War Resisters League Records, 1923-1994
Collection: DG 040
WRL Web Site Files and Born Digital Files, 2001-date
Swarthmore College Peace Collection
19500 College Avenue, Swarthmore, PA 19081-1399 USA
Telephone: 610-328-8557 (curator); Fax: 610-19690-519728
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (curator)
Swarthmore College Peace Collection
War Resisters League, 1923-1994
War Resisters League Records
Dates ofrecords 1923-1994
Language of Materials
Materials in English
34.1 linear feet
The War Resisters League is a pacifist organization whose members are against all war. Witnessing the establishment of the War Resisters' International in Europe in 1921, and sensing a need for a similar organization in the United States, Dr. Jessie Wallace Hughan established the War Resisters League as an independent organization. The War Resisters League membership pledge, which has remained essentially unchanged since its inception, reads: "The War Resisters League affirms that war is a crime against humanity. We therefore are determined not to support any kind of war, international or civil, and to strive non-violently for the removal of all causes of war." The League seeks to end war and social injustice through pacifist and nonviolent tactics.
Restrictions to Access
Alternate Form of Material
Yes, Reels 20 and 21 (War Resisters League News 1967 and 1968)
Gift of War Resisters League 1949, 1950, 1952, 1969, 1979, 1985, 1990, 1994-1999, 2001, 2004, 2005
Finding aid for later accessions (1995-)
Partial checklist prepared by Martha Shane, September 1983; updated by Anne Yoder, March 1995; updates on later accessions by Wendy Chmielewski, August 2007; updated by Kathy Sun, April 2013.
[Identification of item], in the War Resisters LeagueRecords (DG 040), Swarthmore College Peace Collection
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendents, as stipulated by United States copyright law
Online Catalog Headings
These and related materials may be found under the following headings in online library/archival catalogs.
See tripod record
War Resisters' International Records (DG 039)
Committee for Nonviolent Action Records (DG 017)
Devere Allen Papers (DG 053)
Jessie Wallace Hughan Papers (DG 251)
David McReynolds Papers (DG 134)
A.J. Muste Papers (DG 050)
Tracy Mygatt and Frances Witherspoon Papers (DG 089)
Igal Roodenko Papers (DG 161)
Although the War Resisters League declares its official birthday year as 1923, its roots go back to 1915 when Jessie Wallace Hughan, Tracy D. Mygatt, and John Haynes Holmes founded the Anti-Enlistment League to solidify protest against U.South participation in World War I. Witnessing the establishment of the War Resisters' International in Europe in 1921, and sensing a need for an organization where war resisters of all persuasions, regardless of gender or religious convictions, could join together, Dr. Hughan formed the Committee for Enrollment Against War under the auspices of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. In 1923, Hughan established the War Resisters League as an independent organization.
The War Resisters League membership pledge, which has remained essentially unchanged since its inception, reads: "The War Resisters League affirms that war is a crime against humanity. We therefore are determined not to support any kind of war, international or civil, and to strive non-violently for the removal of all causes of war."
During World War II, War Resisters League especially supported absolutist conscientious objectors who protested any form of military support, including alternative service. In 1948, it helped found the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors to further aid all Conscientious Objectors. It has continually lent its resources to the causes of war tax protest, draft resistance, and civil rights.
War Resisters League encouraged civil disobedience against civil defense drills in the early 1960s by sponsoring the Civil Defense Protest Committee. It encouraged tax resistance as the Indochinese conflict escalated, and formed War Tax Resistance in 1969 to protest all taxes that benefited the military. In the 1970s, War Resisters League supported Campaign Freedom and the United Campaign for Peace in Indochina, both efforts to help improve conditions and free political prisoners in Vietnam. It helped focus nationwide attention on nuclear protest and civil liberties by organizing the Continental Walk for Disarmament and Social Justice in 1976.
War Resisters League is affiliated with War Resisters' International and the International Peace Bureau. Throughout its existence, it has worked closely with many other peace organizations, including the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the American Friends Service Committee, and the American Civil Liberties Union. In 1958, it helped start the Committee for Nonviolent Action (CNVA), which shared its headquarters and finally merged with War Resisters League in 1968.
The League has sought to promote pacifist and nonviolent tactics through various periodicals. In 1956, War Resisters League helped start Liberation, an independent monthly dealing with nuclear testing, civil rights, socialism, and nonviolent direct action. it was discontinued in 1977. WIN, a widely read peace periodical begun by the New York Workshop in Nonviolence, has received War Resisters League support. The League publishes its own bimonthly magazine, War Resisters League News. Its annual Peace Calendar reached annual sales of 20,000 in 1980.
War Resisters League is presently headquartered at 339 Lafayette Street in New York City with one regional office in Norwich, CT. There are or have been three branch offices, located in San Francisco, CA (War Resisters League-West), Austin, TX (War Resisters League South Central), and Chapel Hill, NC (War Resisters League Southeastern), with numerous local War Resisters League groups across the country.
