A Documentary Play with Music Celebrating a Century of the International Women’s Peace Movement
“If Most Dangerous Women were performed in schools across the country, we might well see a new generation of young people dedicated to ending the scourge of war.”
– Howard Zinn
Most Dangerous Women is a Readers’ Theater play based in newspaper headlines and accounts, speeches, resolutions, meeting minutes, memoirs, poems, stories, and songs researched and scripted by Nikki Nojima Louis and Jan Maher. First commissioned to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Most Dangerous Women is now in it’s 22nd year of production.
Groups wishing to produce Most Dangerous Women independently can contact Jan Maher, jcmaher at aol.com to inquire about royalties and to obtain updates for the published version of the script. Groups wishing to host a Local Access Project Director to direct a production or to conduct a workshop can contact Jan Maher, jcmaher at aol.com or Nikki Louis, niklouis at yahoo.com.
The script is in two acts: Act I begins with World War I and ends with the end of World War II. Act II begins after World War II and ends in the present. (A one-act version can be made available through special request.) The following excerpt is from Act I, and features Jeannette M. Rankin of the United States and Rosika Schwimmer of Austria-Hungary.
Now the women weren’t just talkers: they set off to see
all the heads of state. ” Negotiate!” their simple plea.
But the war machine is stubborn and its nature is to grow:
When the U.S.joined, ‘ mid lonely voices, Rankin voted no.
Actress playing Jeannette Rankin stands when named.
NARR 2: Jeannette Rankin, Republican from Montana, the first woman to be elected to the United States Congress.
JEANNETTE RANKIN moves slightly DS.
JR: (to audience)
I believe that this first vote I cast is a most significant vote and a most significant act on the part of women, because women are going to have to stop war. I feel that as the first woman in the Congress of the United States, I should take the first stand. That the first time the first woman has a chance to say no to war she should say it.
(to women on stage)
I want to stand by my country, but I cannot vote for war.
I vote “NO.”
NARR 1: She’s a dagger in the hands of the German propagandists, a dupe of the Kaiser, a member of the Hun army in the United States, and a crying schoolgirl!
NARR 2: Jeannette, you’ll lose your seat in Congress.
JR: Never for one second could I face the idea that I would send young men to be killed for no other reason than to save my seat in Congress!
SINGERS: She shook her head.
And sadly said
JR: (speaking, in rhythm to music or singing, if preferred)
I believe there is a better way.
SINGERS: There’s a way to build a world based on dignity for all
And we women found solutions at the great Hague Hall.
We can eliminate the causes that lead the world to war.
There’s a way to peace and freedom
That’s what we stand for.
SINGERS sit down. ROSIKA SCHWIMMER stands.
RS: Those of you who know what it means to organize, know that to get that first international congress together from February to April, especially in wartime, when you cannot communicate…you will realize what it meant for those splendid women in Holland to get together an international meeting within that short time. People said “all right we see they are coming but they will come and they will fight and not accomplish anything.”
But they did not fight. Then the people said that there would be just some talking and nothing will ever happen, and when you realize what did happen, you will realize that this congress was one of the greatest things that women ever achieved.
NARR 1: The War Department must have agreed that something very important had happened at the Hague. In a postwar atmosphere of repression, it listed the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom as a Yellow Pacifist Internationalist Pro-German organization.