WOMEN AGAINST WAR AND EMPIRE
A Few Books
Two Talks by Dick Bennett
Women Against War (slide show): Addams, Goldman, Rankin, Fonda, Rumpf
Women Writers Against War: Boyle and Baez
Special No. of Works and Days: Invisible Battlegrounds: Feminist Resistance in the Global Age of War and Imperialism Vol. 29, 2011, 19 essays.
Sexed Pistols: The Gendered Impacts of Small Arms and Light Weapons. Edited by Vanessa Farr, Henri Myrttinen and Albrecht Schnabel. United Nations
World Tribunal on Iraq: Making the Case against War. Ed by Muge Gursoy Sokmen. Olive Branch Press
Women and the Politics of Military Confrontation: Palestinian and Israeli Gendered Narratives of Dislocation. Ed by Nahla Abdo and Ronit Lentin
(SOME) WOMEN PRO-WAR?
Tara McKelvey. One of the Guys: Women as Aggressors and Torturers. Seal, 2007.
WOMEN AGAINST WAR
By Dick Bennett
Women’s Festival March 4-8, 1999
Slide 1880, age 20 Of the early influences on her Jane Addams’ life, I must summarize quickly. Her creation of a peaceful, caring community for the poor in Chicago, called Hull House, in 1885,helped shape her character. Slide Addams in 1888 age 28 Society female charity was not unusual in the late nineteenth century, but Jane and her friend Ellen Starr lived with the poor in the heart of an immigrant slum. But what was more unusual was her conviction that the benefactor benefitted more than the poor by the close relationship. Out of these settlement houses, as they were called, arose campaigns for recreation facilities, better sanitation, protection for female workeers, abolition of child labor, improvement in education, and woman’s suffrage. There she learned to swim upstream against the old destructive ways, and there she began to imagine the possibility of a peaceful community on a global scale.
Slide #3: 1896 age 36 In 1896 she visited Leo Tolstoy, the novelist, reformer, and pacifist in Russia. Tolstoy was so offended by the enormous contrast between the rich and poor that he moved to a village to live with the peasants in order better to find and further his ideals of Christian brotherhood and world peace.
And in 1898 the Spanish American War led to conflict with Filipino insurgents seeking independence from Spain and the U. S. Pres. McKinley’s decision to annex the Philippines caused many outstanding figures—from Mark Twain to Andrew Carnegie—to denounce the war and to form the Anti-Imperialist League.
Making the connection between the war against poor people in Chicago and the war against Spain and the Filipinos, and noticing an increase of violent street crime in Chicago and violent play by children, Addams joined the Anti-Imperialist League. She began to speak out at public meetings against the way patriotism was becoming equated with nationalism, saluting the flag, and singing “America” instead of advancing peaceful communities and a peaceful world. Why was not the courage and self-sacrifice required in wartime applied to the urgent peacetime needs for justice? But her approach was not accusatory; rather she appealed to the altruism of her listeners and offered practical solutions. 3 Slides between Sp-Am war and WWI, in her 40s and 50s
Between the Spanish-American-Filipino War and the beginning of WWI, for her zealous work to alleviate the conditions in the cities, Addams became one of the most respected persons in the U. S., virtually a saint to many. She was particularly admired by women for her advocacy of a larger voice in society by women.
When WWI began, she turned her energies to encouraging mediation among the belligerents and later to seeking to keep the U. S. from being drawn into the war. 2 Slides yr 1915 In Jan. 1915 she chaired a meeting in Washington of 3000 women united over the issue of peace. From this meeting was formed the Woman’s Peace Party, and Addams became its leader.
That spring, while millions of British and French troops fought Germans along a system of shifting trenches from the Swiss border to the English Channel, Addams presided at a conference at The Hague in Holland of 1100 women joined in a common horror over the war. Delegations came from both the belligerent and neutral countries. It was an audacious achievement, particularly since none of the women had the right to vote and all, including Addams by then, were the objects of vicious attacks by prowar nationalists. From The Hague, the women traveled across Europe to talk to heads of state for an end to the war. But all of the leaders declared their only desire was for an honorable peace, which was made impossible by their enemies’ aggression. Nor could Addams persuade Pres. Wilson to take an initiative toward neutral mediation.
But as stories of German atrocities multiplied, and German U-boat assaults on merchant ships increased, the U.S. populace turned violent, and to many citizens Addams’ opposition to the war was unpatriotic. But she and the Woman’s Peace Party continued to press for a mediated peace. This effort was made increasingly hopeless by the louder voices for war. Theodore Roosevelt attacked Pres. Wilson as a coward. Finally, Pres. Wilson submitted to the pressures, called for mobilization, and the country turned to war in a hysterical Crusade. The pacifist in wartime is hated. In the beginning, those who question the war are praised; after a time they are doubted; and, once the nation declares war, they are reviled.
When the war ended slide yr 1920 age 60, immediately about half of the women who attended The Conference in 1915 met in Geneva to discuss the peace treaty. They protested the continuing Allied blockade and the harsh treaty, which, they rightly observed, carried the seeds of another war. And they formed a permanent organization, The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, with Jane Addams elected its first president.
