Swarthmore College Peace Collection, 500 College Avenue, Swarthmore, PA 19081-1399, USA

Series A,4, Committees & Conferences, 1920-1959
Appendix B: History of C.O. & Refugee Committees

The C.O. Committee was set up in 1939 by the WILPF in Philadelphia, with Grace Rhoads of Moorestown (NJ) as Chair. She also served on the C.O. Committee of the AFSC Peace Section that was established in Oct. 1939. At first both committees attempted to find sponsors who would give stature to their work. Lawyers and others were drawn on as consultants who could counsel C.O.s in re: the draft etc. Pamphlets were written, with titles such as "What About the Conscientious Objector," "Help Wanted," and "Why They Cannot Go to War." In 1943, the Philadelphia Council for C.O.s was formed, so from that time the WILPF C.O. Committee concentrated on educating its membership about conscientious objection/objectors.

Grace Rhoads served as secretary of a special WILPF subcommittee on women C.O.s, set up to advise on alternative service in case women were drafted. She was also secretary of the Committee to Oppose Conscription of Women, headed by K. Pierce and Mrs. Allen Knight Chalmers, with Mildred Scott Olmsted as its director. Rhoads represented WILPF on the National Council for C.O.s, and NSBRO's Council on Civilian Service and its Consultative Council.

The material of the C.O. Committee was donated to the SCPC by Rhoads in 1952, before she left to live in Paraguay.

The WILPF Refugee Committee was organized in late 1938 to assist refugees in Europe who needed sponsors and financial aid. State and Branch refugee committees soon sprang up as well. In the fall of 1939, Eva Wiegelmesser, herself a recent refugee from Germany, was appointed secretary of the National committee. She made reports to the National Board annually and to the Executive Committee three times yearly. She started a series of newsletters that ran from 1940-1943. These were sent to the National Board and the State Branches. Her work concluded in Sept. 1942, but the committee's records run until 1943. Emily Greene Balch was very active on the committee.

The material of the Refugee Committee was received in 1952 from Eva Wiegelmesser.

See also Paper Walls: America and the Refugee Crisis, 1938-1941 by David S. Wyman.

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