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The Peaceful Gardener: Rose Standish Nichols & The Peace Movement (Part III)

By Corinne Zaczek Bermon
(Last of three-part series. Access Part I and Part II)

The family home in Beacon Hill and their summer home in Cornish, New Hampshire served as training grounds for Nichols as she came into her own as a peace activist. When Europe began to become embroiled in war, Rose Nichols banded together with other peace-minded women to form the Woman’s Peace Party in Boston in 1915.  She organized lectures and fundraisers to broaden awareness of the anti-war movement.  It was through this local organizational work that Nichols learned the skills she needed to enter the peace movement on a global stage. The focus of women’s activities turned toward political concerns with the establishment of current affairs discussion groups that Nichols and other women attended.

Along with the discussion groups, Rose and Margaret Nichols established the Cornish Equal Suffrage League on 1 December 1911, and it soon became the “second largest in the state, having at present sixty-eight members…[with] annual dues of fifty cents.”1) Letter, Rose Nichols to Elizabeth Homer Nichols, 1911. The Schlesinger Library. The women mainly met in the gardens designed by Nichols for her neighbors. Cornish suffrage leaders Lydia Parrish, Annie Lazarus and Rose Nichols used these gatherings to foster their personal causes, such as advancing the suffrage and peace movements.2)Judith Tankard, A Place of Beauty: The Artists and Gardens of the Cornish Colony (Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2000), 16. 

Before the US entered the war, the women of the Cornish Colony began to explore how they could influence policymakers to avoid US intervention.  In 1913, President Woodrow Wilson and his wife, First Lady Ellen Wilson, made Cornish the nation’s “summer capitol.”3)Ibid, 34.   Ellen Wilson spent time in Cornish without the President and wrote many letters to Wilson during that first summer in 1913 that described her busy social schedule with the women in the colony, including Nichols and Mabel Churchill, wife of American writer Winston Churchill.  

In 1915, after Nichols established experience in organizing discussion groups in Cornish, New Hampshire, she began to work with the Woman’s Peace Party (WPP) in Boston as a nascent member. Nichols became the Chairmen of Meetings by 11 November 1915 and sent out letters to the membership regarding the organization of anti-war conferences around the state of Massachusetts.  Nichols wrote that the aim of the conferences were to inform participants about international problems that are “pressing the civilized world” for a solution.4)Letter, Nichols to Elizabeth Glendower Evans, 1915, SCPC. Nichols believed in the three tenets set forth by her fellow founding women: that women best understood the value of preserving human life; women were committed to providing individuals the best quality of life; and that women were able to resolve conflicts without ostracizing individuals or nations.5)Linda Schott, “The Woman’s Peace Party and The Moral Basis for Women’s Pacifism” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, vol 8, no 2, (Women and Peace 1985), 19. JSTOR. (3346048).

The WPP and Nichols flexed their influential muscles again in March 1916 when several hundred Mexican guerrillas under the command of Francisco “Pancho” Villa crossed the US-Mexican border and attacked the small border town of Columbus, New Mexico. It was unclear whether Villa personally participated in the attack, but President Woodrow Wilson ordered the U.S. Army into Mexico to capture the rebel leader dead or alive.  The WPP responded by

Copy of "What the Woman's Peace Party Thinks About the Mexican Crisis"
“What the Woman’s Peace Party Thinks About the Mexican Crisis” Image courtesy of Swarthmore College Peace Collection.

writing to President Wilson an address entitled “What the Woman’s Peace Party Thinks about the Mexican Crisis” that reprimanded Wilson for sending US troops 200 miles past the US-Mexico border after Pancho Villa disappeared. The WPP demanded President Wilson consent to mediation, withdraw the troops, and ask that Congress endorse President Wilson’s Mobile address that the US would never again take any land by conquest.6)Memo to WPP members, WPP Massachusetts Collection, SCPC.

Not long after the Mexican crisis, Nichols began shifting her efforts away from the local WPP and more on the international anti-war efforts after the United States entered the war in December 1917. Nichols began traveling more to Philadelphia and Washington, DC to meet with women who had been present at the first International Congress of Women that met in The Hague in 1915. In early November 1918, Lucia Ames Mead, chairman of the Massachusetts WPP, sent a letter to Jane Addams recommending

Excerpts from Mead to Addams recommending Nichols to WILPF.
Excerpts from Mead to Addams recommending Nichols to WILPF. Images courtesy of Swarthmore College Peace Collection.

Nichols to the Zurich Congress: “As there is a vacancy, I want to propose Miss Rose Nichols of 55 Mt. Vernon St who is a very able woman whom Mrs. Andres and I think would be an acquisition. She is well-posted and is one of only a few with which [Wilson] is associated.”7)Letter, Lucia Ames Mead to Jane Addams, November 1918, WILPF Collection, SCPC. Nichols, a longtime acquaintance of Addams,  was accepted in 1918 as a delegate for the International Congress held in Zurich in 1919.

