Great-grandmother of MS on historic peace petition

“The voice of my foremothers calling to me through the decades and answering my questions” – Sioned Williams MS

A photograph of the letter bound front cover of the 'Memorial' containing an appeal for peace

In February 1924, four Welsh women landed in New York, clutching a bunch of daffodils, a bound ‘memorial’ containing an appeal for peace, and a petition signed by 390,296 Welsh women calling on the women of America to use their influence to encourage the US government to join the League of Nations as a means of avoiding future conflicts.

On 21 February 1924 – exactly 100 years ago to the day – those women had a very special appointment with President Calvin Coolidge in the White House, where they showed him the Appeal for Peace, and extracted a promise that the signatures would be kept in the Smithsonian museum in perpetuity.

Of those 390,296 signatures, one has particular significance to a current Welsh politician, Sioned Williams MS. Bessie Evans of Price Street in Rhymney, is Ms Williams’ great grandmother, and her name can be seen on the petition alongside her two eldest daughters.

A photograph of Bessie Evans with two of her grandchildren. The child on the right is the father of Sioned Williams MS.

For Ms Williams, it sends an “important, clear message” that “it’s ordinary people, like my great-grandmother, who pay the high price of war” and that “Wales needs to raise its voice as a nation on the world stage today, just as it did a century ago.

Today (Wednesday 21 February), 100 years to the day, Sioned Williams MS will be marking the occasion by leading a debate in the Senedd celebrating the hundredth anniversary of this event, and asking what significance it holds for Wales's role in speaking up for peace today.

Plaid Cymru spokesperson for social justice and equalities, Sioned Williams MS said:

“Seeing my great-grandmother’s signature with the names of her two eldest daughters, my grandmother’s sisters Miriam and Elizabeth, was a thrilling and emotional experience. It was also an important and clear message from the past - the voice of my foremothers calling to me through the decades and answering my question.

“They signed this petition because they understood that it was ordinary, poor people like them who pay the high price of war all over the world. Their belief in the importance of international cooperation and working for peaceful resolution to conflict demanded that they act.  And they understood that Wales needed to raise its voice as a nation to this end on the world stage.

“The remarkable and proud history of the petition sends us a message in Wales today, about the importance of taking action, about the importance of taking a stand, and about the long and proud tradition of Wales, and Welsh women in particular, of speaking up on international affairs and calling for peace.”

Ms Williams added:

“We should not look at this petition as a mere piece of history, without examining its significance and inspiration today. The reason the words of the appeal resonate so much is that they are as important today as they were a century ago.

“As Chair of the Cross-Party Group on violence against Women and Children I have written to the governments of Wales and the UK emphasising the disproportionate impact on women and children from the Israeli Government's attacks on Gaza and urging them to call clearly and publicly for an immediate ceasefire. 

“Given the history of this petition, I will be asking Welsh Government how it ensures that its voice, and through it, the voice of Welsh citizens, is heard on the international stage and will urge it to seek to influence governments to respect human rights and promote peace.

“We must make sure that the proud and important tradition of Wales leading the pursuit of international peace continues to this day.”

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