It was 1983, the Cold War was in full swing, and concern over the deployment of nuclear weapons in Europe was a chilly reality. In reaction, a group of women established a place—a camp—to come together to protest and organize. In solidarity with the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp in England, on land adjacent to the Seneca Army Depot in upstate New York, the Women’s Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice (WEFPJ) was formed, attracting over 12,000 women participants.
WEFPJ founding tenets included opposition to deployment of US cruise missiles and working to promote peace and social justice. Working from a foundation of feminist principles, WEFPJ encouraged nonviolent civil disobedience training within a peaceful and consensus driven community.
Just as women traveled from all over to participate in the peace camp, over 60 people came together again, for a reunion at the Schlesinger Library on Friday, May 8, 2015. The afternoon gathering was the start of a weekend-long celebration, a Herstory Happening over Mother’s Day weekend.
The Schlesinger event was prompted by the donation of the Peace Encampment Herstory Project archives, a project begun in 2005 to capture the stories of women that participated in, and cherished, their time at the peace encampment. Guided by Estelle Coleman and Hershe Michele Kramer, there are dozens of herstory video interviews in the collection, which will be preserved and made accessible through Harvard Library online catalogs for future generations of researchers.
The event included remarks by Coleman, Kramer, and Marilyn Dunn, executive director of the Schlesinger Library. Members of the Women’s Video Collective shared remembrances of the peace encampment and are donating archival footage taken at the camp as part of the Herstory Project. The program also included a viewing of “Dis-arming Metaphors” by artist and ecofeminist Helène Aylon and a slideshow created from materials collected by Coleman and Kramer that elicited big cheers from the crowd.
The good energy at the Schlesinger Library that Friday afternoon was palpable; friends who had not seen each other in 30 years shared stories and memories. Estelle Coleman’s granddaughter, who attended the event along with her own children, reminisced about being at the encampment with her grandmother. She hopes her children will create their own memories, passing on a shared sense of community and peace from generation to generation.
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