Admiration for Addams and even reverence extended worldwide, but her enemies in the U.S. were many. Only gradually did she regain a majority of supporters in her own country. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. 4 Slides in her 70s
6 slides of Goldman late 19th and early 20th c. To many, The Hague Conference and Addams’ other efforts to change war into peace seemed naïve. But we might recall that had their proposals been accepted, Europe would have been spared the slaughter of a generation of men, and the world might have avoided the next world war. And there is another factor which undercuts proponents of WWI and strengthens their opponents in our eyes. The war was over territory and resources; it was a Europian colonial war fought over commercial empires in Asia and Africa. Consider also that by the time the U.S. sent troops to the battlefields, U.S. prosperity depended heavily on an Allied victory to ensure repayment of war loans and credits for the purchase of munitions and supplies, which by 1917 exceeded two billion dollars. Jane Addams minimized these arguments in her opposition to war, while stressing the brutality, the waste of resources, the diversion from social problems.
But the anarchist and socialist Emma Goldman emphasized the economic motives. To Emma and other socialists, this was a capitalist war that workingpeople should reject utterly. And the leaders of the Socialist Party, Eugene Debs and Kate O’Hare, went to prison for their opposition to it.
Since the outbreak of the war in 1914, Ms. Goldman had lectured frequently on such topics as “The Speculators in War and Starvation.” After the declaration of war in April 1917 and the passage of the draft, at the age of 48 she threw herself with her usual gusto into opposition by helping to organize the No-Conscription League. The aim of the League was to oppose militarism as an absolute evil, to oppose all wars by capitalist governents, and to aid conscientious objectors.
The response was tremendously enthusiastic. Some 8000 people attended her anticonscription speech and rally in May. In June she and her great friend Alexander Berkman spoke again to thousands on the day before and after draft registration day, and numerous soldiers and patriots threw light bulbs and other objects at her, while heavily armed police stood waiting. Witnesses said that her astonishing composure held the crowd from violence. Slide EG and Berkman awaiting trial
After the second speech in June, the police arrested her and Berkman without warrant at her magazine office and confiscated all of her anarchist records (never returned to her). Gaining a few minutes to change into suitable attire, she returned garbed in a gown of “royal purple.” Bail was set at the exorbitant amount of $25,000. They acted as their own lawyers at their trial, where they were accused of many crimes, though their anarchism and socialism were the real crimes in the mind of the prosecution. The trial focused on their alleged advocacy of violence and assassination, which both denied. Goldman argued that she tried to explain the causes of violence. Here is one sentence from her 2-hour long summation: “an act of political violence at the bottom is the culminating result of organized violence on top. It is the result of violence which expresses itself in war, which expresses itself in capital punihsment, which expresses itself in courts and prison, which expresses itself in kicking and hounding people for the only crime they are guilty of: of having been born poor.”
I did not convey in my account of Jane Addams how savage became the persecution of antiwar activists during 1917 and for several years afterward: lynchings, beatings, tarring and featherings, offices destroyed, papers seized, mass arrests. All of the I.W.W. and Socialist Party leaders were imprisoned and their media suppressed. Goldman’s magazine Mother Earth also was suppressed. Goldman and Berkman were sentenced to two years in prison, fined $10,000 each, and threatened with deportation on release. She wrote a friend that it was a small price to pay for her anarchist ideals.
In prison, despite having to work making uniforms 9 hours a day six days a week, she nurtured other prisoners and kept up her anarchist, anti-police state, and anti-war activities, by writing hundreds of letters of reading newspapers and books. She especially followed the various trials of anti-war resisters—for example, the trial of several young anarchists sentenced to 20-year jail terms for protesting U.S. military intervention in Russia against the Bolsheviks.
Emma Goldman was released in 1919 into the Red Scare of violent opposition to alleged Bolsheviks—that is against poor workers trying to organize for better wages. She was soon deported amid the deportations delirium of the times. 2 slides: 1929 and 1934
Show all slides of JR in her 30s and 40s Like all the other women against war, Jeannette Rankin yearned for a world at peace, governed by democratic principles, and embracing equal opportunity and representation for all people. As leader of the suffrage campaign that enfranchised Montana women in 1914, she introduced legislation which led to the enfranchisement in 1919 of all women citizens of the U. S. She worked as a social worker; she worked as a seamstress to learn firsthand about the problems of working women. She was twice elected to Congress. She was the first woman ever elected to a legislative body in a western democracy—the US House of Representatives.
But Rankin is best known for her principled stand on issues of world peace. Most notably, she was the only member to vote against the US’s entrance into both World Wars.
Her message was simple: there is always an alternative to war.. In 1917, four days after she became a U. S. Rep., the House voted 373 to 50, to enter WWI. Siding with the minority, Rankin declared on the floor of the House: “I cannot vote for war.” Over 20 years later, after Montana voters had again returned her to Congress, she cast the lone dissenting vote on the Declaration of War Against Japan, saying: “As a woman I cannot go to war, and I refuse to send anyone else.” After the end of WWII, she consistently criticized the Cold War, including the Korean and the Vietnam wars. Increasingly she associated U.S. imperialism with the power of the conspiratorial military-industrial complex.
