Leah's cry for peace
This project is, as outlined in the About page, inspired by the New School film (1944). More specifically, following various twists and turns in the film's long disappearance and its recent discovery, I was drawn to the ethos and spirit expressed in the film. Much has been written elsewhere about the vision and ideology that the film so eloquently expresses- one of progressive education where hope and creativity are fundamental to forging resilient and inspired leadership, all precisely in order to avoid the disasters of the Second World War. It is striking to look back at that period - one I did not experience myself though has undoubtedly informed my education - especially now, when the horrors of a brutal European war, which until recently was unfathomable,
are beamed through to our screens. The days counted marking time for those far away- till when?
As someone who grew up surrounded by interminable wars, one of the key words I explored in the archives database was War (no entries found) and Peace (numerous entries found), amongst others. Sifting through the hundreds of documents and artefacts from Homerton's archive, I encounter many progressive educators- almost all female, who spent time at the college over many decades. These include Olive Wright (1904-1906) whose, by all accounts insightful, lecture to the College's literary society in 1914 (!) was titled 'Norman Angell and the War'. There is also Beatrice Collins, who was an arts lecturer at Homerton between 1913-1922 who was involved in the growing International Peace movement as well as Lea Manning (1906-1908) whose maiden speech in Parliament (1931) was all about the 'means to avoid war'. As we watch many thousands of refugees file across Europe's border lines (again!), it is inspiring to learn about Manning's extraordinary contribution to evacuation efforts of children from Bilbao during the Spanish Civil War.
The leaflet celebrating Dame Leah Manning (published on the occasion of Homerton's 250th
anniversary in 2018) opens with 'The people who come here change Cambridge; the ideas that leave here change the world' so I cannot help but hope that the insightful scholarship that takes place in the college today, inspired as it is by a rich and progressive ideas about the role of education in preventing war, will help create a war free future. Or in Leah Manning's words
'I beg that hon. Members will exercise their own judgment, that they will realise that outside the House their sisters and their friends have stood upon the same platform with myself and other women Members of the House in pleading the cause of peace and arbitration, and that, when they go into the Lobby, they will vote for peace, not just for this generation but for the future of mankind.