Pilgrim Pathways: Notes for a Diaspora People

Incarnational Discipleship

In Memorium: Hugo Adam Bedau

Long-time death penalty scholar Hugo Adam Bedau died on August 13, 2012 .  Dr. Bedau had been the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University, and is best known for his work on capital punishment.  Dr.  Bedau frequently testified about the death penalty before the U.S. Congress and many state legislatures. He authored several books about the death penalty, including  The Death Penalty in America (1964; 4th edition, 1997), The Courts, the Constitution, and Capital Punishment (1977), Death is Different (1987), and Killing as Punishment (2004), and co-authored In Spite of Innocence (1992).  This last book, written with Prof. Michael Radelet of the University of Colorado and Constance Putnam (Dr. Bedau’s wife), contained one of the best early collections of people who had been wrongly convicted in death penalty cases. In 1997, Bedau received the August  Vollmer Award of the American Society of Criminology, and in 2003 he received the Roger Baldwin Award from the ACLU of  Massachusetts.  Dr. Bedau was a founding member of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.  He was a personal hero of mine and he will be missed in the struggle.

August 24, 2012 Posted by | capital punishment, ethics, heroes, obituaries | Leave a comment

A Tribute to Walter Wink (1935-2012): New Testament Theologian of Nonviolence and Power

On 10 May 2012, Rev. Dr. Walter Wink, passed away less than a week before what would have been his 77th birthday (23 May).  He had, apparently, been suffering some form of dementia for several years.  Dr. Wink was a huge influence on me through his writings, but I met him only once–in Washington, D.C. in 1989 when we were both arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience outside the White House–protesting the continued support of the Bush I administration for the apartheid-era government of South Africa.  (The protests, called “Stand for Truth,” had been planned for months and were huge that Mother’s Day weekend in ’89, but the news was somewhat overshadowed because less than a week earlier, the Chinese government had massacred protesting students and other pro-democracy groups in Tienenmen Square.  I met an amazing array of Christian peace and justice folk that weekend including Wink’s wife, June Keener-Wink, a young Jesuit priest named Fr. John Dear, S.J., who would soon make major contributions to peace and nonviolence theory, to theology, and to peace activism, but, who, that weekend before his fame was very quiet because his handcuffs were too tight and he was in great pain; Sister Joan Chittister, OSB; Jim Wallis, founding editor of Sojourners; Joyce Hollyday; Rev. Eugene Rivers, an African-American Pentecostal whose work with the Boston 10 Point Coalition was greatly reducing violence in street gangs; many more. It was a life-changing weekend for me.)

Dr. Wink lived an amazing life of witness. He was born in 1935, in the midst of the Great Depression. He was born and raised in Texas in the midst of Texas Methodism–coming to a very different form of Christian nonviolence than fellow Texas Methodist Stanley Hauerwas.  He earned his B.A., magna cum laude from Southern Methodist University (Major: History; Double minor: Philosophy; English), but rather than pursue his theological education at SMU’s own Perkins School of Theology, Wink earned his Master of Divinity (1959) and his Ph.D. in New Testament studies (1963) from New York’s famed Union Theological Seminary, an ecumenical seminary of great influence. There is some irony here:  Union Theological Seminary is known as a center of non-pacifist liberal Christianity.  True, there are a few pacifist voices associated with UTS: Harry Emerson Fosdick and James Forbes, both Senior Ministers at nearby Riverside Church, were pacifists who taught preaching at UTS. But “Union” has become almost synonymous with names like Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), proponent of “Christian Realism,” Paul Tillich (1889-1965), German-American proponent of Christian socialism and a neo-liberal theology,  James H. Cone (b. 1938-), one of the founders of Black Liberation Theology, and Beverly Wildung Harrison (b. 1932–), foremother of Christian feminist ethics–and all of these voices represent strands of liberal Christianity that, while not militarist or “pro-violence,” are decidedly non-pacifist and endorse nonviolence only tactically and not out of principled conviction.

Wink was an ordained United Methodist Minister who spent time as a youth worker and a parish pastor before teaching at his alma mater, Union Theological Seminary. From 1976 onward, he was Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in NYC, a sister-institution to UTS in covenant with the Presbyterian Church, USA (and found on UTS’ campus).  During his time as a youth worker at East Harlem Protestant Parish, Wink came under the influence of the lawyer and Episcopal lay-theologian, William Stringfellow. Stringfellow’s interpretation of the “Principalities and Powers” in the New Testament would profoundly influence Wink’s own work.

In 1973, Wink published a small book called, The Bible in Human Transformation that declared “the historical-critical method is bankrupt.” I have to confess that I was unable to follow Wink’s point when I first encountered it.  I had come from a tradition of conservative evangelical Christianity and had found the historical-critical method to be liberating from biblicist literalism.  But Wink was not wanting to repudiate the gains of the historical-critical method, but to add to them–using insights from psychology (and later from sociology).

He is best known for his 3 volume work on “The Powers,” i.e., on the biblical terminology for power, especially in the Pauline corpus, that uses terms like “Powers, Authorities, Principalities, Thrones, Dominions, Angels, ” etc. For centuries, these terms were simply dismissed as speaking of demons–and demythologized by the likes of Bultmann and fetishized by some Pentecostals and some Fundamentalists.  Hendrikus Berkhof, John Howard Yoder, and William Stringfellow began to see the importance of this language as pointing at once to political realities and to spiritual realities “behind” political institutions.  Wink, with insights from process theology and depth psychology, gave a metaphysic for the Powers that attempted to be non-reductionistic while acknowledging that none of us on this side of the Enlightenment can simply adopt the pre-modern worldview of the New Testament.  Wink also derived a theological ethic from his study of the Powers, especially in his third volume, Engaging the Powers.  The Powers form a world-system Wink called “The Domination System,” and the inbreaking Kingdom of God is “God’s New Domination-Free Order.” The Powers are not simply evil for they were created by God to bring order out of chaos. But they are “fallen,” twisted from their created purpose and used to enslave and dominate humanity.  They must be engaged–resisted and redeemed–by the followers of Jesus.

Wink also helped many reinterpret the Sermon on the Mount so that Matt. 5:9 is understood not as a call to nonresistance or passivity in the face of evil, but to a “Third Way” of Nonviolent Confrontation of Evil.  In a lexical study of the verb αντισθηναι (“antisthenai”), usually translated “resist,” Wink finds that it actually means “stand against” as in armed rebellion or murder, so that Matt. 5:9 should be translated, “Do not violently resist evildoers.” Wink demonstrates that turning the other cheek when backhanded by a social superior , removng both garments in court when sued for one’s outer garment (thus stripping naked in protest), and going a second mile when a soldier of the occupying army compels you to carry his gear the required one mile are all nonviolent direct actions against acts of domination and oppression.  He first published this is in a small book published by the Fellowship of Reconciliation for black churches in South Africa during the anti-apartheid struggle–churches that were seeking a way to be true to the gospel but resist the apartheid evil.  (See Wink, Violence and Nonviolence in South Africa:  Jesus Third Way [Fellowship, 1984]).  He expanded and deepened his defense of this approach in several academic articles and book chapters aimed at changing the way New Testament scholars, especially translators and writers of commentaries on Matthew, understood the Sermon on the Mount.  Finally, he reworked his original popular study for a larger audience–beyond the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. See Walter Wink, Jesus and Violence:  A Third Way.  Because of this “active nonviolence” interpretation, Wink did not like the term “pacifism,” (too easy to confuse with “passivity,” and refused to be called a pacifist even though his dedication to nonviolence was strong–and he was a critic of the way that Christian admiration for the life and testimony of Dietrich Bonhoeffer translated into justifications of violence. (The liberationist left often uses Bonhoeffer to justify violent insurrection against conservative governments and the rightwing uses it to justify bombings of abortion clinics.)

Wink was an early defender of full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered persons in the church.  Eventually, he edited a collection of writings on the topic that did not simply include the “usual suspects,” but also the voices of pro-gay evangelicals like Peggy Campolo, Lewis Smedes,  and Ken L. Sehested.  See Wink, Homosexuality and Christian Faith: Questions of Conscience for the Churches.

Wink also edited one of the best collections of writings on nonviolence by members of the Fellowship of Reconciliation over a 50 year period.  See Wink, Peace is the Way: Writings on Nonviolence from the Fellowship of Reconciliation. It’s truly a remarkable collection.

Walter Wink seamlessly combined the roles of pastor, teacher, scholar, and nonviolent Christian activist.  I give thanks for his life and witness hope that God continues to raise up prophetic voices like his.

May 25, 2012 Posted by | "homosexuality", Biblical interpretation, biographical entries, biographies, church history, Fellowship of Reconciliation, heroes, Methodists, nonviolence, obituary, peace, peacemakers, theologians | Leave a comment

Nobel Peace Prize 2011: Shared by 3 Women Peace & Human Rights Activists

The Norwegian Nobel Committee (appointed, as mandated by Alfred Nobel’s will, by the Storting, or Norwegian Parliament) has announced that for 2011, the Nobel Peace Prize will be shared equally by three (3) women, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkol Karman, “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”  The Nobel Peace Prize has often been shared by two individuals (or an individual and an organization), rarely by three individuals, and never by more than three individuals.

Each of these women has long been involved in nonviolent human rights struggle, especially for the rights, safety, and well-being of women and children.  They have also pushed for women to be treated by nations and international organizations as equal participants in peacebuilding efforts, especially post-conflict peacebuilding. This goes against the long history of women and their concerns being ignored in the normal negotiating process that leads to peace treaties.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (1938-) is the current President of Liberia, the first woman to be democratically elected head of state of any African nation. A Harvard-educated economist, Sirleaf had served as Assistant Finance Minister in the administration of William Tolbert from 1972-1973. Later she was Finance Minister from 1979 to 1980, when the democratic government was overthrown in a coup d’etat by the dictator Samuel Doe. Sirleaf fled the country, one of only 4 members of Tolbert’s cabinet to escape execution, and took jobs with international agencies. She returned to Liberia and was placed under house arrest and had to flee again. At the outbreak of the first Liberian civil war in 1997, she initially supported insurgent leader Charles Taylor’s fight against the dictator Samuel Doe, but later repudiated and denounced him as his war crimes became public knowledge.   A second Liberian war raged from 1999-2003.  At the end of this, Sirleaf returned to Liberia, supported the transitional government’s de-armament process, the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Committee and efforts to heal returned child soldiers (who had been both victims and victimizers). She ran for President under the new constitution in 2005 and won. Two decades of civil war had left Liberia with no infrastructure, nearly universal unemployment, raging ethnic and tribal animosities, and mountains of debt. Sirleaf managed to get the international community to cancel almost all of Liberia’s debt and has encouraged international investment. Using Liberia mineral wealth, she has restored some of the infrastructure (most of the capital of Monrovia now has electricity and running water, again) and has helped to re-build schools and hospitals throughout the country. She signed into law a Freedom of Information Act, the first of its kind in Africa.  But, Liberians, like Americans, think presidents can achieve miracles overnight so Sirleaf is nowhere near as popular at home as she is admired abroad. After all, unemployment remains about 80%!  Also, though Sirleaf has waged battle against corruption, it has proven to be difficult to stamp out and several of her cabinet members have been fired for scandals.  Further, many believe she should have worked more on reconciliation between ethnic groups and less on rebuilding the institutions of government and the nation’s infrastructure.  So, Sirleaf is far from being assured of reelection next month (and she broke a 2005 campaign promise to serve only 1 term if elected). But whether or not she is reelected, the 72 year old Sirleaf is well-deserving of being a Nobel Peace Laureate.

  Leymah Roberta Gbowee (b. 1972-) is known as “Liberia’s Peace Warrior.” A mother of six (6) children, Gbowee is a human rights and women’s rights campaigner. Born in central Liberia, she moved to the capital, Monrovia, at 17–just as the first Liberian Civil War broke out! She trained as trauma counselor and worked with the child soldiers of Charles Taylor’s rebel army.  Surrounded by death and destruction, Gbowee realized that if the country were to ever have peace, it would have to be mothers who brought it–mothers tired of seeing their dreams for their children shattered by the horrors of war.  Gbowee formed the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace in 2002. She organized the Christian and Muslim women of Liberia to pray together for peace and to engage in nonviolent demonstrations for an end to the civil war.  Gbowee, a Lutheran Christian, spread her movement to the churches and mosques and they forced a meeting with then-president Charles Taylor, getting him to attend a peace conference held in Ghana in 2002. Together with fellow Lutheran woman Comfort Freeman, Gbowee founded Women in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET), whose nonviolent actions finally brought an end to the Second Liberian War in 2003, the abdication and exile of Charles Taylor, and a transitional government that paved the way for democratic elections in 2005. Wearing white t-shirts (to symbolize peace), Gbowee and the women of WIPNET marched by the thousands throughout Liberia. They formed the documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell, which has been used to spread the women’s peace movement to other African nations such as Sudan (now South Sudan) and Zimbabwe where the women are also using prayer and nonviolent tactics to petition for peace and human rights.

  Tarwakkol Karmen (1979-), a Muslim feminist and human rights activist in Yemen, represents the Nobel Committee’s acknowledgement of the “Arab Spring.” She is a journalist by profession and has chafed for years under press restrictions in Yemen’s dictatorship.  She is a senior member of al-Islah , the main opposition party in Yemen. In 2005 she founded Women Journalists Without Chains, an organization dedicated to democracy and freedom of the press.  As soon as Tunisia’s nonviolent movement toppled its dictator, Karmen pushed for a similar movement in Yemen. Photos of her heroes (Mohandas K. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela) adorn her home. In a country wear most women are forced to wear all-black niqueb,  or full head covering, Karmen wears an open-faced head scarf, usually white with flowers, as a symbol of women’s dignity and defiance to the dictator Salleh and the oppressive culture.  She insists that Islam itself does not demand the niqeb, but that it is a sign of outmoded patriarchal culture, instead.  She has pushed for laws against the wedding of women younger than 17 and against violence against women and children.  Since the outbreak of the Arab Spring, Karmen has led in march after march in Yemen’s capital, been arrested and beaten. Her life and the lives of her children have been threatened by the government, but she presses onward. To the nonviolent pro-democracy movement, Karmen is known as “The Mother of the Revolution,”–a revolution that is, at present, incomplete since Salleh clings to power by the use of massive violence against his own people–as he done for 33 years, now.  Karmen and her fellow Yemeni nonviolent revolutionaries are undeterred.  She has dedicated her Nobel Prize to the entire movement. (Many within the movement have proposed her for president in a post-Salleh Yemen, which would make her the first democratically-elected female leader in any Muslim-majority nation, if it happens.)