Yet never was she an isolationist, but exactly the opposite, a thoroughgoing internationalist. What ever happens in one part of the world happens in another part, she said. The world was interdependent. She was an internationalist pacifist. She objected to the use of U.S. military force anywhere in the world, except for the defense of the continental U.S.
Her great hopes for peace lay with women. “We could have peace in one year if women were organized,” she remarked. “The peace problem is a woman’s problem. Disarmament will not be won without their aid. …There is no other way in which peace can be realized except through forbearance from fighting on the part of men as well as women….Therefore peace is a woman’s job.” As early as 1909 she became convinced that the Suffrage and Peace movements must be inseparable. In 1915 she joined the Woman’s Peace Party, headed by Jane Addams. Subesequently she belonged to the National committee on the Cause and Cure of War, the Women’s Peace Union, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and finally the National Council for Prevention of War. And she founded the Georgia Peace Society. Often she was in conflict with these organizations because of their timidity. From the 1920s though the 1960s she urged women to eradicate war as an instrument of diplomacy. How? By massive grassroots campaigning for members and to educated women about peace, by inculcating their children with “peace habits,” by participating in peace societies and anti-war demonstrations, by organizing consumer boycotts, by being active in politics. Even at the age of 88, Jeannette Rankin was still active for world peace. In 1968, she organized the Jeannette Rankin Brigade and led thousands of women in a march on Capitol Hill to protest the war in Vietnam, and considered running for Congress again.
Before she died in 1973, she declared: “If I had my life to live over, I would do it all again, but this time I’d be nastier.” Feminist, pacifist, JR was another great upstream woman swimmer in this century.
All of these women swam upstream against the government for their dissent. Jane Fonda’s FBI file numbers 763 pages, and each page is headed by the words “Jane Fonda, Security Matters, Anarchist.” J. Edgar Hoover’s police state bigotry led him to hound anyone he perceived to be unpatriotic. For example, he authorized an agent in L. A. to send a completely false letter about Fonda to a gossip columnist. The letter claimed in part that she supported a Black Panther rally that solicited funds to buy guns for “the coming revolution,” and that she led a chant “We will kill Richard Nixon, and any other motherfucker who stands in our way.” Other critics were as vicious. Two congressmen, demanded that she be tried for treason. The Manchester (N.H.) Union-Leader editorially called fo her to be shot, and in a debate in the Maryland state legislature, several members suggested that “she either be hanged or have her tongue cut out.” And to this day she is a hated target of the Republican right.
But let me tell about her work for peace. But first a look at the nonpolitical Fonda: slides 1-2. Just after her first really great film in 1968, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, for which she received an Oscar nomination for best actress, Ms. Fonda saw a French documentary about the massacre of hundreds of Vietnamese civilians by U. S. soldiers at My Lai and elsewhere in Vietnam. Other events led her to react intensely to the film. Kennedy and King had been assassinated. The students were rioting in the streets of Paris over educational reform. The entire Tet Offensive had been shown on French tv. And unrest in the U.S. also was extensively covered by French tv. A half-million people marched on the Pentagon. Immediately she accepted an invitation to traavel to India, to experience poverty firsthand, and that experience intensified her change. Then she travelled to Alcatraz, which Indians had “liberated.” From there, she visited an Indian reservation to learn more about American Indian problems.
There, at Fort Lawton, Puget Sound, Washington, she had her first encounter with the police. She became intangled in a violent demonstration when the Indians tried to take over the Fort, and she was arrested along with several Indians and a friend, but not jailed. Her enthusiasm was only made stronger. After that she travelled the country speaking in support of Native Americans, welfare mothers, the Black Panthers, Mexican grape workers, and others.
And she joined the growing outcry against President Nixon’s continuation of the Vietnam War, which became her chief protest. She drove herself relentlessly night and day to speak against the war wherever invited. In less than a year she had become an entirely different person. And in 1970 the FBI began its file on Jane Fonda, Anarchist. Although much is blacked out, they offer some verbatim record of her speeches. Her biographer found not one anarchist call for violent revolution or mutiny by U.S. troops in Vietnam.
But she did exhort her audiences (2,500 at UT Arlington in 1970) to protest the war peacefully and to resist the growing repression, the censorship, the unjust laws, the “racist, oppressive, totalitarian system.” And then the government struck at her directly. As part of Pres. Nixon’s “Enemies List,” ordering all government agencies to harass these enemies any way they could. Fonda had been placed on a US Customs Dept. list as a notorious drug user. So she was detained at the Cleveland Airport, her address book photocopied, she was handcuffed and strip searched, and then charged with assaulting an officer and attempting to smuggle illegal drugs. She faced 3 years for the assault, 5 years for the drug charge. Slide 3.
But she had a only a bottle of valium and a prescription for them, and she had not attacked the officer, so the charges were dropped, partly because Nixon did not want to reveal his “Enemies List.”
This was the initial occasion for another expression of protest by Jane Fonda. She later sued the government for numerous violations of her civil rights, which exposed the gov’t’s illegal wiretaps, breakins, seizures, vast illegal records in several federal agencies, though the gov/t stonewalled throughout the six years of the suit. Finally the gov’t admitted all its crimes and promised not to do them again.
