Credit: Swarthmore College Peace Collection.

Internationalism and World Peace

By late 1914, Eastman established herself as a champion of internationalism and world peace. She propelled the founding of the Woman’s Peace Party – today, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). She helped recruit a reluctant Jane Addams to launch the national organization in January 1915 while she formed and led the more audacious New York branch. At almost the same time, she became Executive Secretary of the American Union Against Militarism (AUAM), the leading exponent of peace through internationalism and world federation in the country.

Women’s Peace Parade, 1914. Credit: Library of Congress.

A prime mover in the policy agendas of both organizations, Eastman also orchestrated some of their most potent and persuasive direct-action campaigns.

Demonstration preparation. Credit: Swarthmore College Peace Collection.

In 1916, for example, she masterminded an international campaign of citizen diplomacy that successfully averted a war with Mexico. That pacifist triumph through direct democracy, Max Eastman later said, made “a little less fantastic her effort, by similar means, to stop Woodrow Wilson from going to war with Germany.” 1

“Shall We Have War with Mexico?” broadside. Credit: Library of Congress.

That same year, President Wilson made a public challenge to the anti-war movement to make their case against “military preparedness” – shorthand for a major American military build-up called for in a new National Defense bill.

Eastman’s two New York peace groups swung into action. Together, they sponsored a huge multimedia “War Against War” exhibition that would be seen by hundreds of thousands of Americans in 11 cities around the country. The campaign arrayed high-profile public lectures and large mass meetings around an innovative, immersive arts exhibition designed by Eastman’s future husband, Walter Fuller.

“War Against War Exhibition: Seeing Is Believing” poster. Credit: Swarthmore College Peace Collection.

In each host city, the campaign opened with a parade led by a gleaming, golden, paper-mache dinosaur named “Jingo.” The giant stegosaurus, 17 feet tall, was paraded through the streets on a horse-drawn platform bearing the cheeky tag line: “All armor plates and no brains. This animal believed in ‘Preparedness’ and is now extinct.”

Newspaper page with Jingo the dinosaur. Credit: public domain.

It was a precocious feat of media activism. Yet as the United States marched toward the Declaration of War in April 1917, such bold democratic ingenuity would confront a broad national crackdown on popular dissent and the most unprecedented government propaganda campaign America had ever seen.


  1. Max Eastman, Love and Revolution (New York: Random House, 1964), 28.
Crystal Eastman by Amy Aronson

The social justice issues to which Eastman dedicated her life – gender equality and human rights, nationalism and globalization, political censorship and media control, worker benefits and family balance, and the monumental questions of war, sovereignty, force, and freedom – remain some of the most consequential questions of our own time. Available from Oxford University Press.

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