L to R: Cheryl Diersch's grandchildren, Emma and Kaylee: sign holders: Elizabeth Leonard, Marlena Santoyo, Virginia Pratt, Max Vose, Eileen Kurkoski. Back: Joan Ecklein, Nancy Ramsden, Nancy Wrenn, Sandy Baird, (sitting) Carol Urner, Charlotte Dennett, Paki Weiland, Barbara Soros, Bee Bookchin, Peggy Luhrs, (kneeling) Cheryl Diersch, Robin Lloyd, Dylan Kelley, Ellen Thomas
Notes from the Gathering August 13-16, 2015
Thanks to all who made this Gathering a great success: Joanne Andrews whose gardening skills provided us with beautiful veggies, and flowers; Sandy's Bakery with delicious casseroles; Marlena who helped coordinate the kitchen; Misty Knoll and O Bread who contributed chicken and many loaves of bread.
Paki Weiland: "Las 17”: The Fight for Women's Reproductive Rights in the Americas:
Our first meeting was held in the beautiful renovated library (a former church) in Rochester, VT.
Paki Weiland, activist and former social worker from MA, told of her experience protesting, at the
Salvadoran Embassy in Washington DC, against the incarceration of ‘Las 17’ women in a prison in
San Salvador, for the ‘crime’ of having a miscarriage (some women have been sentenced to 30 years!).
Shortly after our Gathering she headed to El Salvador with Roy Bourgeois and others to meet with the
government and the women (and present them with our letters of support). The Boston WILPF branch
plans to give ongoing support to her mission.
NYTIMES El-Salvador and Las 17
Friday. August 14
Sandy Baird and Bea Bookchin: The legacy of Murray Bookchin: Decentralized Communities as part of a Radical Politics.
Bea and Sandy gave us a fascinating, holistic portrait of philosopher and thinker Murray Bookchin (1921-2006), author of 22 books on anarchism and sustainablility.. Murray and his partner and sometimes wife Bea moved to Vermont around the same time as Bernie Sanders. As Burlington’s mayor (1980-90), Sanders wanted to commercialize the shores along Lake Champlain, while Murray, Bea and Sandy and the Greens wanted a park; grassroots action won out and to Bernie Sanders credit he graciously conceded. They were often on opposite sides. At present, .Bea and Sandy support Bernie for President.
Although never a WILPF member, Murray’s thinking on grassroots empowerment parallels US WILPF’s current emphasis on branch autonomy and decentralized structure. More info here.
Cheryl Diersch and Peggy Luhrs: Women and Incarceration
Peggy Luhrs and Cheryl Diersch
Cheryl is a single mom who took courses and taught herself what she needed to do to establish a 1 million dollar business, Pack and Ship. She travelled to Ecuador to work with women in microfinance. She wants to apply the principals of microfinance to help incarcerated women in VT to set up new businesses and start new lives.
Peggy and Cheryl explained that the number of women in prison has been increasing.. Women do less serious crimes but get longer sentences. Since the war on drugs the prison system has been more punitive than restorative. They are hopeful that this is beginning to change now.
But historically prisons abused women. Women who weren’t submissive got the most abuse. C and P told stories of the struggles to obtain human rights for incarcerated women.
Cheryl is very excited about a non-punitive program in Oregon that empowers female prisoners by building entrepreneurial skills. She is looking for funding to do a pilot study here in Vermont. See Mercy Connection /Oregon prisons at http://www.mercycorpsnw.org/reentry/
Cyndy Bittinger Women on the 10 dollar bill: who, when, why??
Historian and journalist Cyndy Bittinger described for us the movement to put a women’s face on a dollar bill – probably the $10 dollar bill.
We then voted and Eleanor Roosevelt and Jane Addams got the most votes. Eleanor is among the top 6 nationally. Jane is not. If WILPFers would like to see Jane given more consideration, go to the websiteand vote! President Roosevelt himself said that Addams “understands more about the real people of the US than anybody else does.” (even his wife?)
