A co-production with Voices of War and Peace, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester Centre for Regional History, Archives+, Clapham Film Unit and volunteer researchers (Manchester Metropolitan Books, 2017)
“The Women’s Peace Crusade swept through industrial East Lancashire in the summer of 1917,” writes Manchester Metropolitan University’s Dr Alison Ronan in the preface to The Women’s Peace Crusade.
“It was part of a series of spontaneous women-led demonstrations across the country, mobilised by socialist and internationalist women, urging the government to negotiate peace.”
This book is the result of an academic / volunteer co-production research project funded by the AHRC Voices of war and peace. In this case, the voices were of peace, and they were of women.
“This specific piece of research aimed to uncover the ordinary crusaders, the local and ‘unheard’ women in the [region’s] cotton spinning and weaving towns.”
The Co-operative Women’s Guild, which had formed in 1883, was a formidable band of campaigners for peace, justice and social reforms throughout this period. They are the focus of one of the chapters, which highlights how the Guild “used the Women’s corner of Co-operative News as a space to campaign for peace and debate big questions of the time”.
“Like the wider co-op movement, the Guild was generally pro-peace – but some Guildwomen disagreed, and some members resigned because of this,” said Jane Ward, a peace activist who co-wrote the chapter with Angela Downing.
“But the guildswomen were such activists at the time – not just in terms of peace, but against profiteering, and for women’s rights in divorce, better maternity care etc – they had to be part of the story.”
One of the most exciting things, adds Ms Ward, was finding women and following their names through the Women’s Corner as they became more active – and getting women’s perspectives on the issues being addressed by the wider movement at the time.
The Guildwomen were very international in their outlook. “They were thinking about Europe, about their co-operative sisters in Germany and how they were affected by the war – they had a worldwide perspective,” Says Ms Ward.