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May 3 - 6, 1945

Dorothy Detzer, WILPF US Executive Secretary 1924 – 1946. She , Ruth Gage-Colby and Mary Farquharson (also WILPF members) attended, as observers, the United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco , April-June 1945. This photo shows her as a witness before the Senate Committee of Foreign Affairs on 4th May 1939. She was endorsing a neutrality bill in order to remove presidential discretion from neutrality legislation.

Source: Harris & Ewing, photographer. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

WILPF US holds its annual meeting in Berkeley and sends delegates to the United Nations Conference on International Organization (UNCIO) in San Francisco.

Once the US entered WWII and the Allies signed the Atlantic Charter, WILPF started to discuss the need for a global organization postwar. To maintain peace, it would have to be democratic, nonmilitaristic, and “based on justice to all people.” The 1944 Dumbarton Oaks proposal for a United Nations organization offered by the US, Great Britain, the USSR, and China fell short. The US Section board judged that it would maintain the status quo rather than develop the “just and equitable social-economic conditions out of which alone a lasting peace can grow.” It vested too much power in the Security Council and none in the Assembly, did not provide for disarmament, did not guarantee rights of individuals or minorities, and did not require democratic institutions in member nations. WILPF’s assessment was prescient.

 The United Nations held its founding conference in San Francisco from April 25 to June 26, 1945, and in early May, across the San Francisco bay, the US Section held its annual meeting and celebrated WILPF’s thirtieth anniversary. The US Section had three observers at the UN conference, and one of China’s official representatives was a WILPF member. WILPF International’s three chairs sent a message to the UN president, recalling WILPF’s long association with the League of Nations. Despite its reservations as noted above, WILPF US offered four points for the conference to consider: “[1] World-wide education for a new association of nations. [2] An international Charter of Human Rights  to safeguard individual freedoms in an era of large-scale planning. [3] Constructive measures of world co-operation to prevent aggression. [4] A new concept of ‘security,’ not based on military power and prestige.” The participation of WILPF and other organizations in the San Francisco conference would lead to the formal recognition of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in 1948. As an NGO, WILPF would successfully recommend the creation of UNICEF and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees post, as well as the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Further reading:


“Pioneers for Peace: WILPF 1915 – 1965” by Gertrude Bussey and Margaret Tims


“Women for All Seasons: The Story of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom” by Catherine Foster


Extensive WILPF archives can be found in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection.


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