Barbara Soros: The Sixth Extinction: It Will Happen.
Barbara explained that author Elizabeth Kolbert, in her latest book, the Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, analyses the first five extinctions of life on earth, and states that we are presently in the midst of the 6th extinction.
Barbara asked: Are we ready to become extinct? Due to human activity, the phenomena of extinction is being advanced.
The US military is leading the world into environmental destruction. They are the largest consumer of oil. The endless wars we are presently living through are motivated by the determination to control the sources of oil
Barbara recommends the writings of Patricia Hynes, of the Traprock Center, who has written a 5 part series on military hazardous waste.
The earth has always been the silent victim. The land has been used as a weapon and a target. Intentional oil spills in the Persian Gulf have ravaged Iraq and Kuwait. Although chemical weapons have been outlawed by the Hague Conventions, they have been used widely during all wars. In addition, we must be aware of the effect on the earth of widespread migration shifts.
This extinction will be like a massive World War ; but something could grow out of it. We’re now at the height of the material age and consumerism. We want things. The solution has to be a spiritual solution. The core of the earth has enormous regenerative power.
It’s a human instinct to protect the next generation. Many groups are developing positive ideas, such as Yes magazine, and the Nonviolent Peace Force: it’s a hopeful direction.
We’re a women’s organization confronting militarization. We’re more important than ever.
Saturday, August 15
Carol Urner and Ellen Thomas: Could we be moving towards nuclear disarmament?
Ellen Thomas and Carol Urner
Carol covered three nuclear issues in her talk, including some good news!
1. 1) The Iran deal: “WILPF supports it, because the deal gives us a chance to push for further nuclear disarmament and implementation of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. We’re not happy that the deal involves giving more arms to Israel and Saudi Arabia.
2. 2) The Marshall Islands are suing all nine nuclear nations in the World Court of Justice . Their atolls, islands and people have been decimated by 67 US nuclear bomb tests from 1946 to 1962 when the Partial Test Ban Treaty was adopted. The result was devastating: cancer and 'jelly babies’ throughout the islands. The Islanders are not asking for financial compensation: they are demanding that the nuclear nations start negotiating serious nuclear disarmament. Believe it or not, the Marshall Islanders are hopeful. They point out that half the earth is a nuclear free zone. If rejected, they will take their case to the Supreme Court.
3. The good news is the growing movement around the Nuclear Humanitarian Pledge. This was started by the Red Cross/Red Crescent They realized that if some kind of nuclear ‘exchange’ occurred, they would not be able to provide relief in irradiated zones as their medical people would die too. They started a four year campaign to ban nuclear weapons. Norway held the first meeting, then Mexico, then Austria, bringing governments and NGOs together to take the Pledge. 159 nations have taken the Pledge. The US Conference on Mayors passed a resolution of support unanimously.
Despite this determination to disarm by the non-nuclear countries, every nuclear power is expanding or ‘refurbishing’ their nuclear forces in violation of the NPT. WILPF/RCW is working with ICAN and the IPPW to support the pledge. Read the pledge here.
Ellen Thomas was a long time 24/7 anti-nuke vigiler with her husband at the park across from the White House. Now she is a ‘Prop 1’ advocate. “Prop 1” is a voter initiative before Congress requesting that the US Government provide the leadership to abolish nuclear weapons. Eleanor Holmes Norton, 13 term democratic (non-voting), representative from the District of Colombia has introduced the bill 12 times. Five Congresspersons have signed on as co-sponsors so far this year. Money saved will be used to convert the arms industries into carbon-free alternative industries. This is a win-win situation, Ellen affirms. WILPF members need to lobby their legislators. If they don’t hear about it from us they probably won’t know about it. Check out the initiative here.
Hattie Nestel on Stopping the Pipelines! (especially the one traversing MA).