In 1919, Nichols went to the Paris Peace Conference before the Zurich Congress and sat in on all the public meetings after President Wilson refused to appoint a woman to the Peace Delegation. Wilson had written her to on 1 May that it would be impossible for him to secure her a spot in the plenary session as she

requested.8)Letter, President Wilson to Rose Nichols. The Nichols House Museum and Archive.  Nichols wanted to use the connection she made in the Cornish Colony with the President to attempt to exert political influence as the terms of peace were being negotiated.  

The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) officially declared itself an international women’s peace organization at the Zurich congress in opposition to the Treaty of Versailles set forth by Great Britain and the United States.  The women argued the treaty would only lead to more war and they became disillusioned with world leaders statements about their ability to keep the peace. But in the hopes of preventing another conflict, the women of WILPF remained determined to raise their collective voices as women for international peace.

US Delegation to the Zurich Congress in 1919, featuring Rose Nichols in back row.
The US delegation to the Zurich Congress. Rose Nichols is standing in the back row, first person on the left side. Image courtesy of Swarthmore College Peace Collection.

In WILPF Nichols continued organizing women as she did for the WPP.  By 1920, Nichols was the chairman of both the Oriental Relations Committee and the Pan-American Relations Committee.9)WILPF Meeting Minutes, 1920. SCPC.  In 1921, the women of WILPF gathered together in Vienna, Austria for the bi-annual international congress and Nichols was in attendance as the head of the Pan American Committee.  WILPF’s membership was growing in great strides in the lead-up to the Vienna Congress, due in part to Nichols’ recruitment efforts.  Emily Green Balch noted that Nichols was “doing pretty well in Japan and Mexico” and was particularly pleased that Nichols had secured at least three Japanese students and two Chinese women to attend. 10)Letter, Balch to Addams, Jane Addams Collection, SCPC.

By 1926, Nichols active involvement in WILPF had begun to taper off.  Although she was still a member until her death, her days of organizing had ended. Rose had turned fifty-four and wrote to her sister Margaret that she no longer had the vigor to continue.120 She remained a voting member until her death in 1960.

To learn more about the extraordinary life of Rose Standish Nichols, visit the Nichols House Museum.

Corinne Zaczek Bermon is earning her M.A. in History with a specialization in Archives. She earned a B.A. in American Studies in 2009 and a M.A. in American Studies in 2015 from University of Massachusetts Boston. This series of articles on Rose Standish Nichols represents her award winning research in American Studies. Currently, her work explores the social history of the Otis Everett family living in the South End of Boston in the 1850s. She is designing a digital exhibit that explores Victorian life for the merchant class conducting business in Boston and abroad through the Everett letters.

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References   [ + ]

1. Letter, Rose Nichols to Elizabeth Homer Nichols, 1911. The Schlesinger Library.
2. Judith Tankard, A Place of Beauty: The Artists and Gardens of the Cornish Colony (Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2000), 16.
3. Ibid, 34.
4. Letter, Nichols to Elizabeth Glendower Evans, 1915, SCPC.
5. Linda Schott, “The Woman’s Peace Party and The Moral Basis for Women’s Pacifism” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, vol 8, no 2, (Women and Peace 1985), 19. JSTOR. (3346048).
6. Memo to WPP members, WPP Massachusetts Collection, SCPC.
7. Letter, Lucia Ames Mead to Jane Addams, November 1918, WILPF Collection, SCPC.
8. Letter, President Wilson to Rose Nichols. The Nichols House Museum and Archive.
9. WILPF Meeting Minutes, 1920. SCPC.
10. Letter, Balch to Addams, Jane Addams Collection, SCPC.

The Peaceful Gardener: Rose Standish Nichols & the Peace Movement (Part II)

By Corinne Zaczek Bermon

To learn about how her family and tutors influenced Rose Nichols, read Part I.

In this second post exploring the world of Rose Standish Nichols, we begin with those who impacted her life and end with her tutelage in landscape architecture.

Rose Nichols was highly influenced by her parents, Arthur Howard Nichols and Elizabeth Homer Nichols, and her two younger sisters, Margaret and Marian, as they grew into adulthood.  Arthur Nichols grew up in Boston’s North End; he graduated from Harvard College in 1862 and Harvard Medical School in 1866.  Arthur Nichols did not grow up in a Brahmin family, but rather as part of the well-educated middling class.  His entrance into Harvard College allowed him to enter into the upper class, by facilitating his marriage into such a family. Arthur Nichols loved to travel in Europe, a passion he passed onto Rose, and as a single man, he continued his medical studies in Paris, Vienna and Berlin.  In 1869, he married Elizabeth Fischer Homer from the prominent Homer family in Roxbury Highlands,

The Nichols House Museum in Beacon Hill
The Nichols family home, now a museum.

Massachusetts.  Arthur became a renowned holistic doctor in Beacon Hill, practicing in the family home at 55 Mount Vernon Street and for several decades was the “summer doctor” at Rye Beach, New Hampshire, where the family spent their summers before buying a home in Cornish, NH.1)B. June Hutchinson, “Macdaddy Doodadle, Doodadle Macdade, Mactaddy Doddadle Day” The Nichols House Museum and Archive. http://www.nicholshousemuseum.org/pdf/nichols_family/macdaddy_doodadle.pdf.

