by Nat Frothingham
I don’t know if women—acting individually or collectively—have the power to stop war. But war has become so terrible in its indiscriminate killing and wanton destructiveness that abolishing war just must now happen if we are to save civilization and preserve the planet.
As a class, it’s fair to say that men have pretty much championed war or gone along with it, and certainly some women have either championed war, or gone along with it or gone along with the men in their lives for whom war has seemed like a necessary pursuit. There are also some commentators who believe that war is part of the human condition. That we can’t get away from it. That it defines us as who we are.
Now we are part of the way through 2014, the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I—a war that ushered in a particularly gruesome and massive example of what war would become in the modern era, with a toll from that war of 10 million military deaths and another 20 million wounded. As we mark the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, two Vermont women, Robin Lloyd and Charlotte Dennett, both members of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, have come together to create a performance piece based on women’s experiences in World War I.
Beyond their collaboration in theater both women have pretty deep ties to each other. Robin Lloyd’s grandmother was Lola Maverick Lloyd and Charlotte Dennett’s grandmother was Lola M. Lloyd’s friend, and both grandmothers graduated from Smith College in 1897.
Now comes the daring part of the story: Lola M. Lloyd was one of 47 American women who crossed the Atlantic Ocean during wartime in 1915 to meet with 1,200 other women from 12 countries in an attempt to stop the war. And not just to stop the war either, but in Robin Lloyd’s words “to create a democratic society with equality between men and women, so that there would be no recourse for war.” In addition, these women proposed a new international legal system based on continuous mediation to restore peace between warring nations.
As we know too keenly, the 47 American women and their 1,200 counterparts from other countries failed to put a stop to war. And in the 100 or so years that have followed, war has continued. But with the continued efforts of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and other like-minded organizations the movement to abolish war continues.
In the theater piece that Lloyd and Dennett have created, the two women employ dialogue, letters and images. In the performance piece, Robin Lloyd talks to her grandmother across the generations. And both, in the words of a press release, “recreate the heroic efforts of women (during World War I) on both sides of the conflict to meet together and propose initiatives to stop the war.”
The theater piece entitled “World War I and the Women’s Peace Movement” will be performed in Montpelier on Thursday evening, April 24 at 7:00 p.m. at Bethany Church at 115 Main Street. For further information call (802) 862-4929.