PANEL: Woman Power for Peace: Linkages in Domestic and International Anti-War and Anti-Imperialist Activism during the Vietnam Era

Saturday March 2, 2013 at 3:00 PM

Commenter: Leandra Zarnow, Stanford University, Stanford, CA

There from the Beginning: Women Strike for Peace, SDS, and the Launching of a National Antiwar Movement, 1961-1965

Andrea Estepa

Drawing from a larger study reconsidering the organizational history of Women Strike for Peace (WSP), this paper highlights the integral role that particularly its local branch in Ann Arbor, Michigan, played in launching the national, grassroots movement protesting US involvement in the Vietnam War. Too often, scholars understand the New Left in generational, rather than political, terms, depicting the New Left as synonymous with the student movement and especially the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). In this paper, I consider the connected roots, principles, and tactics of WSP and SDS. Nurturing SDS’s positions and practice, WSP members organized the first Vietnam teach-in at the University of Michigan, signaling their role as key mentors and cross-generational collaborators at the inception of the anti-war movement.

Bella Abzug, Peace Politics, and the Transformation of the Democratic Party

Leandra Zarnow

As part of a full-scale political biography of Bella Abzug, this paper broadens understanding of the effectiveness of the “demonstration/lobbying format” characteristic of Women Strike for Peace (WSP). In the influential Women Strike for Peace (1993), activist-historian Amy Swerdlow correctly credited Abzug with developing this effective strategy in her capacity as WSP’s self-appointed legislative director. Yet, Swerdlow does not fully explore Abzug’s usage of WSP to reshape Democratic Party politics through challenge of the Cold War liberal establishment. …It is essential to place Abzug and WSP at the juncture of the New Left and Democratic Party politics.

Jane Fonda’s Early Antiwar Activism: Reality and Media Representations

Sarah King

This paper examines the early phase of Jane Fonda’s antiwar activism during the Vietnam War. It challenges the widely held view that Fonda’s major contribution to the antiwar movement was her controversial trip to Hanoi by exploring Fonda’s earlier antiwar activism, including her support for existing antiwar groups and individuals. Between 1969 and 1972, Fonda delivered speeches at antiwar rallies and college campuses, visited GI coffeehouses where she spoke to GIs and veterans, and joined forces with Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). … This paper is not only concerned with the nature of Fonda’s early antiwar work, but also the role of celebrity in her activism and the impact of gender-bias on media coverage of her activities.

US Women of Color, the ‘Third World,’ and the Viet Nam Era

Jessica M. Frazier

This paper analyzes the experiences of African American, Chicana, and Asian American women who traveled to North Viet Nam to meet with Vietnamese women during the Viet Nam War. It finds that although US women turned to Vietnamese women for fellowship and inspiration, they viewed Vietnamese women in a variety of ways–as fellow revolutionaries, as gendered victims of violence, and as collaborators against imperialism. This paper explores the ways in which US women of color interpreted gender, race, peace, and revolution and how their activism within their respective communities’ struggles for equality shaped their views of the war and of antiwar protests.

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