On this the 90th anniversary of WILPF we entered our float in the Rochester 4th of July parade - and we won the Susan B. Anthony Award! (Probably dreamed up by the judges on the spur of the moment!!) Anyway, it was lots of fun - thank you, Judy Jensen for costumes, and Gloria Torrice for artwork; and Virginia, Vassie, Lea and Kathryn for standing firm on a moving truck as the heroines of 1915.
Notes from the 2005 Gathering, June 27 - July 4, 2005
Monday, June 27:
We began with a wonderful water ritual choreographed by Dorothy Tod, a woman who lives next to the Mad River in Vermont, and receives her drinking water from a gravity fed spring. appreciation, blessings, and the experience of carrying a bucket of water on one's head made up the ritual.
In the evening Marjorie Ryerson (a poet and photographer from Randolph, VT) told us the sage of the creation of Water Music: her book that celebrates water photos and comments by musicians. "This has been a project that women understand and men don't get. The energy of women has carried this forward", she said. She hopes to be part of 'Water Weeks' on college campuses in upcoming months, as the preciousness of water and the precariousness of its global availability become a mainstream issue.
Tuesday, June 28:
Drug Policy: Nancy Lynch described the recent successful struggle in the VT State Legislature to pass a bill to permit chronically or terminally ill people to obtain marijuana for pain relief. Nancy is a lobbyist for the Marijuana Policy Project, a national reform group. "It really is a social justice issue," she said. Debbie Ramsdell, who volunteered for a TV public service ad advocating passage of the bill, explained how she became an activist when her husband was dying of cancer, and marijuana was the only substance that allowed him to get through each day.
In the afternoon, Eleanor Stein of Albany, NY, told of the creation of Women Against War in the fall of 2002. The first project was a fast, held in their women's center. One woman would fast for 24 hours, then pass the fast to on to the next. The fast lasted from early December to International Women's Day in 2003. Together with Hudson-Mohawk Indy Media, WAW made a fascinating DVD of their experience and the extraordinary publicity they garnered. (It is available through Democracy Now!). They also sponsored a number of activities with Arab families in the Albany area, and held Ramadan dinners with Arab women.
Roz Payne spoke about her project to compile a DVD on the history of the Black Panthers.
In the evening, Eleanor spoke about her parent's activism in Washington D.C. "The FBI has been watching our family for 70 years". Her mother, Annie Stein worked with Mary Church Terrell to end discrimination in eating places in Washington. Eleanor's son, Thai Jones, has recently completed a family history of his extraordinary radical family, where all four of his grandparents were either Communists, Quakers or civil rights activists. Eleanor, and her husband Jeff, were members of the Weather Underground. (I'm in the midst of reading Thai's book, A Radical Line, right now. I'd highly recommend it!)
Wednesday, June 29:
Notes were not taken on the report from Rwanda and Haiti as Robin and Executive Director Mary Day Kent went to visit senior WILPF members Elizabeth French, Barbara Jones, and Barbara Dunnington (who is the same age as WILPF!) at the Wake Robin Retirement Home. We heard some great stories of the early days.
Ancestral Memory - Robin Lloyd. In the evening, Connecting with our foremothers (and fathers) by means of an interesting little chart of multiplying lines that applies to every human being in the world (who has two parents, each of whom has two parents, etc.), Robin suggested that a person who is 50 years old now probably had parents born around 1920, grandparents born around 1890, and eight great-grandparents born around or after the Civil War. How many of us know anything about those eight people who determine our genetic identity?
We went round the circle and talked about our ancestors. Joan Ecklein said that her father's first memory was of a pogram (massacre of Jewish families) that came to their village in Russia in the early years of the 1900s. As a three year old, he was forced to hide under the floorboards until the violence subsided. This experience affected his personality for life. He was always suspicious of non-Jewish people. The world was divided into two: Jews and Others, who were not to be trusted. "The people running through their home to kill the family were thought by my grandfather to be their friends," Joan said. "The pogram experience has affected four generations of my family in subtle and not so subtle ways". This story captured the spirit of many of the women's stories that night. Most of us have been lucky as North Americans, to have lived without the trauma of widespread war or ethnic conflict directly engulfing our communities; yet in a sense, many of us are living through some stage or other of post-traumatic stress disorder inherited from our ancestors. It's not just soldiers who suffer from PTSD. In fact, perhaps we were gathered together that night linked by more than we know: women who have become advocates for justice and members of WILPF as a way to heal the trauma of violence as experienced by our forebears.