The expenses of her antiwar campaign took all of her money. So she returned to filming, making Klute, for which she won an Oscar. Slide 4. And then in July 1972 she flew to Hanoi. There she continued her regular attack on Richard Nixon, she directly addressed soldiers about US violations of international law, and appealed to them for compassion, and she denounced the bombings, especially of the system of dikes. Slide 5.
On her return she faced a firestorm of accusations of treason, hate mail, and death mail. Slide 6. Then she threw herself into the George Mcgovern campaign for President. But she was reviled, spat upon, doused with red paint. It was the darkest time of her life. She would not have another studio film offering for five years. She was broke again. But the war ended, Nixon was thrown out of office, she returned to films, but she married the activist Tom Hayden slide 7 and continued to campaign for human rights…..and you know the rest of her story.
I don’t know anything about Ms. Cohen-Joppa’s youth. In contrast to Jane Fonda’s several husbands and one child, Felice has been married to the same man for 17 years, and they have two children, and have lived in Tucson since 1986. Felice and Jack began The Nuclear Resister newsletter in pass around in 1980. The newsletter or magazine chronicles anti-nuclear and anti-war civil disobedience and provides support for men and women imprisoned as a result of these actions. They also help to coordinate the U.S. Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu. And they are war tax resisters, refusing to pay taxes for the military machine. They have been involved for two decades in numerous efforts for peace and justice and a nuclear-free future: vigils, demonstrations, civil disobedience actions in Arizona, around the US, and in the U.K. and Israel. In the past year they have participated in civil disobedience actions at the Nevada Test Site, the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, and two citizens’ weapons inspection actions, searching for weapons of mass destruction—one at the Dimona nuclear facility in Israel, and one at Davis Monathan AFB in Tucson, where depleted uranium is stored (a radioactive, toxic substance, first used in battle during the Gulf War, and very likely responsible for birth defects, cancers, and other illnesses in Gulf War veterans and Iraqis).
Here are some slides she sent me.
Slide 1: Mother’s Day Action May 1988, at the Nevada Test Site walking up with other women to cross over/”trespass” onto the test site in protest of nuclear weapons and to help reclaim the land for the Western Shoshone. Felice walks between the two women wearing hats and wears a t-shirt of a mother handing the earth to her baby which reads “Children Ask the World of Us” and on a string around her neck a photo of her then small children, Cassidy and Emma.
Slide 2: After being rounded up by security police at the test site on Mother’s Day, arrested, and handcuffed.
Slide 3: Felice center, Jack holding smaller sign. 1994, a protest outside San Xavier del Bac, an old Jesuit mission outside of Tucson. Because the crew of the USS Tucson was in town and due to visit there, Felice and Jack organized a vigil to meet them and to talk also with tourists, to contrast the Navy PR and wide media reporting of “how great it was to have our town’s name on something capable of so much destruction. The priest welcomed us and let us have a soup line in front of the mission to dramatize the theft of money the USS Tucson represents while human needs go unmet.
Slide 4: Summer 1997, Felice in blue jeans and purple shirt, her daughter Emma in white shorts, joining the Greenham Common Women’s anti-nuclear Peace Camp in England.
Slide 5: September 1997, with Scott Duffy in Tel Aviv during a week long international series of actions in Israel to publicize the imprisoned world hero whistleblower Mordechai Nanunu. Vanunu has served 18 years in prison, 12 of those in solitary confinement, for telling the world about Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal. Only last year was he released from solitary.
Slide 6: September 1998, outside Hebron, Israel next to a Palestinian home which had been recently demolished by the Israeli authorities—the husban beaten and imprisoned, the wife and child taking refuge in a Red Cross tent. Felice is between two friends, one of whom is pointing to the razed hillside where the family’s livelihood, an old orchard, was also destroyed.
The motto of their newsletter, The Nuclear Resister, is “A chronicle of hope.” That might epitomize Felice Cohen-Joppa’s life as well.
It was Felice who led me to Kathleen Rumpf. Ms Rumpf is in federal prison in Ft Worth for altering the entrance sign to Fort Benning, Georgia.. She is a long member of Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker movement, a militant pacifist group, and consequently has been arrested many times—80 in fact. Her longest time in jail was 18 months for hammering on a B-52 at Griffiss Air Force Base in 1983. You might remember the notorious Griffiss Ploushares 7, 7 women classified as terrorists under Pres. Reagan’s Cold War Regime and placed in the maximum security federal penitentiary at Alderson, W. Va., where the Puerto Rican nationalists and Squeaky Fromme, who tried to assassinate Pres. Ford, were kept?
She keeps that hammer on a wall in her office, at least when she is not in prison. Engraved on it is the message: “This is our cry, this is our prayer: Peace in the World.” The hammer has figured importantly in her life in other ways. She used it to build a wooden cage outside the Onondaga County jail to protest the shackling of prisoners, and lived in it for 9 days. Her permanent home is the Jail Ministry collective in Syracuse, NY, of which she is the unpaid manager.
