'Women's Unarmed Uprising Against War': A Swedish Peace Protest in 1935

Journal article

Andersson, Irene (2003) 'Women's Unarmed Uprising Against War': A Swedish Peace Protest in 1935, Journal of Peace Research 40 (4).

During the summer of 1935, approximately 20,000 Swedish women mobilized in a peaceful action — the Women’s Unarmed Uprising Against War. The manifestation was a protest against rearmament and, in particular, against a militarization of everyday life that might result from a civil defense buildup. Thus, in a spirit of solidarity; women were encouraged to refuse to use gas masks or evacuate into cellars and air-raid shelters in the event of an air raid. Only then would men realize their responsibility; lay down their weapons, and solve the conflict at the negotiating table, the action was connected to a radical pacifistic tradition in which male conscientious objectors, among others, and the example of Gandhi were prominent. Liberal and Social Democrat women and members of the Swedish section of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) carried out the action. The action was formulated in such a manner that women across the country were asked to vote for those who could serve in a women’s parliament. The goal was to create an international uprising among women by influencing the League of Nations’ delegates and the women’s organizations in Geneva. In the same year, the central body of WILPF had decided to support an international peace plan, the People’s Mandate to End War. The mandate's aim was to present demands for disarmament to governments in different countries. This article examines why the Swedish women assumed a more radical position than that stated in the people’s mandate; what kinds of peace efforts in Sweden made such a radical, pacifistic women’s action possible; and what went on when the initiators attempted to influence WILPF, on an international level, into incorporating the radical protest into the people’s mandate campaign.

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