Role of Chrystal Macmillan

Chrystal Macmillan of Great Britain, secretary of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA), felt inspired by the proposal from the Dutch women for an International Congress of Women.

In February 1915, she travelled back and forward to Holland working with women from Belgium, Germany, Holland and Great Britain on draft resolutions for the Congress.

She reported back to women in London on 26 February 1915, and immediately a committee of 155 women was set up to support the proposal for an International Congress.

Chrystal Macmillan returned to Holland to work on the Congress preparations, and as a result, was one of the three British nominated delegates to be able to be present at the Congress.


After the Congress

On 11th May 1915 , members from all parts of the country met in London eager to hear the story of The Hague direct from Kathleen Courtney and Jane Addams, who had chaired the Congress. Two days later, a public meeting in the Kingsway Hall was addressed by Addams and Courtney.

A record of the Hague Congress Towards Permanent Peace, published by the British Committee of the Women’s International Congress sold 2,500 copies within the year. The report included the international Objects:

“1: To demand that international disputes shall in future be settled by some other means than war.
2: To claim that women should have a vote in the affairs of the nations.”
At their September 1915 Conference, the British Committee of The International Congress of Women issued a Manifesto that spelled out the women’s commitment:

“We believe that peace is no negative thing; it is not only the condition of all fruitful work, but the result of the most strenuous and adventurous effort of mind and spirit.

“We dedicate our organisation to the task of encouraging in ourselves and others this ceaseless effort, and of helping to mould institutions in accordance with the vital policy laid down by the International Congress of Women at The Hague, April 1915.”

The Committee agreed to call itself the Women’s International League (WIL). The opening page of the First Yearly Report of WIL clearly states the founding members’ mission:

“…it was agreed that the British organisation should be formed with the object of linking together two movements felt to be vitally connected:

  1. The Women’s Movement
  2. The Pacifist Movement

“The first has been recognised as one of the greatest of world movements towards liberation; it is time the second should be recognized as another.”