Rediscovering Jane Addams in a Time of Crisis

Jane Addams

Photo credit: Chris Wilbeck

By Pat Hynes, WILPF member-at-large

November 11, 2017, marked Jane Addams Day in the state of Massachusetts, the backdrop to an ambitious and well-received forum, Rediscovering Jane Addams in a Time of Crisis, held in Northampton, Massachusetts.  Organized by Dr. Rutherford Platt and sponsored by Traprock Center for Peace and Justice, the constellation of presentations ranged from the moral basis of democracy and social justice (including immigration, refugees and the rights of workers) to waging peace, abolishing nuclear weapons, and climate justice.  All intentionally mirrored the dimensioned legacy and profound conscience of Jane Addams, a radical social reformer and feminist to her core.

As director of the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice and WILPF member-at-large, I spoke on one of Jane Addams’ most enduring, creative and effective initiatives:  the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

I summarized the origins of WILPF, namely, the shared passion of women of the Allied and Central Powers to gain suffrage and to end the madness of the first industrial-scale war; and then I reviewed highlights of WILPF’s notable initiatives.  Concluding, I spoke briefly about my experience in WILPF.

“I joined WILPF about 5 years ago and learned firsthand the idealism, realism and tenacity of their work, engaging with them in the effort to get the Congo Conflict Minerals Act passed by the Massachusetts legislature.  It passed in 2017.   A prime cause of the complex international conflict in the Congo is the pursuit of mineral wealth.  It is the longest African war, among its tragedies being extraordinary sexual mutilation of women.  The Congo Conflict Minerals Act requires the state of Massachusetts to develop procurement policies on Congo conflict minerals and human rights issues, following a study of best practices.  The goal is to eliminate state procurement of any products with Congo minerals in the supply chain.  It took 6 years of non-stop work led by the partners, Congo Action Now and the WILPF Boston chapter, building support one legislator at a time, testifying before committees, hundreds of meetings with legislators, organizing phoning, e-mailing and letter-writing efforts.  At the organizers’ request, I wrote letters to state legislators, testified before a hearing, met Congo Action Now and WILPF in Boston for strategy sessions and attended the signing ceremony.

In conclusion, here is WILPF’s radical manifesto in a nutshell: 

  • Disarmament, including nuclear weapons
  • Reversing climate change and working for climate justice
  • Achieving democracy
  • Moving beyond capitalism
  • Moving beyond patriarchy

We honor you, Jane Addams, for your legacy embodied in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.”

For more information, contact Pat Hynes at 413-367-9725 or



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