Hattie Nestel reported on the huge movement in MA opposed to the building of the Kinder-Morgan pipeline through the state. The gas (fracked) will come from PA and go to a port to be shipped to Europe. She says ”This is part of the new cold war. They are selling gas to Europe to deprive Russia of markets. Already they’re building ports in Spain to accommodate this gas. “ Hattie interviewed opponents and filmed the demonstrations. She says that since supposedly corporations are people, “Kinder-Morgan is a felon. This project will endanger the people and the environment. The pipeline will go under rivers….” Click here for a link to this movement.
Middle East Report: Janet Biehl: Women and the Kurds; and Charlotte Dennett , "Who's Behind Isis? And Why?"
Charlotte Dennett and Janet Biehl
Janet visited the Kurds in Dec 2014. She travelled with anarchist academics from London and Austria. She was a close friend of Murray Bookchin, and was excited to find out how his ideas have been put into practice in this war torn, Islamic part of the world.
The leader of the Kurds, Ocalan, of the PKK party, has been in prison on a Turkish island since 1999. He read Murray Bookchin’s books as he sat in solitary confinement. He convinced his party to move from violence and Marxism-Leninism to non-violence and democratic assemblies.
Janet found that indeed the Kurds of northern Syria are trying their best to form democratic institutions.. In a society of extreme patriarchy, they are struggling for women’s equality. However, non-violence has not been an option, Women are trained as soldiers and are on the front lines. For more info: http://www.biehlonbookchin.com/.
Charlotte: A new anti-Isis hysteria is being rolled out by the mainstream media. Take for example the latest headline: “The Islamic state builds a vast system of rape”. Isis is being used to justify ‘our’ boots on the ground.
Charlotte wonders whether the US could be funding Isis.
Both the Taliban and Assad had refused to allow pipelines to cross their countries. Could that be why we are at war with them?
Carol Urner asked Char to develop a possible WILPF statement on Isis.
Joan Ecklein: The BRICS:
Joan told us that the 6 BRICS countries are organizing independently from the US and European powers. They are still capitalistic, but they want peace in order to develop. The BRICS banks are trying to stand up to the potential fascism of Obama’s new trade policy, the Trans-Pacific Partnershp., which gives intellectual dominance to the superpowers.
WILPF should support this movement. It is the beginning of a huge shift in international relations.
Robin Lloyd, Charlotte Dennett, Joan Ecklein, Carol Urner, Virginia Pratt and Nancy Ramsden: Report on the Hague Conference: Do Women have the Power to stop War?
Former Intl treasurer Nancy Ramsden told the remarkable story of the path to the 100th Hague Conference. Organizer Emma Burgisser was wonderful in bringing things together: Drafting the Manifesto…Creating the political and history committees:…Developing a marketplace….Figuring out housing options. Some difficult decisions were made: we would not permit an anti abortion group to display in the marketplace. We negotiated a formula for individual and section dues. 100 women volunteered. 48 different workshops were held. T-shirts were printed. Flowers were arranged as they were in 1915. Women from 82 countries took part. “For me it was a peak experience,” she said.
Virginia: “I was ambivalent about going, but in Boston we raised over $2000 which enabled me and others to go. I was impressed with the strong participation of women of the south. The Congolese women came with wonderful fabrics. The idea of designing the fabric came to one woman in a dream. They got the cloth woven, and group solidarity helped fund the trip. She left feeling that our foremothers would have been very pleased with the Conference. (She stayed in ‘the hippie hostel’ with the Africans.).
