Virginia Baron edited the 1997 WRL Peace Calendar, “Womanspirit Moving,” a collection of profiles, quotations, and stories about women organizing for peace and justice around the world. In a lifetime of activism herself, Virginia worked for the Fellowship of Reconciliation, traveled the world on peace delegations, and was active with War Resisters League for at least the last 30 years of her life. Virginia died at age 91 in 2022. This is an excerpt from the introduction to the Womanspirit Moving Calendar.
With few exceptions, the women in these pages will probably not be mentioned in tomorrow’s history books. It isn’t because their actions go unnoticed in their communities. On the contrary, they maybe the glue that is holding together shaky and unstable segments of the world at the end of this senselessly violent century. These are women who not only have the vision to see what must be done to preserve sanity in times of insanity (in the midst of wars and other inhumanities), but they are able to summon the courage to act in defense of human rights and values.
It has been twenty-five years since a WRL Peace Calendar has focused on the contributions of women to the nonviolent movement. While it sometimes seems as if not much has changed for the better in those years, it does appear that women, at least in the West, no longer question their role or feel the need to justify their presence—whether in coalition with men or on their own—as full participants in the ongoing process of shaping a more just society. We can probably attribute much of this to the groundbreakers of the renewed women’s movement in the United States, Europe, and many other parts of the world. We owe a debt to the stalwarts like the women who maintained a ten-year presence against militarism at Greenham Common Peace Camp in Britain, and to the unyielding Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, who refuse to give up their search for the disappeared sons and husbands even today. These women exemplify the merit of persistence.
In places like the former Yugoslavia, Israel/Palestine, Russia and Chechnya, women have broken through national and ethnic boundaries to combine their voices in appeals for peace, launching dialogues that have paved the way for government initiatives.
They have created effective global models such as the Women in Black style of organizing and protesting. In Corsica, where violence has become a way of life, women have broken the rule of silence and called for an end to gangland feuds and deadly vendettas. In Northern Ireland, women have made it clear that they will not tolerate anything but a permanent ceasefire. In “peaceful” countries like the United States, where one-third to two-thirds of the female population are subjected to physical and/or sexual assault, women’s groups have organized rape counseling and shelters for battered women.
Everywhere women have been making visible formerly invisible issues—or speaking out in realms that up to now have been considered the male domain—insisting that women’s experiences and sensibilities count. They are prepared to be unsettlers and transformers when necessary, or reconcilers and healers. They are admired for their flexibility and known for their spirit. Some things may not have changed in the last twenty-five years, but one thing is certain—women have raised the curtain on the age of visibility. They don’t just make coffee or take notes in the peace and justice movement or anywhere else.
Above: Virginia at the September 21, 2014 Climate March in Manhattan (Photo by Ed Hedemann)
Below: Sample Pages from WRL's 1997 Peace Calendar: "Womanspirit Moving: Toward Peace & Justice"