by Rosalie G. Riegle, Bad Subjects
From 2004 to 2007, I interviewed 157 war resisters from the U.S. and Europe. Many of these were women--young and old, married and single, living with families or in community.
Women have always resisted war. As mothers and lovers, they grieve the loss of their companions and the maiming of body and soul caused when their warrior men fight other warrior men. Most tolerate uneasily the false heroism of their male companions’ beer talk, hearing instead the battle nightmares of the dark. Some do more than quietly tolerate. They resist, both by saying no in legal protest and tax resistance and by “acting no” with their bodies when they take part in nonviolent direct action for peace. Some resisters call this civil disobedience; others use the term “civil resistance” reasoning that they are obeying international law, while their government is disobeying it. These actions disrupt their lives and often mean long jail or prison terms.
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One of the most successful---and least remembered---raft board raids was “Women Against Daddy Warbucks,” an action framed specifically as feminist in philosophy and execution. Linda Orell, a woman arrested for that action, wrote me, “[There was] massive chauvinism. At that time, a lay woman who did not cower in her niche as a married person was on just about as low a rung . . . as one could get.”
After careful planning, five women spent the entire night inside a building containing several Manhattan draft boards, shredding over 6000 A-1 files without being apprehended. Two days later they turned themselves in at a dramatic Rockefeller Center rally, raining the shredded files like confetti over the crowd, and the waiting FBI. While several arrests were made and a grand jury attempted, in the end no one was prosecuted because Federal judge Constance Baker Motley, a former civil rights activist, dismissed the charges.