The story of why I’m coming to The Hague with enormous enthusiasm and hope is a long one, in a way the fulfillment of my life journey. When I was a young girl, my hero was Wonder Woman. I was a feminist before the phrase “Women’s Liberation” was invented. When I picked a profession, I chose to be something still uncommon for a woman at the time…a scientist…specifically a biologist. My area of specialization was animal behavior, including human behavior, and I had a sub-specialization in gender differences.
Sewell-Belmont House–Washington, D.C.
Fast-forward decades and many life changes later to 1999 when my first novel, Voice of the Goddess, was published. That book led me to study war, and why women treat war differently than do men. This led to publication in 2003 of my nonfiction book, Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace. Not long thereafter I flew to Washington D.C., hoping to visit my senators and congressman to give them a copy, and as I approached the Hart Senate Office Building, I stumbled upon the absolutely delightful Sewell-Belmont Museum, a quaint, brick, multi-story building right next door to the senators’ offices.
I was thrilled to have found the home and offices where Alice Paul, another hero of mine, and her confederates planned and lobbied for a Constitutional Amendment to give all women in the U.S. the vote. And for the first time, on a banner on the wall of an upstairs room, I learned about a group of women who, in 1915 in the Hague, had founded something they called WILPF—the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
US Delegation to The Hague – WILPF
How fabulous! I thought. My studies of archaeology, anthropology, and biology—pursued from the perspective of an evolutionary biologist—had led me to conclude that unless women become full partners with men as leaders in human affairs, it will never be possible to end war. Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace explained why. My most recent book, Shift: The Beginning of War, The Ending of War, explores why in even more detail. Nearly 100 years ago this group of women in the Hague had apparently been quite serious about doing so.
I Googled WILPF and was further delighted to discover that WILPF lived! That it has hung on through the years, setting up projects internationally, a key to whether or not women would eventually be positioned to lead a successful campaign to end war.
Disappointingly, in 2002, when I explored womens’ activities globally, they were still mostly asking for help. Help in dealing with rape, human trafficking, post-war reconciliation, urging men to make treaties to end various wars, and so on. I despaired, thinking it would probably take 20-30 more years for women instead to realize they must do it themselves…they must step into leadership roles. To my profound joy and some amazement, only 8 years later womens’ approaches to problems had changed a hundred percent. Educated and practical women clearly had gotten the message, having decided that power is not given, it must be grasped. And a growing number of women were moving into power positions that, if they would unite, would enable them to move a campaign to end war forward.
But still, my sense was that the numbers of empowered women globally, although growing at a rapid pace, was still too small, too quiet compared to the voices advocating for war. How long would this movement take to reach critical mass, I wondered. Another ten years? Maybe 15? Or if the world fell into fatal disarray, perhaps never?
Judith Hand – IHEU – Oslo, Norway
But by 2011, I concluded, with excitement, that contrary to my anxieties that negatives forces also at work would win the race for the future, the numbers of highly empowered women reached critical mass. Women, I believe, have reached sufficient numbers to bring the world to a tipping point. Now it is only necessary that these women find a way to unite, to have a single voice with sufficient clout to insist and win the changes needed to create a global peace system.
Women are poised to give the dream of the women who founded WILPF, and that visionary Eleanor Roosevelt, and Bertha von Suttner, that woman who had encourage Alfred Nobel to have a Prize for Peace, women can make the dreams of these sisters come true.
I’m coming to the Hague hoping that this will the moment when the world’s women do find that united voice. The awarding of the latest Peace Prize to a young woman, Malala Yousafzai, could not be more symbolic. Because it is the young women who must see this ending-war campaign to its conclusion, I believe in two generations or less, and who will be responsible for maintenance of a war-free future for all the children to come.
WILPF’s campaign to end war and give us an enduring peace has been 100 years of hard, foundation-laying work. Now it’s taking off big time. What an exciting moment in human history this is! And what a profoundly exciting meeting of minds and hearts this conference in the Hague in 2015 will be!
Judith Hand, Ph.D., is the Founder of A Future Without War.org, and author of Shift: The Beginning of War, The Ending of War.