Remembering Linda

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War Resisters League - One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance
August 7th is Linda Thurston’s birthday. She would have turned 65 this year. Linda Marie Thurston, WRL’s much loved Operations Coordinator, passed away suddenly in late May 2021. We held a celebration of her life last August. And we continue to honor and remember Linda in many ways.

Linda had been preparing for WRL’s 100th Anniversary since the 90th Anniversary! She sent archives to the Swarthmore Peace Collection, put boxes of “vintage” WRL materials aside “for the 100th”, shared ideas on how to reflect on what had, and had not, been done. 

Linda believed in the importance of history – of preserving it, learning from it, celebrating and critiquing it. Given the right-wing effort to erase history, it is even more important than ever to embrace it, to share it. 

History can give us much needed hope, and an understanding of how to create the change we seek. 

In 1996 Linda was interviewed by Renee Rousso for a “Stop Executions Now” special issue of the Amnesty International Magazine. Roussou wrote “Linda’s warmth and passion carry the message of hope that it is possible to have an impact.” Linda told her, “You have to be persistent. There was a time when people thought there would never be an end to slavery. If someone had said that it would be abolished 45 years later, people would have thought they were crazy. But there were enough people who kept believing…”.

In 1998 Linda worked on WRL’s “Day Without the Pentagon”, coordinating a rally and action at the Pentagon that took place during WRL’s 75th Anniversary.

In “Stopping the Prison-Industrial Juggernaut” for the January-February 1999 issue of The Nonviolent ActivistLinda wrote: 

"When the Nonviolent Activist asked me to write about last fall’s Critical Resistance conference, it came to me that even without the parallels between the prison-industrial complex and the military industrial complex, even with the large number of Nonviolent Activist readers who have been imprisoned, the subject has relevance for the peace activists who read the Nonviolent Activist. We are not only people who are working to end war and militarism, but people working to end violence."

Linda wrote, “Conferences happen all the time. Did the Critical Resistance conference jump start a mass movement for change in this country’s criminal justice system? This remains to be seen.

"There is hope...”

Hope and persistence succeeded.

Linda was interviewed by Matt Meyer for the Fall 2009 WIN Magazine on "Prison Abolition, Political Prisoners, and the Building of Critical Resistance". 

Linda continued to work with Critical Resistance (CR), who credits her for coordinating their Northeast Regional Conference in 2001, and seeding prison industrial complex abolition as a strategy. Critical Resistance, now 26, is building an international movement to end the prison industrial complex (PIC) by challenging the belief that caging and controlling people makes us safe. It’s work includes political education, prisoner solidarity, fighting imprisonment, and resisting policing.

CR ended their remembrance of Linda by writing, "In Linda’s owns words, when honoring Malcolm X only days before her passing, “What is remembered, lives.” Linda Thurston, ¡Presente!

- blog post by Joanne Sheehan

Linda with Joanne Sheehan