Her Catholic Worker background helps explain how the daughter of a military family and one-time supporter of Richard Nixon could become a militant protester of national wrongs. Dorothy Day adhered to a concept of a nonviolent activist Jesus wo taught justice, love, civil disobedience—and street theater. Rumpf spent ten years working in the Catholic worker hostel in Manhattan’s Bowery. The radical change in her life came there in 1971. A visiting doctor recently returned from Vietnam told her about his job amputating atrophied legs of war victims. He showed her some slides. She went into shock at the sight of victims, and she eventually concluded that she could not live without struggling against the state of the world. From there she turned from the downstream symptoms of society to working to change the dysfunctional upstream causes. Just as Jesus sought to change Israel’s priorities, Ms. Rumpf seeks to change the U.S. warfare state and redirect money for weapons and killing to money for housing, and food, and poor children, and schools, and neighborhoods—and criminals. “When I go into the jail, I don’t see criminals,” she said, “I see hurting people.”
The following story illustrates two things: one about the judicial system, the other about Ms. Rumpf.
Once she was charged with destruction of government property at the Dept. of Energy, for spray-painting “Dept. of Extinction” on it. She told the judge that she had always been taught that telling the truth was good, and that she did not destroy government property, but enhanced it. The judge let her go free from the felony charge. You can either applaud the independent, non-vindictive judge and say the system works, or you can remember the 79 other judges who functioned as agents of the U.S. military-industrial complex and punished her. But we can be sure about Ms. Rumpf’s strong sense of humor, and this one judge appreciated the “creativity” of her argument.
Her indomitable good humor comes through in everything about her. You can see it in the photo with flowers. On the envelope to me she wrote “Be All You Can Be. Work for Peace,” which she accompanied with a smiling face. In her final address to the jury in the Ft. Benning case for which she is now incarcerated (changing their sign to say “School of Americas School of Shame,” she thanked the jury for their time and presence as a gift. But she added, “As much as I have appreciated having this time together I would rather not be here.” She is a large woman. When warned police during one rough arrest, “I’ll go limp!”
But that humor does not allow her to evade the truth about her country’s atrocities against other nations and peoples, a history of aggression of which the School of Americas /Assassins is only a small part. She remembers, the constant nuclear threatening of the Soviet Union during the Cold War as our B-52s flew straight at the Soviet border to trigger their radar system, and the dozen other times when we threatened to use our nuclear arsenal, she remembers the illegal chemical warfare in Korea and Vietnam, she remembers the illegal invasions and air war against about 25 nations—Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Libya, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and on and on. She remembers and she feels responsible for trying to stop it. She told her Ft. Benning jury this parable: A group of women were washing clothes when they saw a baby floating down the river. They rushed to save it. The next day there were two, and day after day the number increased. Sometimes the babies were alive, sometimes dead. Finally, one woman began walking upstream. The others cried out, “Where are you going?” She replied: “I’m going upstream to find the bastard who’s throwing them in!”
All of these six peace heroines are the women saving the children, but they are also women who know we are downstream from militarism.
Addams, Jane. Twenty Years at Hull House.
Davis, Allen. American Heroine: The Life and Legend of Jane Addams. New York: Oxford UP, 1973.
Lutzker, Michael. “Jane Addams: Peacetime Heroine, Wartime Heretic.” Peace Heroes in Twentieth-Century America. Ed. Charles DeBenedetti. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1986.
Morton, Marian. Emma Goldman and the American Left: “Nowhere at Home.” New York: Twayne, 1992.
Wexler, Alice. Emma Goldman: An Intimate Life. New York: Pantheon, 1984.
Acceptance and Dedication of the Statue of Jeannette Ranking, Presented by the State of Montana Proceedings in the Rotunda, United States Capitol, Wednesday, May 1, 1985. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1987.
Josephson, Hannah. Jeannette Rankin: First Lady in Congress. New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1974.
Davidson, Bill. Jane Fonda: An Intimate Biography. New York: Dutton, 1990.
Gibbs, Stephanie. “Advocate Hammers Away for Peace.” The Post-Standard (March 29, 1993) A3-A4.
“Going Upstream: Kathleen Rumpf Talks to the Jury.” Peace Newsletter (April 1998) 6.
Shepperd, Walt. “Sister of Mercy: Activist Kathleen Rumpf Opened the Door on Abuses at the Public Safety Building.” Syracuse New Times (Jan. 11-18, 1995) 9-11.
“Paper Cranes and B-52s.” Voices of the Catholic Worker. (not seen)
UNITED STATES WOMEN WRITERS AGAINST WAR:
THE NONVIOLENT VISION, BOYLE AND BAEZ
By Dick Bennett
For the Women’s Festival, University of Arkansas
In his new book, Building a Bridge to the Eighteenth Century, Neil Postman perceives the 20th century to be so atrociously cruel in its mass slaughters and torture that he urges us to return to the 18th century for a renewal of values.
