Women's International League for Peace and Freedom St. Louis Branch

Mother’s Day micro action flyer

Mother’s Day as a Day for Peace

Few Americans are aware that early advocates of Mother’s Day in the United States originally envisioned it as a day of peace, to honor and support mothers who lost sons and husbands to the carnage of the Civil War.

In 1870 — nearly 40 years before it became an official U.S. holiday in 1914 — social justice advocate Julia Ward Howe issued her inspired Mother’s Day Proclamation, which called upon mothers of all nationalities to band together to promote the “amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.” She envisioned a day of solemn council where women from all over the world could meet to discuss the means whereby to achieve world peace. Over the years it has become commercialized and the original link to the call for peace has been lost. So let us honor our mothers and the other women who have been mother figures in our lives by reissuing this call for peace:

Boston, 1870

“Arise, then… women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
whether our baptism be that of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies.
Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage,
for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.

From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says:  Disarm, Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.
Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
nor violence vindicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
at the summons of war,
let women now leave all that may be left of home
for a great and earnest day of council.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them then solemnly take council with each other as to the means
whereby the great human family can live in peace,
each bearing after his own kind the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask
that a general congress of women, without limit of nationality,
may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient,
and at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
to promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
the amicable settlement of international questions,
the great and general interests of peace.“

~ Julia Ward Howe

Julia Ward Howe was a prominent American abolitionist, feminist, poet, and the author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” She nursed and tended the wounded during the civil war, and worked with the widows and orphans of soldiers on both sides of the war, realizing that the effects of the war go far beyond the killing of soldiers in battle. The devastation she witnessed during the civil war inspired her to call out for women to “rise up through the ashes and devastation,” urging a Mother’s Day dedicated to peace. Her advocacy continued as she saw war arise again in the world in the Franco-Prussian War.

As the call for a Mother’s Day carried on, it gained new momentum and finally became a national holiday in the early 1900’s with the lead of Anna Jarvis, who had been inspired by her mother, also named Anna Jarvis, who had worked with Julia Ward Howe in earlier efforts for a Mother’s Day.

video courtesy of Brave New Foundation

For further learning and resources, visit Mother’s Day: A Campaign for Peace with Justice by the Zinn Education Project

Mother’s Day for Peace Micro-Action

shallow focus photography of paper crane

We are emulating the fantastic idea of our Cape Cod sister branch by creating a Mother’s Day micro action! We can all participate and unlike some of our formal actions and events, doesn’t require much time, effort or resources to perform. Here’s the plan:

Ally Spotlight: Margaret Hermes, Missouri Coalition for the Environment

Margaret Hermes at the Library of Congress, from her personal collection

You have been involved in environmental activities in Missouri for some time, but I understand you are also a fiction writer. Tell us about yourself, and how you came to environmental activism. Did you spend time in nature in your youth?

I grew up within the city limits of Chicago, and regularly enjoyed the urban opulence of Marshall Fields, the Art Institute, and the downtown movie palaces, but my immediate childhood surroundings were more Huck Finn than Eloise. Chicago, as part of Cook County, boasts a glorious network of wild, open spaces where development is permanently prohibited. The corner lot where our family house stood was flanked on two sides by a vast expanse of Forest Preserve. And a half block in another direction led to the dark, dank duck pond where creatures sloshed and slithered in the summer and where we skated every winter.

We lived in a comfortable, modern house in a major city, but that house was planted firmly in the natural world. And that was long enough ago that children were free to roam and explore as long as they came home in time for dinner.

My childhood was also marked by growing up with four brothers and no sisters and sharing a small bedroom with my aunt until I left for college. I thought that my early years of having no one to share intimacies with except imaginary playmates predetermined my becoming a fiction writer. I’m happy to report that this March my novel The Opposite of Chance is being released by Delphinium Books. Both as a writer and as an activist, I am always looking for the way things are connected. I believe that seeing connections is what drew me to advocate for the environment.

What did you do for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, and are you still involved with them?

Nearly 40 years ago, another WILPF member, Arlene Sandler, “gave” my services to anti-nuclear activist Kay Drey. During my years of indentured servitude in Kay’s basement, I became educated in and then engrossed in the tragedy of the multiple piles of highly radioactive waste, dating from development of the atomic bomb, that had been clandestinely dumped around the St. Louis metropolitan area, contaminating properties from the downtown Mallinckrodt site where the uranium was processed to Coldwater Creek in St. Louis County. Through this work I became involved with the Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE). Over the years I volunteered on a number of issues ranging from the successful initiative petition passage of CWIP (by which utilities were denied the authority to charge ratepayers for “construction work in progress,” which Ameren is currently working to overturn) to the unsuccessful fight against the Page Avenue Extension commandeering a section of embattled Creve Coeur Lake Park. To my surprise, I also morphed into an event planner and created fundraising projects for MCE, ranging from helming a triennial art show and auction to editing a community cookbook. I am less active with MCE these days but still engaged, and my longtime partner continues to serve on their Board of Directors.

