I’m pleased to announce that the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) archive is now fully catalogued and available to search via the LSE Archive catalogue. The archive contains 879 files of description which includes organisation and committee minutes; annual reports; official WILPF publications; photographs; correspondence; reports on WILPF International Congresses,  and tributes and biographical material relating to WILPF members.

WILPF's Croydon branch celebrating their 40th birthday, 1957.

WILPF's Croydon branch celebrating their 40th birthday, 1957.

The archive was deposited with LSE Library in several accessions and part of it had already been listed by a former member of staff before I began working on it. As it had already been made accessible to researchers it was decided that the most recent deposits would be catalogued separately as sub – collections therefore it is possible to find minutes, for example, in more than one part of the archive hierarchy. To most effectively search the catalogue I would recommend using the advanced search tool rather than browsing the hierarchy as material catalogued in later sub-collections could be missed.

The majority of papers cover the 1970s-1990s, these include details of nuclear disarmament campaigns WILPF were active in, such as Greenham Common, there are also several files of correspondence to and from the WILPF office which demonstrate how the British section was maintained by a core band of dedicated and passionate individuals. WILPF’s activities before and during the Second World War are also documented through annual reports and circular letters.

The publications produced by WILPF contain articles on campaigning interests, including civil and human rights; reactions to world events, such as the death of President Kennedy; and details of WILPF achievements, whether by the organisation or individual members. Each national section of WILPF produce their own publication, confusingly nearly all opted for the same title ‘Peace and Freedom’, the archive contains an almost complete run of the British section edition from its launch in 1952 to 1994 – there is also a handful of editions from the 2000s and a few editions from other national sections. WILPF’s International Headquarters also have their own publication ‘Pax et Libertas’, which is represented healthily in the archive from 1925 to 1994.

I have greatly enjoyed cataloguing the WILPF archive and feel that I have learnt a great deal about events which I previously knew very little or nothing about. Some of my favourite finds from the archive include photographs of early WILPF members actively campaigning for peace and disarmament and a diary written by a Swedish WILPF member on a visit to post civil war Finland. As with all archives there are gaps (it is rare to find an archive where everything has survived) and I wish there were more details on how Czechoslovakian members of WILPF were bought to Britain before the outbreak of the Second World War, the annual reports and circular letters sadly do not go into great detail as to how this was achieved. Throughout the course of cataloguing the archive I have developed a deep respect for the women of WILPF and admire their courage and determination in campaigning for peace.

Carys Lewis

About Carys Lewis

Carys Lewis is the Swords into Ploughshares Project Archivist, responsible for cataloguing and promoting the archives of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and the Fellowship of Reconciliation: London Union.