For Veterans Day 2022 – Reflections from the Past
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in World War I, then known as “the Great War.”
Twenty years later in 1938, November 11th was declared “Armistice Day,” dedicated to the cause of world peace. After two more wars (WWII and the Korean War), the US Congress renamed it “Veterans Day” in 1954 to honor all veterans of all wars.
Dedicated to the cause of world peace. Hmmm.
Back in 1911, even before America’s entry into WWI, my pioneer/activist Great-Grandmother Emily Hoppin wrote passionately about the cause of world peace in a 21-page handwritten speech that I recently found doing research at the Yolo County Archives and Record Center in Woodland, California. Written amid the rumblings in Europe leading to World War I, she pleaded for a better way than war.
Working for peace, she said, must be largely woman’s work.
On Veterans Day, November 11, 2022, with the backdrop of Russia waging a bloody war in the Ukraine, and other wars being waged around the globe, we pay tribute to those who served and sacrificed in wars. This seems a good time to share a selection of Great-Grandmother’s thoughts on war and peace written 111 years ago.
A World Wide Peace – 1911
By Emily Hoppin, Yolo, California, 1911
From earliest history there has been a fascination and a glamour about war that has always appealed to men, and sometimes to women. We may show that war is horrible and wicked and sorrowful, but history and poetry are saturated with the thought that it is heroic, and noble and beautiful. Men go out from their homes at the call to arms. They say it is sweet and pleasant to die for one’s country. Women, with their arms around the necks of their husbands and brothers cry sobbingly “Go and God be with you.” The martial drum and trumpet lend their music to add to the patriotic fervor and help to increase the illusion.
In the earlier days of history that “might was right” was more largely true than now. A man’s wealth was gauged by the number of his acres, his herds, and vassals, so wars of conquest were always going on. A purely pastoral people like the Israelites seldom engaged in war for conquest like other eastern nations but fought only for their own against the native tribes that came up against them; but the Assyrians, the Persians, and later the Greeks, the Romans and the Scandinavians fought for conquest. Their weapons more primitive, their locomotion necessarily more slow, and war, while a horror, was not the indiscriminate slaughter it is now.
Nations were especially anxious to capture women and children. They were carried home in triumph; the women were given as wives that the nation might increase in numbers and the children were sold as slaves.
The wars that were to have brought peace have always failed in their mission, but in their wake have come, not peace, but desolation, disease and death. Every war has left, not only these, but has left a legacy of debt, has doubled her armies as a greater protection, and has left besides a nation doomed to decay.
Today the world is looking for peace. Not peace to be found through war; not peace to arise out of discord; not even peace to come through juridical proceedings, but peace sought in the spirit of peace, and laid in principles purely pacific.
The world is tired of war. We do not underestimate the sacrifice the courage, the devotion of the men who in all times and in all nations fought for their country. Their story comes to us with a resistless eloquence. Few people realize what a peaceful preparation for war means; that is, the upkeep of the army and navy in times of peace. A battle ship costs (in 1911) an average of $10,000,000 and an annual outlay of $1,000,000 more to maintain it. We have 35 first-class battle ships besides 12 armored cruisers, and 22 protected cruisers, rams, gunboats, training ships, torpedo boats, torpedo boat destroyers cruising and sailing vessels, supply ships, tugs, prison and hospital ships – in all 362 ships of all descriptions. The life of a battle ship is 20 years, and then comes the junk pile. $10,000,000 for the original cost. $20,000,000 for 20 years upkeep. $30,000,000 in all for one ship.
The cost of our armed peace last year (1910) was over one billion dollars.
Think what this would do. It would reforest our fifty-six million acres of denuded forest land in the United States; it would also provide for the entire irrigation project contemplated by government to be carried out in the next 25 years, and it would pay for the Panama Canal. The wonderful Congressional library at Washington was built for only a little over half the cost of a battle ship, and is maintained for about three fourths the cost of keeping one afloat.
People recognize that war is not now always a question of patriotism, but more often a question of conquest or commercial aggrandizement, and it is becoming harder each year for nations to carry on war and have the backing of their own people.
We as women are especially interested in the peace problem. War, and armed peace even more than war, brings disease and sorrow and death to thousands of unsuspecting victims through the disease that follows war and standing armies, namely – the great Red Plague (venereal diseases). This disease has had the ban of secrecy placed upon it, so it is but little known and feared, and understood by the general public, but when our Health Department states that over 25% of the days of hospital service of the navy during the year 1904 of the Philippine War were devoted to these diseases; when we know that 85% of so called women’s diseases are directly due to this contagion that strikes at the innocent even more than the guilty, and children especially, as the greatest sufferers. When we know too a large percentage of the splendid physically fit of our army and many are contaminated, we feel sure that we women need to take an active interest in the growth of peace.
Man’s idea of government consists of two things, order and defense. When he has these, he thinks he has accomplished the object of government. One dollar for improvement, $10 for war. No thought of homeless children, no provision for a dignified old age for the poor. Where is the nation that has not vice, and drunkenness, and shameless living. Not much thought was given these problems til women took them up. Were these studied, their causes removed, there would come a higher living that would have no thought of arsenals and forts. Then would come an economic balance that we sadly need.
Our agricultural pursuits are the life of the nation. From the farm comes directly or indirectly all our government income, yet last year thirty dollars was spent for maintaining our military expenses to one dollar spent in advancing agriculture. Over one billion dollars was appropriated last year for expenses, and the bulk of this vast sum went for preparation for wars that will probably never come.
If nations would follow President Taft’s suggestion that the great nations of the world agree to a permanent peace, that any disputes that may arise be settled by arbitration, and a small navy be maintained jointly for the preservation of universal peace, then we could enter upon a new era of universal prosperity, and the fiat of Him who said “All they that take the sword shall perish by the sword,” would be of the past, and the prophecy could perhaps be fulfilled that – “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.”
I am currently working on the Biography of Emily Hoppin, who I first introduced as the inspiration for Eliza in my eco-novel, Heart Wood – Four Women, for the Earth, for the Future. My plan is to include the entire text of this speech on World Wide Peace, as well as her many other writings and speeches, in the biography.
Heart Wood can be purchased at your local book store and online at Amazon
What an amazing and prophetic voice Emily Hoppin has shared in this incredible speech. What a different world it would be if the wealthy white men who have dominated our country for these 111 years had listened to her! I can’t wait to read her biography!
Yes, our country would probably be in a different place if women’s perspectives were included in “wealthy white men’s” decision-making! I imagine Emily would be astounded to know her words are being heard 111 years later!