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VT Wilpf Gathering: July 1-7, 2001:  A Report


Second WILPF Gathering: Opening Evening, Sunday Night, July 1

Some 35 WILPF women from New England and beyond joined the WILPF National Board at a wonderful opening evening of the second WILPF Gathering in the spacious barn at the Lloyd's Wing Farm in Central Vermont. Breezes serenading, nearby thunderstorms cascaded over the mountains and around the barn as Robin Lloyd welcomed the participants, and the Raging Grannies sang a few songs for the out-of-state visitors. Phyllis Yingling introduced national board members to the audience and then noted poet and WILPF sponsor Grace Paley spoke to us about how she became a feminist through the anti-war movement.

"My organizing has always taken place in the community and neighborhood. In the 60s I lived in NYC and a bunch of us opened the Green Witch Village Peace Center. After a while the War Regiter's League Mobilization for Bayard Rustin and AJ Muste, I learned a lot about non-violence and civil disobedience. Then in 1969, I went to Vietnam and we brought back POW's and developed a relationship with that country, and with the writers and poets of that country that lasts til this day. But somewhere along that time, we began to have trouble working with the guys. This became clear to us, during the Women & Life on Earth Conference at Amherst in 1980. That's when we as women began to weave everything together. Once you begin working with women deeply and actively, you find that that's the way you want to work, this is even though you're not angry really at any of the guys. The WRL and MOBE felt that we were women were running out on them - but basically we were enhancing them - they were lucky that women were taking these initiatives. Then we planned the Women's Pentagon Action. We really began to see all the issues being connected, with the struggle against patriarchy over all. That's the way I've been working since. Young people nowadays, are very aware of this ecological sensibility struggles we went through. I am really an NYC organizer. Here in VT, I depend on Valerie Mullin to tell me what to do. It's hard to know how to protest: all you can do is stand on the village green. But before I end, I want to say that in the first world war, women were 5% of the casualties. Now women are 80% of war casualties. Women are 90% of the refugees streaming here and there. We need to bring these facts out. Grace then read a poem: "Is There a Difference Between Men and Women?" It ended with a reference to a 'man made slaughter'. She added "I like the men in my life extremely - and they don't like to hear me say it - but it must be said, the slaughter is made by men."

Someone asked Grace 'What is a feminist?' She said "Women have a world in common. Whether you have children or not, we women have a common life. We have lived in patriarchal societies for centuries - men have been the bosses. The women's movement in this country has done so much work in uncovering women's creativity over the decades. 'Anonymous was a woman'. The movement brought this information into the schools. 

"There's hardly a country in the world where women haven't suffered from discrimination. As a feminist you recognize and act to change these facts."

U.S.WILPF executive secretary Mary Day Kent followed Grace and spoke about the upcoming issues of Peace and Freedom dedicated to Women's Rights. She has been reading the life history of Jane Adams who was a popular speaker and pacifist until WWI was declared when she became a pariah to the press, and to the public at large. But she continued to write and speak, and, said Mary Day "she did all this without being able to vote! She was working on the larger issues. Grace added "we haven't wanted to be equal with men in everything - like being drafted or oppressing other people. We didn't want to be like them."

Paij Wadley-Bailey said that a lot of interesting things had been mentioned that evening, but no one had said the word 'lesbian'. We have to realize that fighting tfor lesbian rights is part of the struggle.

Robin Lloyd said that Jane Adams was a lesbian. She added that at the WILPF board retreat a few days earlier we had considered different names for the WILPF 2002 Congress to take place at Goddard mid-June 26-30, 2002. One was 'Roots and Wings- WILPF in the new Millennium'. But the other was 'Marrying the Issues: Peace, Democracy & Justice'. "And we could hold a civil union ceremony at the Congress (only in VT!)."

As we left and walked back to the house, mist was rising from the valley and huge pink clouds marched eastward behind the rim of the mountains. Horses played in the field below. It was a beautiful evening. 

Sunday, July 1

4:00 pm: Welcome!

5:30 pm: Potluck.

7:00 pm Discussion: Building a Progressive Movement With Feminist Principals, with Grace Paley and Mary Day Kent (Executive Director of US WILPF)

Monday, July 2

10:00 am: Building WILPF Branches, Lucy Nichol, and members of the US Board.

2:00 pm: The role of VT WILPF in the 2002 WILPF Congress (to be held at Goddard College June 26-30, 2002!)

7:00 pm: Challenging Corporations: Asserting the People's Rights a discussion with Mary Zepernick, former US WILPF president and activist in WILPFs corporate campaign.

Tuesday, July 3

10:00 am: Jerry Colby and Charlotte Dennett, Authors: Who Owns Corporations?

2:00 pm: WILPF artist Gloria Torrice: Discovering Your Inner Form Through Action.

7:00 pm: Anne Peterman of Native Forest Network: Next Steps in the Anti-Globalization Movement.

Wednesday, July 4

10:00 am: Celebrating People's Movements in US History, with the feminist lawyer Sandy Baird.

2:00 pm: Racism in Vermont, Paij Wadley-Bailey and Sha'an Mouliert, African-American Vermonters planning to go to the U.N. Conference Against Racism in South Africa (8/28/01).

7:00 pm Racism and the Criminal Justice System, Professor Laura Fishman.

Thursday, July 5

10:00 am: Sunbathing and or free time.

2:00 pm: Sanctions on Iraq: Finding New Ways of Reaching People About This Crisis Western Mass Peace Activist Francis Crowe. Also, a video: Paying the Price by John Pilger.

7:00 pm: Basic Primer on the Weaponization of Space, Francis Crowe.

Friday, July 6

10:00 am: Star Wars or the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: The View from the U.N. with Felicity Hill UN WILPF staff person and interns.

2:00 pm: Barbara Soros, writer and therapist, recently returned from Sarajevo: Women and Democracy in Bosnia.

7:00 pm: Gender Mainstreaming at the UN: A Victory for Women! Felicity Hill.

Saturday, July 7

10:00 am: The Reclaiming Collective and political activism (invited):

2:00 pm: Feminist Anthropology: Famous Women Shamans I Have Known, with Eleanor Ott and members of the Blue Goblet Club (a group of VT women concerned with media and culture).

7:00 pm: Fire Circle: bring drums and stories.

Sunday, July 8

10:00 am - 4:00 pm: Retreat of the Blue Goblet Club

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