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VERA BRITTAIN - WOMEN AND PEACE

 
 

Introduction

- vera and the ppu
- vera on women and peace
- ppu women's campaign
- vera at war for peace
- references


vera brittain selected text

- to mothers especially
- letters to peace lovers
- women must awake to
  save humanity

- women and pacifism
- methods of barbarism


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to mothers especially

I wonder if you have ever been a canvasser at a general election? If so, you will be as familiar as I am with the woman who shuts the door in your face with the words: 'No, I'm not going to vote. Politics don't interest me - I leave all that to my husband.'

Perhaps, irritated by too many enthusiastic callers, you have said something of the kind yourself. You may even have felt a little pride in saying it. After all, your children come first, don't they? How can you help them by going to hot, crowded meetings where everybody talks too much, or reading long dull articles in newspapers?

Your children are your job. Let other people mind their own business and you'll mind yours.

I understand that feeling. I have a boy of nine and a girl of six myself. And yet I can't help thinking that, for their sake if for no other reason, it is my business to know what is going on outside the walls of my house.

Has it ever occurred to you that nowadays, ever since 1928, when all women over 21 were given votes, you have a certain amount of political responsibility whether you like it or not? You cannot escape it by ignoring it. You merely become one of your country's worst enemies - those people who allow calamities to occur by doing nothing to prevent them.

What is more, you become an enemy to your own children. The greatest danger to them today does not arise, as it once did, from epidemics, nor even from street accidents, far too numerous as these are. It arises from the possibility that, just when they reach manhood or womanhood, they will be involved in another great war. A war far worse than the last, because of the terrible weapons which have been invented since 1918.

'Yes', you may say, 'I've heard about that. It sounds too dreadful. But what's it got to do with me? I'm not an ambassador or a foreign secretary. I can't stop it if I want to.'

BUT YOU CAN!

Do you realise that there are more women voters than men in this country? Do you know that if every woman, for her children's sake, used her vote against a war policy, our Government would be obliged to take the lead in making peace proposals instead of preparing for 'the next war'? Are you aware that you and your husband will soon be helping to pay a huge armaments bill just because millions of English wives and mothers are too apathetic to protest?

Oh, I know the men are apathetic too - but I am not talking about the men just now. If women used the power they have, they could make the politicians do their will however great the indifference of their husbands and fathers.

'But I don't understand the questions!' you protest. 'I've heard candidates at elections, of course, but the things they talk about are above my head. I just can't be bothered with them.'

Well, you have no business, in these dangerous days, to let such topics remain 'above your head'. Most Parliamentary candidates are not exceptionally clever people. Many have had no more schooling than you. They only happen to have studied the world they live in. It's your job to study it too. If you let yourself remain completely ignorant about great public questions, you are false to the citizenship won for you at a great price by women who suffered and even died twenty-five years ago, in order that their successors might have some say in the management of their country.

You can read the newspapers at your Free Library. Why not sometimes go there for half an hour when your housework is done? Occasionally too, you could borrow from it a book telling the story of your own times as a change from the Twopenny Library novels. If you do not know what book to choose, the librarian will help you. That's what librarians are for.

And don't forget to talk to your children about what you have learnt. They will demand it eagerly. Ever since he was six, my son has asked for tales of real life. 'Not a pretend story, Mummy. Tell me about Parliament - or you in the War.'

You will be helping them, too, to take a better place in their history classes at school. And, most important of all, if they are ever faced with a choice between war and peace when they grow up, your talks with them will mean a wiser decision. They will not be swept away, in ignorant excitement, by the waving of flags and the beating of drums.

Of course, if you get interested, you can do much more, and I hope you will. You can join Canon Dick Sheppard's Peace Pledge Union and help to swell the ranks of those actively working to prevent another 1914. You can write to your MP at the House of Commons, telling him or her that you don't want to be provided with a gas mask which can give you nothing but a false sense of security; you would rather see your country make suggestions to other countries for doing away with poison gas altogether. You can say that you think aviation ought to be internationally controlled, and bombing aeroplanes abolished. This is by no means a wild and unpractical proposal. The recent Disarmament Conference came very near to agreeing that it could and should be done.

Finally, never forget to use your vote. Give it to the man or woman whose programme promises the best hope of a civilised world for your sons and daughters to live in.

 
      

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