Women Strike for Peace

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Women Strike for Peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Women Strike for Peace (WSP, also known as Women for Peace) is a United States women's peace activist group. In 1961, at the height of the Cold War, about 50,000 women brought together by Women Strike for Peace marched in 60 cities in the United States to demonstrate against nuclear weapons. It was the largest national women's peace protest of the 20th century.[1] About 1,500 women led by Dagmar Wilson gathered at the foot of the Washington Monument and President John F. Kennedy watched from a window at the White House. The protest helped "push the United States and the Soviet Union into signing a nuclear test-ban treaty two years later".[1][2]

History[edit]

Women Strike for Peace was founded by Bella Abzug and Dagmar Wilson in 1961,[3][4] and was initially part of the movement for a ban on nuclear testing[5] and to end the Vietnam war, first demanding a negotiated settlement, and later total United States withdrawal from Southeast Asia. They used many tactics that were different forms of legal pressure that include petitions, demonstrations, letter writing, mass lobbies, lawsuits and lobbied individual Congressmen with a proxy request from the Congressman's constituent. They also had a few forms of illegal, nonviolent direct action activities that included sit-ins in congressional offices, and statements of complicity with draft resisters aimed at tying up the courts [6]

They played a crucial role, perhaps the crucial role (according to Eric Bentley[7]), in bringing down the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC); were acknowledged by both U Thant and John F. Kennedy as a factor in the adoption of the Limited Test Ban Treaty (signed August 5, 1963), and (in early 1964); and were among the first Americans to oppose the Vietnam War.[8][9]

On November 1, 1961, at the height of the Cold War, about 50,000 women brought together by Women Strike for Peace marched in 60 cities in the United States to demonstrate against nuclear weapons. It was the largest national women's peace protest of the 20th century.[1] About 1,500 women led by Dagmar Wilson gathered at the foot of the Washington Monument and President John F. Kennedy watched from a window at the White House. The protest helped "push the United States and the Soviet Union into signing a nuclear test-ban treaty two years later".[1][2]

These women were moved to drastic action by the Soviet resumption of atmospheric nuclear tests, after a three-year moratorium and by the United States’ declaration that it would hold its own tests in retaliation . The group consisted mainly of married-with-children middle-class white women. Its early tactics—including marches and street demonstrations of a sort very uncommon in the U.S. at that time—in many ways prefigured those of the anti-Vietnam War movement and of Second-wave feminism. The roots of the organization lay in the traditional female culture- the role women played as full-time wives and mothers and its rhetoric in those years drew heavily on traditional images of motherhood. In particular, in protesting atmospheric nuclear testing, they emphasized that Strontium-90 from nuclear fallout was being found in mother's milk and commercially sold cow's milk, presenting their opposition to testing as a motherhood issue,[4] what Katha Pollitt has called "a maternity-based logic for organizing against nuclear testing."[6] As middle-class mothers, they were less vulnerable to the redbaiting that had held in check much radical activity in the United States since the McCarthy Era.[4] The image projected by WSP of respectable middle-class, middle-aged ladies wearing white gloves and flowered hats, picketing the White House and protesting to the Kremlin to save their children and the planet, helped to legitimize a radical critique of the Cold War and U.S militarism.

WSP remained a significant voice in the peace movement throughout the 1980s and '90s, speaking out against U.S. intervention in Latin America and the Persian Gulf states. On June 12, 1982, Women Strike for Peace helped organize one million people who demanded an end to the arms race. In 1988 they supported Carolyna Marks in the creation of the Unique Berkeley Peace Wall, as well as similar walls in Oakland, Moscow, Hiroshima and Israel (a joint Jewish and Palestinian children's Peace Wall). In 1991, they protested the Iraq-Persian Gulf War; afterwards, they urged the American government to lift sanctions on Iraq. In the late 1990s Women Strike for Peace mainly focused on nuclear disarmament.[10][11]

Structure and Chapters[edit]

The WSP method is characterized by nonhierarchical, loosely structured “unorganizational” format that gives nearly total autonomy to its local chapters, and uses consensus methods. Some of the local chapters rapidly became very strong groups in their own right.

In January 1962, Berkeley Women for Peace had a thousand women attend the California legislative session to oppose civil defense legislation.[5] Affiliate Seattle Women Act for Peace (SWAP) played a significant role in the protests against the Trident submarine base at Bangor, Washington. [1]

In 1962, the members of the advance party of Women Strike for Peace met with Gertrude Baer, who at the time was the secretary for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) in Geneva at the Seventeen-Nation Disarmament Conference. With their sights set on antimilitarism they allied themselves with four other peace women's organizations: WILPF, Women's Peace Society (WPS) (which was founded in 1919 by Fanny Garrison Villard, daughter of the nineteenth century abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison), the Women's Peace Union (WPU), and the National Committee of the Causes and Cure of War (NCCCW).[3]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Woo, Elaine (January 30, 2011). "Dagmar Wilson dies at 94; organizer of women's disarmament protesters". Los Angeles Times. 
  2. ^ a b Hevesi, Dennis (January 23, 2011). "Dagmar Wilson, Anti-Nuclear Leader, Dies at 94". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ http://www.uic.edu/depts/lib/specialcoll/services/rjd/findingaids/WomenForPeacef.html
  4. ^ Seattle Women Act for Peace (SWAP) archives on the site of the University of Washington. Accessed April 9, 2006.
  5. ^ Sarah V. Safstrom, A Proud History of Women Advocating for Peace, National NOW Times, Spring 2003. Accessed April 9, 2006.
  6. ^ Amy Swerdlow.Women Strike for Peace: Traditional Motherhood and Radical Politics in the 1960s. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.
  7. ^ Eric Bentley, ed. (2002). "Afterword". Thirty Years of Treason: Excerpts from Hearings Before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, 1938–1968. Nation Books. pp. 950–951. ISBN 1-56025-368-1. 
  8. ^ Rebecca Solnit, Three Who Made a Revolution, The Nation, posted March 16, 2006 (April 3, 2006 issue). Accessed April 9, 2006.
  9. ^ Women Strike for Peace on the site of san.beck.org. Accessed April 9, 2006.
  10. ^ http://www.history.com/topics/women-strike-for-peace--wsp
  11. ^ http://womenforpeace.org/history.htm

Further reading[edit]

  • Swerdlow, Amy, Women Strike for Peace: Traditional Motherhood and Radical Politics in the 1960s. University of Chicago Press (1993). ISBN 0-226-78635-8.

External links[edit]