The “Open Christmas Letter” 1914


It is that time of year again! With Christmas fast approaching, I will be writing a seasonal bhobhouselog post. I believe it is befitting to discuss the “Open Christmas Letter” of 1914.

It is a perhaps an overlooked letter written by Emily Hobhouse who was a British humanitarian and pacifist who was famously against the Boer War [1]. It was written from Manchester and signed by over 100 female suffragists including Margaret Ashton who was Manchester’s first female councillor, Sylvia Pankhurst and even Mahatma Gandhi’s wife[2]. The letter was directed towards the German and Austrian women.

It begins,


Immediately generating a sense of unity among women even though they were technically at war with each other. It continued this idea of solidarity throughout the letter by suggesting that British, German and Austrian women can all relate to each other’s goals
and that they should not allow the war to split their shared objectives.

In addition to this, it is evident that they are promoting a pacifistic message throughout,

“We must all urge that peace be made with appeal to Wisdom and Reason”[3]

They are indicating that they must work together to protect their own country’s people. You get the feeling that these suffragists believe it is their duty to stop the war which is

The Open Christmas Letter

the conflicting idea to that of Emmeline Pankhurst who felt that women must support the war effort.

This letter was incredibly intriguing because it represented the other side of the suffragettes during the First World War. The majority were inclined to assist with the war effort by working to support the troops. Whether they did it because they felt they needed to support their country, or because they believed it would persuade the government to give women the vote varies. However, this source demonstrated that certain members, of all suffragette groups, believed the war was inherently bad and peace was the only option.

This presents an alternative suffragette movement than that of my previous blog post about Emmeline Pankhurst and her militant tactics.



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[1] South African History Online, “Emily Hobhouse”  , (February 2011), Last Updated September 2016, URL: [Last Accessed 14/12/16]

[2] BBC, “St Peter’s Square, Manchester: Open Christmas Letter”, (April 2015), URL: [Last Accessed 14/12/16]

[3]Women’s Power to Stop War, “Open Christmas Letter“,  (1914), URL: (Transcript of the “Open Christmas Letter”) [Last Accessed 14/12/16]



Christmas Image –

Emily Hobhouse –

The Open Christmas Letter –


2 thoughts on “The “Open Christmas Letter” 1914

Add yours

  1. This is a really interesting post! I like the way you have incorporated the quotes from the letter, it makes the subject and writing seem more real and engaging. It is a subject i have never looked at so I enjoyed reading about it as it raised many questions about women’s movements as something not confined to Britain, but more like a linked effort among women even at the most difficult times. The reference to it being a different approach to the previous post is also a good way of comparing women’s movements.


  2. For starters, a really interesting blog, and I love the way it was Christmas themed as to make the post even more accessible and relevant to the reader (even despite myself being late to reading it). The fact your discussion centres around this single source, ‘The Open Christmas Letter’ is great, as it gives a particularly focused and detailed account of what you took away from it.

    Your use of images, while they fit the blog, perhaps could be better integrated. I’m sure this is pointless nitpicking, but rather than just relevant pictures placed within the text, make the picture complement the text, if you catch what I mean.

    Regardless, an interesting blog, and I’ll be sure to return to see how your work progresses.


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