I will not deny his view of our century, but without whitewashing the bleak truth, I can point out several countercurrents to mass killings and mutilations. One is the nonviolent movement against war. Gandhi is only the most famous international advocate of nonviolence. In the United States, established by war and held together by a civil war, in genocidal United States, conqueror of hundreds of Indian nations and kidnapper of hundreds of thousands of Negroes in the 19th century and destroyer of civilian city populations in air war in the 20th century, has arisen a new kind of hero—the nonviolent opponent of war and violence. Not only war but dissent against war has played an important role in shaping this nation. Thoreau and Twain in the 19th century, A. J. Muste, Daniel and Philip Berrigan, Martin Luther King, Jr., and César Chávez in the 20th, are only a few of the male peace heroes who have opposed our violent culture.
In the 20th century women have also become strategists and tacticians of nonviolent peacemaking. Jane Addams, Emma Goldman, Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin of Montana, Jane Fonda, Frances Crowe, Bella Abzug, Felice Cohen-Joppa, Kathleen Rumpf, Barbara Wiedner, Kathy Kelly, the list is endless. And as with the men listed, many of these women are writers.
Women writers have significantly advanced acceptance of individual and organized dissent against war, by entangling traditional masculine conceptions of heroism in stories of alternative lives. Fiction prose writers like Grace Paley, non-fiction prose writers like Elise Boulding, poets like Denise Levertov and Adrienne Rich, believed writing—the word—would make a difference in a world of mass violence.
In contrast to the Homeric model for all warriors that prevails to this day--to triumph over others; that is, to defeat and kill the enemy--, one of the most famous poems by a woman writer about WWII expresses an alternative vision--empathy for a frightened deserter. Entitled “The Coward” by Eve Merriam, the last stanza reads:
And frightened, we are everyone.
Someone must make a stand.
Coward, take my coward’s hand.
Like Merriam, the two women writers I will now discuss—Kay Boyle and Joan Baez—challenged the masculine warrior code by the new myth of nonviolence.
UNITED STATES WOMEN WRITERS AGAINST WAR
1944 American Citizen Naturalized in Leadville, Colorado
1962 Collected Poems
1970 Testament for My Students and Other Poems
1985 This Is Not a Letter and Other Poems
1966 Nothing Ever Breaks Except the Heart, short stories
1975 The Underground Woman, semi-autobiographical, Vietnam War in background
ESSAYS & OTHER WRITINGS
1970 The Long Walk at San Francisco State, essays on the campus strike, racial injustice, and the Vietnam War
1972 Enough of Dying! Voices for Peace, anthology of pacifist literature
SOURCES FOR TALK
“The Triumph of Principles,” ?? in Boyle’s Words That Must Somehow Be Said, collection of essays
Sandra Spanier, Kay Boyle: Artist and Activist, Chapter 8, “Back Home: ‘It Might Just Save the World’”
Joan Mellen, Kay Boyle: Author of Herself, Chapters
1912 Beach Haven, NJ, by mother
1930 by Man Ray
1930 at Nice
1945 with Fr Air Force pilot
1946 with her children in Carson McCullers’ yard
1961 at McDowell Colony
1980 with her 1980 vol. of short stories
1963-1979 home in San Francisco, center for her political work
1966 on fact finding trip to Cambodia with Americans Want to Know
1974 with Joan Baez, Sr. Jacqueline McGuerkin, and Eric McGuerkin, march to Modesta led by Cesar Chavez
1978 self-portrait done for San Francisco Chronicle showing herself as an angel in flight carrying a bomb in each hand, inspired from reading her FBI file
Kay Boyle is one of our country’s preeminent short writers and essayists, whose writing and politics were united by her lifetime commitment to the Revolution of the Word through literary art. She lived from to
These first 7 pictures do not directly relate to Kay Boyle’s political life, but she was always engaged in political inquiry and action.
Following the death of her husband in 1963, Boyle found a teaching job at San Francisco State U. She bought a house a few blocks from the corner of Haight and Ashbury street in a mixed neighborhood, and lived there for nearly 2 decades. SLIDE Her door was always open to blacks, Am Indians, students in dissent, pacifists, and all “who work for the libeeration of all groups and peoples.” She rented the 2nd floor to help pay the mortgage, and loaned the living and dining rooms to students and professors for getaway classes. The house was also a sanctuary for runaway girls and released prisoners. One semester while she was away teaching at Hollins College, the house was commandeered briefly by a Boston commune, unbeknownst to Boyle. Beginning in 1973 it was the bimonthly meeting place of the Amnesty International chapter founded by Boyle.
Her concern for political and social issues was not new for her in the 60s. Soon after the end of WWII, Collier’s Magazine asked her to contribute to an entire issue devoted to the subject “If the Soviet Union Invades America..” On the cover would be a picture of Stalin standing on the White House steps, and she was asked to write an article from the point of view of mothers with children trying to live under communism in the U.S. Boyle turned down the $5000 offer indignantly. In 1960 she wrote an essay entitled “The Triumph of Principles” in support of the 27 men and women arrested in NYC for refusing to take shelter during a civil defense drill. Boyle has been among the demonstrators that day and was in the courtroom as the 27 were charged. Her essay attacked the cruel deception that contributed to public acceptance of the atomic bomb race fueled by Sovietphobia. In fact, especially ever since the 1952 loyalty hearing against her husband, much of what she wrote was directed to the cause of world peace.
