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Bella Abzug and Women Strike for Peace

October 31, 2017

Bella Abzug, along with co-founder Dagmar Wilson (not Jewish), launched Women Strike for Peace (WSP) on this date in 1961, when some 50,000 women, mostly middle-class mothers of young children in over sixty communities, demonstrated to demand that President John F. Kennedy “End the Arms Race -- Not the Human Race.” This was prompted by the Soviet resumption of atmospheric nuclear testing — and the U.S. plan to do the same — following a three-year moratorium. WSP, which prefigured the antiwar movement as well as the feminist movement, was targeted by the House Un-American Activities Committee, but came out on top in the court of public opinion. (The prefeminist title of one column, for example, reporting on the testimony of WSP leaders before HUAC, read “Peace Gals Make Red Hunters Look Silly.”) The movement was also instrumental in forcing the adoption of the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty (“Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water”).

The HUAC, the HUAC,
It’s time they were bounced with a one, two, and three.
They’re due for the door,
When they can do no more
Than pester the women
Who work against war.” —“The H. U. A. C.” by Malvina Reynolds