Kramer, Ann

Ann Kramer
4 July 2021Feature

Ann Kramer reflects on International Women's Days past, present and future

International Women’s Day (IWD) falls on 8 March and has done so for well over 100 years. Women worldwide still experience discrimination and exploitation. The gender inequalities that prompted the first International Women’s Day are still very much alive and kicking. 

International Women’s Day exists to celebrate women and women’s achievements and there have been fantastic achievements: the vote, access to education, employment and health, the arrival of successful women in all…

25 November 2014Comment

WW1 COs' resistance didn't end when they entered prison ...

Housed in the Quaker Library in London’s Euston Road, is a remarkable document. Measuring about five inches square, created from sheets of lavatory paper and bound in hessian taken from a mailbag, it consists of 100 pages of articles, jokes, poems, and even a spoof children’s page. Dated 18 December 1918, it is an edition of the Winchester Whisperer, one of the many tiny newspapers produced by imprisoned conscientious objectors, right under the noses of their prison warders.

28 September 2014Comment

In which 50 COs are sentenced to death ...

About 8,000 conscientious objectors were forced into the British army during the First World War, either into the non-combatant corps (NCC) or into combatant regiments. Most adopted a strategy of nonviolent resistance, refusing to put on uniforms, drill or obey any military orders. The army’s reaction varied: some commanding officers tried to reason with objectors; others reacted with verbal and physical abuse, using any means, however brutal, to try and force objectors to become soldiers.…

21 July 2014Comment

Ann Kramer examines the Tribunal system for WW1 COs

‘How does one feel when trying, in public, to convince people, who are trying to misconstrue anything one says, that because of one’s religious convictions — no matter what the consequences — no war service is possible?’ asked printer and conscientious objector (CO) Fred Murfin.

It was a fair question. Whether religious or not, First World War COs knew they were sincere. But self-knowledge was not enough: under the terms of the Military Service Act (1916), they were required to attend…

9 June 2014Comment

Every year on 15 May, pacifists and anti-war activists gather in London’s Tavistock Square in front of a massive slate memorial that was unveiled by composer and conscientious objector Michael Tippett in 1994. The stone commemorates ‘All those who have established and are maintaining the right to refuse to kill. Their foresight and courage give us hope.’

Those who first established that right were the conscientious objectors of the First World War. When war began in August 1914,…

3 April 2014Comment

The Women's Peace Congress

Some of the best-known images of women during the First World War show them engaged in work previously done mainly by men: driving buses, delivering post, toiling on the land and working long hours in the munitions factories and shipyards. The images reflect the reality, namely that thousands of women, despite not having the vote, felt it was their duty to help a nation at war.

However, these images do not tell the whole story. Not so well recorded is the fact that considerable…

18 March 2014Comment

In November 1914, a new war resisters’ organisation came into being in Britain – through a letter to the press (as the Peace Pledge Union did 20 years later).

Lilla Brockway prompted her husband Fenner Brockway to place a letter in the Labour Leader (which he edited) inviting responses from men of enlistment age who would refuse to be combatants. 300 replies arrived by return. According to Brockway, the response was ‘so immediate and the earnestness of the writers so moving that it at once became clear that there was a need for a fellowship in which the prospective resisters might unite.’

The No-Conscription Fellowship (NCF) was launched,…

31 December 2013Feature

The History Column

The received image of the British public’s reaction to the outbreak of the First World War is usually that of jubilant, flag-waving crowds, assembling in front of Buckingham palace to cheer the royals and sing the national anthem. On 5 August 1914, an editorial in The Times described the previous evening, saying that: ‘the streets were packed with cheering masses.… Flags were waved from cabs, omnibuses and private cars.’

Less-well-recorded is the fact that just two days earlier, an…