Largely because of its longevity and the large monetary awards accompanying it, the Nobel Peace Prize is the most widely recognized and prestigious peace prize –despite ambiguities in Alfred Nobel’s will and oddities in the Norwegian Nobel Committee that have led to some bizarre recipients (e.g., Teddy Roosevelt, Nicholas Murray Butler, Henry Kissinger, Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, & Yitzhak Rabin) and even stranger omissions (e.g., Mohandas K. Gandhi, Thich Nhat Hanh, Dom Helder Camara, Fr. Daniel Berrigan, S.J.).  The committee has too often neglected women. Prior to this year, only 12 women have won the Nobel Peace Prize in its over 100 year history.  But this year’s prizes are to be celebrated by all who believe in nonviolence, human rights, democracy, and the full equality of women.  I look forward to watching the ceremonies in Oslo this December and reading their speeches and lectures. I pray continued success to these brave women and the movements they lead.


October 8, 2011 Posted by | heroes, human rights, Just Peacemaking, justice, Nobel Peace Prize, nonviolence, nonviolent activism, peace, Peace & Justice Awards, peacemakers, political violence, violence | Leave a comment

A Brief History of Christian Peacemaker Teams

One of the most dynamic and creative organizations working for peace in the world is Christian Peacemaker Teams which works out of deep commitment to gospel nonviolence.  CPT works for peace by “getting in the way” of those who would make war.  They train teams of volunteers in the techniques of nonviolent direct action and the methods of conflict resolution (or conflict transformation) and send these teams into situations of conflict–wars, civil wars, armed buildups, undeclared wars, violent oppressions of workers, etc. The teams then attempt various ways of disrupting the conflict and working toward a just peace: sometimes physically imposing their bodies between armed belligerants, sometimes documenting violence and/or human rights abuses and publicizing them to the world, sometime trying to create space for dialogue, sometime accompanying indigenous human rights workers as “nonviolent bodyguards.”

Although it has become a broader, ecumenical Christian movement, CPT is rooted in the witness of the Historic Peace Churches (Mennonites, Friends/Quakers, Church of the Brethren). In 1984, at a meeting of the Mennonite World Conference, Mennonite theologian Ronald J. Sider challenged participants to give new life to the historic peace witness of Mennonites by being as committed to nonviolent peacemaking as members of the world’s militaries are to the violent defense of their respective countries.  Sider’s challenge fell on receptive ears. A series of conversations started among Mennonites (especially in North America) about ways in which “nonviolent armies” and “nonviolent reservists” could be employed.  By 1986, a retreat of 100 persons put out a call among Mennonites and the Church of the Brethren for the creation of Christian Peacemaker Teams–volunteers supported by churches, trained in nonviolent forms of conflict intervention, who would go to areas of conflict at bold risk of their lives. In 1988, Gene Stolzfus was hired as the first staff person.  By 1992, CPT had sent teams into Iraq, the West Bank of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and Haiti.  Later delegations went to the Chiapas region of Mexico, Bosnia, Winnipeg, MB (negotiating between First Nations and the Canadian government), Colombia and elsewhere.

In the middle of the second U.S.-led war with Iraq, CPT gained far more visibility when a delegation was captured by Iraqi insurgents and held for several weeks. One member was executed. The rest were freed by U.S. military action.  While peacemakers saw this action by CPT as heroic and many were attracted to such serious peacemaking, the rightwing media in both the U.S. and U.K. denounced CPT as naive tools of terrorists whose presence did more harm than good.  There were even calls for the U.S. govt. to investigate CPT for possible terrorist links and to put members’ names on “no fly lists.” CPT was not intimidated and continued its nonviolent peacemaking efforts in Iraq.  (Note: The Bush admin. was particularly hostile to CPT because of two things–first, Bush’s own claims to being a “Christian president” who was supposedly invading Iraq on God’s orders. Second, CPT had earlier been the first to document and publish the U.S. torture of prisoners at the notorious Abu-Ghraib prison.  The passing of the Bush era, however, has hardly led to an embrace of CPT’s convictions or methods by the Obama administration. Far from it.)

Initially, CPT was sponsored only by the 2 largest Mennonite denominations in the U.S. (now both merged into Mennonite Church, USA) and the Church of the Brethren. But CPT sponsors now include (to date): The Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, The Congregation of St. Basil (Basilians, a Roman Catholic priestly order), Friends United Meeting (Quakers), On Earth Peace (the major peacemaking program of the Church of the Brethren), The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, Every Church a Peace Church, Mennonite Church, Canada, The Peace and Justice Support Network (of Mennonite Church, USA), and Peace and Justice Ministries (of Mennonite Church, Canada).  CPT, which is expanding its regional offices in Mexico, Canada, and the UK, invites other Christian groups to sponsor this growing ecumenical peace witness.

Current CPT delegations include nonviolent peacemaking efforts in Iraq, Palestine, Coluombia, the U.S.-Mexico border, the African Great Lakes region (based in Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo, but also including work in Uganda), and support for aboriginal justice in the U.S. (groups working for Native American rights) and Canada (groups supporting the rights of First Nations).  Additional sponsors, funding, and volunteers could allow for other delegations.  (Among the places which have asked for CPT type nonviolent intervention are Syria, Lebanon, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Costa Rica, South Sudan.)

The specific Christian identity of CPT (even in its name) has both strengths and weaknesses: On the plus side, it operates out of a clear Christological center and supported by a specific spirituality. This gives its peacemaking efforts depth and its members unity. However, in areas where “Christianity” is identified with either Western (especially U.S.) military imperialism or with coercive missionary efforts or both, such preconceptions can get in the way of CPT’s peace efforts–as seen in its capture by Iraqi military dissidents in 2005.

The challenge remains:  What would happen if Christians developed the same discipline and self-sacrifice to nonviolent peacemaking as armies devote to war?

September 5, 2011 Posted by | heroes, human rights, Just Peacemaking, nonviolence, nonviolent activism, pacifism, peace, peacemakers | 2 Comments

A Brief History of Denominational Peace Fellowships (U.S.)

People connect to the work of peace and justice, if they do, at the heart of their personal identities. For most people, throughout history, the heart of their identities is intimately connected to their religious convictions. Even for the non-religious, some controlling philosophy or ideology substitutes for a religious identity.  So, denominational peace fellowships developed early in the 20th C. as ways for people to connect their faiths to their work for peace. Many of these denominational peace fellowships are directly connected to the Fellowship of Reconciliation and others have informal connections.  This history is for the U.S. scene, although there are denominational peace fellowships around the world..

The “historic peace churches” (Mennonites, Friends/Quakers, Brethren/Dunkers) have been normatively pacifist for centuries,but  they were actually slower to develop peace fellowships than other denominations. Further, because each had strands of tradition that included “separation from the world,” they were often hesitant to join ecumenical or interfaith peace groups.  Thus, the beginning of peace fellowships in the U.S. came from groups whose majorities were not pacifist–and could even be hostile to peacemaking activities.  The peace fellowships of Protestant denominations came first.  In the aftermath of World War I, a huge revulsion toward war swept through the U.S. and its churches, especially, but not only through its mainline liberal Protestant churches. It is safe to say that the years 1919-1940 constitute the period in which Christian pacifism came the closest to being the majority view of U.S. Christians.  (Non-Christians in the U.S. also adopted anti-war views in larger numbers than at any time since the U.S.-Mexican War of the 1830s. Pacifists and near-pacifists would not be in the U.S. in anywhere close to the numbers between the World Wars until thel late 1960s as the Vietnam War dragged on seemingly forever.) One strong motivation for the formation of denominational peace fellowships was the protection of the rights of conscientious objectors.  Most conscientious objectors to World War I were imprisoned for the length of the U.S. involvement in the war and the peace fellowships wanted to protect the rights of conscientious objectors if and when another war came. If you are not a member of one of the “Historic Peace Churches” (Mennonites, Friends/Quakers, Brethren), then participation in a denominational peace fellowship was one of the ways to show a military draft board that one objected to participation in war as a matter of religious conviction.

The earliest denominational peace fellowship was the Methodist Peace Fellowship which formed in the 1920s.  The founder of Methodism in 18th C. Britain, John Wesley, was not a pacifist (because he was too much a supporter of the Church of England as a state church), but he came close–considering war to be the most visible sign of human falleness and sinfulness.  American Methodists, however, had been strong supporters of the American Revolutionary War and the influence of Wesley’s views on war and slavery (which he condemned in the strongest terms) was slim in the years when American Methodism strove to prove itself as a truly AMERICAN denomination.  But the recovery of a Christian peace witness began with Methodist participation in the Abolitionist movement–thanks to the huge leadership of Quakers in that movement. After the Civil War, many Methodists saw pacifism as a natural outgrowth of Wesleyan emphasis on “holiness” or “entire sanctification.” (Indeed, numerous Wesleyan Holiness denominations split off from mainline Methodism out of a sense that the latter was losing this emphasis.  Many of these Holiness offshoot groups, e.g., Free Methodists, the Church of God [non-Pentecostal], the Wesleyan Church, the Church of the Nazarene, the Brethren-in-Christ[a denomination that combined influences from Anabaptism and from Wesleyan Pietism], and the Evangelical United Brethren [a group that would, in the 1950s, merge with the Methodist Church to form the United Methodist Church], were pacifist–at least at their beginnings.) The rise of the Boston Personalist movement in theology, and the Social Gospel, increased the rise of Christian pacifism among American Methodists until, by World War I, pacifism was ALMOST a majority view in American Methodism and the Methodist Episcopal Church was recognized as a “peace church” by the U.S. military. (The Methodist Episcopal Church–South, formed as a split in American Methodism over slavery, had fewer pacifists, but it was still a sizable minority.) The strength of the pacifist witness in American Methodism waned beginning with World War II, although numerous Methodist pacifists continue to this day. Still, the Methodist Peace Fellowship itself became increasingly weaker in the 1980s and died out altogether in the 1990s.  Organizationally, the witness of gospel nonviolence in the United Methodist Church has been maintained by the Methodist Federation for Social Action, but many of the more evangelical United Methodist pacifists avoid joining MFSA because of its perceived theological liberalism–especially its strongly inclusive stance toward LGBT folks and its support for legal and accessible abortion as part of its commitment to women’s procreative choice. (Both are stands largely rejected by evangelical Protestants, including evangelical United Methodists.) A “Pan-Wesleyan” peace fellowship began in the 1980s to fill the gap left by the death of the MPF. Methodists United for Peace with Justice began in 1987 as a response to the United Methodist Bishops’ pastoral letter, In Defense of Creation, which condemned nuclear weapons and called for the development of theologies of “just peace.” Membership is open not only to United Methodists, but to members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), the African Methodist Episcopal Church-Zion (AMEZ), the Christian Methodist Church (CMC), the Free Methodist Church, and the Free Methodist Church. Because MUPJ takes no stand on LGBT issues or abortion, evangelical pacifists among these branches of the Methodist family are more likely to join it.

The oldest denominational peace fellowship in the U.S. in continual existence is the Disciples Peace Fellowship, founded in 1935 as  the peace fellowship of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is the more mainline liberal branch of the Stone-Campbell movement that grew out of the Second Great Awakening in 19th C. America.  Many early leaders in this movement, such as Alexander Campbell (1788-1866) and David Lipscomb (1831-1917) were pacifist.  As the movement splintered along both cultural and theological lines into the Churches of Christ, independent Christian Churches, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), pacifism was strong among all branches until World War II, though only the Disciples formed a denominational peace fellowship or took part in ecumenical efforts to end war or make peace. (Note, outside the U.S., denominations related to the Stone-Campbell movement are not divided along a liberal-conservative axis. In the UK and Australia, for instance, the Churches of Christ relate to the U.S. Disciples, as does the Evangelical Christian Church of Canada.) After World War II, pacifism declined sharply in all branches of the Stone-Campbell movement, though a strong pacifist minority remains in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  By contrast, the independent Christian Churches and the Churches of Christ have become some of the most militarist of all U.S. Christians, with few remembering the pacifist roots of many of their early leaders. (There HAS been an effort by Stone-Campbell movement historians to recover this early witness, the major result of which has been the beginnings of a peace studies program at  Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN (related to the Churches of Christ), though most of the professors teaching in the Institute for Conflict Resolution do not share the pacifism of David Lipscomb.) One strength of the Disciples Peace Fellowship is its program of “peace interns” who spread gospel nonviolence to youth at church camps.

The Episcopal Peace Fellowship began in 1939 and today connects with the global Anglican Pacifist Fellowship.

The denominational peace fellowship I know best, of course, is also the peace organization with which I have been most deeply involved:The Baptist Peace Fellowship of North AmericaIn its current form, BPFNA was founded in Louisville, KY in 1984 out of a meeting of Southern Baptist peacemakers with American (Northern) Baptists who belonged to the (Northern) Baptist Peace Fellowship which was founded in 1940.  The BPFNA is a grassroots Baptist peace fellowship that has members in at least 15 different Baptist denominations in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. It also has strong ties to the British Baptist Peace Fellowship (founded in 1941) and similar groups around the world.  One does not need to be a pacifist to be a member of the BPFNA, just committed to the call on all Christians to be peacemakers, but it is safe to say that BPFNA gathers together more Christian pacifists in Baptist life than any other organization. BPFNA has ties to the Fellowship of Reconciliation and is represented on the boards of Christian Peacemaker Teams, and Christian Peace Witness for Iraq.

Other Christian peace fellowships include: Adventist Peace Fellowship (formed in October 2001 as a recovery of earlier–mostly lost–pacifist convictions among Seventh Day Adventists and in response to American militarism following the attacks of 11 September 2001), Brethren Peace Fellowship (1946, the ecumenical and interfaith peace witness of the Church of the Brethren, one of the historic peace churches), The Catholic Peace Fellowship (1965, renewed in 2001, with a primary focus on protecting and spreading conscientious objection to all war among U.S. Catholics), Church of God Peace Fellowship (1964 with roots in the Interracial Fellowship founded in the 1930s and deeper roots going back to the initial pacifist witness of the Church of God [Anderson, IN–Non-Pentecostal] in the 19th C.), Lutheran Peace Fellowship (1994–members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the largest Lutheran denomination in the USA), Orthodox Peace Fellowship (founded during the Vietnam War and re-launched in 1984; connects Orthodox Christians globally in peacemaking. Pacifism is not required, but active work for peace is seen as “not optional” for Christians), Pentecostals and Charismatics for Peace with Justice (founded in 2002 as The Pentecostal Peace Fellowship and quickly expanding to the Pentecostal and Charismatic Peace Fellowship, the current name was adopted to stress both the essential connection of peace and justice in the gospel, and to avoid confusion with another peace group listed below; early Pentecostals were pacifist but this witness was progressively lost after World War I. PCPWJ attempts to recover, deepen, and expand the radical nonviolence of early Pentecostalism.), Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (1940s).

