Shelley, Rebecca, 1887-1984Alternative names
Pacifist, participant in World War I peace movement and later peace activities, member of Fellowship of Reconciliation, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and Women Strike for Peace.
From the description of Rebecca Shelley oral history collection, 1974-1980. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 84278136
From the description of Rebecca Shelley papers, 1890-1984. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 34422002
Rebecca Shelley (sometimes spelled Shelly) of Battle Creek, Michigan, was a pacifist, poet, and worker in the peace movement through both World Wars. Her memberships included the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and Women Strike for Peace. She was on the Henry Ford Peace Expedition and attended the International Conference of Women at the Hague in 1915. Her marriage to a German national caused her to lose her U.S. citizenship, which she fought to regain for twenty years, from 1924 to 1944. She was actively opposed to the Vietnam War. Her farm, "Peace Ways," in Battle Creek was a nonprofit educational foundation founded to further international peace and brotherhood.
From the description of Collection, 1914-1981. (Swarthmore College, Peace Collection). WorldCat record id: 29401789
Rebecca Shelley, Battle Creek pacifist and feminist, was born in Sugar Valley, Pennsylvania in 1887. She attended the Normal School at Clarion, Pennsylvania from 1902 to 1904 and taught briefly in Pennsylvania. In 1904, Rebecca's father, William Alfred Shelly, moved to Leelanau County, Michigan to become pastor of the local Evangelical congregation. Rebecca taught school for two years in the Leelanau County School but quit teaching in 1907 to attend the University of Michigan. She majored in German and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1910.
Shelley spent the next five years teaching German in Hayward, Wisconsin (1910-1912), Everett, Washington (1912-1914), and Freeport, Illinois (1914-1915). While traveling with friends in Germany in the summer of 1911, Rebecca met Franz Willman, a German literature and music critic to whom she became engaged in 1913. Their plan had been for Franz to move to the United States, but in August 1914, war was declared and Franz was called to active duty in the German army.
The severity of the world crisis along with her personal situation led her to become a pacifist. When she read about the proposed International Congress of Women at the Hague, Rebecca wrote to Jane Addams and persuaded Addams to allow her to attend as an American delegate. After the conference, Rebecca toured Germany with Angela Morgan, a fellow delegate. In Munich, she met with Franz who died later in the war after contracting encephalitis.
After returning home, Rebecca made numerous contributions to the peace movement. She was a central figure in the Ford Peace Ship (December 1915), the American Neutral Conference Committee (Spring 1916-February 1917), the Emergency Peace Federation (February-July 1917), and the People's Council of America (August 1917-1918).
In 1918, stress and exhaustion forced her to return to Michigan. After recovering at a Battle Creek sanitarium, she settled in Battle Creek. She purchased a trade journal, Modern Poultry Breeder, which she published through most of the 1920s.
In 1922, Rebecca met and married Felix Martin Rathmer, an electrical engineer from Germany. Having married a foreign citizen weeks before the pertinent law expired, Rebecca lost her American citizenship. She then refused to take the naturalization oath which included a clause promising to bear arms in defense of the country. It was only after a lengthy and publicized legal fight that her U.S. citizenship was restored in 1944.
In later years, she again became active in the pacifist movement. She was an organizer of World Peace Month in 1952. In the early 1950s she founded a Battle Creek chapter of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. She was also editor of the Fellowship of Reconciliation's Michigan F.O.R. News for many years.
After the death of her husband in 1959, Rebecca dedicated her Battle Creek property as the Peaceways Foundation. In 1964, she ran for vice-president on a peace party ticket with a Herbert Hoover, a cousin of the former president. From 1968 until 1977, she publicly dressed in mourning as a protest against the Vietnam War. She made extensive tours of Europe and South Asia, conducting peace vigils at embassies and war monuments. In 1984, Rebecca Shelley died at age ninety-seven.
From the guide to the Rebecca Shelley Papers, 1890-1984, (Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan)
|Place Name||Admin Code||Country|
|Battle Creek (Mich.)|
|Battle Creek (Mich.)|
|Social reformers--United States|
|Indian women--North America|
|World War, 1939-1945|
|Women--Societies and clubs|
|Women's rights--United States|
|World War, 1914-1918|
|Women social reformers--United States|
|Clothing and dress|
|Women and peace--History--Sources|
|Society of Friends|
|Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements|
|Women and peace|
|Women--United States--Societies and clubs|