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The year was 1983

 It was July. The Trident Nein were in lockup for their Independence Day action at Electric Boat. A march from Durham, North Carolina to New York was underway. 150 women and children stopping in 60 towns for shopping and handing out leaflets against nuclear weapons. Mary Regan, a college student, had recently filed for conscientious objection. In Germany, women dug trenches for a camp near the Hasselbach gate to protest the installation of cruise missiles. Already for a year, tens of thousands of women had experienced an alternative lifestyle at encampments for peace. 

On May 19, 1982 Lynne Jones called on an assembly of women from eleven countries that while difficult, 30,000 women had formed camps encircling the nine-mile fence around the Greenham Common British Air Force Base. Kay Camp, that afternoon, called US activists to become Greenham women, telling the group of the Seneca Army Base in Romulus, New York which stored the nuclear weapons that were to be shipped to Greenham Common, envisioning a sister encampment.[1] 

Hasselbach, Germany would become well known 1983 to 1989 for the Easter Marches to protest cruise missiles, inspired by the Aldermaston marches in the UK during the sixties that took place on easter.[2] In the summer of 1983, women who had experienced discrimination at a camp the year before set out for the Hunsrück Women's Resistance Camp.[3] As that experiment came to an end, by August a group of mini-campers had evolved stationing themselves at the Hasselbach gate. They dug trenches for wastewater, built an octagonal structure and performed a blessing.[4] 

Entering the air force base at Rome, New York on Thanksgiving morning, November 24th, 1983 the Griffiss Plowshares walked for hours over tarmac, successfully reaching and disarming a B-52 Bomber. After being ignored for hours they approached security. 

Meanwhile, joining a six-week march crossing Germany, Fr. Carl Kabot of the Plowshares Eight was walking with three West Germany friends distributing pamphlets about their intention for an upcoming direct-action to become known as Plowshares Number Seven. For each day of walking, the organizers of the Berlin-to-Geneva marchers showed that nations spent one billion dollars on armaments. A single half-hour of their eight-hour walking day would call on redirection of military economy to human needs "since 1945 one new nuclear weapon is produced every 30 minutes--and during the same time 14,000 children are starving."[5] Arriving in Geneva ahead of negotiations between U.S. and Russia, they eventually moved campers from rogue occupations of the University campus to two parking spaces. Yet the versatility worked, proving adaptable when the Russians walked out and as a disarmament conference followed in 1984, their endurance and commitment bore fruits. A guide of the extensive UN grounds was valuable to help new arrivals locate the conference.

Jenny Clay, an instructor at two universities, made a recent study of seven women's peace encampments, pointing to 1983 as the center of the story. She follows Lawrence Wittner who argued that it was the antinuclear resistance in the early 1980s who should get the "bulk of the credit." Focusing that share of the credit to women makes sense because in her words, "Their tactic worked." 

 "I am definitely a pacifist who would like to see the world run on principles of care taking rather than the principles of power arrangements" Clay said.[6]

[1] Clay, Janette, "Peace Bodies: Women, Encampments, and the Struggle Against Nuclear Weapons during the Cold War, 1979-1992" (2021). Dissertations. 3881.

[2] "Hasselbach, Rhein-Hunsrück" Wikipedia.,_Rhein-Hunsr%C3%BCck 

[3] Ibid., 274.

[4] Ibid., 280.

[5] Ibid., 284.

[6] conversation with the author 19 April 2022.


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