Noticeably missing (considering the peace witness of their roots) is any peace fellowship of Moravians, the Evangelical Covenant Church, or the Evangelical Free Church, or the Church of the Nazarene.  Also noticeably missing (considering its many pacifists) is a peace fellowship related to the United Church of Christ.

Of the Historic Peace Churches, only the Church of the Brethren has a Brethren Peace Fellowship, but it is small these days and has no website. The peace witness of the Church of the Brethren is most strongly expressed organizationally in On Earth Peace, the official peacemaking program of the Church of the Brethren.  Likewise the Mennonite Central Committee (founded in 1920), which unites many different Mennonite and Amish groups in the U.S. and Canada on matters of missions, hunger and disaster relief, development aid, and peacebuilding, performs many of the functions of a grassroots peace fellowship in traditions that are not rooted in a historic peace witness throughout all parts of the Mennonite identity.  In the largest of these groups, the Mennonite Church, USA, there is also a Mennonite Peace & Justice Support Network, linking and supporting the peace work of Mennonite congregations, much like peace fellowships do in other traditions.  Among Friends/Quakers, the American Friends Service Committee , whose history I sketched briefly in an earlier post in this series, acts as a peace fellowship and is an official affiliate of the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

After World War II, the horrors of the Holocaust (with its roots in centuries of Christian anti-Semitism) awakened ecumenical Christian pacifists to the need for interfaith peace work.  The International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) broadened its identity and membership basis from Christian pacifists to interfaith pacifists–as did several of IFOR’s national branches such as the U.S. FOR. (Other branches, such as in the UK, remained specifically Christian.) This led to “denominational” peace fellowships connected to the FOR (USA) from other world religions, beginning with the Jewish Peace Fellowship (founded in 1941 to support Jewish conscientious objectors).  Today, such peace fellowships in other faiths include The Buddhist Peace Fellowship (1968), The Muslim Peace Fellowship (Ansar as-Salam, founded in 1994), and the Unitarian Universalist Peace Fellowship. (Both Unitarians and Universalists began in the 19th C. as liberal Christian denominations and several prominent Unitarians were among the founders of the U. S. branch of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. But UUs today do not widely consider themselves to be Christian, but an interfaith collection of “free congregations” with Christian roots. So, I list the UUPF in this interfaith section and not among the Christian denominational peace fellowships.)   To date, I know of no Hindu peace fellowship, no Jain or Sikh peace fellowship, no Ba’hai peace fellowship,  Other interfaith peace groups with less connection to the FOR and Christian denominational peace fellowships will be profiled in future posts.

September 4, 2011 Posted by | AFSC, blog series, Buddhism, Christian Denominations, Friends (Quakers), heroes, Islam, Judaism, Methodists, Non Christian World Religions, nonviolence, nonviolent activism, pacifism, peace, peacemakers, Pentecostals, violence | Leave a comment

A Brief History of the War Resisters’ League (WRL)

In this series on the histories of peace movement organizations, we have been so far been examining those whose roots were in opposition to the First World War: The Fellowship of Reconciliation (1914 in UK, 1915 in U.S., FOR International in 1917, French and German branches in 1919), The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (1915 U.S., 1917 International), The American Friends’ Service Committee (1917).  The War Resisters’ League, the oldest pacifist organization in the U.S. without a religious foundation, also grew out of the experience of World War I.  (I have phrased this very carefully.  It would be accurate to call the WRL a “secular” organization, but to many people this suggests a hostility to religion or religious persons that is not a part of the WRL. As we will see, the major founder of the WRL, Jesse Wallace Hughes, was a profoundly religious person and people of faith have always been involved and are still, including in the leadership.  But neither any particular religion, nor religious faith in general, is a predicate for membership.)

Jessie Wallace Hughan (1875-1955) was one of the founders of the U. S. chapter of the Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1915, but, from the beginning, she thought the name of the groups was too wimpy, and, though a devout Unitarian, she chafed against the leadership of the F.O.R. by ministers who focused on forgiveness.  She wanted an organization that pushed forcefully for an end to war and militarism  and which boldly confronted the causes of war (which she saw rooted in the injustices of capitalism). Hughan was an American educator, a socialist activist, radical pacifist and a perpetual Socialist Party candidate for various public offices in New York city and state.  In 1915 she helped to found the Anti-Enlistment League to discourage enlistment in the armed services as part of efforts to keep the U.S. out of World War I.

Many U.S. pacifists were imprisoned for resistance to the war. After the U.S. entered WWI, the Bill of Rights was practically suspended. Any verbal or written opposition to the war was prosecuted as “subversion,” including of clergy who refused to promote the sale of war bonds to parishioners.  Members of the historic peace churches (Mennonites, Brethren, Quakers) were sometimes given better treatment, but other conscientious objectors, especially Jews, African-Americans, socialists (especially after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia), union leaders, and anarchists were given very harsh sentences and many were also treated harshly by other prisoners without intervention by authorities.

Out of these experiences, Hughan and others founded the War Resisters League in 1923 as a pacifist organization for those who, for one reason or another, did not feel at home in faith-based peace organizations such as the Fellowship of  Reconciliation (although the F.O.R. supported the formation of the WRL  and many were members of both organizations–which traded leaders, too).   At that time, the F.O.R. was an ecumenical Christian organization, not interfaith, and the Jewish Peace Fellowship did not exist until 1941.  The U.S. was not so pluralistic religiously in those days that any felt the need for such later organizations as the Muslim Peace Fellowship (Ansar as-Salaam), or the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, but the WRL was a haven for secular and non-Christian pacifists, along with those who felt that the Christian peace groups of the day were not radical enough in their opposition to war.

The WRL’s basis for membership has remained the same since its founding in 1923, “The War Resisters’ League affirms that war is a crime against humanity. We, therefore, are determined not to support any kind of war, international or civil, and to strive nonviolently for the removal of all causes of war.”  When Gandhi began his “experiments in truth” in South Africa and India, the WRL was even faster than the F.O.R. to take notice.  Along with socialist economic philosophy, most members of the WRL strongly adhere to Gandhian nonviolence.  For some, the philosophy and tactics of Gandhian nonviolence form a de facto substitute for a religious faith.

The WRL has been deeply involved in most of the anti-war movements of the 20th and 21st C., but it has also been involved deeply in most of the nonviolent domestic struggles for justice, including the Civil Rights movement, the feminist movement, labor struggles, the environmental movement, and struggles for fair trade against globalized top-down free trade.  The WRL publishes a journal, WIN, an annual peace and justice calendar, and has become famous for its yearly tax pie charts that show the actual amount of the U.S. budget that goes to support past and present wars (the official budget hides part of the military budget under Veterans Affairs and Social Security) which is over50%.  The WRL pie chart has been used by numerous peace groups to promote war tax resistance and protests against the bloated nature of the U.S. military budget. (Even using the official figures, the U.S. spends more on its military than the next 25 nations COMBINED!)

The WRL’s current projects include an anti-recruitment effort called Not Your Soldier (which I think is not as effective as the AFSC’s counter-recruitment efforts), and a major effort to target war-profiteers called the Bite the Bullet Network.  The latter targets the military industrial complex which Bob Dylan rightly called the “masters of war.”

The WRL is a major component organization of United for Peace with Justice, the umbrella peace organization working to end the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The WRL is also a national chapter of the London-based War Resisters’ International which grew out of a Dutch organization in 1921.  In 1931, the WRI and its chapters adopted the broken rifle as its symbol. (This has major significance for me.  I have only ever held nominal membership in the WRL, unlike my greater involvement in the F.O.R., the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, Witness for Peace, Every Church a Peace Church, and Pentecostals and Charismatics for Peace with Justice.  Mostly, I just subscribe to the WRL newsletter and buy the occasional calendar and T-shirt.  But because I became a pacifist as a military conscientious objector, the broken rifle has always been a deeply-loved peace symbol for me,–a modern equivalent to beating swords into plowshares and a symbol of my deliberate break with my military past.)

Famous members of the War Resisters League, other than Jessie Wallace Hughan, include Dave Dellinger (1915-2004), Ralph DiGia (1915-2008), Grace Paley (1922-2007), Igal Roodenko (1917-1991), Barbara Deming (1917-1984), A. J. Muste (1885-1967) (after Muste’s retirement as head of the Fellowship of Reconciliation), and the architect of the 1963 March on Washington, Bayard Rustin (1912-1987).  The WRL continues to be a major force for peace and justice.

Update:  Although I deeply appreciate the work of the WRL, I have not been involved with them except, as I said, on the edges.  The major reason for this is that I believe ultimately nonviolence depends on a spiritual commitment. As a Christian (i.e., one who believes Christianity is actually TRUE ), I think Christian faith provides the best spirituality for pacifism and nonviolence, but it is not the only one.  Most, if not all, major religions have a nonviolent strand and resources for equipping believers to respond to injustice, oppression, and violence with nonviolent direct action and peacemaking rather than with reactive violence.  Secular commitment to nonviolence must rely either on a strictly moral commitment without any spiritual underpinnings or a pragmatic belief that nonviolence usually ‘works.’  But it doesn’t always work  and such a pragmatic or rational view is not enough to keep one nonviolent in the face of oppressive violence: If you see your family murdered before your eyes, for instance, can a purely rational or secular commitment to nonviolence hold?

So, while I agree with the WRL that war is a crime against humanity and am grateful for their work, I distrust their lack of a spiritual foundation.  It is significant to me that the current leadership of the WRL includes Frida Berrigan, daughter of the radical Catholic pacifists Elizabeth McAlister and the late Philip Berrigan, and Fr. G. Siman Harak (a friend of mine), who is a Jesuit priest.

Scott H. Bennett, Radical Pacifism:  The War Resisters League and Gandhian Nonviolence in America, 1915-1963 (Syracuse University Press, 2004).

August 31, 2011 Posted by | blog series, heroes, human rights, Just Peacemaking, nonviolence, nonviolent activism, pacifism, peace, peacemakers, War Resisters League | Leave a comment

A Brief History of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)

We turn to the Quaker-based American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).  As with groups in our previous installments (F.O.R. and WILPF), the AFSC began as a specific response to World War I.  The Religious Society of Friends (nicknamed the Quakers) began as a Christian movement out of radical Puritanism in the mid to late 17th C.  Although it’s founder, George Fox, seems to have been a pacifist since his conversion, the Friends as a whole did not adopt the Peace Testimony as a defining characteristic until 1660.  Since that time, Friends have been a powerful force for peace and justice–making an impact well beyond their numbers. (There are less than 1 million Friends/Quakers worldwide–the majority in Africa.)

Especially in the U.S., the 19th C. was a troubling one for Friends–leading to several schisms between various Yearly Meetings.  This fragmented the peace witness after the Civil War, but numerous Friends played key roles in the development of the international peace movement in the late 19th and early 20th C.  When the U.S. decided to enter World War I, Quaker Meetings formed the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in order to give young Quaker men an alternative form of national service to war. During AFSC’s very first year of existence, it sent women and men to France (along with British Friends) where they worked and cared for children who were refugees because of the war. They also founded a maternity hospital, repaired and rebuilt homes destroyed by the war, and provided returning refugees with the necessities to rebuild their lives.

Over the years, AFSC has been open to hiring non-Quakers, but everyone associated with AFSC must share the Quaker belief in nonviolence and peacemaking rooted deep Quaker convictions about the dignity and worth of all persons (Quaker evangelists–called Publishers of Truth–were instructed to answer “that of God in every person”), in the power of love, service, and nonviolence, and in the ability of the Light (a biblical symbol of God) to speak to all people.  Quakers see their responsibility in opposing war, militarism, and other systems of domination as a calling to “Speak Truth to Power.”

The AFSC continued its work after the end of WWI.  Some major highlights from the early years (1917-1938) include:

  • Feeding 1 million starving children in Germany and Austria in 1919.
  • Feeding and reconstruction work in Poland, including buying 1000 horses from the Polish army to lend to farmers for plowing in 1920.
  • Distributed food, milk, and clothing in famine relief in Russia in 1920-1921. (This work in famine relief saw the rise in leadership of a Friend in business named Herbert Hoover who went on to become U.S. president–and then see his famine relief experience prove fruitless during the Great Depression–though he remained convinced that the New Deal’s programs were the wrong answer.)
  • 1925-1934, helped with poverty relief among Native Americans, African-Americans and immigrants in the inner cities, and poor whites in Appalachia.
  • 1937, provided relief to both sides of the Spanish civil war.
  • 1938, sent a delegation to Germany to rebuke the new Nazi government for its treatment of Jews and worked to get it to allow Jews to leave the country.

As WWII loomed near, Friends, along with Mennonites, the Church of the Brethren, and the Fellowship of Reconciliation, managed to get Congress to pass exemptions to the draft for conscientious objectors to war (although the law limited this to those whose pacifism was “based on religious instruction”) and for COs to perform “alternative service of national importance” in work camps run by the peace churches.  Many other WWII -era Conscientious Objectors, religious and otherwise, went to prison, instead.  During these years, the AFSC worked to try to maintain a consistent peace witness around the world in the midst of war.

  • 1941, provided medical help to civilians on both sides of China’s civil war.
  • 1942, provided alternative service for conscientious objectors to war in mental hospitals, conservation programs, and training schools.  Provided relocation help for Japanese-Americans and worked to protect the property of Japanese-Americans interred for the duration of the war.
  • 1943, sent food to relieve severe famine in India.
  • 1944, led the reconstruction efforts in post-war Europe and Asia.

In 1947 the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to both the AFSC and the British Friends Service Council on behalf of Quakers everywhere.

  • As the Cold War began, the AFSC published Speak Truth to Power(1955) as a pacifist alternative to the arms race.
  • 1961, sent volunteers to work in developing countries.  This began earlier and, along with similar programs run by Brethren and Mennonites, was the inspiration for John F. Kennedy’s Peace Corps program.
  • Following the 1962 ceasefire between France and Algeria, AFSC worked in Algeria to develop garden and poultry projects, milk stations, and clinics to fight poverty-related diseases.
  • 1965 –worked to place 7, 000 African-American children in previously all-white Southern public schools and pushed to keep school desegregation a front burner issue. (Friends had pioneered here.  Even during the days of slavery, Friends schools were open to everyone. When segregation laws in many Southern states forbade teaching white and black children together, Friends founded numerous private schools for African-Americans because of the horrible quality of the state-run “Negro schools.”  Rosa Parks attended such a Quaker primary school.)
  • 1966, provided free medical aid to civilians in North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and areas held by the NLF. (This led to official investigations of the AFSC by the House Un-American Activities Committee which, thankfully, no longer exists.)