As you are aware, WILPF has an issue group called Earth Democracy having to do with living sustainably. Farming practices and industries such as steel and cement are polluting land and sea. Saving the planet, sustaining healthy populations from wee insects to whales is a big task. Who do you look to for environmental direction? What particular areas of environmental degradation are you most concerned about, and what have you been doing on that issue. 

Missouri is home to an abundance of environmental riches. Even though 20 states are larger, Missouri is second in the nation in total number of farms. (The only state with more is Texas and it’s about four times the size of Missouri.) The vast majority of these are small farms, family owned and family operated. But there are also five hundred (!) Class I large Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), otherwise known as factory farms, in our state. For example, in 2016 Smithfield Hog Production’s Green Hills Farm was permitted to house 79,488 large swine in its barns (MCE has a great interactive CAFO map on its website) CAFOS produce massive amounts of waste, wastes that migrate and pollute.

This gets me to the state’s other great resource, our waterways: the big rivers, the Mississippi and the Missouri, together form the fourth longest river in the world. Then there’s the network of rivers—Meramec, Current, Eleven Point, Cuivre, Gasconade, St. Francis, Big Piney–too many to name—that make Missouri arguably the best state in the union for floating in a canoe or kayak. Protecting those rivers – those rivers that feed farms and float people and provide drinking water and flow into oceans—is perhaps the most important action we can take locally. It’s all about connectivity. Protecting waterways from CAFO waste and mining runoff and plastics and oil spills I think is the number two priority after combating the climate crisis.

Climate change is upon us. Do you think the public is ready to show concern by engaging in strong action to effect real change? I noticed Bill Gates is saying we need more, a lot more, electric grid and our Missouri legislators won’t pass the Grain Belt Express, refusing to declare parts of farms condemned property. Ameren is not showing much interest in renewables even though they are now cheaper.  What are your suggestions?

And how do we address climate change? Bill Gates thinks nuclear power is an essential part of the solution. From my perspective, nuclear power creates more problems—from the unsolved dilemma of radioactive waste disposal to the unspeakable horror of a nuclear accident. Just hearing the name Fukushima makes me knock on wood. And then there’s the ocean. Fukushima spewed 320,000 gallons of highly contaminated radioactive water into the Pacific and radionuclides were released into the air and landed on the sea’s surface. Over 80% of the radioactivity from the damaged reactors ended up in the Pacific. Many U.S. reactors are on the coast or near inland waterways that drain into oceans. Knock on wood. It’s all about connectivity.

I second your concern about resistance to the Grain Belt Express! If built, the Grain Belt Express would move as much as 4,000 megawatts of wind power from western Kansas across Missouri and Illinois to the Indiana border, bringing lower rates to many Missouri customers.  And now there’s a move to add broadband to the project at no extra cost to Missouri taxpayers, which would bring internet access to many of the state’s rural communities. Missouri is the only state opposing the project. Our state reps and senators need to hear from us!

What are your recommendations for what organizations like WILPF St Louis and its members can do to protect the environment?

Besides lobbying for renewable forms of energy, what else should we be doing? Driving electric cars! Recycling is obvious. Composting less so, but by composting food scraps and plant waste, we not only reduce deposits in landfills by 30% (!), but we greatly reduce landfill production of methane, a noxious greenhouse gas. Methane can hold 25 times more heat than carbon dioxide! And compost is a gift for the soil.

We should stop eating animals, says this guilt-ridden omnivore who has raised–and cooked for–one vegan and one vegetarian.

We need to become lobbyists for the environment pronto. I’ll put in a plug for my favorite online environmental newsletter, Our Daily Planet, which informs me and often manages to cheer me up. 

We should have our elected representatives’ office phone numbers among our contacts so we don’t put off phoning. Calls do make a difference. Legislators’ staff tally the numbers, so make sure your opinion is counted. Since the 2016 election I’ve been chairing the environmental action group for MOmentum: Missouri Moving Forward and, doing this, I learned something that astonished me: while staff keep a record of the yeas and nays on legislation that come in via phone and email, it takes very few pieces of handwritten postal mail to get a file opened on an issue you care about. Pre-pandemic, at the end of an action group meeting, those in attendance would write (blue ink preferred) postcards to legislators and CEOs on issues we had discussed. And some of us received personal replies.

