the future conduct of international affairs .

The project’s major exhibition has now been installed at Wallsend Customer First Centre and Library.

Meanwhile the next talk at the Low Lights Tavern, Brewhouse Bank, Fish Quay, will be given by Jeff Bennett, of the Western Front Association, on the topic of the The War the Artillery Knew.

No tickets are required for the event, which will be at 730pm on Tuesday, April 21.

A public talk on a pioneering local woman engineer entitled Rachel Parsons – Queen of the Machine, will be given at the Discovery Museum, Blandford Square, Newcastle, at 11.30am, on Saturday, April 25. Tickets (£4 – students free) can be obtained by contacting Marleen Vincenten on (0191) 277 2166.

Henrietta Heald, biographer of Lord Armstrong, is currently writing a biography of Rachel Parsons, daughter of the pioneer of steam turbine propulsion and electricity generation Sir Charles Parsons.

Rachel Parsons was at the heart of the movement to get women into engineering and fought against prejudice and the refusal of the engineering unions to countenance women working in their industries.

The First World War gave women the opportunity, sadly only temporarily in most industries, to work in areas previously denied to them and Rachel took on the role of a director of the great CA Parsons engineering company when her brother went to war (and his death).

A founder of the Women’s Engineering Society, the story of her life and finally tragic death in 1956 at the hands of a servant, is a fascinating one which Henrietta Heald will relate in her talk.

This event is a part of the Tyne and Wear Museums’ ‘Wor Life’ programme of events – see TWAM website for more details.

The project’s Information Centre in Front Street, Tynemouth, adjacent to the library, is open at weekends for the spring and summer. A number of small exhibitions of the project’s work and publications can be viewed and purchased.

Anyone with information about anyone who was killed or died as a result of the war is asked to contact the project.

The project workroom at Room B9, Linskill Community Centre, Trevor Terrace, North Shields, is open from 10am to 4pm each weekday for visitors and for anyone interested to learn more about the project or how to get involved.

The address for correspondence is c/o Essell, 29 Howard Street, North Shields NE30 1AR.