And on and on it goes.

Today, the AFSC has programs seeking economic justice both globally and in the USA, programs on immigration rights, equality for LGBT persons, the Wage Peace campaign to end the war in Iraq and rebuild Iraq justly, a program to combat the militarization of American Youth (including counter-recruitment), work for fairer patterns of international trade, programs to end weapons build ups and the international weapons trade (especially work to end nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, and work against weapons that mostly harm civilians, such as landmines), programs for debt cancellation and debt relief in Africa, a program for a just two-state peace in Israel-Palestine, reforming the U.S. criminal justice system (including abolishing the death penalty and ending police abuse).

A glance at these many programs shows that the AFSC’s peace witness is not just a negative peace (the absence of war or armed conflict), but a positive peace built on the presence of justice and human reconciliation.

August 31, 2011 Posted by | AFSC, blog series, Friends (Quakers), heroes, human rights, nonviolence, nonviolent activism, pacifism, peace, peacemakers, religious liberty | 2 Comments

A Brief History of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

Like the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR), the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) began out of the horrors of the First World War.  It also grew from the first wave of international feminism.  As women in Europe and North America were struggling for the vote (suffrage) and equal rights with men, they also were leading the way to more just and compassionate societies.  Many of the women involved in the struggle for women’s rights had also been part of the movement to abolish slavery and some were still struggling for equal rights for minorities. Many were working to end child labor and for better housing and working conditions for the poor.  They also worked for international peace. In fact, it was widely believed at the time that women would more likely vote for peace and against war–this was an argument many feminists themselves used–that female suffrage would transform the world because women were more naturally just and compassionate and peaceful than men.  (This belief in female moral superiority was also used by men to argue AGAINST female suffrage.)

While subsequent history has proven that women are just as fallen and sinful as men are, it is true that the early feminists were also campaigners in many moral and social causes, and none more so than the budding peace movement of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.  Thus, the eruption of the First World War in 1914 was seen as a horror by many of these leaders.  True, some women rallied round the flags of their various nations–reverting to nationalist militarism–and others, like Alice Paul, used the contradictions of a supposed “war for democracy” when women did not have the vote to put pressure for passage of women’s suffrage.  But for many of the leaders of this first wave feminism, stopping the war became the most essential cause of their lives.

The war began in August 1914.  In April, 1915, some 1300 women from Europe and North America gathered for a Congress of Women at the Hague in the Netherlands. They came from both belligerant countries and neutral countries.  The women were responding to the call of Dr. Aletta Jacobs, M.D., a Dutch suffragist and feminist, who urged women concerned for peace come to the Hague.  The purpose of the Congress of Women was to protest the killing then raging throughout Europe–which would soon spread to Europe’s colonies in Asia and Africa and would draw in the United States as well.  The Congress issued some 20 resolutions:  some short-term such as calls for cease fire and resolution by binding arbitration from neutral parties, and others with more longterm goals–to lay the foundations to prevent future wars and produce a world culture of peace.  They called on all neutral nations to refuse to join sides in the war, to pressure the belligerant nations to cease fire and to pledge to help solve their differences through binding arbitration.  They called for a league of neutral nations (an idea that U.S. President Woodrow Wilson would later use in his argument for a League of Nations–in fact, most of Wilson’s 14 point peace plan came originally from the Congress of Women’s 20 resolutions!).

At the end of the Congress, the women elected small teams of delegates to take the messages of the conferences to the belligerant and neutral states of Europe and to the President of the U.S.A.  These delegations managed to visit 14 countries (during wartime!) between May and June 1915.  They also decided to form themselves into a permanent organization with an international headquarters and national branches. This beginning of WILPF was first called the International Women’s Committee. They elected Jane Addams (1860-1935) of the U.S.A. as the first president of the Congress and as the delegate to Pres. Wilson. Addams was already famous throughout North America and Europe as a pioneer in what today would be called social work and community organizing.  (See Hull House.)  Addams had been raised a Quaker, though her father had served in the U.S. Calvary and was a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln.  The adult Addams left her Friends meeting, tried for a time to be a Unitarian (because of their greater acceptance of male/female equality), but eventually became a baptized member of the Presbyterian Church.  She had been elected to the Chicago City Council on a reform ticket.  Upon returning to the U.S. from the Hague, she not only presented the views of the Congress to President Wilson (who, as I said, “borrowed” heavily from them when he formed his own peace plan), but formed the Women’s Peace Party to try to keep the U.S. out of the war.

When the U.S. entered the war in 1917, the rights of pacifists and conscientious objectors were greatly trampled. Speaking out against the war was prosecuted as treason, as was counseling draft resistance or even refusal to promote the buying of war bonds! Freedom of the press and speech were greatly curtailed–even ignored–during the war fever.  Addams, who continued to protest the U.S. involvement in the War, did not end up in jail as so many, but she had her passport revoked and lost much of her prestige, attacked in the press.  She was kept a virtual house prisoner for some time.  Addams’ younger associate, Emily Greene  Balch (1867-1961) lost her post as Professor of Sociology at Wellesley College due to her refusal to support the war or sign a loyalty oath.   Other International Women’s Committee women in other countries faced similar or worse hardships, some even being thrown into prison for the duration of the war.

When the war ended in 1919, the International Women’s Committee attempted to be true to its promise to hold a parallel Congress to the official peace meetings of the belligerant nations.  Because the French government would not allow German delegates to meet in France, the IWC’s Congress met not at Versailles as they’d planned, but in Zurich, Switzerland.  A small number of women “ran shuttle” from the Zurich meeting to the governmental deliberations at Versailles–though they do not seem to have made much of an impact.  The Treaty of Versailles was so brutal in its treatment of Germany and other defeated nations that historians widely credit it with sowing the seeds of the rise of Naziism and the Second World War.  The Women’s Congress denounced the terms of the Treaty of Versailles as revenge of the victors and correctly predicted that it would lead to another global war.  They decided to make the International Women’s Committee permanent, called it the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and stated its purpose as “to bring together women of different political views, and philosophical and religious backgrounds, to study and make known the causes of war and to work for a permanent peace.” That remains the purpose of WILPF to this day.

In 1922, WILPF tried to get the League of Nations to convene a World Congress to renegotiate the Treaty of Versailles at a “Conference on a New Peace.”

In 1924, correctly seeing the development and global sale of arms as a major cause of war, WILPF worked to mobilize scientists to refuse to work on weapons of war or on projects funded by the military.

In 1927 WILPF first went to China and Indochina, moving beyond the European and North American scope of its concerns.

In 1931, first WILPF president Jane Addams, now in failing health, was belatedly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but she was too ill to travel to Oslo to receive it. (Addams would finally die in 1935.)

In 1932, WILPF delivered over a million signatures for complete global disarmament to a disarmament conference.

From 1940 to 1945, WILPF found ways to aid victims of fascism, Naziism, and Japanese imperialism.

In 1946, WILPF was at the founding of the United Nations and pushed for the concept of mutual security–urging that security be based on justice and freedom from want, rather than on military might and prestige.  WILPF gained official UN status as a non-governmental organization (NGO) at that founding meeting of the UN.

In 1946, Emily Greene Balch, first International Secretary of the WILPF, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  In 1958, WILPF sent missions to the Middle East. In 1961, WILPF convened the first of many meetings between American and Soviet women to break down the barriers of the Cold WAr.

From 1963 onward, WILPF was a major force urging an end to the Vietnam War, undertaking investigative missions to North and South Vietnam.  In 1971, they went to Chile, where the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) had just toppled the elected government of Salvador Allende and installed military dictator Pinochet, to investigate Pinochet’s human rights abuses.

From Northern Ireland to the Middle East to East Timor, WILPF has been a force for peace. With an International Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, WILPF has a UN Office in NYC, and national “Sections” on every continent except Antartica.  There are 36 national Sections in all.  WILPF works on peace, disarmament, racial justice, economic justice, environmental health, the democratization of the United Nations (especially the reform of the Security Council), defense of human rights.  It also pushes for greater roles for women in negotiating peace treaties since women and children are often disproportionally affected by war and conflict. And it recruits young women peacemakers for the next generations.

As WILPF approaches 100 years of work (2015), it’s vision is still that of its founding:

  • the equality of all people in a world free of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia.
  • the guarantee of all to fundamental human rights including the right to sustainable economic development
  • an end to all forms of violence: rape, battering, exploitation, military intervention, and war.
  • the transfer of world resources from military to human needs, leading to economic justice within and between nations
  • world disarmament and the peaceful arbitration of conflicts through the United Nations.

The U.S. Section has a Jane Addams Peace Association (JAPA) that focuses on peace education among children.

In addition to Nobel Prize winners, Addams and Balch, WILPF has had numerous amazing members and leaders including Coretta Scott King, Phyllis Bennis (whom I suggested as Under-Secretary of State for the Middle East, though no one took me seriously), Evelyn Peak, Dr. Elise Boulding, and many others.  I urge women who read this blog to check out WILPF and its national sections and men to pass this page on to the powerful peacemaking women in your life.

August 31, 2011 Posted by | blog series, ethics, heroes, human rights, nonviolence, pacifism, peace, peacemakers | Leave a comment

A Brief History of The Fellowship of Reconciliation

I am going to write some brief historical sketches of  major grassroots, contemporary peace organizations–with special concentration on religious, especially Christian, organizations and especially those in North America (because I know them best).  The “modern” peace movement began in Europe and North America in the 19th C.  In North America, a major root was the largely Christian movement to abolish slavery with its stronghold in the Northern United States, but also with Canadian participants, especially after the Fugitive Slave Act meant that runaway slaves were not safe until they reached Canada.  Although 19th  C. North America  had a Christian peace witness from Mennonites, Dunkers (now called the Church of the Brethren) and some smaller sects, the major Christian peace witness to the larger, ecumenical church at this time was by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) who made up a disproportionate amount of the leadership of the Abolitionist movement.

Because of the Quaker peace witness, many non-Quaker abolitionists, such as William Lloyd Garrison (a white newspaper editor raised as a New England Baptist) and Frederick Douglass (a former slave, editor of The North Star, and lay-preacher for the African Methodist Episcopal Church) and Sojourner Truth (former slave and traveling preacher) were pacifists who hoped that slavery could be abolished without war–though some later, reluctantly endorsed the Civil War after Lincoln added the abolition of slavery to his war aims.  The evangelical preachers of the Second Great Awakening, including Charles Finney, Timothy Dwight Weld, Jonathan Blanchard, Alexander Campbell  and others were also pacifists and crusaders against slavery, child labor, and for the rights of women.

Opposition to Pres. James Polk’s War on Mexico (1845-1848), which was a thinly disguised ploy to gain territory and to break the Missouri Compromise and spread slave states all the way to the West Coast, was found across the religious and political spectrum. Not until the Vietnam War would an American War have such widespread opposition from the American people themselves.  That opposition produced the first U.S. peace societies, the beginnings of a widespread anti-war movement–one that grew again following the U.S. Civil War and which united political conservatives and liberals at the end of the 19th C. in opposition to the Spanish-American War (in which the U.S. took over the Spanish colonies of Cuba and Puerto Rico) and the Philippine-American War (in which the U.S. gained colonies in the Philippines, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Samoa).

In Europe, similar movements were growing in response to numerous 19th C. wars, including the British war in Burma, the revolutions against the Spanish throughout Latin America,  the Crimean War, the Savoy Revolt in India, the Boer War in South Africa, the British War in Afghanistan.  The beginnings of discontent with these long series of wars probably began with the 18th C. Napoleanic conquests.   In addition to Christian influences, the European peace movement drew from the growing body of international law in the 19th C. (with more institutions for international arbitration and law), and from two rival economic philosophies–the global free trade movement (wars disrupt business) and the various labor and socialist movements–both Marxist and non-Marxist versions (labor was likely to see most wars as exploitations of the poor by international capital).

Alfred Nobel, capitalist with a guilty conscience after inventing dynamite and making his fortune on munitions, was convinced at the turn of the century by his secretary Bertha Suttner (an author aand activist in the peace movement) to make one of his Nobel Prizes in his will dedicated to peacemakers, bringing new prestige to the movement.

The Fellowship of Reconciliation (F.O.R.) was birthed with the First World War.   In the aftermath of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Serbia,  peace activists, especially Christian peace activists, realized that a pan-European war could erupt.  In August of 1914 an international group of church leaders, clergy and laity, gathered in Switzerland to make a last ditch attempt to stop the war.  The conference had barely begun when word came that the fighting had begun–they were too late.  Conference attendants raced to rail stations to return to their home countries before the borders would be closed.  At a railway station in Germany, two of the conferees, a British Quaker named Henry Hodgkin (who taught philosophy at Queens College, Cambridge University) and a Lutheran minister named Friedrich Siegmund-Schutlze (who was, astonishingly, chaplain to the Kaiser!) clasped hands and pledged that because they were Christian brothers they, personally, could never be at war and they would seek to work for peace between their nations, regardless of the policies of their respective governments!

Back in the U. K., Hodgkins quickly acted on his promise. He convened an ecumenical Christian conference at Queens College from which about 20 individuals declared that they could not conceive of God as a nationalist and that they would not agree to a moratorium on the Sermon on the Mount for the length of the war. From this meeting the British chapter of the Fellowship of Reconciliation was born.

Travel during wartime is uncertain, but a year later Hodgkins came to New York City and convened a meeting of interested pacifists at Union Theological Seminary in NYC that included some of the most influential theologians and ministers and laypeople of the day including Reinhold Niebuhr (who would, in the ’30s, break with the F.O.R. and forever after be a severely harsh critic of Christian pacifism), Ernest Lefevre (who followed Niebuhr’s break and then went further and became a neoconservative!), John Haynes Holmes (prominent Unitarian minister), Jesse Wallace Hughes (prominent labor leader who would later found the more secular War Resisters’ League), and others.

In Germany, Rev. Sigmund-Schultz’s opposition to war and the Kaiser’s war aims quickly led to loss of his position as the Kaiser’s personal chaplain.  He was soon imprisoned until 1917.  Upon release from prison, Rev. Sigmund-Schultz founded the German chapter of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Internationaler Versöhnungsbund, which is a thriving branch of the F.O.R. today.  After Hitler’s rise to power in the ’30s, Sigmund-Schultz was an early outspoken critic and died in a concentration camp.