It’s important to recognize that the efforts of a small number of individuals can yield big returns. Back in 2007, I was one of about a dozen who came together to resist the 99-year “lease” of a chunk of Forest Park to the BJC hospital main campus for construction purposes. A faux emergency clause was attached to the bill authorizing the transfer so we were unable to stop the authorization, but we mounted an initiative petition drive to change the St. Louis City Charter to prevent any further parkland from being sold or “leased” without a vote of the people. That proposition was passed by 2/3 of the City voters and, years later, after the defeat of the mammoth hockey complex planned for Creve Coeur Lake Park (but not before the bulldozing of 40 acres of rolling fields and mature trees), St. Louis County followed suit. County and City residents alike turned out at County Council meetings to protest the destruction of valuable open space for non-park purposes and the measure passed handily. You can fight City Hall. You can fight Congress. You can fight for environmental justice and sustainability. A small group of determined folks can make a big difference.

This is too long, but it’s not my fault. There were too many good questions.

“Think of it as a compass for human prosperity in the 21st Century.”, Kate Raworth

adult background ball shaped blur

by Judy Davis, Women, Money & Democracy

TIME magazine’s article describing how Amsterdam, Portland, and Philadelphia are using Kate Raworth’s Doughnut economic model to guide their rebuilding provides an encouraging introduction to New economics theory.  I can’t wait to read her book!

Self-described as a “renegade economist”, Kate Raworth rejects the neoliberal idea that economics is a ‘value free’ science.  In fact, focusing on GDP as a measure of a nation’s strength ignores untold serious issues facing modern economies.  As an economics student at Oxford, she was frustrated that there were no courses focusing on the economics of social justice or the environment.  Instead, Raworth immersed herself in real-world economics working with international organizations whose concerns she shared.  

Inspired by these experiences, she became convinced of the necessity of rewriting economic theory so that it could be used to address our most pressing global challenges.  By envisioning her theory as a doughnut, Raworth argues that a country’s ability to ‘thrive’ should replace public policy maker’s goals of never-ending GDP growth.  

To read more:

My Journey to Nonviolence

by Cara Jensen

When I first joined WILPF, I was familiar, but not knowledgeable about the teachings of non-violence and pacifism. Upon reading and learning more and more, the concept seems to be fitting me like a glove, or perhaps more like lotion, absorbing into my skin.

I’ve been reading The Science of Peace by Dr. Suman Khanna Aggarwai, Gandhi on Non-Violence: Selected Texts, The Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Institute, Cultures of Peace by Elise Boulding, From Dictatorship to Democracy by Gene Sharp, Sermon on the Mount by Jesus, The Kingdom of God is Within You by Leo Tolstoy, A Vision for A Feminist Peace by Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and several Buddhist, Mennonite and Baha’i teachings on the subject.

Of course it is one thing to learn about a subject and quite another to put it into practice for your life. I am starting to able to recognize and catch my behavior (I am prone to judging and generalizing) and then put the situation into context in order to respond in a non-violent and love-filled manner. It doesn’t always come naturally though. Hopefully, with practice and more studies, I can (or should say will) create new behavior patterns in myself modeled after those who I am studying. I shall strive to commit myself both morally and practically to nonviolence.

However, I know there is a lot of work ahead of me and my reading list is not complete. I would be ever grateful for any books or authors that you could recommend to further my studies – please leave them in the comments!

Things to Ponder: Our History, The Present, The Future

Peggy Foege, Board Member

During the months of February and March, every Tuesday from 12:00 to 1:00 pm, WILPF -St.Louis has been having discussions about the book ‘Caste’ by Isabel Wilkerson. For those unfamiliar with this book it explores the caste systems, specifically those in India, Nazi Germany and in the United States. It is a brilliantly written, thoroughly researched, a work of art. It is an intense, often uncomfortable and overpowering book to read, and I greatly appreciated the weekly discussions and input from the other discussion members. Let me just quote a sample to her genius of summing things up: “Germany bears witness to an uncomfortable truth – that evil is not one person – – – “. The caste system, she summed up is an enemy to all, “it is a threat, it is not one man, it is us, all of us, lurking in humanity itself.” Wilkerson delves into our history, the beginning of our country, the colonists that created and then used an extreme form of slavery. It was during this time, the making of our New World that humans were set apart on the basis of what they looked like, and by being black in color put you in the bottom of our Caste system. You became not quite human, a property.

