Edith Summerskill

Destitution, prostitution, trafficking and starvation: just some of the devastating consequences of wars and conflicts that are explored in our current exhibition. This has been done by focussing on the role of women in times of war and in the fight for peace.

The exhibition falls into two halves. One half considers how women were affected by wars during the early 20th century, highlighting the work of a number of women who wanted to alleviate the burdens of war. There is a medal awarded to Amelia Scott by the Belgian King recognising her relief work with displaced Belgian refugees during the First World War; the diary of Edith Summerskill, MP for West Fulham (pictured above), who visited refugee camps in 1938 established during the Spanish civil war, as well as many other items such as those relating to the plight of Russian women exiles who fled to Shanghai following the 1918 Russian civil war.

The other half of the exhibition looks at women on the international stage and how they have tried to prevent war and promote peace. The belief that preventing war should be the equal responsibility of women and of men was voiced in 1915 at the First Women’s International Peace Conference in the Hague. 1,500 women attended this conference and out of it grew a peace movement known as the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

United Nations Convention poster, Copenhagen, 1980

The idea that women had a part to play in any peace process was renewed in 1975. The United Nations declared this year to be International Women’s Year with the First World Conference on Women held in Mexico. The promotion of genuine equality between men and women was a key objective, along with recognising women’s role in strengthening world peace. On display are personal accounts of delegates who attended the pivotal Mexico conference. Colourful UN posters and leaflets were brought back in suitcases from subsequent conferences, some of which are also included in the exhibition.

The theme of women and peace is brought up to date with the inclusion of the historic UN Security Council Resolution 1325 from the Library’s official publications. This formally recognised commitments to women’s human rights, women’s participation in peace and security processes, and women’s protection during conflict.

There are many more objects on display and we will be sharing our highlights over the coming months. Why not take the chance to come and explore for yourself and tell us what you find?

Explore our collections in these areas:

LSE Library holds the archives of the League of Nations Union (LNU) and its successor, the United Nations Association (UNA) and several archives of Non-Government Organisations, eg International Alliance of Women (IAW), National Alliance of Women’s Organisations (NAWO), who attended the international conferences. There are also government publications and UN publications and documents.

Use Library Search to find related publications.

Search LSE archives for LNU, UNA, Frances Josephy, Edith Summerskill.

Discover IAW, NAWO materials in the Women’s Library archive catalogue.


Gillian Murphy

About Gillian Murphy

Gillian Murphy is an Assistant Archivist in LSE Library.