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Back line:Nancy Wrenn, Joan Ecklein, Barbara Soros, Virginia Pratt, Joanne Brooking, Charlotte Dennett, Petra Totterman, Laura Roskos. Middle: Lucy Nichol, Pat O'Brien, Nancy Ramsden, Paki Weiland, Nancy Munger, Cheryl Dierch  Front:  Robin Lloyd, Catia Confortini, Marlena Santoyo, Marie-Louise Lackson-Miller, Edith Bell, Eva Havliczek

Notes from WILPF Gathering, July 2012 Submitted by Marlena Santoyo.

Thursday, August 15


9 am: The New Feminism and the Occupy Movement.

A discussion led by Wilpf member and eco-feminist Peggy Luhrs who is also a member of “Fed Up Vermont” of Burlngton VT. She led us through a timeline of the group’s activities and issues. Their  first action, a year ago, was a “Slut Walk”; a protest that was started in Toronto when a woman was raped and a police officer said ‘what did you expect with that short skirt?’ Later, they held a Reproductive Rights Demo which included the song “Every Sperm is Sacred” (from Monty Python). The following “Speak out” was a powerful opportunity for many women to hear each other’s stories.

This spring, Fed Up led a series of protests at the University of Vermont, outraged that a member of a frat house sent out a message saying “If you could rape someone who would it be?” The result was that the all important Hockey Fraternity at UVM was closed down and its members forced to find other housing.

Most recently, they protested police brutality in which a police officer sprayed pepper pellets at a Fed Up member at a protest during the Governors Conference in Burlington July 29.  WILPF Burlington issued a statement in support of the rally. 

Peggy discussed the stress taking place between the radical feminist community and Trans people. Radical Feminism looks to get rid of gender differences that separate people, and to transcend domination and submission, whereas transgender people are taking hormones to become another gender. “If you challenge the trans, you’re called trans-phobic,”  she said. Some butch lesbians are being pressured to take trans surgery hormones.

Peggy recommended reading Kathleen Barry who has written Unmaking War, Remaking Men: How Empathy Can Reshape Our Politics, Our Soldiers and Ourselves. And check out the website                                                            


11 am - 3:45:  Discussion and luncheon with Joel Kovel and Deedee Hallack.

 Author Joel Kovel started his talk on the Middle East by describing the possible looming attack on Iran. He asserted that such an attack would be preposterous; how could a client state determine the stance of a super power? The idea is that attacking before the elections would force Obama into the Zionist camp. “This (Israel) is a society based on ethno-superiority…and constant chronic paranoia…”

Barbara Soros countered by saying that “for a brilliant people, the Jews have been used by the West…its to US’s benefit to destroy Iran because they plan to undermine the dollar. We want to appear as if we are held hostage by Israel. But we are using them.”

Deedee showed us wonderful images from her career as a media activist and founder of Paper Tiger TV and co founder of Deep Dish TV.  We showed her a segment of The Vermont Movie  made by several dozen Vermont filmmakers.


4 pm: Joan Ecklein reported on the May protest in Chicago and the need to abolish NATO.

She told us about a successful WILPF workshop she organized at the Network for a NATO Free Future conference in Chicago sponsored by the AFSC. Her workshop topic was closing military bases, with Bruce Gagnon, Jackie Cabasso and Irene Eckert, a WILPFER from Germany. Bruce argued that NATO exists so that Western Europe and the US have access to oil and other resources.  Irene stressed that the  NATO bases in Germany enable the US Govt to maintain the supply lines and back up that make it possible  to wage current wars as well as previous wars. Jackie Cabasso discussed the impediments to organizing for  a nuclear free world.                                            


Edith Bell pointed out that the income from the bases dampens the German people’s desire to get the bases out.At the end we looked at the very moving Democracy Now footage of Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans throwing away their metals immediately following the NATO Free Future conference. 

7 pm:  The story of four women arm wrestling with Irene!

 “boulders crashing against boulders…the brook turned into a torrent of nature.  Trees were shuddering as they staggered to their death”

“the river smelled…like petroleum. We saw oil tanks, tires, propane tanks…”

Such was the testimony of seven Rochester women who described the impact of Hurricane Irene on their lives and their community in late August 2011: Sandy Haas, Anni MacKay, Burma Youngman, Kathryn Schenkman, Judy Jensen, Joanne Andrews, and Maureen  Gannon.   

Sandy: “I have to give Anni credit for getting people together. As (Progressive) State Representative, I just listened to people. I realized I had to have batteries for the radio.  I bought the last ones in the store.“ Anni went out to knock on doors, and a town meeting was set for the next day. Medication was a big issue.  Kathryn was on the Council on Aging. She had deep knowledge of people’s issues. This whole experience became a poignant study of pain medication.  After all, you would be worried if some people were deprived of their medication.  Dialysis, cancer, bi-polar…  An amazing amount of oxycodone was brought over the mountain.

