Mead, Lucia Ames (Peace Activists)


Teacher, advocate, organizer, and historian in the U.S. peace movement’s effort to replace war with international arbitration. Lucia Ames was born in Boscawen, New Hampshire, on May 5, 1856, attended high school at Salem, Massachusetts, and received private instruction at the college level. She then studied literature, philosophy, and history on her own. While working in her twenties as a piano teacher, she wrote and published essays on progressive subjects and was a popular lecturer in the Boston area. She wrote a novel, Memoirs of a Millionaire, that included advocacy for causes such as housing, educational reform, and interracial justice. She joined the movement for women’s suffrage, became a notable activist, and contributed articles to Lucy Stone’s Woman’s Journal. At the age of forty she was introduced to the arbitration effort of the peace movement and soon became a leading figure. That became her principal interest during the next forty years.

Ames and her colleagues believed they had found an alternative to war through third-party settlement of disputes by arbitration. The idea had become a popular objective after the success of the administration of U.S. president Ulysses Grant in settling the post-Civil War’s Alabama claims with Great Britain by arbitration. A tribunal of arbitration in Geneva after the American Civil War had judged that Great Britain had violated its neutrality by allowing the confederate raider, Alabama, to be constructed and sail from Birkenhead. The tribunal had awarded the United States $15.5 million for damages inflicted by the Alabama and other confederate raiders, and Great Britain paid. Twenty annual meetings devoted to international arbitration began in 1895 at Mohonk Mountain House in New York state. Notable guests participated, including U.S. Supreme Court justices. Ames was invited to the 1897 meeting. She was accompanied by an acquaintance interested in the movement, Edwin A. Mead, a writer and editor. Ames prepared and delivered a lecture on methods for making the cause known and attracting adherents.

At Mohonk, the friendship with Mead ripened into affection, nourished by their mutual interest in activism for arbitration. Within a year they were married. Their lives together were committed to peace and arbitration.

The war with Spain began soon after her marriage and was followed by the sending of U.S. troops to suppress the Philippine liberation movement.

Mead was vice-president of the U.S. "Anti-Imperialist League" that sought to end the military action and support independence for the islands. Her writings for the arbitration movement include an article, "International Police," that gave early recognition of the importance of sanctions (and armed intervention, if needed) to compel arbitration or compliance with its outcome. In her 1906 book, Patriotism and the New Internationalism, Lucia Mead linked peace and arbitration and offered ideas for teaching and promoting peace through arbitration.

Mead did not surrender when World War I made their cause seem hopeless. She was an organizer of the Woman’s Peace Party, later called the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Continuing her work in the 1920s Lucia Mead published her last book, Law or War, in 1928, updating her 1912 work, Swords and Ploughshares; or, The Supplanting of the System of War by the System of Law. Adjudication among nations by the present World Court was recognized in The World Court in Action (Meyer 2002) as fruit of the U.S. arbitration movement.

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