Carrie Chapman Catt. Carnegie Council archives.
Carrie Chapman Catt. Carnegie Council archives.

Fighting for a Lasting Peace

Jan 4, 1970

The Church Peace Union, an organization which Andrew Carnegie had founded for the express purpose of putting an end to war forever, was thrown into crisis by President Wilson's decision to enter World War I in April 1917. After months of internal debate, the CPU rallied behind President Wilson and supported the war. But they did not give up their hopes and ideals. During the remainder of the war they lobbied for a "world organization for lasting peace"—an effort that would evolve into an opportunity for them to help shape the League of Nations after the war.

And to promote the long-term goals of peace and democracy for all, they "launched a national speaking campaign designed to reach every man and woman in the country. Through the ministry of diverse Protestant denominations, they reached out for the first time to more diverse audiences, including women and African Americans," writes Kate Hallgren in her centennial history of the Council, Toward Peace with Justice. "In this, the CPU leadership was both prescient and progressive."

With the war over, in the mid-1920s the CPU and the international organization it helped create, the World Alliance for International Friendship Through the Churches, campaigned hard for a lasting peace. In particular, the two organizations lobbied for U.S. membership in, and recognition of, the League of Nations' International Court of Justice. Around the country, speakers worked to convince not only churchgoers but a wide variety of civic organizations that the International Court would help prevent future wars without compromising U.S. sovereignty. [See Toward Peace with Justice.]

In 1925, they enlisted Carrie Chapman Catt—one of the most famous women in the United States—as one of their speakers. A remarkable woman who overcame many personal hardships, Mrs. Catt had campaigned for the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which gave American women the right to vote in 1920. She served as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and was the founder of the League of Women Voters and the International Alliance of Women.

Mrs. Catt joined the World Alliance on a tour through Florida in February 1925 (chosen because "so many people spend their winter in the South" according to the World Alliance newsletter) and also spoke at a Detroit meeting in November that year, which had 365 delegates from all over the country. "Mrs. Catt brought the house down by her closing challenge," reported the December newsletter. "We want an American-Japanese Locarno. There is no reason in the world why America and Japan cannot immediately do what has been done at Locarno,' she said."

The Locarno Treaties were seven agreements negotiated at Locarno, Switzerland, in October 1925, in which the First World War Western European Allied powers and the new states of Central and Eastern Europe sought to secure the post-war territorial settlement, and return normalizing relations with defeated Germany (the Weimar Republic). The Treaties also stated that Germany would never go to war with the other countries. But as we know now, this peace was not to last.

Excerpt from World Alliance Newsletter:

February 25, 1925


The fact that the President has called an extra session of the Senate for March 4th "to receive such communication as may be made by the Executive" increases the importance of urging him to present to it the World Court issues. Write to him NOW expressing your conviction that the United States should enter the World Court without further delay.


The most important piece of work which the World Alliance has immediately in hand is the speaking campaign in the State of Florida. Upon urgent invitation of the Florida churches and other groups interested in international goodwill, the Alliance sent its President, Dr. William P. Merrill [editor's note also head of the CPU]; the Chairman of the international Committee Dr. Nehemiah Boynton; Dr. Samuel A. Eliot, Mrs. Edgerton Parsons, New York State President American Association of University Women, and Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt, President of the International Women’s Suffrage Alliance as its speaking team. President Edgar Y. Mullins, who is spending the month of February in Florida is also addressing several of the meetings. Mr. Gordon, not only has been engaged in arranging these meetings but is speaking every day. Our speakers are visiting St. Petersburg, Orlando, Palm Beach, Miami, Daytona, Daytona Beach and other centers. Not only are they speaking in the churches on Sundays and meeting groups of ministers for conference during the week, but on every day they are appearing before luncheon meetings of Women's Clubs, Chambers of Commerce, Merchants' Associations, Clubs of various sorts and schools and colleges. The opening meetings from which we have just received reports have been most enthusiastic and the audience on every occasion has over-run the capacity of the church or hall. Some of the meetings are being held in the open air as well as in halls and churches. This is possible in Florida and these meetings have drawn large and eager crowds. I would like to call especial attention to the fact that not only are the lay organizations inviting our speakers to appear before them, but they are enthusiastically sharing with the churches the task of arranging meetings so that our speakers are the guests of the groups referred to above as well as of the churches. These groups are cooperating in the matter of expense as well as of arrangement.


Our speakers are devoting their attention to three phases of the peace movement. First, they are laying stress upon the Senate of the United States approving the entry of the United States into the World Court. Second, they are emphasizing the general subject of the Church and the New World Order, and third, the general participation of the United States in the work being accomplished by the League of Nations and the other International organizations. Considerable attention is also being devoted to the Protocol as many questions are asked as to the nature and significance of this document. Apart from these general subjects the question of Disarmament is brought up at every meeting, the Causes of War and How to Remove Them, the Outlawry of War, and related subjects are being freely discussed in the conferences as well as in the larger meetings. Mrs. Parsons and Mrs. Catt are also making an especial appeal to women and emphasizing the general subject of what the women's organizations throughout the country can do to hasten America's participation in the great international affairs of the day. On the whole the campaign is proving much more of a success than we had even hoped, for the Florida people are not only evincing great interest in our work but are displaying wonderful hospitality to our people.

REGIONAL CAMPAIGNSIt has been in the mind of the officers of the World Alliance all along that if this Florida campaign proved a success we would inaugurate a policy of regional campaigns to be carried on in different parts of the country. At this writing the Florida meetings are justifying us in feeling that we have found one of the most effective methods of reaching large groups of people. The chief draw-back to such campaigns has been the great expense connected with them, but our Florida friends are proving so generous that it may be they will set such an example to other parts of the country that the expenses of the campaigns will be met by the localities in which they are held. We should greatly like to visit every State in the Union as we are visiting Florida and we believe that the Alliance speakers would receive the same cordial reception. In this way we could not only carry on a great educational work and set the people thinking on problems of peace and war, but we could make direct contacts such as would not be possible in any other way. So perhaps this Florida campaign is the beginning of a new and extended policy for the World Alliance.

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