Aside from her parents, Nichols tutors in landscape design also influenced her social activism.  Nichols was only eighteen when her family bought their summer home and from the very beginning, Nichols’ uncle, the famous sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, pushed his favorite niece to take up garden design after admiring the walled

garden she created at the Nichols’ Cornish, NH summer home, dubbed Mastlands, in the Cornish Colony.  In 1889, after the family had purchased Mastlands, Saint-Gaudens introduced Rose to Charles Platt, a self-trained architect and landscape architect. Platt was one of America’s most influential 20th century designers and was influential in the emergence of the style Beaux-Arts, which Nichols favored throughout her career.2)Cynthia Zaitzevsky, Long Island Landscapes and the Women Who Designed Them (New York: WW Norton &Company, 2009), 200-203.  Along with Saint-Gaudens, Platt encouraged Nichols to travel the world and study gardens in many European countries. Studying with Platt led Nichols to study drafting and lessons in horticulture from Benjamin Watson at the Bussey Institute at Harvard, located adjacent to the Arnold Arboretum in the neighborhood of Jamaica Plain.  At the Bussey Institute, Nichols was encouraged to study in Paris at Ecole des Beaux-Arts.

Perhaps the most influential of her landscape design mentors was H. Inigo Triggs in London.  Rose set sail on the SS New England on 27 February 1901 for Liverpool, England with friend, Ellen Cushings and traveled to London to become Triggs’ apprentice.3)Arthur Howard Nichols papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.  Triggs, already an acclaimed landscape architect by the time Nichols joined him in London, had built his career on designing formal gardens and

Copy of the Nichols' first book on gardening, English Pleasure Gardens.
Copy of the Nichols’ first book on gardening, English Pleasure Gardens.

country houses and specialized in historical research to re-create gardens of the past.  During her tenure with Triggs, Rose Nichols finished her research and wrote English Pleasure Gardens, published 19 November 1902.4)Ibid.

It was under Triggs that Nichols began to connect landscape design and city planning to her vision of world peace.  Triggs gave a brief review of the great awakening throughout the world in city development in his book, Town Planning, Past, Present and Possible, which he was working on from the time Nichols apprenticed with Triggs until its publication in 1910.  Triggs gave special consideration to small parks, claiming that peaceful public spaces led to a peaceful state of mind for city dwellers.5)H. Inigo Triggs, Town Planning: Past, Present and Possible. (London: Methuen & Co, 1910), 12-15.  Triggs, himself a pacifist, instilled in his pupil the idea that the promotion of peace did not only have to come in the form of marches and campaigns but through the designing of landscapes, parks and gardens. When Nichols returned from her apprenticeship with Triggs in June 1903, she had adopted this idea, and over the next fifteen years she would use this principle as a way to promote her peace agenda in Europe. In the same year of her return, Nichols became the first woman listed under the heading of “landscape architect” in the Boston City Directory,  and she kept an office at 5 Park Street downtown while she began traveling between New York, Boston and Chicago working on various projects.  Early in her career, Nichols received commissions in Lake Forest, Illinois; Boston; Massachusetts; Long Island, New York; and Newport, Rhode Island. Her reputation grew and she worked in more distant areas such as Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Augusta, Georgia; Tucson, Arizona; and Santa Barbara, California by the 1920s.  Her work was especially valued by her patrons in the Southwest, since her travels to arid Spain in her youth and with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom  gave her a special knowledge in solving problems that were inherent to making a successful garden in a desert.6)Mary Bonson Hartt, “Women and the Art of Landscape Gardening,” The Outlook, vol 88, No 13, (March 28, 1908), 702. https://books.google.com/books?isbn=078648733X

In the next segment, we will learn about Rose Nichols’ work in the Woman’s Peace Party and WILPF during and after World War I.

To learn more about Rose Standish Nichols, visit the Nichols House Museum and take a tour!

Corinne Zaczek Bermon is earning her M.A. in History with a specialization in Archives. She earned a B.A. in American Studies in 2009 and a M.A. in American Studies in 2015 from University of Massachusetts Boston. This series of articles on Rose Standish Nichols represents her award winning research in American Studies. Currently, her work explores the social history of the Otis Everett family living in the South End of Boston in the 1850s. She is designing a digital exhibit that explores Victorian life for the merchant class conducting business in Boston and abroad through the Everett letters.

Please follow and like us:

References   [ + ]

1. B. June Hutchinson, “Macdaddy Doodadle, Doodadle Macdade, Mactaddy Doddadle Day” The Nichols House Museum and Archive. http://www.nicholshousemuseum.org/pdf/nichols_family/macdaddy_doodadle.pdf.
2. Cynthia Zaitzevsky, Long Island Landscapes and the Women Who Designed Them (New York: WW Norton &Company, 2009), 200-203.
3. Arthur Howard Nichols papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
4. Ibid.
5. H. Inigo Triggs, Town Planning: Past, Present and Possible. (London: Methuen & Co, 1910), 12-15.
6. Mary Bonson Hartt, “Women and the Art of Landscape Gardening,” The Outlook, vol 88, No 13, (March 28, 1908), 702. https://books.google.com/books?isbn=078648733X