In 1919, after the war ended, the F.O.R. created an International branch (IFOR), headquartered first in Switzerland and today in Alkmaar, the Netherlands.  There are today 85 national branches of IFOR, on every continent on the globe.  The International Fellowship of Reconciliation and some of its national member branches (including the U.S. branch) have broadened from being ecumenical Christian organizations to interfaith pacifist organizations (but still religiously based).  Other branches, such as the Fellowship of Reconciliation in England (F.o.R. E.) are still specifically Christian, perhaps in reaction to the strong secularization of the wider culture.

The F.O.R. and its various branches have been involved in nonviolent struggles for justice and peace throughout the twentieth century until today.  They were early supporters of Gandhi’s work in South Africa and then India and helped to plant FOR branches among the Gandhians while learning Gandhian nonviolence theory and adding it to their religiously based pacifism.  Six (6) prominent members of the IFOR have won the Nobel Peace Prize (Jane Addams, USA, 1931; Emily Green Balch, USA, 1946; Chief Albert Luthuli, South Africa, 1960; Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., USA, 1964; Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Northern Ireland, 1976; Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Argentina, 1980) and literally hundreds of others have been nominated for it and hundreds of its members have won other peace and human rights prizes.  IFOR has nongovernmental status at the United Nations as it works to create a culture of nonviolence, peace, and justice.

In the U.S. branch of IFOR, as well as in the British branch and, perhaps others, many members also belong to religious peace fellowships specific to their faith or denomination, some more organically connected to the F.O.R. than others (e.g., the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, the Jewish Peace Fellowship, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, the Muslim Peace Fellowship, the Lutheran Peace Fellowship, the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, the Disciples Peace Fellowship, the Catholic Peace Fellowship, etc.)  There are also regional branches of the U.S. F.O.R.–I have served on the board of the Louisville Chapter of the Fellowship of Reconciliation which meets monthly on the campus of the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

The U.S. branch of the F.O.R. has often spun-off other organizations during its various campaigns.  For instance, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) began when F.O.R. board member Roger Baldwin sought to protect civil liberties guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution that were being trampled during World War I–especially the rights of conscientious objectors to war.  Likewise, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was founded by staff members of the F.O.R. during the 1940s, especially James Farmer, Bayard Rustin, and George Houser–beginning with students at the University of Chicago Divinity School.  The F.O.R. was involved in the Civil Rights movment, the movement against nuclear weapons, to stop the Vietnam War (and every war thereafter), work to end the death penalty and work for prison reform, to end apartheid in South Africa, to free Burma from military rule, to end U.S. support of dictatorships, to work for women’s rights, labor rights, and, since the 1990s, the rights and equality of LGBT persons.  F.O.R. workshops on nonviolence in the Philippines laid the groundwork for the nonviolent people power revolution in the ’80s–and similar stories can be repeated around the world.

The F.O.R.’s role in various nonviolent campaigns and peace efforts has not usually been widely noted.  For instance, the role in the Civil Rights movment is mentioned in most history books, but seldom in any public celebrations of the achievements of that struggle.  But the FOR and its members have never been about getting “credit,” but about experimenting with the power of love and nonviolence and forgiveness as a force for personal and social change.

I have been a member since 1983.  Only recently returned from the U.S. army as a conscientious objector, I went twice to Nicaragua with the movement Witness for Peace, which aimed to stop the civil war and the Reagan-backed terrorists known as the Contras.  On my second trip unarmed into this war zone, most of the delegation happened to be members of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, of which I had never heard. Upon my return to the states, I joined up and have counted my membership to be one of my deepest commitments.

The F.O.R. is not perfect and has made mistakes.  A major mistake, in my view, happened just after its birth.  As Paul Alexander shows in his Peace to War:  Shifting Allegiances in the Assemblies of God, the early Pentecostals, especially the AoG, were pacifist and strongly opposed WWI. (They did not officially abandon pacifism until 1967.) But there was little contact with Pentecostals or other conservative Christian groups by the members of the F.O.R. at that time, who were mostly liberal, mainline Christians who looked askance at conservative groups.  That view has changed, but a major opportunity that would have strengthened both groups was lost.

Nevertheless, some of the strongest activists and theologians for peace have come from the ranks of the Fellowship of Reconciliation–and do so still.

Here is a partial list of famous members of IFOR or one of its branches:

  • Rev.  Paul Jones, Episcopal bishop removed from his diocese in Utah because of his pacifism and opposition to WWI.
  • Norman Thomas, Presbyterian minister turned union organizer and leader of the Socialist Party, USA.  Ran for U.S. president on a Socialist and  pacifist platform 5 times.
  • John Haynes Holmes, Unitarian minister.
  • Jane Addams.
  • Alfred Hassler, American Baptist leader.
  • Bayard Rustin, African-American Quaker, labor and civil rights leader–not as well known as others because he was gay in a time when that was literally illegal in most of the U.S.
  • James Farmer, Jr., African-American Methodist minister and founder of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).
  • Glenn Smiley, Methodist pastor and advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • A. J. Muste, Congregationalist minister turned Quaker who led the F.O.R. through the middle of the 20th C.
  • Lillian Smith, Southern novelist.
  • G. H. C. MacGregor, Scottish New Testament scholar.
  • Andre Trocme, French Reformed pastor-theologian who led the village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon to hide 5,000 Jews from the Nazis, thus saving them from the Holocaust.
  • Dorothy Day, co-founder and motivating spirit of the Catholic Worker movement.
  • Clarence Jordan, radical white Baptist New Testament scholar who founded the interracial farming community known as Koinonia in South Georgia in 1942.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King.
  • John M. Swomley, Jr., Methodist theologian and ethicist.
  • Thomas Merton, Trappist monk.
  • Fr. Daniel Berrigan, S.J., Catholic priest, poet, biblical scholar, and radical anti-war activist.
  • Martin Niemöller, German Lutheran pastor who was held as Hitler’s personal prisoner during WWII.
  • Martin Buber, Jewish philosopher.
  • Maurice Friedman, Jewish philosopher, Buber scholar, and one of the founders of the Jewish Peace Fellowship.
  • Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Argentine sculpter, writer, and nonviolent activist who won the 1980 Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Hildegard Goss-Mayer, German peace activist whose workshops on nonviolence in the Philippines sowed the seeds for its 1986 nonviolent revolution.
  • Elise Boulding, Quaker sociologist.
  • Howard Thurman, African-American mystical theologian.
  • Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Catholic laywoman and co-founder of the Irish peace movement and Nobel Peace Prize winner.
  • Cesar Chavez, Mexican-American labor and civil rights leader; co-founder of the United Farmworkers of America.
  • Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist priest, leader of the Buddhist nonviolent protest against the Vietnama war; nominated for the Nobel Peace prize by Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Joseph Lowry, African American Methodist pastor and civil rights leader.
  • John Dear, S.J., Catholic priest, pastor, author, and nonviolent activist.
  • Rabia Terri Harris, founder of the Muslim Peace Fellowship.
  • Walter Wink, United Methodist New Testament scholar.
  • John Howard Yoder, Mennonite theologian.
  • Vincent Harding, African American Mennonite historian.
  • Edwin Dahlberg, former president of the Northern Baptist Convention (now American Baptist Churches, USA) and the National Council of Churches, USA.
  • Walter Rauschenbusch, theologian of the Social Gospel (for the last year of his life).
  • Glen H. Stassen, Baptist ethicist.
  • George Edwards, Presbyterian New Testament scholar.
  • Jim Forest, founder of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship.
  • Barbra Deming, Quaker, feminist.
  • Albert Einstein, ‘Nuff said.
  • Rabbi Leo Beerman, rabbi of Temple Leo Baeck, Los Angeles.
  • Sami Awad, founder of Holy Land Trust and the Palestinian News Network
  • Rev. Rick Ufford-Chaise, Presbyterian minister, founder of BorderLinks, past-presiding officer of the Presbyterian Church, USA.
  • Rev. Glen Gersmehl, Executive Director of the Lutheran Peace Fellowship
  • Rev. Susan Mark Landis, Executive Director of the Mennonite Peace and Justice Support Network
  • Rev. Mel White, co-founder of Soulforce–using Gandhian and Kingian nonviolence to combat the spiritual oppression of LGBT folk in the church and society.
  • Charles Raven, Anglican theologian
  • H. H. Farmer, British NT scholar
  • Jean Lassere, French Reformed pastor and theologian and friend of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
  • Danilo Dolci, the “Sicilian Gandhi” who faced Sicili’s Mafia with Gospel nonviolence.
  • Ibrahim Rainey, Imam and co-founder of the Muslim Peace Fellowship
  • Joan Chittister, OSB, a Benedictine prioress.
  • Gene Sharp, Quaker and historian who has done more to analyze the “nuts and bolts” of nonviolence than anyone.

Far too many more to count.

August 31, 2011 Posted by | blog series, heroes, human rights, nonviolence, pacifism, peace, peacemakers | 5 Comments

For My Daughters: 25 Women Who Changed Modern America

Here are a few of the women in  postbellum American history I most admire–and have held up to my daughters as role models. All struggled to make the nation and the world a better place.  Notice that although all are involved in social and political movements, only a very few are politicians in the traditional sense.  This reflects my belief that while some are called to serve the common good through elected public office, there is no progress in social justice without grassroots activism–and that is often where one’s efforts are better spent. These are the kinds of women I hope my daughters–and their generation of American women–will adopt as role models.