This is a history that wasn’t taught in our country, many citizens were unaware of this history, or it was conveniently ignored and therefore, never came to grips with. The book, ‘Caste’ tears away the blinders and exposes the truth, the good and the bad, of our past.
All United States citizens should be aware of our constitution, our Declaration of Independence: ‘all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights – Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’. Is this really what our country stands for? Is this what January 6th was about? Is this what some in power are after with the push to make voting in our country more difficult, is this the goal of people in power claiming we had a ‘fixed’ election, and that our elected President ’stole the election’? Dana Milbank, Washington Post, columnist, wrote: “The only route to power for a white-nationalist party is to become anti-democratic.”

Every citizen has the responsibility to learn about our history – our factual history – then, look around and take a real look at the present. Are we living up to the words of our founders, are we really working to perfect our country as a Democracy? Our Future – it’s ours, it is up to us to make it a more perfect union. Seems we have some work to do!

Editor’s note: visit our Book Club webpage for more info

Lynn’s Corner – Spring issue

Lynn Sableman, Board President

What has COVID time been like for you? I hope you have managed to stay well. For me, there has been a wonderful confluence of material to read and time to do it. I say wonderful because I am learning something and that feels good. The WILPFstlouis ‘Caste’ book discussion on zoom has been both a revelation and wrenching actually. We zoom Tuesdays in February and March for an hour at noon. Attendees can process the historical facts while listening or weighing in on their lived experience with what Wilkerson presents. Her careful research and masterful storytelling has won her acclaim and dozens of top literature prizes. This book holds a comparison of ancient Indian, Nazi and American caste systems. This study is precise with  dispassionate scientific clarity.  It shows the American history that was in our blind spot, intentionally obscured by the evil that lurks within the human heart. She points out that random features and language can be used to separate and subjugate people. She uses a height analogy.  Her message is that we all have so much in common we should work together to see this and enjoy each other. In the epilogue she points out that caste is hurting all of us. All the other wealthy democracies have with their taxes managed free healthcare, education through post doctoral studies, fair living wages and affordable housing. They are all smarter, healthier happier and live longer. People will invest in the common good when forces that are used to generate hate and division, like religion, are let go of  to raise everyone up. 

   She proves that Caste is a construct and doesn’t exist except as a distraction by the wealthy and powerful few for the wealthy and powerful few. But, the truth is humans are one family, we are one on a  cellular level.  The colonists brought captured humans in boats wearing manacles and heavy chains to  work 18 hour days and perpetually separated from family and terrorized for 400 years by all who were not of  their assigned subordinate position. Those in the lowest rank of status were terrorized by a fake unwarranted assumption that whiter is smarter and better.

 Oprah calls ‘Caste’ the most essential necessary read for all humanity, and has sent hundreds of copies to congress, presidential cabinet members and governors. I thought it should be mandatory for all police departments to take up and study. Why? The book is eye opening.

For a possible follow up book discussion via zoom, “My Black Friend Says…” by local author and long time Parkway High School English teacher, Heather Fleming. She says, she would be happy to join us.

  Three other books I enjoyed were “The Last Children of Mill Creek” by the local author Vivian Gibson,  Foner’s “Second Founding” and “The Sword and The Shield” about MLK and Malcom X by Peniel E. Joseph. 

WILPF US Earth Democracy webinar

waterfalls in forest

Using the Earth Democracy/Military Poisons Website and “PFAS and the Military” Projects

waterfalls in forest
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Combating Military Poisons and Valuing Water 

On Sunday, March 21st–the day before World Water Day–WILPF US Earth Democracy Committee and Vermont PFAS and Military Poisons Coalition are offering a webinar to introduce people to our newly designed website—Military Poisons—which exposes the connections between water, food, and health to military PFAS contamination.  The webinar will be one-hour: 5 PM-EDT.   Register in advance for this program at:  https://bit.ly/MilitaryPoisons  After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. Seating is limited to 100 registrants.

This reformatted website is both a resource and research tool for those who want to learn more about PFAS contamination and the military and take grassroots action. The website is now more accessible and easier to navigate.  Besides demonstrating the new website and how to research confirmed and suspected military contamination sites in your state and region, we’ll introduce you to the newest PFAS and the Military Project that is starting in Vermont. You’ll hear about the Vermont Project and from those working on it, including Pat Elder, a PFAS investigative journalist; Patricia Hynes, environmental health expert; Marguerite Adelman, WILPF Burlington team leader; and James Ehlers, Vermont project coordinator and environmental advocate.

Suspend US Military Exercises in South Korea

four soldiers carrying rifles near helicopter under blue sky

WILPF has signed on to this petition as an organizing group. Join us to call on President Biden to suspend the annual US-South Korea (ROK) combined military exercises.