About this site
The white feather diaries is a social media storytelling project marking the centenary of World War I. It offers an insight into overlooked aspects of war: resistance to killing and the relief of suffering.
About the project
The website follows the lives of five young people who lived a century ago and opposed World War I. Their stories, published periodically over three years, take us from the outbreak of war to the introduction of conscription and groundbreaking legislation recognising conscientious objection. Through daily posts we share their moral dilemmas and their often dangerous decisions.
For those wanting to delve further into these fascinating stories, each blog entry includes rich background material about the content of the post or the diarist and their contemporaries.
The white feather diaries sheds light on the hidden stories of those whose bravery saved lives and changed British legislation, leading to a wider recognition of the legitimacy of the right to refuse to kill. It poses the question, "What would you do?" and encourages discussion about issues still relevant today. This fascinating project, drawing from original diaries, letters and other materials, will run from 2014 to 2016. To stay informed about new posts, please follow The white feather diaries on Twitter or Facebook.
What is the significance of the white feather?
At the time of World War I conscientious objection was poorly understood. Many people regarded conscientious objectors as cowardly for not joining the armed forces. The Order of the White Feather was founded at the start of the war by Admiral Fitzgerald. It encouraged women to give white feathers, a symbol of cowardice, to young men who were not in uniform to shame them into enlisting.
Quakers in World War I and beyond
The period 1914-16 was a time of social, political and religious upheaval. The white feather diaries captures this change through the journeys of five pacifists. All five were, or became, Quakers.
Quakers received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 for their contribution to the relief of suffering during and after the two World Wars. Quakers are still working to prevent conflict in volatile areas of the world and in their local communities. In the section called 'Stories behind the front line’, parallels are drawn between the issues that affected the diarists a century ago and modern concerns. The section gives a flavour of recent peace work undertaken by Quakers and others.
With thanks to Philip Austin, Mary Brocklesby, Fiona Burtt, Adrian Cadbury, Simon Colbeck, Ben Copsey, Owen Everett, Jill Gibbon, David Hoare, Richard Hoare, Charlotte Marten, Deb Nash and the staff of the Cadbury Research Library, the Friend Publications Ltd, the Imperial War Museum, Leeds University Library and the Peace Pledge Union.