Women Strike for Peace: 50 years later

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Fifty years ago yesterday, the 1961 formation of Women Strike for Peace (WSP) marked a new era for activism, creating a new stage on which women could concentrate their power. In 1984, WSP described in their own words the beginning of their movement: "100,000 women from 60 cities came out of kitchens and jobs to demand: END THE ARMS RACE - NOT THE HUMAN RACE, and WSP was born."

The organization, started by Bella Abzug and Dagmar Wilson fifty years ago on November 1, moved to end nuclear testing and later, the war in Vietnam. It employed a number of tactics that had before then not been utilized by women, such as lobbying, resulting in, among other things, the beginning of the political career of Bella Abzug. "She was an incredible leader. When she spoke, you knew that she was right. We trusted her, we believed in her, we would have followed her to the ends of the earth," said the photographer and activist Joan Roth, reflecting on the time period. "The WSP was a real breakthrough, a brilliant idea. The idea of women being for peace wasn't a huge departure, but there was no example of this before it, women didn't really lobby. It was a unique time."

Are there any parallels between the Occupy Wall Street movement and the WSP? "It wasn't a youth movement," said Roth, "It was about mothers and children. Everyone was living in fear of World War 3. But Occupy Wall Street and Women Strike For Peace both want(ed) the best for people. It empowers you to stick to your guns, to not feel isolated and crazy. For those of us who believed in Bella, we followed her voice. Now it's as it should be-we listen to our own voices."

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