A century of peacemaking

Exhibit commemorates Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

According to Nobel Peace Prize winner Jane Addams, "Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon, and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world." For more than a century, the members of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), co-founded by Addams, have taken that message to heart and worked dutifully to promote peace worldwide. Its local legacy and continued work is the subject of an exhibit, "Women's Power to Stop War: Celebrating 100 years of Peacemaking," currently in residence at Rinconada Library.

WILPF was founded in 1915, after the first brutal year of World War I, when more than 1,000 women from many nations met at what was originally to be a suffrage conference.

"They wanted to do something to try to end the hostilities. To talk about things to avoid the bloodshed," said Judy Adams, a longtime WILPF member and the exhibit's curator.

Adams is also director of the Women's Peace Oral History project -- a meticulous collection of interviews with members, now housed by Stanford's Archive of Recorded Sound and accessible to the public.

In addition to a life-size cardboard cutout of Jane Addams, the Rinconada Library exhibit contains several panels' worth of archive photographs (such as of the Palo Alto "Grandmother's March" of 1968, in which WILPF members marched with Paly and Stanford students), ephemera and information. There are maps, a timeline and a worn, felt banner that's still used in protests today. One panel covers the organization's founding, while another is dedicated to the Peninsula/Palo Alto Branch, started in 1922 by Josephine Duveneck and Alice Park. Duveneck and her husband provided shelter at their Hidden Villa ranch for Japanese-Americans during the internments of WWII. Park was a Palo Alto journalist and suffragist whose papers are housed at Stanford's Hoover Institute.

David Starr Jordan and his wife were also early members of the Peninsula/Palo Alto WILPF branch. While Jordan's position on eugenics has recently been criticized, he was a respected pacifist, Adams said. There's also a section of the exhibit devoted to the Raging Grannies those sassy, satirical, singing senior-citizens who frequently appear at local protests dressed in old-fashioned "granny" style.

The City of Palo Alto recognized the exhibit and the group by declaring Nov. 11 (Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I) "WILPF Peace and Freedom Day."

"Of course we haven't stopped war but you behave as if you can. You stay in the struggle," Adams said. "There must be an alternative."

And as member Millee Livingston said in her oral-history interview, peace and freedom involves "not just an absence of war, but it means a good environment, enough food to eat, and meaningful work to do."

Adams said the exhibit may head to the Los Altos History Museum after its time in the library. She also hopes to bring it, along with a video slideshow, to schools, churches and community groups.

Though it's celebrated 100 years with a look back at its history, WILPF isn't resting on its laurels. The local branch meets monthly to discuss ongoing goals, projects and current issues, such as a shelter initiative for local homeless populations, the refugee crisis and affordable housing, Adams said, as well as the ever-present problems of violence and war around the world.

Adams said current WILPF member ponder "how to energize people"and "what can we do on a local level?" Most members are also active in other groups, whose missions align with that of WILPF, she said.

The Palo Alto/Peninsula branch boasts more than 100 members on its mailing list but most recent meetings consist of a "core group" of about 20 women and men, Adams said. She's hoping the exhibit may help spread the word to potential new members, and added that she's seen people taking selfies with cardboard Jane Addams.

"We'd love to have more members who are younger, who would tweet and work with us on our Facebook page," she said. "It's important for generations to get together."

What: "Women's Power to Stop War: Celebrating 100 years of Peacemaking"

Where: Rinconada Library, 1213 Newell Road, Palo Alto

When: Through Jan. 23

Cost: Free

Info: For more information, go to WILPF.

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Like this comment
Posted by Judy Adams
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 7, 2016 at 10:21 am

I worked with a wonderful group of volunteers to do the exhibit, most notably Cherrill Spencer of Palo Alto who transformed the historical material into the attractive and informative panels of the exhibit, and Cybele LoVuolo-Bhushan who created the world map with vignettes of WILPF activities, Ruth Chippendale who helped install in Palo Alto's Rinconada Library (1213 Newell Road), and the library staff and patrons who were patient with our installation. WILPF's mini-grants program provided funding for the exhibit, the digitization at Palo Alto's Media Center of a 1983 slide show featuring the images and words of Palo Alto branch members' oral histories (on Web Link), and our fantastic local San Jose and Santa Cruz sister branches and Raging Grannies members. A video is also being made of the opening event celebration, which will be broadcast, including the inspiring presentations by WILPF members Millee Livingston (one of the original interviewees for the oral history project), and Leah Halper, who was a Stanford student at the time the oral histories were being collected. Contact our branch at wilpf.peninsula.paloalto@gmail.com to get on our mailing list, receive our newsletter, find out more about the Women's Peace Oral history project and collection at Stanford's Archive of Recorded Sound, and get involved in work for peace and freedom and an end to war. Men are always welcome to join us!

Like this comment
Posted by Judy Adams
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 7, 2016 at 10:42 am

I wanted to update information about a possible venue for the exhibit when it closes Jan. 23 at Rinconada. The Los Altos venue we were researching at the time the article was being written is not available to us, and we would welcome opportunities to install the exhibit in other locations on the peninsula, as well as opportunities to talk about the peace movement's past and current challenges at local schools and church groups, and show the 27 min. video with excerpts from oral histories done in the 1980's done with 90 women peace activists in WILPF and other peace groups in California, and in other states. Contact us at wilpf.peninsula.paloalto@gmail.com with ideas about future sites of our WILPF Centennial exhibit.

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