  1. Jane Addams (1860-1935).  Founder of modern social work and the settlement house movement. Leader in Progressive Era politics.  Advocate for the poor, for women and children, for peace.  Quaker, founder of Hull House in Chicago. Founder of Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom (WILPF) and leader of global women’s movement against World War I.  2nd woman and first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.  Like many of her era, she was naive enough to think that if women got the right to vote, they would always vote against war and for peace and social justice. But better that than the cynical realpolitik of today’s “corporation woman.”  For further reading:  Louise W. Knight, Jane Addams: Spirit in Action (W.W. Norton & Co., 2010); Louise W. Knight, Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy (University of Chicago Press, 2006); Peggy Caravantes, Waging Peace: The Story of Jane Addams (Morgan Reynolds Publishing, 2004); Maurice Hamington, Embodied Care:  Jane Addams, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Feminist Ethics (University of Illinois Press, 2004); Jean Bethke Elshtain, ed., The Jane Addams Reader (Basic Books, 2001).
  2. Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931). First woman and one of the first African-Americans to own and publish her own newspaper. Crusading journalist who documented lynching and led the campaign against lynching. Champion of rights for women and African-Americans.  One of the founders of the NAACP, and a leader in the women’s suffrage movement. Correctly accused Frances Willard of the powerful Women’s Christian Temperance League of deliberately remaining silent about lynching and of using racial rhetoric that would increase white violence against African-Americans.  Accused black leaders W.E.B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey of ignoring the plight of black women and of early feminists like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton of ignoring or downplaying racism in order to win support for white women’s rights.  Listed as one of the 100 most important African-Americans in U.S. history.  For further reading:  Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Collected Works of Ida B. Wells-Barnett (BiblioBazaar, 2007); Alfreda Duster, ed., Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells (University of Chicago Press, 1991); Bonnie Hinman, Eternal Vigilance: The Story of Ida B. Wells-Barnett (Morgan Reynalds Publishing, 2010).
  3. Alice Paul (1885-1977).  Second generation American suffragist and feminist.  Quaker activist and one of the most educated women of her generation. B.A., Swarthmore College; M.A., Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania; Ll.B., Washington College of Law; Ll.M., Doctor of Civil Laws, American University.  An activist and leader in the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), Alice Paul led the campaign that secured the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (granting women the right to vote) in 1920–an amendment that pioneer suffragists such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amelia Bloomer, the Grimke sisters, and so many others, never lived to see.  Paul’s controversial tactic was to protest the administration of Pres. Woodrow Wilson during the midst of World War I–and lead hunger strikes when thrown in prison.  Alice Paul was the first person to picket the White House in 1916–exercising her 1st Amendment rights to assembly, speech, and petition and beginning an American protest tradition.  After the 19th Amendment passed, Paul formed the National Women’s Party (NWP) and wrote the first draft of the Equal Rights Amendment (substantially unchanged in wording ever since) in 1923. The ERA passed the House of Representatives in the 1930s, but never made it out of the Senate until 1972. Congress had attached an artificial deadline of 1979 for the necessary ratification by 38 states–and only 35 ratified by the deadline. Reintroduced in every Congress since, the ERA has never again made it to the floor of either chamber of Congress–never mind to the states for ratification.  Katherine Adams and Michael L. Keane, Alice Paul and the American Suffrage Campaign (University of Illinois Press, 2008);  Christine A. Lunardini, From Equal Suffrage to Equal Rights:  Alice Paul and the National Women’s Party, 1910-1928 (iUniverse.com, 2000); Mary Walton, A Woman’s Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot (Palgrave MacMillan, 2010). See also the DVD Iron-Jawed Angels with Hilary Swank as Alice Paul. (The title refers to the suffragists’ prison hunger strikes and the forced feedings that were the government response!)
  4. Mary Harris “Mother” Jones (1837-1930).  Labor leader from the coal fields of West Virginia to the steel mills of Chicago to the garment makers of New York; campaigner against child labor and for free public education for the children of the poor; champion of equal pay for equal work; leader of thousands of strikes, sit-downs, work-slow downs, and other campaigns for workers’ rights.  Called by conservative politicians “the most dangerous woman in America.” To attract attention to the cause of abolishing child labor, she once led a parade of 100 children from Washington, D.C. to President Teddy Roosevelt’s private home in Long Island, NY.  Often imprisoned, she could shame men into fighting for justice who were afraid of prison.  Her motto was “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living!” Philip S. Foner, ed., Mother Jones Speaks: Speeches and Writings of a Working-Class Fighter (Pathfinder Press, 1983); Mother Jones, The Autobiography of Mother Jones, ed. Mary Field Parton with an Introduction by Clarence Darrow (Kessinger Reprints, 2010); Elliot Gorn, Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman In America (Hill and Wang, 2001).  The left-liberal magazine Mother Jones is named in her honor.
  5. Helen Barrett Montgomery (1861-1934) was the first woman to head a major Christian denomination.  An American social reformer, educator, women’s rights activist, she was also a champion of missions, of the ordination of women (though never seeking such for herself), and of equality of women in family, church, and society.  She lived most of her life in Rochester, NY where she was friends with the much older Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906). Montgomery graduated from Wellesley College in 1884 with a B.A. in Classics and a teaching certificate.  Montgomery was such an excellent student of classical and Koine Greek that, in 1924, Judson Press (the American Baptist Publication Society) published Montgomery’s translation of the New Testament from Greek to English. She is, thus, the first woman to translate the New Testament and have that translation published professionally. (Coming on the year that the American Baptist Publication Society celebrated its first century of existence, for decades this NT was published as The Centenerary Translation. I made it a gift at the ordinations of women ministers, but, alas, it is no longer in print.) Working with Susan B. Anthony, Montgomery sucessfully lobbied the University of Rochester to open all its programs to women in 1900. She was elected to the Rochester city council and worked for reforms for women, children, and the poor. She opened colleges for women in Asia and went on world tours promoting women’s rights, women’s education, and missions.  In 1921, Montgomery was elected president of the Northern Baptist Convention (now known as the American Baptist Churches, U.S.A.), becoming the first woman to lead a major Christian denomination.  For further reading, Kendal P. Mobley, Helen Barrett Montgomery: The Global Mission of Domestic Feminism (Baylor University Press, 2009).
  6. Emily Greene Balch(1867-1961). 2nd American woman (and 3rd woman overall) to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946 for her long work with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). Born to wealth in Jamaica Plain, MA, Emily grew up in a Unitarian family with dreams of education and women’s equality.  She was one of the first graduates of Bryn Mawr College (B.A., sociology, 1896) and became a disciple of Jane Addams’ approach to social work–but wanted to add scientific discipline. When no U.S. university would admit women to Ph.D. programs, Balch went to Europe to finish her education, returning to the U.S. with a Ph.D. from the University of Berlin and became head of the sociology department at Wellesley College. She was co-founder of Boston’s first settlement house.  A pacifist, who later converted from Unitarian to Quaker because of the commitment of Friends to nonviolence, Balch’s opposition to World War I was so public it led to her dismissal from the faculty–as the government tolerated no dissent. Balch became an editor for the left-liberal magazine, The Nation, joined the newly-formed WILPF and served as their International President.  She worked for the League of Nations and kept urging the U.S. to join–convinced the isolationism of the U.S., coupled with the rise of fascism in Europe, would lead to another World War–and she was right. Often in the shadow of Jane Addams, Balch was the better scholar, better writer, and better organizer. Today, both Wellesley and Bryn Mawr have peace studies programs named in honor of Balch.  Kristen E. Gwinn, Emily Greene Balch:  The Long Road to Intenationalism (University of Illinois Press, 2010).
  7. Helen Keller (1880-1968) was the first deaf & blind person to earn a bachelor’s degree in the U.S. (Radcliffe College at age 24).  Born in Tuscumbia, AL to an officer in the Confederate army, most Americans know only the story of Helen’s amazing education thanks to her teacher, Annie Sullivan. But Keller was an accomplished writer, political activist, and lecturer.  She advocated for artifical birth control when this was very controversial.  Keller was an outspoken member of the Socialist Party of America  (not to be confused with the Socialist Party, USA)  and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or “Wobblies”) and pacifist who fought for racial justice, women’s rights, peace, and other leftist causes.  She was one of the founders of the American Civil Liberties Union and a strong supporter of Eugene Debs’ campaigns for the presidency as a Socialist.  She met every U.S. president from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon Johnson.  She was a Christian who eventually joined the odd sect founded by Emmanuel Swedenbourg.  She was an early feminist and suffragist and worked against child laborer. She worked against the industrial conditions and poverty that encouraged blindness, including the poverty that drove women to prostitution where contracting syphillus often led to blindness for the woman or for any children she might have.  Keller was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the U.S., by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965. See Helen Keller, The Story of My Life: The Restored Edition, ed., James Berger (Modern Library, 2004).
  8. Jeannette Pickering Rankin (1880-1973), a progressive Republican (back when there were such), was the first woman elected to Congress (from Missoula, MT), in 1916, SIX YEARS before women had the vote nationwide. A lifelong pacifist, she was one of 50 House members to vote against U.S. entry into World War I–and correctly accused Pres. Woodrow Wilson (D) of breaking his campaign promise to keep the country out of war.  She lost re-election in 1918, but was again elected on a progressive Republican and anti-war platform in 1940. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Americans quickly became pro-war and Rankin was the ONLY vote in Congress against entry in WWII. Rankin is thus the only member of the U.S. Congress to vote against both World Wars. This made her so unpopular that she declined to run for reelection in 1942.  A founding Vice President of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Rankin was also a founding member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). In her post-Congressional career, Rankin visited India 7 times to study Gandhian principles of nonviolence, supported the Civil Rights movement, spoke out against the Korean War and nuclear weapons, and even led marches of women on the White House to oppose the Vietnam War.  She died at the age of 92 of natural causes. In 1985, a statue of her was added to Congress.  The Jeannette Rankin Foundation awards college/university scholarships to poor women.  In 2004, an off-Broadway play of Rankin’s life was made called “A Single Woman.”  In 2009, a film of the same name was released.  For further reading, see Norma Smith, Jeanette Rankin:  America’s Conscience (Missoula, MT: Montana Historical Society Press, 2002) and Gretchen Woelfe, Jeannette Rankin: Political Pioneer (Boyds Mills Press, 2007).
  9. Septima Poinsette Clark (1898-1987), theQueen Mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” born to former slaves in Charleston, SC, she grew up a sharecropper who fought a long battle for education in a state that did not provide any public education funds for African-Americans. She eventually earned a B.A. from Benedict College (Columbia, S.C.) and an M.A. from Hampton (Virginia) Institute (now Hampton University) and worked as a public school teacher in St. John’s Island, SC and later Columbia, SC. At St. John’s Island, Clark pioneered a method of adult education that would later serve her well with the “Freedom Schools” of the Civil Rights movement.  When South Carolina passed a law in the 1950s that banned all public employees (including school teachers) from membership in the NAACP, Clark refused to give up her membership and was fired by the school board of Columbia, SC.  She was hired by the progressive Highlander Folk School (now Highlander Research and  Education Center) of Eastern Tennessee.  At Highlander, Clark designed and led classes in education for social change for union and civil rights groups.  Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. both attended Clark’s classes as did Diane Nash and most of the leaders of the Nashville movement.  Then Clark went to work for King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) designing the Citizenship Schools or Freedom Schools used to train African Americans to become registered voters across the South. Eventually, after South Carolina’s ban on NAACP membership was struck down by the Supreme Court of the United States, Clark successfully sued her old school board for wrongful termination and collected years of back wages.  President Jimmy Carter presented her with a Living Legacy Award in 1979 and at her death in 1987, the SCLC honored her with a “Drum Major for Justice” Award.
  10. Ella Baker (1903-1986).  Organizer and champion of civil rights, Ella Baker often worked behind the scenes because she didn’t believe in big showy leaders (like Martin Luther King, Jr.). She was fond of saying that “strong people don’t need strong leaders” and advocated far more democratic grassroots movements. She worked as Field Secretary for the NAACP from 1938-1953; developed the initial organization of King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (1957-1960), but soon left because she refused to show “proper deference” to the (all male) preachers who dominated SCLC; advised the students and helped them organize the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC–“Snick”) 1960-1966, but left when new leaders abandoned nonviolence and pushed out whites; worked with the Southern Conference Education Fund, 1962-1967 which worked to help Southern whites and Southern blacks work together on projects of justice. Baker was a proponent of “participatory democracy.” An intensely private person, many who worked side by side with her never knew “Miss Baker” was married for over twenty years. She left no diaries or memoirs.  Her biographer, Barbara Ransby, calls Baker a “Freirein teacher, Gramscian intellectual, and radical humanist.”  Baker’s legacy, like that of Paulo Freire, is to educate for liberation using a method of action/reflection/revised action. She was not an ivory tower intellectual, but, like the Italian Communist, Antonio Gramsci, lived and worked in solidarity with those she was helping to free themselves.  Her “radical humanism” did not refer to a secular view of the world (she was a Christian who saw all the faults of the institutional churches and refused to worship ministers), but to her deep commitment to the dignity and worth of every human being.  Barbara Ransby, Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision (University of North Carolina Press, 2003).
  11. Virginia Foster Durr (1903-1999) was a white daughter of Southern wealth who turned her back on the “Southern way of life” to become a champion of civil rights and the rights of working people.  Her parents were not wealthy, but her father, a Presbyterian minister, did sacrifice so that Virginia would learn to be a “Southern lady,” schooled in social graces and accepting of segregation. However, since they also wanted her to be well educated, they sent her North–where she was exposed to other patterns than Southern segregation. She attended Wellesley College where the policy of “rotating tables” at meals taught her to eat with African-Americans as equals. Virginia initially protested the custom, but was told she could accept it or leave the school. She accepted it, learned to like it, shed her prejudices, and became friends with several African-American students.  In her junior year, her family’s finances forced Virginia Foster to leave Wellesley and return to Alabama.  There, at church, she met and fell in love with attorney Clifford Durr, whom she married in 1926. The Durrs moved to Washington, D.C. in 1931 so that Clifford could accept a position in the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, a last-ditch effort by the Hoover administration to reverse the Great Depression. In 1933, Cliff Durr became part of the Roosevelt New Deal in several capacities, beginning with the Federal Communications Commission. Virginia also became involved in politcs, joining the Woman’s National Democratic Club and beginning a long quest to abolish the “poll tax,” which was used by Southern states to disenfranchise virtually all African-Americans and poor whites throughout the South. She was a founder of the Southern Conference for Human Welfare which tried to bring New Deal-inspired economic and social changes to the South.  The SCHW folded in the 1950s because of charges by McCartheyites that it was funded by Communists and the Durrs themselves were often charged with being Communists or Communist-sympathizers.  Virginia Durr was compelled to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC–abolished in the 197os) and stated only her name and that she was not a Communist, refusing to answer any other questions.  Durr also helped to found the Southern Education Fund (SEF) and was Vice President of the National Campaign to Abolish the Poll Tax. By 1950, the Durrs had returned to Alabama, settled in Montgomery, where Clifford was one of the few white attorneys who would take civil rights cases. In 1954, Virginia Durr bailed out Rosa Parks after she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white person on a city bus (thus, beginning the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the modern Civil Rights movement).  Parks had sometimes been a seamstress for the Durrs.  The Durrs house a was a de facto headquarters for civil rights activities throughout the 1950s and 1960s. After 1965, Virginia became convinced that, beyond race or sex, poverty was the biggest social problem and spent much of the rest of her life fighting that.  Clifford Durr died in 1975 and Virginia died in 1999.  Virginia Foster Durr, Outside the Magic Circle: The Autobiography of Virginia Foster Durr, ed. Hollinger F. Barnard (University of Alabama Press, 1990; orig. published, 1985); Patricia Sullivan, ed., Freedom Writer: Virginia Foster Durr’s Letters From the Civil Rights Years (Routledge Press, 2003; paperback ed., University of Georgia Press, 2006).