By the 1960s she had become frequently demonstrative. In 1962, the year before moving to San Francisco, for example, she picketed First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy as she christened a Polaris submarine. Then in July 1966 she travelled to Cambodia with a group called Americans Want to Know, a mixture of pacifist organizations including the Friends Service Committee and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. SLIDE 9 They went to Cambodia to check claims the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong were using the Ho Chi Minh Trail for supply lines. They traveled the trails day and night without finding evidence. On return she described President Johnson as a “vain, stupid, prejudiced man, and will leave the White House as the most discredited President in history.” That same summer of 1966 she maintained a solitary vigil, dressed in black, in front of the California funeral Service in San Francisco, where the U.S. military dead were “processed” on their return from Vietnam. Solitary, that is, until other protesters joined her, all dressed in black. And the next year, 1967, Kay Boyle was arrested and imprisoned twice for engaging in sit-ins at the Oakland Induction Center to protest the war.
Also during the 1960s and 1970s she actively supported victims of race and class prejudice. For example, in 1974 she joined the march led by nonviolent farm workeer leader Cesar Chavez from San Francisco to Modesto with Joan Baez. SLIDE 10. Boyle once said she had protested racism, another kind of war, ever since she was a child.
I have time for one comment on one literary feature of the relationship between her writing and politics. During the arraignment of the 27 people arrested for denouncing civil defense drills, the magistrate lectured the defendants that good Americans should expressed their opinions “by means of the ballot box, and not by public demonstration, not by defiance of the law.” The courtroom broke out in laughter. In her account of the scene, she uses a technique found elsewhere in her writings, as a multitude of ghosts approaches the bar, individuals who have nonviolently demonstrated in defiance of law—Thoreau, Emerson.
In 1978 the San Francisco Chronical asked 8 authors to draw sketches of how they visualized themselves. Kay Boyle’s submission was as she saw herself as the FBI saw her-- a line drawing of an angel in flight, complete with wing and halo, carrying a small round bomb in each hand. SLIDE 11 She had recently acquired her FBI file of 2000 pages. Her caption reads: “Since I received several volumes…through the Freedom of Information Act, I see myself as a dangerous ‘radical’…cleverly disguised as a perfect lady. So I herewith blow my cover.”
WOMEN WRITERS AGAINST WAR
Joan Baez, And a Song to Sing With: A Memoir
8TH grade, 2 at age 16
1963 Montgomery Al
1963 w Bob Dylan
1966 w MLK, Grenada, MS
197? Pres. Carter congratulates Baez for work on behalf of Cambodian regugees
1985 w Lech Walensa in Poland
1986 w other musicians at Amnesty International concerts
198 ? w Jack Nicholson at Live Aid fundraiser
1966, at her Institute for the Study of Nonviolence
1966 Al Capp’s satire of “Phoanie Joanie”
1967 leaving prison
1967 with David Harris, recruiting for draft resistance
1968 anti-draft statement for AFSC
1968? Anti-draft poster with her 2 sisters
1968 with David Harris
1968? Marries David Harris
1970 w David H and son Gabe at prison
1973 in Hanoi, N Vietnam airport after bombing by B52s, w Barry Romo,
1973 leaving Hanoi with Romo, Telford Taylor, Mike Allen
Here are a few photos (6) of Baez girlhood to 1986 .
Of King she wrote: he “more than any other public figure helped to solidify my ideas and inspired me to act upon them.”(12)
I will plunge into her life in the early 1960s.
In the early years of the US/Vietnam War, soon after the assassination of Pres. Kennedy , Joan Baez was invited by Pres. Johnson to sing at a White House gala. She went, but for her own principles. She did not sing the national anthem, and when she had the opportunity to speak to the assembled group, she told him he must listen to young people and urged him to stay out of a war in Southeast Asia. And then she sang all of “The Times They Are A-Changin.” There was tumultuous applause, and she received the only encore of the evening, which she responded to with “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Johnson reportedly rose to the occasion by crediting her with “knowing how to take advantage of an situation.”
An early explicit expression of her nonviolent convictions occurred during the Free Speech movement at Berkeley. She was invited again and again because she drew a crowd. In between songs she spoke of nonviolence and Gandhi. Her understanding of Gandhian nonviolence as an active force was revealed when, the U of California’s Board of Regents, of which Ronald Reagan as a member, rejected the students’ demands for a more democratic campus. She urged the crowd to claim Sproul Hall, with love, which they did, that is, took over the building, and began holding seminars. Baez sang and held her own seminar on civil disobedience, and bucked up the students when the police came and clubs hammered. She observed that “if there was ever to be a real nonviolent movement among white middle class kids.., they would have to learn that being nonviolent does not mean that you are protected from a policeman’s billy club. The Free Speech movement at Berkeley, and especially this event, was the beginning of the radical movement against US involvement in Vietnam.
And the experience made such a great impact upon her, that she decided to refuse to pay her military taxes, that is the percentage of her taxes that went to the military, or 60% of the national budget. She believed that the Pentagon was not the Dept. of Defense, an Orwellian reversal, but the War Department, as was its name until 1948. Of course the IRS took her money plus fines. But she felt, she had refused to give it to them, and the publicity stimulated a growing tax resistance movement against not just the Vietnam War but against all wars.