Paij Wadley Bailey was one participant who has experienced societal violence in her own life. She traces her ancestors back to the Hausa people of Nigeria, who were taken to Bermuda as slaves and then to the Georgia Sea Islands. When she was 11 years old, her mother and sisters went to Florida to live with her maternal grandmother who was dying of cancer. She attended the 6th grade in a segregated school. Her teacher was an activist who started a chapter of the NAACP. She was assassinated by the Ku Klux Klan. Paij remembers that her "teacher's body parts were left in her yard for three days, as 'a lesson' to her students who passed by on their way to school." The Wadley name comes from a slave owner in Georgia. Paij said that the white Wadley descendents are reaching out to the black Wadleys and plan to implement some type of reparations within the family. "The average African American is 13% European, and 19% Native American," said Paij. She concluded, "Let's get moving ahead to appreciate all humanity."
Many other fascinating stories were told that night.
Thursday, June 30:
In the afternoon, Carol Dwyer told the story of her evolution as an activist through the struggle against depleted uranium contamination by the firm Nuclear Metals, Inc. in her home town of Concord, MA. Women there heard that there was a plan to put depleted uranium waste in the regular landfill. They found that already, the Concord site was one of the most toxic in the state. They insisted on becoming part of the 'public involved community'. They got a grant from Ben & Jerry's. It was a terrific struggle, but now the nuclear waste dump has been called a Superfund site. The hardest part of the struggle was to break down local reluctance to know or accept that the government lies. Her fellow citizens wanted to believe that the government in fact regulates.
In the evening, Nancy Lee Wood carried us through a quick economics 101 on the history of the dollar. Basically, after WW2, the US was in el primo position. We had 80% of the world's gold, and the value of the dollar was fixed to gold. But we spent all the gold and then some during the Vietnam War, so Nixon 'floated' the dollar in 1971. Our government got the Saudis to announce that they would sell their oil in dollars. So everyone had to trade with the US to get dollars to buy oil. Fast forward a few decades and along comes the Euro. It's the only currency strong enough to compete with the dollar. Arab countries began to repatriate their dollars, worried about the accounts being frozen. Some countries set up dual reserve currency funds. Switzerland switched completely to the Euro. Then Saddam began selling its oil in Euros. Why invade Iraq? Lock the world back into the dollar. Work at creating setbacks to the European Union. Try to undo OPEC. So in short, we're in deep shit. Our dollar is pegged to oil but the cost of extricating oil has increased, as has the demand for oil from our competitors. This could be an economic tsunami that could destroy our middle class. "It's a locomotive out of control and it's headed right for me." Nancy concluded.
Friday, July 1:
The UN: Nancy Wren described the multiple forces arrayed for and against the UN, and the three areas of reform that will be discussed at the UN in September: Enlarging the Security Council, funding, and changing the Commission on Human Rights.
2:00 pm: Connie Chow founded Mass CEDAW with Laura Roskos. Countries that have ratified CEDAW have to report to the UN every 5 years. As the US has not yet ratified CEDAW, our government does not have a say. If we were to ratify, it would bring higher standards than are written into the Constitution; also our government would have more respect when they talk about women's rights in other countries. When women came back from Beijing in 1995, they wanted to start local implementation of CEDAW. Massachusetts has held five public hearings around the state. "This is a bottom up rahter than a top down process," Connie reported, "as local implementation can open the way to statewide, and national implementation."
In the evening, the Women's Movement as an Alternative to Empire: The International Women's Movement struggles for justice and equality for women worldwide - Joan Ecklein. While more women than ever are activists, conditions for women have gotten worse in the ten years since the 1995 UN Women's Conference in Beijing. Nevertheless, women everywhere are connecting via the internet and building networks to work for women's human rights. International activists have a common understanding that the root causes of women's oppresion worldwide stem from international capitalism and patriarchy. This common understanding is true whether the topic is AIDS, or trafficking or violence in war. So another way to view the struggle is as a struggle and eventually weakening of the international capitalist system. Some of Joan's analysis was taken from Jonathan Schell's book, which points out that many times over the centuries, "Nonviolent resistance has stopped empire in its tracks." Joan gave examples of very effective work by women in the international tribunals and at the United Nations that ultimately like water on a stone will have an enormous impact on empire.
Char asserted that women have to move beyond mindless activism. We've let the Right roll right over us. (She couldn't leave out reminding us that Dupont is the major family behind the Bush Administration). The women's movement should look at the labor movement and unions. They're on the front line fighting the corporations. We need a strategic plan to get out of this mess. She recommended reading The Feminist Revolution by Bonnie Morris. How can feminist values overcome patriarchal values? The anti-war movement that manifested itself on February 15, 2003 (the day the world said no to war) was a tipping point between the US government and public opinion. A global value shift. The shift is still happening and the tipping point will reveal itself before long.
Saturday, July 2:
Anne Peterman and Orin Langelle told about their (lonely) work fighting against the conversion of native forests into genetically managed plantations. GE plantations store only 1/4th the carbon of a native forest. The UN has been heavily involved in commercializing GE trees, especially in China, where huge plantations of genetically modified poplars have been planted. For more information they recommend going to their website - globaljusticeecology.org - or read up on Percy Schmeiser - the gutsy Canadian farmer who has dared to take on Monsanto.
