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by Anne M. Yoder

This web site, sponsored by the Swarthmore College Peace Collection (SCPC), was conceived in May 2002 as a response to the many requests received at the SCPC for information about conscientious objection. The Swarthmore College Peace Collection has a very large amount of material by and about C.O.s in the United States, but even so, there are many other institutions with primary sources that could be helpful to scholars and other researchers. The goal for the site has been to provide information and as many links as possible to archival sources in particular, as well as lists of other resources available and background information about conscientious objection in America.

American C.O.s sentenced to death in WWI
before they were given prison terms instead

Conscientious objection to war has never been a popular choice in any time period or in any place. In the United States, there have been varying levels of official acceptance and accommodation for conscientious objectors through the years. In some countries today, this position can mean long prison terms and even the death sentence. Still, conscientious objection has been the only choice possible for thousands who could not live with themselves otherwise. The author of this site grew up in the Mennonite Church, with a step-great-great grandfather who was drafted in the Civil War but refused to shoot his rifle at anyone; with a great-grandfather, a Mennonite bishop during WWI, who lobbied for conscientious objectors in the army camps and in prison, and, because of this and his refusal to buy war bonds, was seized one night and dragged out into the fields by a gang of men who threatened to hang him (thankfully, their rage took the form of shaving half his head instead); she also has uncles who took part in Civilian Public Service during WWII. Their stories, and the witness of many others, has engendered in the author a life-long interest in conscientious objection, and working at the SCPC has provided the opportunity to learn of the diverse groups of people who have been C.O.s through the centuries of American history. They have also fueled a personal desire to make sure that conscientious objection is still a viable option today for those who choose it.

What if they gave a war . . .

and nobody came? anonymous

Created by Anne M. Yoder (Archivist, Swarthmore College Peace Collection), Feb. 2003; modified Nov. 2007