  12. Rachel Carson (1906-1964) was a marine biologist and environmentalist who helped to create the modern grassroots environmental movement, to ban the pesticide DDT, and to create the Environmental Protection Agency.  We could use a Rachel Carson (or 10) today.  See  Rachel Carson, Under the Sea Wind (1944); The Sea Around Us (1951); The Edge of the Sea (1955); Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (Mariner Books edition, 2002; Orig. Pub., 1962), the classic that launched the modern environmental movement; Lisa Sederis and Kathleen Dean Moore, eds., Rachel Carson: Legacy and Challenge (SUNY Series in Environmental Science and Ethics) (SUNY Press, 2006); Mark Lytle, Gentle Subversive: Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, and the Rise of the Environmental Movement (New Narratives in American History) (Oxford University Press, 2007); Arlene R. Quaratiello, Rachel Carson: A Biography (Greenwood Press, 2004).
  13. Pauli Murray (1910-1985) was a fighter for civil rights and racial justice, women’s rights, and much else. She was a lawyer, writer, poet, teacher, and, later in life, an ordained Episcopal priest.  Born in Baltimore, MD, Anna Pauline Murray lost her mother when she was but three (3) years old and moved to Durham, NC where she lived with her aunt (after whom she was named) and her maternal grandparents.  A brilliant student, Pauli surmounted the obstacles of the segregated school system of NC to win a full scholarship to Hunter College in NYC.  In NY, Pauli joined the NAACP and became active in the struggle for civil rights. She decided that she could do more as an attorney and in the South she knew so well, but in 1938 she was denied admission to the law school of the University of North Carolina on the basis of her race.  Instead, she entered the law school of Howard University, an historic black university in Washington, D.C. whose law school was providing the NAACP Legal Defense Fund with its shock troops in the struggle to strike down segregation laws. At Howard, Murray experienced discrimination because of her sex, but still graduated as class valedictorian in 1944.  Murray sought at an advanced law degree at Harvard University, but was again denied admission this time on the basis of her sex.  Harvard’s loss was the University of California @ Berkeley’s gain as Murray earned a Master of Law degree at UC Berkeley’s Boaldt Law Center and was admitted to the California State Bar in 1946.  In 1950, Murray published States Laws on Race and Color which catalogued the segregation laws and laws discriminatory against African-Americans, Native Americans, and other minorities in all 50 states–a work that the great Thurgood Marshall called “the Bible of the civil rights lawyer.” A contemporary and friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, Murray pushed the First Lady to act boldly for civil rights both during and after her husband’s presidency.  Murray was part of several civil rights organizations and participated in nonviolent campaigns of direct action, but she was also highly critical of the sexism of the civil rights leadership.  She helped the NAACP Legal Defense Fund map out its anti-segregation strategy that   During her long career, Murray helped to found the National Organization for Women (NOW), taught law in the new African country of Ghana, was Professor of American Studies at Brandeis University (1968-1973), and was a founder of the Women’s Rights Law Reporter, the first legal journal to focus solely on the legal rights of women.  Murray was the first African-American woman to earn a J.S.D. from the law school of Yale University and simultaneously earned a B.D. from Yale Divinity School and became the first African American woman to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church, U.S.A. She died of pancreatic cancer in 1985. After her death, her private papers revealed that she had long known she was a lesbian, but chose to remain celibate and closeted–leaving the struggle for GLBTQ rights for another generation.  Pauli Murray, ed. States’ Laws on Race and Color (Studies in Southern Legal History) (University of Georgia Press, 1997; orig. pub., 1950); Pauli Murray, Song in a Weary Throat:  An American Pilgrimage (HarperCollins, 1987); Pauli Murray, Pauli Murray:  Autobiography of a Black, Feminist, Activist, Lawyer (University of Tennessee Press, 1989); Pauli Murray,Pauli Murray: Selected Writings and Sermons, ed., Anthony Pinn (Orbis Books, 2006); Sarah Azaransky, The Dream is Freedom:  Pauli Murray and American Democratic Freedom (Oxford University Press, 2011).
  14. Betty Friedan (1921-2006) was one of the major leaders of American Second Wave feminism of the 1960s and 1970s. (First Wave feminism  occurred in the late 19th C. and early 20th C., culminating in the suffragist campaign for women’s right to vote, finally won in 1920.) Born Bettyé Naomi Goldstein in Peori, IL to middle class Jewish jewelry store owners, Friedan became active in Jewish and Marxist circles from a very early age, motivated by a strong sense of anger at injustice that flowed from her experience of anti-Semitism.  A writer from her high school days, Friedan won an academic scholarship to the prestigious all women’s Smith College where she majored in psychology and graduated summa cum laude in 1942. She edited the campus newspaper and wrote numerous poems, some controversial because of their anti-war sentiments.  In 1943, Friedan won a fellowship for graduate study in pyschology with the famous psychologist, Erik Erikson, at the University of California @ Berkeley, but her then-boyfriend pressured her to turn down a Ph.D. fellowship, ending Friedan’s career as an academic. She married theatre-producer Carl Friedan in 1947 and they had three (3) children, Emily, Daniel, and Jonathan, and Daniel has become a noted theoretical physicist.  Carl Friedan sometimes beat Betty and they divorced in 1969. Betty had continued working after their marriage, especially as a freelance journalist for leftist newspapers and magazines.  For her 1957 college reunion, Betty surveyed the post-grad experiences of women and found an enormous number felt “trapped” in the role of homemaker, “the problem for which there is no name.”  She expanded the work to become The Feminine Mystique (1963), an examination of women’s roles in industrial societies.  The book launched the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s.  Friedan wrote 5 more books, all dealing with themes in femnism and most having autobiographical dimensions. She helped to found the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966 and served as its first president.  Along with Pauli Murray, Friedan wrote NOW’s first mission statement.  Under Friedan’s leadership, NOW successfully lobbied for passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and forced the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to stop ignoring claims of sexual discrimination.  Less successfully, NOW lobbied for the Equal Rights Amendment, national day care, and other limits.  In 1970, on the 50th anniversary of the 19th Amendment (granting women the right to vote), Friedan organized “Women Strike for Equality,” a march and rally of 50,000 women in New York City—publicity from which greatly expanded the women’s movement.  Although initially conflicted about the morality of abortion, Friedan became persuaded by pro-choice arguments that reproductive choice, including legal abortion, was necessary for women’s autonomy.  She helped to found the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, which, after abortion bans were struck down by the Supreme Court in 1973 (Roe v. Wade), changed its name to the National Abortion Rights Action League  (NARAL), which continues today.  (My own views about the morality and legality of abortion are ambivalent, but I want to paint Friedan as she was.) Friedan died of cancer in 2006. Her influence continues today.  For futher reading, see, Betty Friedan, The Feminique Mystique (Norton, 2001; Orig. Pub., 1963); The Fountain of Age (Simon and Schuster, 2006); Life So Far: A Memoir (Simon and Schuster, 2006).
  15. Barbara Deming (1917-1984), raised a Quaker, became a nonviolent activist in the feminist, civil rights, peace, and gay rights movements.  She also developed a theory of nonviolence that could be intellectually embraced by secular persons.  An out lesbian since she was 17, Deming partnered with Mary Meigs from 1954 to 1972, and then lived with her partner, artist Jane Verlaine, at their Florida home from 1976 until Deming’s death in 1984.  Deming was from privileged class and her father was a minor Republican politician in NYC, while her mother was an aspiring singer.  Deming’s early education and high school years were spent in Quaker schools.  She earned a B.A. in drama and literature from Bennington College (then an all-woman’s college) in Vermont in  1938 and an MFA in drama from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio in 1941.  Although raised a Quaker, the Friends’ Peace Witness had apparently not “clicked” with Deming until a trip to India in 1959 led her to embrace the nonviolent philosophy of Mohandas K. Gandhi.  From the 1960s until her death in 1985, Deming was both an activist and nonviolent theorist in numerous movements for justice, including the civil rights movement, women’s movement, anti-Vietnam War movement, anti-nuclear weapons movement, environmental movement, and the lesbian and gay rights movement.  For further reading, see Jane Meyerding, ed., We Are All a Part of One Another:  A Barbara Deming Reader (New Society Publishers, 1984); Martin Duberman, A Saving Remnant:  The Radical Lives of Barbara Deming and David McReynolds (The New Press, 2011).
  16. Shirley Chisolm (1924-2005), was an African-American writer, educator, and politician.  Born in Brooklyn to immigrant parents (her father was from British Guiana (now the independent African nation of Guyana) and her mother was from Barbados in the lesser Antilles of the Carribbean) as Shirley Anita St. Hill, Chisolm’s parents sent her to live with her grandmother in Christchurch, Barbados in order to receive a British style education through high school.  She graduated with a B.A. from Brooklyn College in 1948 and an M.A. in elementary education from Columbia University in 1952.  After working for day care centers and becoming heavily involved in the Civil Rights and women’s movements, Chisolm became the first African American woman elected to Congress in 1968, defeating liberal black Republican James Farmer (founder of the Congress of Racial Equality or CORE). In 1969, Chisholm was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and in 1972 became the first African American and first woman to run for President in the Democratic primaries (receiving 154 delegate votes at the 1972 Democratic National Convention), surviving 3 assassination attempts during the campaign!  Showing the power of forgiveness, Chisolm visited her arch-rival, segregationist former Alabama Gov. George Wallace in the hospital after he was shot in May 1972.  Throughout her time in Congress, Chisolm fought for higher minimum wages, for day care for the poor, for women’s rights and racial justice, against war and weapons programs, and for universal healthcare and improved public schools. Retiring from Congress in 1982, she returned to the classroom, lecturing in colleges and universities across the land.  In 1993, Pres. Bill Clinton nominated her to become Ambassador to Jamaica, but failing health prevented her from serving.  That same year, Chisolm was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She died in her home in Ormond Beach, Florida (where she had retired) of cancer in 2005.
  17. Anne McCarty Braden (1924-2006), a white woman from Louisville, KY and Anniston, AL who broke with the “Southern tradition” of her upbringing to become a strong social critic and a radical voice for racial and worker justice, for women’s rights, and for peace.  Anne was born in Louisville and raised in rigidly segregated Anniston by a middle class family who thoroughly accepted segregation. Anne, a devout Episcopalian, never questioned segregation until her days as a student at Randolph-Macon’s Woman’s College (renamed Randolph College and co-ed since 2007) in Virginia.  There, majoring in journalism, she began to make connections between racism, sexism, and fascism, but it was her early employment as a journalist in Birmingham, AL that truly radicalized her as she saw one justice system for the rich and white and another for the poor and black. She returned to Louisville, KY to work for the Louisville Times (now merged as part of the Louisville Times-Union) where she met and married Carl Braden, a much older journalist and radical labor activist. The Bradens were prominent in Henry Wallace’s presidential campaign of 1948 on the Progressive Party ticket and involved in the NAACP and the Southern Conference Educational Fund, but it was their involvement in challenging segregated housing that made them notorious throughout the U.S.  Acquainted with an African-American family named the Wades, the Braden’s sold the Wades their house in white “East Louisville” and themselves moved across the tracks to black “West Louisville” in 1954–where they remained for the rest of their days.  Furious with this direct challenge to segregated housing, the KKK dynamited the Wades’ house and they were run out of Louisville.  Far from arresting the arsonists, Louisville prosecutors accused the Bradens of the crime and when those charges wouldn’t stick, convicted them of sedition–until the U.S. Supreme Court struck down individual state sedition laws (Pennsylvania v. Nelson 1956).  The Bradens became field workers for the Southern Educational Fund and wrote for the radical Southern Patriot.  Anne remained active in radical causes after Carl’s death in 1975.  She was a member of the pacifist Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and of the War Resisters’ League (WRL) and helped to found the National Alliance Against Racial and Political Repression in 1973. The national organization eventually disbanded, but the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression still meets in the Carl Braden Center (the former home of the Bradens) in West Louisville. Anne was active in numerous progressive and radical causes until the day she died.  Long after the Civil Rights-era romance of “black and white together, we shall overcome” had faded in the U.S., Anne Braden insisted that racial justice was a cause that should be just as important to white people as to racial minorities–and repeatedly put her body on the line to prove. In 2004, only 2 years before her death, I was able to introduce Anne to my oldest daughter as we all marched against the Iraq war. See further, Anne Braden, The Wall Between (University of Tennessee Press, 1999; Orig. pub., 1964); Catherine Fosl, Subversive Southerner:  Anne Braden and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Cold War South (University Press of Kentucky, 2002).
  18. Helen Rodriguez-Trias, M.D. (1929-2001) was an activist for Puerto Rican independence, a pediatrician and campaigner for women and children’s health. She was the first Latina to become head of the American Public Health Association and a founding member of APHA’s Women’s Caucus. In her early years growing up in New York City, she faced so much racial prejudice that, even though she was smart and knew English, she was placed in a class of mentally handicapped children. It was only thanks to a perceptive teacher than she was re-classified and transferred to a class of gifted children.  She earned her B.A. at the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan and her M.D. at its medical school. She had deliberately chosen to return to PR for her tertiary  education because of Puerto Rico’s generous scholarship programs. During her undergraduate and med school education Rodriguez became deeply involved as a student in the movement for Puerto Rican independence, though always through nonviolent means.  After serving her internship and residency in PR, where she founded the first center for newborns in PR, she returned to NY and became involved in campaigns to stop forced sterilizations (usually practiced by doctors on poor women of color after they gave birth and without their knowledge or consent!), for greater access to artificial birth control by poor women, and in women’s and minorities health issues more generally.  She taught on the medical school faculties at Fordham and Columbia universities and became head of the Dept. of Pediatrics at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx.  She worked to expand access to medical help for women and poor communities in the U.S., PR, throughout Central and South America, Asia, and Africa.  In the 1980s, she became deeply involved in efforts to fight AIDS. In January 2001, in one of his last acts as U.S. President, Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Citizen’s Medal, the 2nd highest civilian medal in the U.S. Rodriquez-Trias died later that year of cancer.  In 2002, APHA announced that it would create an award in the name of Rodriquez-Trias for those who advance the cause of women’s health.
  19. Dolores Huerta (1930-) is, along with her more famous male colleague, César Chavez (1927-1993), co-founder of the United Farmworkers (UFW) labor union of migrant farm workers. She is a pioneering leader of workers’ rights, immigrants’ rights, Latino rights, and women’s rights.  A member of the Democratic Socialists of America, Huerta is best known as a community organizer and labor organizer. In 1965, Huerta led the UFW’s successful boycott of California grapes and wines until the growers signed a 3 year collective bargaining agreement with the workers in 1970–the first such victory in history.  Arrested numerous times for nonviolent civil disobedience, Huerta has been active in peace and justice causes her entire adult life and serves on the boards of People for the American Way and the Feminist Majority Foundation.  In Sept. 1988, when Huerta was engaged in lawful, peaceful, protest of the policies of then-President George H. W. Bush, she was severely beaten and injured by the San Francisco Police and later won a large lawsuit against the SFPD which she donated to the United Farm Workers.  In 2006, Princeton University awarded her an honorary degree and in 2007, she was co-recipient of the International Peace Award of the Community of Christ International. She now heads the Dolores Huerta Foundation. See Mario T. Gomez, A Dolores Huerta Reader (University of New Mexico Press, 2008).
  20. Dorothy Foreman Cotton (1930-) is an African-American hero of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. She  was born in Goldsboro, NC and lost her mother when only three (3) after which she and her siblings were raised by her father, tobacco factory worker George Cotton.  Determined to get an education despite the obstacles of segregation and racism, Dorothy attended Shaw University in Raleigh, NC (a historic black university) where she supported herself by working as a housekeeper for the university president.  When her employer became president of another historic black university, Virginia State College (now University)[Petersburg, VA], Dorothy transferred to Virginia State and graduated with a B.A. in English and Library Science. After graduation, Dorothy married George Cotton, whom she had met in college.  She later earned an M.A. in Speech Therapy from Boston University in 1960.  During this time, Cotton became deeply involved in the Civil Rights movement.  For the next 12 years, Cotton became the Education Director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the only female member of the Executive Council of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and one of his closest confidants.  At SCLC Dorothy headed the Citizenship Education Project training the disenfranchised African American masses in political participation, voter registration, and nonviolent protest.  In later years, Cotton was the Southern Regional Director of ACTION, the U.S. federal agency for volunteer programs.  She also worked briefly for the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.  She then spent 10 years as the Director of Student Activities for Cornell University.  Cotton was a founding member of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and a longtime member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and she has supported the struggles for women’s rights and for world peace.  In retirement, Cotton has been a highly sought speaker whp seeks to educate younger generations on the history of nonviolent social struggle and on the philosophy of nonviolence.