The first day or so some of the kids had a great time with their ATVs on route 100. But they soon ran out of gas…later they found a real mission.  A call went out for people who knew how to milk cows by hand because the electric milkers could not function. Folks on ATVs showed up at Liberty Hill Farm to help.

Joanne, the manager of Wing Farm, stayed on the farm during the days of blackout and isolation, and gathered with neighbors to welcome the helicopter delivering water and MREs (Meals Ready to Eat).

Several women said that they were “impressed with the maturity of our leaders.  The people who took charge of work crews were trusted.  We had leadership in place.  But every one pitched in.  If you see a problem, do something about it. There were armies of volunteers.  However, many of us had backaches through the winter….”

We discussed whether WILPF members felt that their communities were prepared for a disaster. Virginia:  “Boston is a city of neighborhoods.  In Jamaica Plains we have a community newspaper, restaurants, gardens.  We’re part of the Transition Towns movement. I think we’d have the resilience to withstand a crisis.”

Back to Rochester: Lots of people still haven’t gotten financial assistance.  The Feds are worried about fraud.  Local businesses lost a season. Diary farms lost their feed and are worried about survival.

During the 27 flood there was no heavy machinery to push things back in place.  It sent Vermont into a tailspin for 50 years.  Rochester had five hotels at that time.

Anni said, “We were almost disappointed to get the electricity back.  We felt for a while there as if we were really needed.  It was as if this is what living is all about.  The structure and technology that allows us to live separate self sufficient lives got leveled. We were all equal….”. They all agreed:  Irene isn’t over.


Friday, August 16


9:30 am Historian Sandra Baird talked about radical America:  the Revolution, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. 

Sandy took us back in history to the time of the Civil War, when the US republic was the largest slave economy in the world. She said that Lincoln wanted to save the union. He issued the emancipation proclamation to keep Britain from entering the war on the side of the south. The north won after the entry of blacks as soldiers.  4 ½ million slaves were emancipated.


10:30 am: Cyndy Bittinger discussed her recently published book Vermont Women, Native Americans and African Americans:  Out of the Shadows of History.

She describes how Native Americans had to hide their identity, and traces the first time successes of African Americans in Vermont. A number of women, leading up to former Governor Madeleine Kunin, made significant contributions to Vermont society. Peggy complained that Kunin’s reputation is not unblemished:  she helped Vermont lose the ERA.


2 pm: anti nuclear activist Hattie Nestel discusses the similarities between Vermont Yankee and Fukushima.

In 2005, Hattie went on pilgrimage to India.  As she

walked, she entered into a dialogue with Gandhi: “how

can I close down Vermont Yankee? What should I do?”

She came back and read every book on the issue.  She

agreed with WILPF activist Jackie Cabasso on the need

to connect nuclear power and weapons. “We have to

seize this moment," she realized. She started the Shut It

Down Affinity group which has organized over a dozen civil 

disobedience protests at the gates of the Vermont Yankee

Nuclear Plant. Recently she organized the tour of Cecile Pineda

who wrote the amazing book The Devil’s Tango, or how I

learned the fukushima step by step. Her book is a day by day

expose of what she calls humanity’s death wish. Everyone who

wants to live should read it.


4 pm:  Militarism and our response, with Nancy Wrenn and Paki Weiland

Nancy Wrenn told us what MA is doing to cut military spending.  Barney Frank’s proposal for a 25% cut in military spending has morphed into Fund Our Communities not War, and the New Priorities Network. (I notice that WILPF is not listed as an ‘affiliate’). Since Congress could not agree on cuts, its possible that automatic cuts will be made across the budget board.

Believe it or not, there are currently 287 US bases in Germany, including the tiny secluded bases of the future called ‘lily-pads’. ‘We’ have 5,000 US military personnel in Africa and one "base" - Camp Lemonnier - in Djibouti plus lily-pads and proxy armies of militias trained by the CIA in several African countries. There is only one official base in Africa, but many lily-pads.  Nancy pointed out how US war strategy has shifted to drones: it’s a light footprint concept of war. There are ‘hummingbird’ and ‘dragonfly’ drones. 

Paki  then spoke about her trip to Bahrein in the Persian Gulf where the ‘Arab Spring’ has been squelched, and where the US Fifth fleet is has a huge base. This led to a discussion of what is meaningful action.  Peggy L. said “I’ve given up on Congress. We need to make a moral argument, convincing people, taking to the streets.” Someone commented that Harriet Tubman made 65 trips to rescue slaves.  Talk about courage! Virginia said that she is trying to figure out how to use her time.  Not ‘what should I do?’ but ‘What am I called to do?’ Char said we should look to history and critically analyse what tactics work and which don’t.


