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Women Strike for Peace (WSP, also known as Women for Peace) is a United States women's peace activist group.



Women Strike for Peace was founded by Bella Abzug and Dagmar Wilson,[1] and was initially part of the movement for a ban on nuclear testing[2] 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 [3]

They played a crucial role, perhaps the crucial role (according to Eric Bentley), 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), were among the first Americans to oppose the Vietnam War.[4][5]

Women Strike for Peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis

The WSP was born on 1 November 1961 when thousands of mainly white, middle class women staged a one-day national peace protest. An estimated fifty thousand women in over sixty communities came out of their kitchens and off their jobs to demand that President Kennedy “End the Arms Race Not the Human Race”. 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 .

Structure and Chapters

The WSP method was characterized by nonhierarchical, loosely structured “unorganizational” format that gave nearly total autonomy to its local chapters, and used 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 sites 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]

Notes and references

  1. ^ Seattle Women Act for Peace (SWAP) archives on the site of the University of Washington. Accessed April 9, 2006.
  2. ^ Sarah V. Safstrom, A Proud History of Women Advocating for Peace, National NOW Times, Spring 2003. Accessed April 9, 2006.
  3. ^ Amy Swerdlow.Women Strike for Peace: Traditional Motherhood and Radical Politics in the 1960s. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.
  4. ^ Rebecca Solnit, Three Who Made a Revolution, The Nation, posted March 16, 2006 (April 3, 2006 issue). Accessed April 9, 2006.
  5. ^ Women Strike for Peace on the site of Accessed April 9, 2006.

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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