Primary Sources & Lesson Plans
Bella Abzug was an important figure in womens political activism. She drew on her Jewish heritage, which emphasized tikkun olam, repairing the world. Womens activism both reflected and shaped the radicalism of the 1960s. The public protests so common in that decade were only one of many strategies grassroots activists pursued. They also made speeches, circulated petitions, and lobbied their Congressional representations.
After working for years as a labor and civil rights attorney, Bella Abzug helped form and run the Women Strike for Peace group, pictured here protesting the resumption of nuclear weapons testing by the United States and the Soviet Union in the early 1960s. By that point, many people questioned the Cold War build-up of military arsenals. Nuclear weapons were of particular interest to womens groups because of the potential health risk to children. Public protests against weapons testing were partially successful. The Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treat of 1963 did outlaw atmospheric testing of the hydrogen bomb, but it still allowed for underground testing. Women Strike for Peace soon broadened its original focus on nuclear weapons and participated in the anti-war movement.
For more information on Abzug, go to JWAs Women of Valor exhibit.
1. What arguments did these protesters make against nuclear weapons?
2. Are these necessarily female arguments or do they express universal concerns?
3. Why did these women choose this location for their protest?
4. Why was an all-female protest effective?
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