Document 9: Dorothy Detzer to the Monahan Post of the American Legion, 14 June 1926, Hannah Clothier Hull Papers, Box 6, Folder 3, Swarthmore College Peace Collection (Hannah Clothier Hull Papers Microfilm, reel 5).
Dorothy Detzer (1893-1981), a Quaker, served as National Secretary for the
US Section of WILPF from 1922 until 1946. An effective lobbyist, Detzer negotiated
a retraction of slanderous statements made about the League by the American
Legion. Through a convoluted series of personal associations, Monahan post
leaders had labeled the organization communist. Detzer showed how similar
charges of un-Americanism could be made against the American Legion by the
same process of guilt by loose association.
Here Detzer attempted to correct several false statements about WILPF positions, including affiliation with national governments, military training, and diplomatic recognition. Through all of these issues militarists had connected the League to Russia and Bolshevism. The "Slacker's Oath," also mentioned in the letter, had plagued WILPF since the war. Other more radical peace societies required a pledge from its members, dedicating themselves to complete non-compliance in any activity that might assist a war effort, the military, or militarism. WILPF, however, was a more moderate group, which encompassed a variety of degrees of pacifism. Like Balch in the previous document, Detzer attempted to locate some common ground with the members of the American Legion, suggesting that both organizations sought world peace. American Legion officers were often more willing publicly to admit their erroneous statements than were DAR officers. This willingness may have been related to their more secure position in relation to the military. As women, the DAR officers held ties to the military that were tenuous and undefined. For the remainder of the decade, at least, members of both the DAR and WILPF struggled with defining and securing a place for women in the realm of military policy.
June 14, 1926
Monahan Post, American Legion
Sioux City, Iowa.
Your letter of May 17th has been duly received. I take it for granted from your letter that you will take the first opportunity to retract all of your article on the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom regarding which organization you are so completely misinformed.
The Women's International League is not directly or indirectly affiliated with the Communist Government of Russia or any other government in the world.
The Women's International League does not "draw much of its financial support from the Garland Fund." This organization from time to time has had contributions for certain definite pieces of work from the American Fund for Public Service. Charles Garland gave up his fortune for the establishment of the American Fund for Public Service. He has turned over this money to the Fund and has nothing whatever to do with the policies of the American Fund nor with the distribution of the money. The inference in your article that the Women's International League by receiving donations from the American Fund in any way countenances the moral code attributed to Charles Garland is slanderous.
You are correct in stating that this League of Women advocates as a part of its program to establish good will on earth, the abolition of all forms of military training in the United States. The Women's International League, however, does not advocate military training by the government of Russia or any other government in the world. It is opposed to all military training in all countries.
The Women's International League advocates the recognition of the de facto government of Russia. Diplomatic recognition of a country does not imply belief in or approval of a form of government. Our country recognized the Czarist dictatorship of Russia before the Revolution though you will agree that democratic America in recognizing Czarist Russia did not in this way give its approval of that regime. The United States Government recognizes today the dictatorship of Fascist Italy. This recognition does not imply approval of a dictatorship or of Fascist methods. The Women's International League advocates the recognition of Russia for the same reason that the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee advocates recognition of Russia--because only by normal, diplomatic contacts can we have any hope for international peace. Not to recognize a government continues to keep a country, at least diplomatically, in a state of war.
I do not know what you mean by the following statement: "It also encourages incessant agitation for the release of all persons confined in prisons and penitentiaries for crime committed during the war." Will you please retract that slanderous statement at once?
The Woman's International League is not the author of what you call the "notorious Slacker's Oath." This organization has never had a pledge of any kind. Pledges have once or twice been suggested at conventions, but have been overwhelmingly voted down. The chairman of this organization is a Quaker.[A] Jane Addams, the International President, comes of Quaker parentage. A great many of our members are Quakers. It is against the religious principles of the Society of Friends to take oaths. Other members of this organization do not believe in pledging themselves to any action whatsoever for future times.
I am perfectly confident that the ex-soldiers who make up the American Legion are as eager and as anxious to bring about international peace as this organization of women. We do not agree in method because our League feels that preparedness for war brings war, as it did in Germany, and because we agree with President Coolidge that no army is large enough to guarantee us from attack. We, therefore, believe that we should find another method for settling international disputes other than that by the duel. The fact that we may disagree with the Legion on method does not make us either vicious or unpatriotic. We do not believe that patriotism is synonymous with militarism and we realize that we are serving our country as loyally and as devotedly as are other citizens who may agree with us in principle though not in method. I am going to quote from a letter I wrote Col. MacNider because I find that you as well as he seem to have the very mistaken idea that soldiers have a corner on this matter of war and peace.[B]
"Bearing arms is only one phase of the whole awful business. The widows of France, the atrocity victims of Armenia, the women of Smyrna, the mothers of the five-hundred thousand starving children of Vienna, had a near view of war as vivid and as real as that of any soldier in the trenches; and American women, some of whom in one capacity or another served on the Famine Front of Europe, truly share with the American soldier a living knowledge of that last great conflict. But those who have never been in a war zone may have as keen a desire and as intelligent a contribution in the exterminating of war forever as those who were its victims. Surely one does not have to witness or take part in a lynching in order to be vehemently opposed to that method of administering justice."
In the future, if you wish to get information from "reliable sources" regarding this organization we shall be glad to furnish you with all our literature, history program, etc. In the meantime, may I refer you also to an Iowa Legionnaire, my brother, Karl W. Detzer, captain in the late war and a loyal and ardent member of your organization. He, I am sure, will be glad to vouch for the patriotism of my organization of which his sister is executive secretary.
Will you please immediately retract all your misinformation and slander and send us a marked copy of your magazine? In the meantime we shall be very glad to submit to you the objects of this league, reports of our activities and past history, for which we have no apologies, only true American pride.
A. Hannah Clothier
Hull became National Chairman for the U.S. Section of WILPF in 1924.
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B. Hanford MacNider
served as Assistant Secretary of War under President Calvin Coolidge and as
American Legion National Commander from 1921 to 1922 and again in 1931.
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