  21. Diane Nash (1938-), a light-skinned African-American woman from Chicago (who won several integrated beauty contests in her youth) had experienced little open, obvious, racism before becoming a student in the South, first at  Howard University (Washington, D.C.), then as a transfer student to Fisk University (Nashville, TN).  It was in Nashville where Nash was introduced to the philosophy of Gandhian nonviolent direct action, thanks to workshops on the subject conducted by Jim Lawson, an African-American student at Vanderbilt University Divinity School (and, later, an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church), a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), and a longtime student of Gandhian nonviolence. Nash was initially skeptical, but after becoming convinced of the power of nonviolence, she became a major strategist and leader of the student wing of the Civil Rights movement. In 1960, Nash successfully led the Nashville Student Movement in desegregating the stores, lunchcounters, theatres, and public accomodations of Nashville through a textbook nonviolent campaign in which students were repeatedly beaten and arrested by police and in which Nash publicly confronted Mayor Ben West in polite-but-firm engagement–getting West to admit on camera that segregation was wrong and that the races should be able to live, work, pray, and eat together.  (West was true to his word and it cost him reelection.) Nash went on to becoming a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC–“Snick”) and to coordinate the second stage of the Freedom Rides.  She eventually joined the staff of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, leading its student wing until 1968.  Nash was the primary strategist behind the successful desegregation campaign in Birmingham, AL (1963) and one of the key organizers of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  She coordinated the 1965 March from Selma, AL to the capital in Montgomery–a campaign which culminated in the successful passage of the Voting Rights Act.  After 1968, Nash returned the Chicago, completed her interrupted education, became a teacher and stayed involved in struggles for justice in a quieter, less public, way. In late 2008, during the scandal of Illinois Gov. Blagojovich’s attempt to sell the U.S. Senate seat of Pres.-elect Barack Obama, Nash was suggested as an appointee who would be beyond reproach, but she declined. She remains committed to nonviolence as both a practical means of social struggle and a way of life.  For further reading see, Lisa Mullins, Diane Nash: The Fire of the Civil Rights Movement (Barnhardt & Ashe, 2007); Lynne Olsen, Freedom’s Daughters: The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement from 1830 to 1970 (Scribner’s, 2002).
  22. Marian Wright Edelman (1939-) is the world famous founding president of the Children’s Defense Fund, and the foremost activist for the rights and welfare of children in the United States.  Born and raised in Bennettsville, SC, Marian Wright’s father died when she was but 14 and his last words to her was to let nothing prevent her from getting an education.  Heeding her father’s words, Wright earned her B.A. at Spelman College (Atlanta, GA), an historic African-American women’s liberal arts college, where she travelled the world on a Merrill Scholarship and spent a semester studying the USSR as a Lisle Fellow. At Spelman, Marian was deeply influenced by two teachers in the history and sociology department, Staughton Lynd, a Quaker and conscientious objector, who taught her the history and philosophy of nonviolence, and Howard Zinn, a Jewish socialist and WWII veteran who taught Marian to look at history from the “underside,” from the perspective of victims, the vulnerable and marginalized, and those who resisted the dominant forces in society.  As a Spelman student, Marian became heavily involved in the nonviolent Civil Rights movement, participating in many nonviolent campaigns despite the disapproval of the Spelman administration of the day.  After her arrest for civil disobedience, Marian decided to study law.  She was admitted to Yale Law School (one of the earliest African-American and women students there) and earned her J.D. in 1963. She joined the staff of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s Mississippi field office, where she became the first African-American woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar.  During the 1964 “Freedom Summer” campaign, Marian not only represented arrested activists, but also helped to launch a local Head Start program.  In 1967, Sen. Robert Kennedy (D-NY) toured the slums of the MS Delta region and Marian met and married a senior staff member, Peter Edelman. She moved to Washington, D.C., where Peter Edelman teaches at the law school of Georgetown University, and founded the Children’s Defense Fund as a citizen’s lobby on behalf of children, pushing for policies that enable and promote adoption, literacy and early education programs, improve foster care, improve child care, promote universal healthcare, family planning, and protect children who are disabled, neglected, homeless, or abused.  As practically the only strong voice for the welfare of children in the United States, Marian Wright Edelman and the CDF have been nominated repeatedly for the Nobel Peace Prize.  She is the recipient of numerous honors and awards including a MacArthur Genius Award (1985), Barnard College Medal of Distinction (1985); an honorary Doctor of Laws from Bates College (1986); the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism (1988); The Silver Buffalo Award from the Boy Scouts of America (1992); The International Peace Award of the Community of Christ (1995); The Heinz Award in the Human Condition (1996); and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2000). Wright has written several books including, Families in Peril:  An Agenda for Social Change (Harvard University Press, 1986); The Measure of Our Success:  A Letter to My Children and Yours (HarperCollins, 1993); Guide My Feet: Prayers and Meditations on Loving and Working for Children (Beacon Press, 1995); Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors (Perenniel, 2000); I Can Make a Difference:  A Treasury to Inspire Our Children (Amistad, 2005); The Sea is So Wide and My Boat is So Small:  Charting a Course for the Next Generation (Hyperion, 2008); Beatrice Seagal, Marian Wright Edelman: The Making of a Crusader (Simon and Schuster, 1995).
  23. Sally Ride (1951-) is a physicist and former NASA astronaut who in 1983 became the first U.S. woman (and then-youngest American) to enter space.  The eldest child of Dale Burdell Ride and Carol Joyce Anderson Ride, Sally was born in Encino, CA and won a scholarship to the Westlake School for Girls (now the Harvard-Westlake School), a private, elite, prep school, in Los Angeles.  At Westlake, Sally was a strong science student and a nationally ranked tennis player.  She won a scholarship to Swarthmore College, but later transferred to Stanford University, where she earned her B.A. with a double major in English and physics. Continuing at Stanford, Ride earned an M.Sc. and Ph.D. in physics while doing research in astrophysics and free electron laser physics.  One of 8,000 people to answer a newspaper advertisement for applicants in the space program, Ride joined NASA in 1978.  She served in the ground based Capsule Communicator (CapCom) for the 2nd and 3rd space shuttle missions, Ride helped develop the shuttle’s robot arm.  Ride was not the first woman in space, being preceded by 2 Soviet cosmonauts, Valentina Tereshkova (1963) and Svetlana Savitskaya (1982). However, as a crewmember on the space shuttle Challenger, Ride did become the first U.S. woman in space on 18 June 1983.  She was a member of several more shuttle missions and was the first woman to use the robot arm and the first to retrieve a satellite in space.  After the explosion of the Challenger in January 1986, Ride was appointed to the Presidential Commission investigating the accident and headed its operations section. She authored the report, Leadership and America’s Future in Space and founded NASA’s Office of Exploration.  In 1987, Ride retired from NASA and joined the Center for International Security and Arms Control at Stanford University, leading efforts to end nuclear weapons around the world.  In 1989, Ride became Professor of Physics at the University of Californa @ San Diego (UC-San Diego) and Director of the California Space Institute.  In 2003, Ride was asked to serve on the commission investigating the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia.  In 2001, Ride founded the company Sally Ride Science to develop and promote better science education programs for upper elementary school, middle school, and high school with a focus on encouraging children, especially girls, to pursue careers in science.  In 2009, the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy created a Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee and invited Ride to be a member.  Ride has received the National Space Society’s von Braun Award, the Lindbergh Eagle, the NASA Space Flight Medal (twice) and has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the Astronaut Hall of Fame.  She has written or co-written 6 books on space, aimed at children, with the goal of encouraging children to pursue careers in science.  See Dr. Sally K. Ride (with Susan Okie), To Space and Back (HarperCollins, 1989); Sally Ride and Tom O’ Shaughnessy, The Mystery of Mars (Scholastic, 2000); Sally Ride and Tom O’Shaughnessy, Exploring Our Solar System (Crown Books, 2003); The Third Planet: Exploring the Earth From Space (Sally Ride Science, 2004); Sally Ride and Tom O’Shaughnessy, Voyager:  An Adventure to the Edge of the Solar System (Sally Ride Science, 2005); Mission: Planet Earth: Our World and its Climate–And How Humans are Changing Them (Flashpoints, 2009) .  See also, Tom Riddalls, Sally Ride:  First American Woman in Space (Crabtree Publications, 2010).
  24. Medea Benjamin (1952-) is a U.S. political activist, who founded the Fair Trade advocacy group, Global Exchange., and, in 2002, co-founded the feminist peace group, Code Pink: Women for Peace.  Born Susan Benjamin, and growing up a self-described “nice Jewish girl” on Long Island, NY Benjamin renamed herself “Medea” (after the character from Greek mythology) during her freshman year of college.  Benjamin earned a B.A. in International Relations from Tufts University, a Master of Public Health from Columbia University and an M. A. in Economics from the New School of Social Research.  Her Jewish upbringing had molded Benjamin from an early age into someone concerned for the social justice for the poor, and her experiences of discrimination as both a woman and a Jew had reinforced this orientation. So, by her university days, Benjamin had committed herself to a life of activism for global human rights.  She worked for 10 years in Latin America and Africa as an economist and nutritionist for the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Swedish International Development and Cooperation Agency, and the Institute for Food and Development Policy (now known as Food First) . Benjamin spent four (4) years in Cuba and has written 3 books on the country.  Out of these experiences, Benjamin became concerned that global trade policies unfairly harmed the poor. So, in 1988, together with her husband Kevin Dunaher, and Kirsten Moller, Benjamin founded the San Francisco-based company Global Exchange.  Global Exchange is part of the growing grassroots movement that seeks to replace patterns of so-called “free trade” with one of “fair trade.” It markets products directly from Third World peasant farmers and artisans to people in the First World without “middle men” who run up costs. It also lobbies for trade deals that better help the poor and works for human rights directly and indirectly.  In 2000, Benjamin ran for the U.S. Senate from California on the Green Party ticket.  Basing her campaign on a platform for a living wage, improved education, and universal healthcare, Benjamin received 3% of the popular vote.  She has since remained active in the Green Party (although she supported the Democrat John Kerry in ’04, saying that the need to stop the policies of George W. Bush was too great to risk splitting the vote in swing states as happened in 2000), and has also supported efforts by the Progressive Democrats of America.  In October 2002, as the Bush administration pushed the nation to war, Medea Benjamin founded the anti-war feminist group Code Pink: Women for Peace. The name was meant in opposition to the Bush administration’s color coded “terrorism alerts.”  Benjamin and Code Pink used very creative (and often amusing) forms of public protest and civil disobedience to rally public opinion against the Iraq War all through the Bush administration–and Benjamin and Code Pink have continued through the Obama administration to use similar tactics against the war in Afghanistan, for a two-state just peace in Palestine-Israel, for the end of the U.S. embargo against Cuba, for drastic reductions in military spending, and for policies that promote peace, justice, and human rights throughout the world.  See further, Medea Benjamin, No Free Lunch: Food and Revolution in Cuba Today (Grove Press, 1986); The Peace Corps and More:  225 Ways to Work, Study, and Travel Abroad (Global Exchange, 2003; orig. published, 1987); Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans, eds., How to Stop the Next War Now:  Effective Responses to Violence and Terrorism (New World Library, 2005).
  25. Amy Goodman (1957-), the final entry in this list, but by no means the least and by no means the last of the innumerable women here and around the globe working for a more just and peaceful world, is an investigative journalist, syndicated columnist, and independent, progressive broadcaster in radio and cable television, known most of all as the host of the radio and cable program, Democracy Now: The War and Peace Report.  Born in Bay Shore, New York to Dr. George Goodman, an opthamologist, and Dorothy “Dorrie” Bock, Goodman went to public elementary and secondary schools, graduating from Bay Shore High School in 1975. A descendant of Hasidic rabbis and radical socialist parents, Goodman believes that every human being is called to make the world better than s/he found it.  She graduated from Radcliffe College (from 1879-1999 a women’s liberal arts college which has now merged with Harvard University) in 1984  with a B.A. in Anthropology.  Deciding against graduate school and an academic career, Goodman landed a job as producer for WBAI, an independent radio station in the Pacifica Radio network.  Not content with simply producing, Goodman began a career as an investigative journalist, traveling to Indonesia in 1991 to cover the East Timor independence movement. While there, she and her fellow journalist, Allan Naim, were witnesses of the Santa Cruz Massacre of peaceful Timorese protesters by the Indonesian army. Witnessing that brutal act as journalists led the soldiers to attack Goodman and Naim and beat them badly.  Since that time, Goodman has continued to be a risk taking investigative journalist exposing the crimes of the powerful–exposing Chevron’s role in the 1998 massacre of nonviolent Nigerian protesters by the Nigerian Army (a documentary that won the Polk Award), and being arrested and beaten by the New York City police (at Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s orders) in 2004 for covering the peaceful anti-war protests outside the Republican National Convention.  She was also detained by Canadian border police for attempting to interview those negatively affected by Vancouver’s preparations for the 2009 Olympic Games.  After she had been a producer for Pacifica Radio for 1o years, Goodman created her own radio, internet,and cable TV hour-long news show, Democracy Now: The War and Peace Report which focuses either on stories not being covered by mainstream U.S. media or on voices and perspectives being left out of stories others are covering in an “official way.”  Goodman sees the role of journalism as checking those in power and holding up a critical mirror to society.  Goodman has received numerous awards for her work, including the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award (presented by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights to journalists who cover human rights abuses or struggles for human rights), the George Polk Award (presented by Long Island University for investigative journalism that takes courageous risks).  In 2001, Goodman turned down the Overeas Press Club Award in protest of the Club’s decision to honor Indonesia for better treatment of journalists despite Indonesia’s continued crackdown on East Timorese protesters. She also excoriated the Overseas Press Club for choosing not to ask critical questions of Keynote Speaker Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.  In 2008, Goodman received the Right Livelihood Award in Sweden, one of the grassroots human rights and peace awards often called “the alternative Nobel Peace Prize.”  She is the only journalist to be so honored, yet the Dean of Columbia University’s Annenberg School of Journalism insists that Goodman is no “editorialist” (as many cable “news” hosts are), but an advocacy journalist who sticks to the facts.  In 2009, together with Glenn Greenwald, Goodman received from Ithaca College’s Park Center for Independent Media the first of its annual Izzy Awards, named for famed independent journalist I. F. Stone.  Goodman was strongly critical of the Clinton and Bush administration records on human rights, peace, and social justice, and she continues to be a left-of-center critic of the Obama administration for only timidly and half-heartedly breaking with the policies of the Bush administration. It does not bother her that she is not the darling of the powerful in either political party. She sees the role of the journalist as always being an outsider who dares to speak truth to power.  Knowing that this is decidedly NOT the way mainstream media in North America practice journalism, today, she consider’s Democracy Now a vehicle for “trickle up” journalism as neglected stories or perspectives broken on her program are often taken up later by other media.  She has authored or co-authored (often with her brother, David Goodman, a reporter for Mother Jones) 4 books. See further, Amy Goodman and David Goodman, The Exception to the Rulers:  Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media That Love Them (Hyperion Books, 2004); Amy Goodman and David Goodman, Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders, and the People Who Fight Back (Hyperion Books, 2006); Amy Goodman and David Goodman, Standing Up to the Madness:  Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times (Hyperion Books, 2009); Amy Goodman, Breaking the Sound Barrier (Haymarket Books, 2009).

And so, my daughters, here are women of strength that I hope will be beacons for your own courageous journies. Of course, these are only U.S. heroines and you also need to know many brave voices of women justice seekers and peacemakers around the globe.  I will give a later column listing 25 of them–doubtless aided in selection by feedback from readers–who will also, no doubt, point out U.S. women I overlooked.  Stand up straight, my girls, and speak truth to power–women of courage and faith have been doing that AT LEAST since the days of Siphrah and Puah, the Hebrew midwives who lied boldly to Pharoah in order to save newborn Jewish boys from death (Exodus 1).

July 17, 2011 Posted by | heroes, human rights, justice | 2 Comments