Some events around Peace Day 19 July 1919, as reported in the Melbourne press over one week
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Setting the scene from the perspective of the Women’s Political Association (WPA) and its offshoot the Women’s Peace Army through their journal The Woman Voter.
Woman Voter 4 August 1914
The War - There is no real cause for this war. Great Britain has no quarrel with Austria, France none with Germany or Russia...
Woman Voter 11 August 1914
The reports from Europe which reach us lead us to suppose that Britain and her allies have been victorious over the German arms... We may indeed crush Germany but are we then to see the end of military tyranny? ... Crush German arms and exalt the power of a much more complete system of militarism and tyranny, that of Russia...
Let us not be blinded that this is a war for liberty. We shall curb one autocracy only to give power to another, still more dangerous, and we are fastening upon all the European workers a debt of countless millions, and the burden of famine and disease which war brings in its train.
Every nation without exception has made such egregious blunders in its foreign policy that war was inevitable; that the war has been made by monarchs, politicians, diplomats, armament firms, and newspapers: that alliances and ententes cordiales are so many powder magazines.
Enfranchised women! History will proclaim you false to your trust if you are silent now. Come and be separate from all that makes for war.
Woman Voter 5 October 1914
Resolution by Women’s Political Association: “That this Association protests against the European War as an outrage on civilisation, and pledges itself to carry on a campaign of education in the interests of peace through arbitration."
Woman Voter 7 November 1918
Peace is dawning more brightly day by day, but the greatest mental alertness is required to distinguish even dimly between the true and the false propositions for a constructive peace. The false clamours so loudly that the still, small voice of Truth and Justice is apt to be unheard or unheeded, and the only certain outcome of peace discussions will be an outcome that those who accepted the war did not foresee, and do not want...
May we venture to prophesy? Democracy, of a kind, will triumph, but it will be of such a form that those who called most loudly for democracy will prefer before it the autocracy they seek, and seek rightly, to dethrone.
Woman Voter 22 May 1919
About a situation which is hourly changing, and about which our information is so fragmented and unreliable, it is little use of saying much. One thing, however, stands starkly clear amidst all the uncertainty of the world’s affairs - that is, the old order has not changed... The winning nations, in the person of their rulers, show that victory has poisoned them, put a dangerous virus in their veins... which, working its course, produces new wars.
The map will be changed, that is all, and the balance of power readjusted. New animosities, like mushrooms, are being sown. One can hear the clatter of new swords between the words at the peace table. Such a fine term as “mandatory powers” is but a masquerade for the old thing “protectorate”, and protectorate is, we know, a euphemism for something else.
The language and conduct of diplomacy are still to obtain, the powerful are still to hold, and the small and feeble to be subject. The defeated are to be degraded to the utmost in the unarming, crippled in opportunity, and mortgaged beyond reason.
Woman Voter 6 November 1919
Letter from Miss Goldstein in London: Soldiers everywhere, the workers everywhere, are being roused to white heat by the failure of their Governments to do anything to meet the difficulties in which they are faced in finding employment, in finding decent housing, decent food, decent clothing, except at exorbitant prices that are rising daily, especially with those commodities which are no longer “controlled” by the Government.
Woman Voter 18 December 1919
The peoples, as well as the Governments, have sown the wind of misunderstanding and of hate and are reaping the whirlwind, and we must bring in the soft breezes of sweet reasonableness, of charity, of clarity to the consideration of social and industrial problems...
Whatever comes, there is nothing that will get us all out of the slough, soldiers and civilians alike, but addressing ourselves seriously to the arts of peace, strenuously developing the best within ourselves, and the rich capacities of this beautiful land of ours... It is the spirit of the people that counts.
Authorised by Mary Fullerton,
This is an argument for an annual Peace Day.
This small book documents some of the events that occurred around the 1919 Peace Day in Melbourne as reported by the Age, Herald and Argus. It makes a good yarn, I think you will agree.
I have documented this in the context of the war-opposing Women’s Political Association (1909-1919).
We still observe Anzac Day from WW1, we observe Remembrance Day. We do not observe Peace Day.
An official Peace Day was declared throughout the British Empire for the 19 July 1919, and celebrations were observed. But it was not repeated. Riots were reported in Britain, Canada and elsewhere. In Melbourne, one journalist reported it as the day when peace gave way to war.
Possibly the despair, anger and sense of betrayal that some soldiers felt when they came home was exacerbated by the social conditions they found here. Possibly expectations had been too high, or perhaps peace and victory celebrations should not have been combined. Only in New Zealand, as far as I can see, was Peace Day celebrated on a different day from the Victory Parade. Only there were no riots reported.
Whatever the causes were, the riots beg the question ‘what if things had been different? What if Peace Day had worked? Would we have had an official Peace Day celebrated annually on our calendar now? Would we see peace as something to constantly work towards, rather than just an absence of war?’
Wouldn’t these soldiers have wanted to celebrate a day dedicated to creating peace? Wouldn’t the WPA have wanted to? They worked throughout WW1 protesting ‘this war as an outrage on civilisation and pledging to carry on a campaign of education through universal arbitration.’
They demanded more than just peace, they wanted, and defined, a constructive and lasting peace, a peace that everyone could celebrate.
I would like to reclaim 19th July as a Peace Day.
It would be a day to think about peace, about what that means. It would be ours. It would be controlled by us, not prescribed by any authorities.
We could party. We could come and be separate from all that makes for war, and address ourselves seriously to the arts of peace, as the WPA advised. We could remember those who fought in wars and those who opposed them, and more. Or we can observe Peace Day by celebrating as we think best.
What do you think? Let me know if you wish, or just go for it.
Geraldine, 5 January 2019
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