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Our Grandmothers' Peace - The Women of Wales' Peace Appeal 1923

Nia Higginbotham

March 2024

After the First World War Wales - as elsewhere - had a generation of single and widowed women, after the ravages of Combat and the 'Spanish' 'flu. 

The formation of the League of Nations provided a beacon of hope that 'never again' should such a catastrophe defile the world.

Unfortunately, the United States, which would have and should have been a key player in the League, under President Calvin Coolidge, declined to join.

In 1923 the women of Wales created a unique petition appealing to the women of America to urge their country to join the League. Remarkably 390,296 women of Wales - more than 30% of the women over 18 and from all backgrounds - were signatories. This was at a time when most women did not have a vote, and when many had never signed any document before, and when mass communications were still far from easy.

This was achieved by a remarkable level of organisation, involving 400 local 'leaders',  and community networks such as the chapels, women's organisations and even local history groups!. The organiser for Rhuthun was Edith Mary Evans (1877-1960) , of Heulfre, Stryd y Rhos, and the aunt of Charles Evans.

The petition addressed the need for a Warless World and its prime aim was that the USA join the League.

​Remarkably it expressed satisfaction that four areas were being looked at internationally, namely:

  • Manufacture and trade of weapons

  • The Opium trade

  • Trafficking of women and children

  • A Court of International Justice

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The petition was leather-bound and placed in a wooden chest. Three women were selected to take it to the USA for a six-week tour. In February 1924 the petition reached President Coolidge. It was unsuccessful in persuading the Government to change their stance on the League of Nations, but Coolidge was respectful enough to ensure the petition was honoured by lodging it in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

In 2016 the largely-forgotten petition came to the attention of the WCIA (Welsh Centre for Internationl Affairs) and a group of Welsh women who formed 'Heddwch Nain Mam-gu' .

Through effort and commitment on a personal level but also with the support from institutions such as the National Library of Wales:

  • The diary of Annie Hughes Griffiths, one of the three who took the petition to the USA, has been found, with a detailed description of their visit. 

  • The leather binding of the petition and the oak chest were found in the Smithsonian and have been returned to Wales.

  • The petition was  found, complete, in the chest.

The petition (above) and one of the pages of signatories (left)

This has generated great interest ... 'Did my Grandmother sign'  ?

The intention now is to digitise all the signatures on the Appeal - a huge task, and to launch a series of events, art projects, educational activities and broadcasts. Here in Ruthin Bethan Hughes is leading on two community textile projects based on the petition.


Heddwch Nain/Mam-gu is seeking to pursue the aim of a Warless World and ask today’s Welsh inhabitants what that would mean.  They would welcome people joining in.

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Annie Hughes Griffiths and company show the petition during their USA visit.

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