7 pm: Corporations and Governments: Who are the real terrorists? Plus how to replace the need for war? A discussion with Barbara Soros and Charlotte Dennett.

Barbara is a holistic psychotherapist who has written children’s books and worked in Bosnia with groups of individuals who have endured torture. She has witnessed the negative interventions of governments  in countries like Bosnia who are attempting to reconstruct after war. She attended some of the international trials in the Hague: she has been, in fact, a witness to war and after war. She said war is being waged on all of us, leading to the devastation of our Mother Earth…Corporations have launched a siege upon the earth. Monsanto has altered our environment.  What actions can we take that will bring real change?

Charlotte: “We’re in a very serious time.  We are losing control over our democracy.” The conversation moved to consideration of US WILPF’s role as a change maker: the insider role (working with Congress and the UN) vs. the outsider, on the streets, “Calling it out!” (further discussed Saturday). 




Petra Totterman Andorff, our guest from International WILPF (Sweden) said the key is to be part of the process. WILPF Intl. has worked to have a seat at the table, to increase women’s participation in the security policy discussion.  When dealing with SC Resolution 1325 we have to look beyond the resolution and see it in the context of the implementation of the Beijing commitments and CEDAW.  WILPF is the only organization doing the analysis of peace and security the way we do, for example, linking disarmament and women’s security. If we aren’t present in the room, our analysis and issues won’t be either. As we have for almost 100 yrs, we can be both inside and outside.

Saturday, August 17


10 am: Catia Confortini, our representative to the international WILPF Board, discussed her new book.

Intelligent Compassion: Feminist Critical Methodology in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (forthcoming in August 2012 with Oxford University Press) “examines the evolving and gendered understandings of peace in the longest-living and arguably most influential international women's peace organization in the world.” !! Her talk was a fascinating journey through WILPF decisionmaking from 1945 to 1975: how and why we do what we do. She argues that we developed a methodology that helped us grow:

Deliberative inquiry: We sought out the opinions of others.  Our presidents helped organize delegations to Vietnam and the USSR.

Skeptical scrutiny: Gertrude Baer maintained Intl WILPF in NYC during War War 2.  She was a socialist and believed in the UN.  She attended the Bandung Conference of 1955.

Intelligent compassion: Dorothy Hutchinson was president of U.S. WILPF from l96l until l965 and then served as chair of International WILPF from l965 until l968. She looked at the issues of rich and poor, and talked about overdevelopment.

Since the 60’s we have participated in the Intl Women’s Conferences, the UN, and engaged with governments: and also pursued an outside strategy, protesting in the streets.

How do we define success?  WILPF’s longevity is due to these dual strategies, and also to the continuity of a central organization.

Paki added that we need to continue the stories and celebrate the victories! We were very impressed with Catia’s presentation, and hope that branches will engage her to speak to their membership, especially as we approach the 100th anniversary of WILPF.


2 pm: Petra Totterman Andorff, International Coordinator for WILPF International, and former Secretary-General of WILPF SWEDEN shared with us international's plans for the celebration of WILPF's 100th  anniversary in 2015. What will be our US plan?

“The strength of WILPF is that the organization has the ability to connect women’s voices and analysis from the local to the global levels” she said. “And we are very good at what we do. Our two websites:, and are top notch.”

 Historically speaking, we’ve been ‘doing 1325’ since 1915!!” The 100th anniversary campaign could be called ‘Women and Peace in 2015’. Given WILPF’s principle to strengthen multilateralism, we will also link our centennial with landmark political events in 2015. These key political events include: the 15th anniversary of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Security Council Resolution (SCR) 1325 on women, peace and security (WPS). Additionally, it is the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) to advance women’s empowerment and the 45th anniversary of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) which will be evaluated by state parties in a Review Conference in 2015.There will be a WILPF International Board meeting in Spain in February to solidify the plans.



At 4 pm we connected to the Cluster in California. Petra spoke by skype about WILPF's 100 years. Thank you Ellen and CJ for making it happen!


 4:15 pm: Women, Peace and Security: How to make it real? With members of US WILPF’s 1325 Issue Committee: Laura, Catia and Charlotte.

We discussed recent efforts to influence the US State Department’s National Action Plan on WPS. Laura traced the recent history of SCR 1325, and women peace and security. The five civil society consultations US WILPF held last fall helped us build a counter dialogue to what became the official NAP.  Catia added that our example has helped spread the idea of civil society consultations to other sections.  How can we follow up? A voters guide to the elections? Perhaps form a working group with the women who came to the consultations to shadow the official National Action Plan?


Saturday night:  As our planned speaker was unable to come to the Gathering, we held a wide ranging discussion on how US WILPF can reorganize herself since the resignation of our staff person, Tanya Henderson.  Many suggestions were made and all of them may go into a letter to the board.

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