In the wake of World War II, the deadliest war in history, involving 30 countries and more than 50 million deaths, Doris Twitchell Allen found hope in the future.
“I knew that the ultimate source of peace, long range, lay with children,” said Allen, a psychology professor at the University of Cincinnati.
In 1950, she founded Children’s International Summer Villages, today known as CISV International, a nonprofit organization that conducts camps for kids from all around the world to promote cultural understanding in the interest of world peace.
Allen, born in Maine in 1901, received degrees in chemistry and biology from the University of Maine and a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Michigan. She also did post-graduate studies in Germany in the 1930s.
She married Erastus S. Allen, a patent attorney from Glendale, in 1935, and moved to Cincinnati, where she founded and was the first director of psychological services at Children’s Hospital before heading to UC.
When her 5-year-old son asked if someday he would have to go off to war, Allen was inspired to work toward change and created CISV to encourage friendship between children across nations. She determined the optimal age to reach the children was 11, before they “grow up and have prejudices,” she said.
It took five years for Allen to develop the CISV plan. She and her husband raised the money from their friends in Cincinnati.
The first CISV “village” was held in Glendale in June 1951. The delegates included six children from Cincinnati and 42 from eight different nations: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, England, France, Mexico, Germany and Austria.
The student delegates were greeted at Union Terminal by Mayor Albert D. Cash. Councilman Charles P. Taft gave a speech, part in English, part in French, to make the visitors feel more at home.
The month-long camp was held at St. Edmund’s Camp on Chester Road, where they had swimming, arts and crafts, chores, entertainment shows and a “children’s parliament,” in which the delegates debated and voted on camp issues as lessons in self-government.
Most importantly, the village connected people from different cultures, backgrounds and languages who collaborated and became friends.
“The children had no trouble working and playing together, although many of them could not understand the others’ language,” The Enquirer reported about the first day of the village in 1951. “…They called on each other, rather than on the adults, to interpret for them.”
Other cities and nations asked to be involved, and the organization has truly become global. CISV International has camps in 69 countries that have reached more than 230,000 participants.
Allen was recognized for her work with many honors, and was even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, the year Mother Teresa was honored. She continued in the leadership of CISV and visited their villages across the globe.
In 2001, when Allen was 100 years old, she returned to Glendale for the dedication of Tim Werrell’s sculpture, “How Alike I Am to You,” at the Harry Whiting Brown Community Center to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first CISV village.
Allen died in 2002, having lived her motto: “The power of love is stronger than the love of power.”
Sources: “Growth in Attitudes Favorable to Peace” by Doris Twitchell Allen (“Merrill-Palmer Quarterly of Behavior and Development”), Washington Post, Psychology’s Feminist Voices, cisv.org, Enquirer files