Wednesday, March 8, 2017

In honor of International Women's Day, a Helen Keller essay on women and peace

A column from Helen Keller, called “Women and Peace” that she wrote for Home magazine in February 1930. (Read more of Keller's essays in Byline of Hope from the Advocado Press.)

We are standing on the threshold of the New Year.  The world goes on from year to year with its burden of suffering and misery that need not be.

Some of us are asking ourselves if the time has not come for women to put the world-house in order.  We are weary of groping among the shadows of old sins!  We want more light, more life, more love!  Above all, we want peace—peace of mind, peace in the world.  

Since the beginning of history women have dreamed of a day when the Dove of Peace should descend upon the world, and no one should make them afraid.  That day has always been postponed, defeated, the lovely vision retreating with their retreat and advancing with their advance.  Always the women, the sweethearts, the young wives and mothers have looked forward to that day, mocked at by the old, the politicians, the militarists. The sacred, perfect world of love and harmony has ever seemed like a spirit without a body; but it has lived on in the hearts of profits, seers and women, and that which liveth shall take shape and stand forth incarnate, manifest unto all eyes.  

I believe that the idea of peace is more alive in our hearts today than ever before.  We do not need to go to the Scriptures of the sages of a thousand years to find it.  It is within us.  We contain all things—the past with its hate, cruelty and greed; the future radiant with the hope of a world where the nations shall be in love with each other, without fear and without danger; and the present in which to work, and bring strong desire to renew and reorganize our habits.  Ours is the mission of universal peace, since in us alone is the life of the generations.  Let us, then, resolve, while we ache with the memory of lovers, husbands and sons dead, that no more battlefields shall be covered with their young bodies.  Peace will not begin until women everywhere make the idea of peace live in their home talk, their books, their art and their lives.  

She should say not, then, “I am only one woman, I can do nothing.  Men make war and peace, it is their affair, not ours.”  True, men have been the masters of the world—the autocrats of statecraft; but, what have they done to put the world-house in order? Have they not imperiled the human race with their diplomacy?

Let us not be deceived by talk about war to end war.  That is propaganda which closes the mind and prevents education from opening it to the facts.  Violence does not, and never will, yield to violence.  There is a great, vibrant renaissance coming through women.  They will not continue to tolerate the old hateful things their eyes have opened upon New Year after New Year.

When women in all lands are fully awake to their missions, their efforts will ensure the final triumph of justice.  They can do more than any conference of diplomats to help usher in the dawn of a new era of good-will and peace and righteousness. When such patriotism is taught in our schools and churches, there shall arise the warm, throbbing, one-hearted Empire of Brothers.