Her ideas were developing rapidly. In 1965 she proposed to start a school, which she named the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence at Carmel. SLIDE She found a small, old schoolhouse, and soon seminars and meditation were packing the Institute. Baez considered herself a student, and she studied regularly during the first four years of the Institute. The Institute’s focus was on nonviolence in all its aspects, from personal relations to methods of fighting oppression. Gradually she grew convinced that nonviolence worked only if it were not merely an expedient but a way of life to which one gave total commitment.
All of this took money, and she was giving her money away in many other ways, $50 dollars here, $5000 there, so she continued to give concerts on the road, though many of those were benefits for nursery schools or peace groups. She writes that she “vascillated between being a star on the road and servant of God at home.”
It was at this time in 1966 that Al Capp began to attack her in “L’il Abner” through a new character called “Joanie Phoanie,” a “slovenly, two-faced, show-biz slut” and “disguised Commie,” who sang songs of protest about poverty and hunger while living in luxury. SLIDE In her memoir 20 years later she examines the contradiction in her advocacy of Gandhian detachment from desire and her own intense attachment to many things, including men and clothes.
Were there more time: Part 3, Chap. 3, on clandestine CIA control of her Japan concert tour to nullify her views
In the fall of 1967 Baez was jailed twice for violating draft laws, the first time for 10 days, the second for 45. In the 2nd, Baez, her mother, and 67 other women were incarcerated for supporting the young men who refused induction. SLIDE (showing her leaving).
She had known David Harris through anti-draft demonstrations, and he visited her during her 2nd jailing. He shared her passion for nonviolence and against the military, he was a brilliant speaker, and he was 6’2” and handsome with unfairly blue eyes (146-7). So she moved in with him in the commune above Stanford, and IN 1968with one of her closest friends to handle the details they went on the road. SLIDE (recruiting). SLIDE (statement). SLIDE (poster). She would sing and speak about nonviolence and draft resistance and David would speak, and the two mesmerized the crowds. They decided to get married. SLIDE (with Harris). SLIDE (wedding).
But David had refused induction, was found guilty, and went to jail in 1969. Baez toured the country to carry on their draft resistance, simultaneously making a film of her tour called Carry It On, and tending her Institute at Carmel. And having a baby.
She and their son Gabe picked up David at the prison in 1970. SLIDE
Time compels me not to end but to stop.
Baez continued to tour. In 1971 she recorded her first album of her own songs. Her concert brochure declared:
Give life priority over all things.
She recorded the album Coming from the Shadows with the photo of a middle class couple being arrested at an antiwar rally.
In late 1972 she flew to Hanoi. SLIDE (the airport after B52 bombing) SLIDE (leaving Hanoi).
In the Preface to her Memoir, And a Song to Sing With, Joan Baez summarizes and affirms her political life against war and violence:
“Through all these changes my social and political views have remained astoundingly steadfast. I have been true to the principles of nonviolence.”
CONCLUSION TO BOYLE-BIAZ TALK
Despite the great talents and efforts of the thousands of writer-artists peacemakers, and the tens of thousands of citizen peacemakers, in promoting a new vision of security through nonviolence, popular support of the war system in the United States continues. But Boyle and Baez risked the nonviolent alternative.
(But if a change is to be made from the prevailing myth of peace through armed strength to a new myth of peace of united nations, disarmament, and the nonviolent multilateral resolution of disputes, our artists, like Kay Boyle and Joan Baez, will be among the essential vanguard who take the risk.)
FEMINIST OPPOSITION TO WARS AND EMPIRE
Invisible Battlegrounds: Feminist Resistance in the Global Age of War and Imperialism This extraordinary collection of 19 original essays was published early 2011. The introduction by the editor Susan Comfort is worth the price of the whole. Here's her opening: "In the contemporary era of global capitalism, imperialism and war have emerged as dominant geopolitical forces. Despite a candidacy based on calls for 'change,' in the initial years of Obama's prsidency, the scope and impact of contemporary imperialist violence are immense." And then she traces women's resistance to this violence.
Here's what google provides, but out of date. It should catch up soon.
Works and Days/Invisible Battlegrounds: Feminist Resistance in the ...Feb 13, 2008 ... Works & Days. Special Issue Call For Papers: Invisible Battlegrounds: Feminist Resistance in the Global Age of War and Imperialism ...
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CFP: [Postcolonial] | cfp.english.upenn.eduFeb 14, 2008 ... Works & Days. Special Issue Call For Papers: Invisible Battlegrounds: Feminist Resistance in the Global Age of War and. Imperialism ...
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May 2, 2010 ... the special issue of the cultural studies journal Works and Days – Invisible Battlegrounds: Feminist Resistance in the ...
Rosemary Hennessy - Faculty Information System - Scholarly ...Works and Days. Special Issue on Invisible Battlegrounds: Feminist Resistance in the Global Age of War and Imperialism. 57/58 (Volume 29, Nos. 1 & 2) 2010. ...
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Comfort will be editing the succeeding volume, Invisible. Battlegrounds: Feminist Resistance in the Global Age of War and. Imperialism. David was asked to serve as the moderator ... Works and Days panel for the March, 2010 CSA ...
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