A more complete history of War Resisters League, produced for its 1950th Anniversary, can by found in Series B, Subseries I, History.
SCPC became the official repository for the War Resisters League in 1947. War Resisters League records in DG 40 included scattered minutes of the Executive Committee (1925- ), the National Committee (1974- ), and a small amount of scattered financial records. There is correspondence from 1926 forward. War Resisters League literature and releases (1931- ) include fund appeals, flyers, pamphlets, brochures, and memoranda. There are also annual Peace Calendars (1956- ). Numerous War Resisters League periodicals (1942- ), including War Resisters League News, can be found in the SCPC stacks. A list of these periodicals is available in Series B, Subseries III.
There are significant amounts of material documenting War Resisters League's work in publishing The Conscientious Objector, a newspaper produced from 1939 to 1946, the work of the Conscientious Objectors Problems Committee (1940-1946), preparation of the annual Peace Calendar, and the work of the Literature Committee (mostly 1960s) which created peace bibliographies. Records about War Resisters League's civilian defense protest project (1955-1963) and its efforts to help political prisoners in Vietnam following the Indochinese War, are significant parts of this collection.
The administrative files of Executive Secretaries Abe Kaufman, Roy Kepler, and Sidney Aberman span the years 1948 to 1953. Other administrative files are those of Executive Secretary Ralph DiGia (1955-1961), Field Secretary David McReynolds (1960-1977), Chairman Ed Gottlieb (1962-1967), staff member Wendy Schwartz (1970-1971), Special Project Secretary Grace Hedemann (1974-1978), and staff member Ed Hedemann.
War Resisters League correspondents include Sidney Aberman, Devere Allen, Allen H. Barr, R. Boland Brooks, H. Runham Brown, Julius Eichel, Harrop Freeman, Edward P. Gottlieb, Kenneth Greenawalt, George W. Hartmann, Alfred Hassler, Grace Hedemann, Ammon A. Hennacy, John Haynes Holmes, Jessie Wallace Hughan, Abraham Kaufman, Roy Kepler, Frieda Langer Lazarus, David McReynolds, Charles Macintosh, A.J. Muste, Tracy D. Mygatt, Frank Olmstead, Frances Rose Ransom, Bayard Rustin, Igal Roodenko, Winifred W. Schaum, Wendy Schwartz, Evan W. Thomas, Olivia Dunbar Torrence, Lydia G. Wentworth, and Frances Witherspoon.
Scrapbook: See Oversize Collection Photographs: See Photograph Collection (4x5, 5x7)
Buttons: See Button Collection
Bumperstickers: See Stamp Collection
Magazines/Newsletters: See Periodicals Collection
Arrangement of Collection
The War Resisters League records held by SCPC are divided into two series: 1) Series A (1923-1949) contains material processed in 1954. Similar records, such as minutes, correspondence, committee files, etc. were placed together, as found in the checklist; and 2) Series B (1948-1989) contains material processed in 1983 and 1995, as well as material that War Resisters League routinely mails to SCPC, its official depository. Most subseries are arranged similarly to those in Series A. The administrative files were left in the order in which they were received. Where a considerable amount of loose material was found, an imposed order was created.
Correspondence in Series A is sorted by individuals, groups, and subjects. In Series B, rather than being placed together, correspondence is left in original folders and is found mostly in the Administrative Files.
Two separate document groups were created from War Resisters League records received in the 1969 and 1979 accessions. One is DG 134, the papers of David McReynolds, Field Secretary for War Resisters League. While some of McReynolds' papers in DG 134 are of a personal nature, there is a significant amount of information pertaining to his work with War Resisters League There is a large file of McReynolds' material in DG 40 as well. The second document group created from the War Resisters League records, DG 135, contains the records of the Continental Walk for Disarmament and Social Justice whose principal sponsor was War Resisters League.
Unprocessed World Peace Brigade material mentioned in the 1981 SCPC Guide was moved to DG 1950 (A.J. Muste).
Archived web sites of the War Resisters League
These web sites were created by the national office of the War Resisters League. Beginning in 2001 the Wayback Machine of the Internet Archives (IA) cached War Resisters League's web site. Please check both URLs listed as there are some each may list different dates on which web sites were saved.
The links are provided here for the convenience of researchers interested in the history of War Resisters League's web presence. The Swarthmore College Peace Collection has no control over the web sites or how they are saved by IA.
Dates of web sites marked with an * indicate a change in that site from the last saved web site.
Born Digital Files of the War Resisters League, 2004, 2011-date.
Many of these files may be available in paper format, within the WRL document collection and re-file boxes
Files from 2004
Files from 2011
Files from 2012
Files from 2015
This page was last updated on July 19, 2016 .