Women peacemakers

Women were not directly affected by compulsory military training or conscription, but many mothers, wives, aunts, sisters and grandmothers had strong feelings about the issue. While most women accepted the Government view that it was their duty to send their young men to war to protect the Empire, a few brave individuals spoke out against this tide of opinion.

Women were involved in the National Peace Council (NPC) from its founding in 1911 and some worked as volunteers in the NPC office. Women also supported the objectors by passing resolutions at meetings of their own organisations, especially at meetings of the Canterbury Women's Institute. Women wrote letters to the newspapers and made public statements against conscription. They published and distributed flyers and encouraged the resisters or objectors when they spoke at public meetings. Women also attended court hearings and visited the resisters and objectors in prison. They protested also on the political front, writing letters to politicians urging them to reconsider the government’s position on conscription. The Canterbury Women's Institute organised public meetings and two of its members in particular, Ada Wells and Sarah Page, became well known as public speakers against militarism. This took courage but the women were supported by their colleagues in the peace movement and, unlike the men, were not harassed by the police.

Margaret Lovell-Smith discusses this further in the Press