Robin and Joan gave short reports. Joan: "I was glad to see the participation of women of color. At the Congress we should have heard more from the sections, and heard more of the suffering of the women: only Alia Strauss from Israel was able to speak passionately about the situation in her country. I was also disappointed at how the resolutions were dealt with. But a highlight was going to the American Embassy with the resolution on Yemen. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”
Char: “Im still processing. What an amazing thing to put this on. There was discussion of patriarchy and capitalism . Im wondering why our resolution (asking WILPF to endorse a World Parliament) was knocked down: we need to understand more. I worked on the History Committee, yet I thought the history displays could have been put in a better context and made more visible. Why don’t people want to learn the lessons of history? Women are afraid of power. Here we had the audacity to talk about women’s power. Madeleine gets it. Why have we failed? She organized the conference in three parts: Studying Masculinities, How do we make peace agreements work? And Taking 1325 seriously. The names of corporations were not mentioned, nor the families, who fund institutions to control the people. Patriarchy is the root causes of violence, Who are the patriarchs?”
Barbara: “I felt the Conference was a living fresco of the suffering of the earth. I was grateful to be amongst strong women who daily must confront extreme expressions of violence and social marginalization.. We who live the easier or privileged life are indebted to those whose lives and well being are destroyed and profoundly compromised through the proxy wars and economicc and social controls being carried out globally. It is we who must demand a cessation of violence and seek a rebalancing of power and econmic and political justice on behalf of those who cannot advocate for themselves. and to work together with those who can."
Living in Paris, Barbara explained how terrorist acts can be utilized by NATO to deter independent action by European governments and to force them to submit to and support a conservstive global agenda that directly and indirectly contribute to acts of violence by marginalized people who have no other recourse for political expression. Such radical groups, in fact, are secretly encouraged and supported by those governements who control the worlds resources.
Ariane Blondin, US WILPF office manager from France pointed out that France is a victim of its colonial past. France never integrated its colonial population. They don’t belong to their culture or to the French culture. Barbara agreed and added that such people living in a no man's land and desperate for meaning are sadly, fodder for radical movements.
Sunday, August 16
Building WILPF: Next steps
We held a wide ranging discussion on how to bring branches, National and International closer together. Nancy Ramsden is on the board of WILPF UNO Inc, the 501c3 organization that was formed so that the NY office of WILPF could receive tax deductible donations from US donors. She said that Ray of Reaching Critical Will and Maria and Abigail of PeaceWomen (Wilpf staff) who work out of that office are doing a wonderful job and have much to offer all the sections. Robin agreed, but added that their outreach materials are handsome but expensive and that there should be more single sheet (multi-lingual) info tools for the sections. Ariane said that the Boston office rarely hears from Intl. Charlotte suggested that an orientation program to brief new staff and members on the workings of the the organization would be helpful.
Charlotte proposed that Intl WILPF might hold a munitions hearing like the one that was held in Washington DC in the 1930s (which was largely organized by WILPFus). Each section could do work on who the munitions owners are and where their munitions are going and how their quest for profits is affecting world conflict through arms sales. Barbara added that public hearings might spawn a legal case against the manufacturers. Carol said that this idea should be proposed to the Disarm Issue Committee.
Robin brought up Nancy Price's idea that branches should convince their municipalities to declare themselves TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) free zones. Ellen asked that they also contact their Congressmen about Prop 1 (aka HR 1976). Women present said they would bring these ideas up to their branches at the next meeting.
Discussion with Donna and John Moody: racism and the struggle against racism from an indigenous perspective.
Donna is an Abenaki. She told us “I spent 42 years in nursing. My Job at the Veterans Hospital broke my spirit. The country was deeply involved in Iraq, and my patients became younger and younger. One night a veteran tried to ‘commit suicide-death by cop’. I couldn’t stay. I left the VA in 2006.”
She went back to school at US Mass Amherst as the tribal historian in residence. She will have her PhD in anthropology in February.
“I’m a cultural anthropologist, or rather an Indian woman who happens to be an anthropologist. My dissertation compares indigenous and western ways of knowledge.” She has found that anthropology has become a tool of imperialism.
Donna and John run The Winter Center for Indigenous Traditions in Norwich VT, a small service organization that is focused on language preservation, repatriation of bones, and cultural revival. “We try to take care of our elder people. Elders pass on our way of living….”