“We must not seek to modify war, but to outlaw it”

Published March 21, 2014 by Ann Lonstein

Guest blogger today is Ann Lonstein, a writer and researcher who was president of the Minneapolis Section of the National Council of Jewish Women between 1987 and 1990.

“I have faith that women will some day make a great contribution to civilization,” Fannie Fligelman Brin wrote to a friend in 1941. “The need for women’s participation grows daily.”

By the time Brin penned these words, she had already been contributing to civilization for two decades as a student, a mother and ultimately an activist on the local, national and international stage. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Minnesota, Fanny Fligelman married Arthur Brin in 1913. The couple had three children.

Her responsibility to a growing family intensified her commitment to international peace and justice, issues she saw through the eyes of a Jewish mother. “We whose function in life centers about creation and education, must with endless toil and perseverance, take up the task of molding public opinion against war as a means of settling international disputes,” she asserted in the Jewish publication the Saturday Post. “We must not seek to modify war, but to outlaw it; to make it an international crime,” she argued in 1923. “It is natural that Jewish women should give their fullest support. Is it not the Jew who suffers most during war and after?”

By 1924, Brin had become part of the local leadership of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), a group that brought together her interest in world peace, Jewish heritage, democracy and women’s rights. By 1932, she had moved into the group’s national leadership and was elected national NCJW president. Amidst intensifying anti-Semitism, she served in this position for six years as the world hurtled toward another global war.

At the height of the international women’s peace movement of the 1920s and 1930s, Brin worked with some of the leading crusaders of her time. In 1926 she joined Carrie Chapman Catt to become one of the founders of the National Committee on the Cause and Cure of War (NCCCW), one of the largest and most influential women’s peace organizations of the time. She is pictured here (on the far left) with the legendary Jane Addams, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.

Having immigrated from Rumania as a small child, Brin was deeply concerned about the fate of eastern European Jews. She worked with her husband to aid Jews suffering Hitlers’s persecution, spending considerable time and effort to resettle refugees in Minnesota.

She continued her quest for international peace at the end of World War II, in the hopes that humankind could find avenues other than military conflict to resolve conflicts. She helped to found the World Affairs Council and Center at the University of Minnesota. In 1945, she was part of the United States delegation to the first United Nations Peace Conference held in San Francisco.

The photo published here comes from the collection of the Upper Midwest Jewish Historical Society at the University of Minnesota.