Women Strike for Peace
Women Strike for Peace is a United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 women's peace activist group.


Women Strike for Peace was founded by Bella Abzug
Bella Abzug
Bella Savitsky Abzug was an American lawyer, Congresswoman, social activist and a leader of the Women's Movement. In 1971, Abzug joined other leading feminists such as Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan to found the National Women's Political Caucus...

 and Dagmar Wilson
Dagmar Wilson
Dagmar Searchinger Wilson was an American anti-nuclear testing activist.Born in Manhattan, New York City, Wilson help founded Women Strike for Peace in 1961 to end the testing of nuclear weapons.-Notes:...

 in 1961, and was initially part of the movement for a ban on nuclear testing
Nuclear testing
Nuclear weapons tests are experiments carried out to determine the effectiveness, yield and explosive capability of nuclear weapons. Throughout the twentieth century, most nations that have developed nuclear weapons have tested them...

 and to end the Vietnam war
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, 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

They played a crucial role, perhaps the crucial role (according to Eric Bentley
Eric Bentley
Eric Bentley is a critic, playwright, singer, editor and translator. He became an American citizen in 1948, and currently lives in New York City...

), in bringing down the House Un-American Activities Committee
House Un-American Activities Committee
The House Committee on Un-American Activities or House Un-American Activities Committee was an investigative committee of the United States House of Representatives. In 1969, the House changed the committee's name to "House Committee on Internal Security"...

 (HUAC), were acknowledged by both U Thant
U Thant
U Thant was a Burmese diplomat and the third Secretary-General of the United Nations, from 1961 to 1971. He was chosen for the post when his predecessor, Dag Hammarskjöld, died in September 1961....

 and John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

 as a factor in the adoption of the Limited Test Ban Treaty (signed August 5, 1963), and (in early 1964), were among the first Americans to oppose the Vietnam War.
On November 1, 1961, at the height of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, 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. About 1,500 women led by Dagmar Wilson gathered at the foot of the Washington Monument
Washington Monument
The Washington Monument is an obelisk near the west end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., built to commemorate the first U.S. president, General George Washington...

 and President John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

 watched from a window at the White House
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

. The protest helped "push the United States and the Soviet Union into signing a nuclear test-ban treaty two years later".

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
Second-wave feminism
The Feminist Movement, or the Women's Liberation Movement in the United States refers to a period of feminist activity which began during the early 1960s and lasted through the early 1990s....

. 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 12th, 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.

Structure and Chapters

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]

Further reading

  • 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

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