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Women Conscientious Objectors - An Anthology

Friday 16 April 2010, by siawi2

Source : WRI INFO,
Information from the office of War Resisters’ International

7 April 2010

Women Conscientious Objectors - An Anthology

Book launch, 23 April 2010, 7pm, Housmans Bookshop

War Resisters’ International is proud to finally publish “Women Conscientious Objectors - An Anthology”, edited by Ellen Elster and Majken Jul Sørensen, with a preface by Cynthia Enloe. As WRI’s chair Howard Clark writes in his preface: “In several senses, an anthology such as this is long overdue. First in the sense of acknowledging this part of the relatively hidden history of antimilitarism. Second for War Resisters’ International organisationally. Founded in 1921, WRI has for much of its history been male-dominated, despite the prominent role of women in various affiliates and with certain exceptions at the international level such as long-serving WRI General Secretary Grace Beaton. Since 1972 conscious efforts have been made to change this — first the introduction of inclusive language (s/he, etc), and then, beginning in 1976, the organisation of special women’s gatherings, usually in conjunction with WRI’s “elder sister” the International Fellowship of Reconciliation. The second gathering in Scotland served as a prelude to the resurgence of an international women’s peace movement in the 1980s, and produced a forceful statement on Women as Total Resisters. The British women involved in these gatherings formed the Feminism and Nonviolence Study Group and WRI later co-published their book Piecing It Together (now online at Then in 1986 the WRI Women’s Working Group was formed to take this work forward and to provide a welcoming entry point for women activists, while WRI’s 1987 seminar on Refusing War Preparations: Non-cooperation and Conscientious Objection was a response to feminist prompting to look at ’the wider implications of conscientious objection’. That seminar reflected new interest in the Anti-War Plan presented to WRI in 1934 by Bart de Ligt, but it took a decidedly more feminist approach. Activities central to war refusal — war tax resistance, refusing war work and opposing cultural preparations for war — are all areas where women have been and remain at the forefront.”

The idea of the book was developed at the WRI seminar in South Korea in 2005. However, as often with publications mainly bringing together contributions from activists, it took a while to make it happen. Almost five years later, it is done: on 23 April, “Women Conscientious Objectors - An Anthology” will finally be launched, with the editors and some of the constributors present.

The book is the first of its kind. It brings together contributions from women conscientious objectors and women activists in conscientious objection movements from a variety of countries, spanning from the Americas in the West to South Korea in the East.

As Cynthia Cockburn writes: “This anthology is much, much more than a mere round-up of experience of women in the movement for men’s conscientious objection to obligatory military service. It is more, even, than an account of women’s struggle against their own conscription. For what we see here is women, at different moments, in one country after another, creating for themselves the concept, analysis and practice of a distinctive feminist antimilitarism. Starting from a focus on soldiering, they soon notice that militarisation is not just the existence of armies. It penetrates and deforms daily life in myriad ways. All of us are militarised, all of us can be conscientious objectors. As Ferda Ülker of Turkey puts it in her declaration, ’As much as militarism is determined to affect my life, I am determined to continue my struggle. I reject!’”

Women Conscientious Objectors - An Anthology Edited by Ellen Elster and Majken Jul Sørensen Preface by Cynthia Enloe ISBN 978-0-903517-22-5 Publication date: 23 April 2010 £8.00

The launch will take place at Housmans Bookshop, one of the last remaining radical bookshops in London. Begin is at 7pm.

Housmans Bookshop
5 Caledonian Road
London N1 9DX
Nearest tube: Kings Cross/St Pancras

For more information on the event contact the WRI office at: info t9L

Oder “Women Conscientious Objectors - An Anthology” at the WRI webshop at

Piecing It Together now available on WRI’s website
Piecing It Together: Feminism and Nonviolence – a germinal pamphlet from 1983 – is now online at:

The Feminism and Non violence Study Group was a British affiliate of WRI, usu ally consisting of about eight women activists in a range of grass-roots movements. Some were mainly con nec ted with feminist move ments, others had pacifist roots. As feminists, they wanted to go beyond equal rights to challenge all struc tures of oppression – patriar chy, capitalism, the state and beyond – and present a vision of non-hierarchical and inclusive communities. As nonviolent activists, they critiqued the over-emphasis on voluntary suffering and sacrifice in nonviolence ad vo cacy, and addressed eve ry day issues of domestic vio lence, pornography and women’s control of their lives.

The pamphlet came out just as the 1980s women’s peace movement was mush rooming. FSNV members had played their role in bring ing that about, but were also critical of those who presented women as natural peacemakers.

Piecing It Together was the FSNV’s third publication, the previous two mainly di rected at feminists, one addres sing issues of vio lence and nonviolence more generally and the other cen tring on the nuclear threat (especially nuclear energy).

Within WRI, the FSNV’s has never been fully ack now ledged. The group was actually founded after the 1976 Women’s Gathering in France, did most of the or ga nising work for the 1980 Women’s Gathering Scot land, and one helped pre pare the 1987 Gathering in Ireland. Its members par ticipated in three triennials (1975, 1979 and 1982), and for the 1985-86 Triennial, one of them wrote a back ground paper proposing the formation of a permanent women’s working group.

Order at WRI’s webshop: