Shelley, Rebecca, 1887-1984

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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)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. U.S. Section. Records, 1920-1999. Swarthmore College, Peace Collection, SCPC
referencedIn Michigan Fellowship of Reconciliation Records, 1940-1960 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn William H. McNitt papers, 1968-1976 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
creatorOf Mead, Edwin D. (Edwin Doak), 1849-1937. Papers of Edwin D. Mead and Lucia Ames Mead, 1876-1938. Swarthmore College, Peace Collection, SCPC
creatorOf Crane, Henry Hitt, 1890-1977. Henry Hitt Crane papers, 1902-1969 (bulk 1938-1958). University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Woman's Peace Party. Collected records, 1914-1920. Swarthmore College, Peace Collection, SCPC
creatorOf Michigan Fellowship of Reconciliation. Michigan Fellowship of Reconciliation records, 1940-1960. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Shelley, Rebecca, 1887-1984. Collection, 1914-1981. Swarthmore College, Peace Collection, SCPC
referencedIn Henry Hitt Crane Papers, 1902-1977, 1938-1964 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
creatorOf Michigan Fellowship of Reconciliation. Michigan Fellowship of Reconciliation records, 1940-1957. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn McNitt, William H. William H. McNitt papers, 1968-1974. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Blair, Geraldine. Geraldine Blair papers, 1959-1987. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Crane, Henry Hitt, 1890-1977. Henry Hitt Crane papers, 1902-1977 (bulk 1938-1958). University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Shelley, Rebecca, 1887-1984. Letter, 1965, to Lewis Mumford. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Geraldine Blair papers, 1959-1987, 1977-1987 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
creatorOf Shelley, Rebecca, 1887-1984,. Rebecca Shelley oral history collection, 1974-1980. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Fred Newton Scott papers, 1860-1931 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
creatorOf Rebecca Shelley Papers, 1890-1984 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
creatorOf Fellowship of Reconciliation (U.S.). Michigan. Fellowship of Reconciliation, Michigan records, 1940-1957. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Shelley, Rebecca, 1887-1984. Rebecca Shelley papers, 1890-1984. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Herz, Helga. Helga Herz papers, 1941-1973 (scattered dates). University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Dana, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1881-1950. Papers, 1914-1950. Swarthmore College, Peace Collection, SCPC
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Addams, Jane, 1860-1935. person
associatedWith American Association for a Democratic Germany. corporateBody
associatedWith American Civil Liberties Union. corporateBody
associatedWith American Neutral Conference Committee. corporateBody
associatedWith Angell, Norman, 1874-1967. person
associatedWith Arnori, M. S. person
associatedWith Arnori, M. S. person
associatedWith Balch, Emily Greene, 1867-1961. person
associatedWith Baldwin, Roger N. (Roger Nash), 1884-1981. person
associatedWith Baskin, Alex. person
associatedWith Bentley, Alvin M. (Alvin Morell), 1918-1969. person
associatedWith Blair, Geraldine. person
associatedWith Blair, Geraldine. person
associatedWith Boulding, Kenneth E. (Kenneth Ewart), 1910-1993. person
associatedWith Breckinridge, Sophonisba Preston, 1866-1948. person
associatedWith Brown, Garry Eldridge, 1923- person
associatedWith Brown, Garry Eldridge, 1923-1998. person
associatedWith Brown, Prentiss M. (Prentiss Marsh), 1889-1973. person
associatedWith Circle Pines Center. corporateBody
associatedWith Circle Pines Center. corporateBody
associatedWith Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy. corporateBody
associatedWith Couzens, James, 1872-1936 person
associatedWith Crane, Henry Hitt, 1890-1977. person
associatedWith Dana, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1881-1950. person
associatedWith Davis, John W. (John William), 1873-1955 person
associatedWith Dende, Leopold. person
associatedWith Detzer, Dorothy, 1893-1981 person
associatedWith Dewey, John, 1859-1952 person
associatedWith Dougherty, Peter, 1805-1894 person
associatedWith Dubina, Nestor. person
associatedWith Eddy, Robert M. person
associatedWith Eldred, Mary. person
associatedWith Emergency Peace Federation. corporateBody
associatedWith Fellowship of Reconciliation (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Fellowship of Reconciliation (U.S.). Michigan. corporateBody
associatedWith Ferris, Woodbridge N., 1853-1928 person
associatedWith Florence, Barbara Moench. person
associatedWith Florence, Philip. person
associatedWith Florer, Warren Washburn, 1869-1958 person
associatedWith Ford Peace Ship. corporateBody
associatedWith Gage-Colby, Ruth. person
associatedWith Goldman, Emma, 1869-1940 person
associatedWith Grandstaff, Jeanette R. person
associatedWith Gray, Harold Studley, 1894-1972 person
associatedWith Hamilton, Alice, 1869-1970 person
associatedWith Hansen, Eric. person
associatedWith Harrington, Donald Szantho. person
associatedWith Harrison, Alice. person
associatedWith Hassler, Alfred. person
associatedWith Hays, Arthur Garfield, 1881-1954 person
associatedWith Henry Ford Peace Expedition, 1915-1916 corporateBody
associatedWith Herz, Alice. person
associatedWith Herz, Helga. person
associatedWith Herz, Helga. person
associatedWith Heymann, Lida Gustava, 1868-1943 person
associatedWith Hobbs, William Herbert, 1864-1952 person
associatedWith Holbrook, Florence, 1860-1932 person
associatedWith Holmes, John Haynes, 1879-1964 person
associatedWith Huebsch, B. W. (Benjamin W.), 1876-1964 person
associatedWith Humphrey, Hubert H. (Hubert Horatio), 1911-1978 person
associatedWith Hutchinson, Paul, 1890-1956 person
associatedWith International Congress of Women (1915 : Hague, Netherlands) corporateBody
associatedWith International Congress of Women (1915 : The Hague) corporateBody
associatedWith Johansen, August Edgar, 1905- person
associatedWith Johnston, Margaret. person
associatedWith Johnston, Margaret R. person
associatedWith Kamarck, Esther. person
associatedWith Kamarck, Frank. person
associatedWith Kennedy, Robert F., 1925-1968 person
associatedWith Kresge, Sebastian Spering, 1867-1966 person
associatedWith Labadie, Jo, 1850-1933 person
associatedWith Laubach, Frank Charles, 1884-1970 person
associatedWith Lehman, Barbara. person
associatedWith Lindsey, Fanny Cole. person
associatedWith Lloyd, Lola Maverick, 1875-1944 person
associatedWith Lloyd, William B., Jr. person
associatedWith Lochner, Louis Paul, 1887-1975 person
associatedWith Lynch, Frederick Henry, 1867-1934 person
associatedWith Magsaysay, Ramon, 1907-1957 person
associatedWith Mazey, Emil, 1913- person
associatedWith McNitt, William H. person
associatedWith Mead, Edwin D. (Edwin Doak), 1849-1937. person
associatedWith Michigan Fellowship of Reconciliation corporateBody
associatedWith Milliken, William G., 1922- person
associatedWith Minkoff, Lynn. person
associatedWith Morgan, Angela, 1874-1957 person
associatedWith Murphy, Frank, 1890-1949 person
associatedWith Mygatt, Tracy D. (Tracy Dickinson), 1885-1973 person
associatedWith Nearing, Scott, 1883- person
associatedWith Nielson, Axel. person
associatedWith Niemðoller, Martin, 1892- person
associatedWith O'Brien, Patrick Henry, 1868- person
associatedWith O'Connor, Jessie Lloyd, 1904- person
associatedWith Olmsted, Mildred Scott, 1890-1990 person
associatedWith Oscar II (Ship) corporateBody
associatedWith Paul, Alice, 1885-1977 person
associatedWith Pauling, Linus, 1901- person
associatedWith People's Council of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Prohibition Party National Committee. corporateBody
associatedWith Prohibition Party (U.S.). National Committee. corporateBody
associatedWith Puri, J. N. person
associatedWith Randall, Mercedes. person
associatedWith Rathmer, Felix Martin, d. 1959 person
associatedWith Reynolds, Barbara. person
associatedWith Romney, George W., 1907- person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962 person
associatedWith Russell, Bertrand, 1872-1970 person
associatedWith Schwimmer, Franciska, 1880-1963 person
associatedWith Schwimmer, Rosika, 1877-1948 person
associatedWith Scott, Fred Newton, 1860-1931 person
associatedWith Secor, Lella Faye, d. 1966 person
associatedWith Segal, Eli. person
associatedWith Selskosojus, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Sexton, Kripp. person
associatedWith Shafer, Paul Werntz, 1893-1954 person
associatedWith Shapiro, Samuel. person
associatedWith Shelley family. family
associatedWith Shelley family. family
associatedWith Shelly, Edna. person
associatedWith Shelly, Florence. person
associatedWith Shelly, Paul. person
associatedWith Shelly, Will. person
associatedWith Shelly, William Alfred, 1854-1930 person
associatedWith Shibata, Shingo, 1930- person
associatedWith Sinclair, Upton, 1878-1968 person
associatedWith Society of Friends corporateBody
associatedWith Sporn, Paul, 1921- person
associatedWith Staebler, Neil, 1905- person
associatedWith Steinson, Barbara J., 1948- person
associatedWith Sugar, Maurice, 1891-1974 person
associatedWith Swarthmore College. Peace Collection. corporateBody
associatedWith Thomas, Norman, 1884-1968 person
associatedWith Todd, Paul Harold, 1921- person
associatedWith Turn Toward Peace (Organization) corporateBody
associatedWith United States Farmers Association. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Work Projects Administration. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Michigan corporateBody
associatedWith Van Koevering, Adrian, 1874-1960 person
associatedWith Villard, Fanny Garrison, 1844-1928 person
associatedWith Villard, Oswald Garrison, 1872-1949 person
associatedWith War Resisters League. corporateBody
associatedWith Weinberger, Harry, 1888- person
associatedWith Williams, G. Mennen, 1911- person
associatedWith Willkie, Wendell L. (Wendell Lewis), 1892-1944 person
associatedWith Wilson, Charles Carroll. person
associatedWith Witherspoon, Frances M., 1886-1973 person
associatedWith Woman's Peace Party. corporateBody
associatedWith Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. corporateBody
associatedWith Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. U.S. Section. corporateBody
associatedWith Women Strike for Peace. corporateBody
associatedWith Woodruff, Alice. person
associatedWith Writers' Program (Mich.) corporateBody
associatedWith Wynner, Edith. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Spain
United States
Michigan
Battle Creek (Mich.)
Spain
India
Vietnam
Netherlands.
India.
Michigan
Battle Creek (Mich.)
Vietnam.
Subject
Conscientious objectors
Social reformers--United States
Pacifists
Poetry
Indian women--North America
World War, 1939-1945
Women--Societies and clubs
Women--Organizations
Pacifism
Camping--1921-1930
Suffragists--History--Sources
Pacifists--History--Sources
Women's rights--United States
World War, 1914-1918
Women social reformers--United States
German Americans
Machine shops
Clothing and dress
Women and peace--History--Sources
Poultry--Breeding
Society of Friends
Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements
Afro--Americans--Women
Exhibitions
Demonstrations
Women's rights
Women and peace
Typewriters
Women--United States--Societies and clubs
Peace--Societies, etc
Depressions--1929
Women
Slogans
Dwellings
German Americans--Michigan
Occupation
Conscientious objectors
Social reformers
Function

Person

Birth 1887-01-20

Death 1984-01-21

Information

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Ark ID: w6ns0wr8

SNAC ID: 16024802