Afternoon: Writers Reading in the barn was wonderful. The themes that reverberated among the readers - the importance of history, and of women's history, and the unspoken genocides that affect subsequent generations - led to a lively conversation afterwards. (Char came up with the bombshell tidbit of information that her grandmother and mine graduated from Smith college in the same year - and must have known each other!)
In the evening, our discussion after Anne Macksoud's video: Missing Peace: Women of Faith and Failure of War, which looks at the feminist traditions with the three monotheistic religions and challenges the current justification of war as a righteous undertaking, brought up questions: to what extent is religion used by other players to justify conflict? Do you have to be moral to be religious? Someone described a women's action in Washington D.C. that involved wailing, and someone started to wail, and then the dog started to howl, and that was the end of the evening!
Sunday, July 3:
Chris Meehan, Don Gray, Danielle Sokol and Jill Caporiccio all joined us on a sunny morning to discuss their work in 'counter recruiting'. Selective Service has to find 280,000 new recruits each year. All told, it costs $17,000 to enlist each recruit, and it costs $100,000 a year to 'run' a soldier. A recruiter needs to sign up two new soldiers a month, plus three in the summer. "The main point of counter recruitment" stated Chris, "is that there are alternatives, such as Americore, or the Peace Corps." Jill, a recent college graduate, said, "I remember in my high school, the military recruiters were always there. I'm against war. It's a vulnerable time for kids: they need to be offered several perspectives." Danielle added "9/11 happened in our freshman year. A lot of my friends enlisted. I became discouraged, but in this work I found you can get to the root: it's effective." Counter Recruitment has become a big movement and will get bigger this fall.
In the evening, Alternative Politics in Vermont: Two women members of the Progressive Party talked about why they support a third party. Sandy Haas, state Rep from Rochester, said that she became a Progressive because the Democratic leadership squandered their power after Jeffords changed parties. Mary Alice Bisbee is an advocate for seniors, and does not see either major party taking a sensible stand on health care reform. Marion Leonard and Cindy Sutherland spoke about their work on earth literacy and health, and on their collaboration on a Wellness Center in Rochester. What an amazing little town!!
Tuesday, June 28
Wednesday, June 29
10:00 am: Report from Rwanda and Haiti - Paij Wadley Bailey & June Levinsohn
2:00 pm: Our 90th Anniversary: WILPF Past & Future - Mary Day Kent
4:00 pm: Women at the Hague - A play by Lea Wood
7:30 pm: Connecting with Our Foremothers - discussion led by Robin Lloyd
9:30 pm: film: A Proper Bostonian - Emily Greene Balch
Thursday, June 30
10:00 am: The Dangerous Legacy: The 2005 NPT Review Conference - Stephanie Fraser & Diane Perlman
2:00 pm: The Threat of Depleted Uranium - Carol Dwyer
4:00 pm: The Nuclear Story - Kate Casa
7:30 pm: Cause of War in Iraq: Euros or Dollars? - Nancy Lee Wood
Friday, July 1
10:00 am: The UN and Beyond - Nancy Wren, Jean Vertheim & Robin Lloyd
2:00 pm: Any Hope for CEDAW? - Connie Chow
4:00 pm: Masculinity, Militarism and Militiament - Peggy Luhrs
7:30 pm: The International Women's Movement as an Alternative to Empire - Joan Ecklein & Char Dennett
Saturday, July 2
10:00 am: World Social Forums & Latin America - Anne Petermann & Robin Lloyd
3:00 pm: Writes Reading - Grace Paley, Cora Brooks, Charlotte Dennett, Cheryl Wolfong & Barbara Soros
7:00 pm: Film: Missing Peace: Women of Faith and Failure of War - Anne Macksoud
Sunday, July 3
Monday, July 4
10:00 am: Counter Recruitment - Chris Meehan, Danielle Sokol & Jill Cporiccio
2:00 pm: Clay work & firing - Pat O'Brien -or- Prepare float for 4th of July parade
7:00 pm: Alternative Politics in Vermont - Sandy Haas & Mary Alice Bisbee
Monday, June 27
10:00 am - 4:00 pm: Check in & Welcome
4:00 pm: Water Ritual - led by Dorothy Tod
7:00 pm: The Making of Water Music - Marjorie Ryerson
10:00 am: Medical Marijuana and Beyond - Debbie Ramsdell & Nancy Lynch
3:00 pm: Researching the Black Panthers - Roz Payne
7:00 pm: Growing up as "Red Diaper Babies" - Roz & Eleanor
10:00 am: Participate in WILPF float in the 4th of July Parade
2:00 pm: End of Gathering. Farewells.