Women, War and Peace issue of On The Issue Magazine
As the U.S. approaches a decade of war, what are feminist writers and artists thinking? On The Issues Magazine Summer 2011 probes peace activism and war reality.

From Our Archives: Related Stories on Women, War & Peace


On the Issues Magazine has featured articles about war – many different wars – and what war means for women, along with the dreams of peace. Here are some stories from our archives -- online (2009-2011) and in print (1983-99).

Study War No More – The Price of Conscience by Marlene C. Piturro, Summer 1994, profiled one courageous woman, Yolanda Huet-Vaughn, MD, an army medic who refused orders to be deployed during the first Gulf War.

After Huet-Vaughn went AWOL, she went public, saying: "I am refusing orders to be an accomplice in what I consider an immoral, inhumane, and unconstitutional act, namely an offensive military mobilization in the Middle East. My oath as a citizen soldier to defend the Constitution, my oath as a physician to preserve life and prevent disease, and my responsibility as a human being to the preservation of this planet would be violated if I cooperate with Operation Desert Shield."

Some Feminists on War, January 25, 1991 is a selection of statements by leading writers, feminists and activists – solicited and compiled by On the Issues Magazine shortly after the first Gulf War was launched. Featuring a diversity of views, the statements discuss why "war is a feminist issue" and the potential impact of the "New World Order" of the first George Bush. Among those commenting: Merle Hoffman, Ti Grace Atkinson, Kate Millett, Robin Morgan, Gloria Steinem, Betty J. Powell, Eleanor Pam, Linda Clarke, Eleanor Bader, Mary Lou Greenberg and more.

Women on War and Survival, Ending Nuclear Overkill and War by Daniela Gioseffi, Fall 1990, gives an overview of the devastation of war. Gioseffi writes: "When Jeannette Rankin cast her vote in 1917, and again in 1941, against U.S. entry into war, she is said to have wept with passionate conviction…. Cool logic has brought us to the brink of what disarmament activists call omnicide -- a word used to designate acts of homicide and suicide even more terrible than the many genocides in our history -- the total and final destruction of all life on earth. Added to the nuclear threat and poisons from nuclear industrialists, are our growing concerns over rising temperatures and seas, and the disappearing ozone layer and rain forests. Poisons from the Pentagon, aflotoxins, acid rain and biological and chemical warfare research and production confound the troubled psyche as it contemplates omnicide caused not only by the war machine but by the garbage of greed pouring back at us."

The Politics of Violence by Charlotte Bunch, Fall 1990, explicitly links militarism to violence against women.

She writes: "Those concerned with peace and disarmament must give attention to violence against women as an aspect of militarism. Unless we end world complacency toward the violence at the core of our societies, we cannot hope to end the violence against other races, religious groups or nations. The issue of peace is not divisible. Eliminating militarism goes with eliminating violence at home. Protecting the human rights of women and minorities is the flip side of ending warfare between nations. Both must be priorities for leaders in the 21st century."

A number of writers in the past, as well as in this issue, draw powerful links between the conventional view of war and the war that women face daily through deprivation, brutality, rape and restrictions of rights.

The War I Know: Sidelined, A to Z by Carolyn Gage, Fall 2008, reflects on the beginnings of the current Iraq war and the daily "terrorism" women face.

"And what about the women of Iraq? …. Since the occupation, there has been a concerted legal attack on the rights of women. The Iraqi Governing Council replaced the progressive1959 code of family law with arbitrary interpretations of Sharia, or religious law, which have resulted in legalizing violence against women. Under the 1959 laws, divorce cases were to be heard only in civil courts, polygamy was outlawed unless the first wife consented, women divorcees had an equal right to custody over their children and women's income was recognized as independent from their husbands's. The old law also restricted child marriage and granted women and men equal shares of inheritance."

On the Issues Magazine examined in detail the war in the former Yugoslavia – the struggle for peace during it and the "nation of widows" struggling to rebuild afterwards.

We Don't Want a Country of Invalids and Fresh Graves" Yugoslav Women Against War by Jill Benderly talks about a mothers' peace movement.

"As the civil war eats up Yugoslavia, the one bright hope is a peace movement started by mothers of soldiers. In July, Serbian parents marched on the Belgrade parliament demanding that their sons be sent home from army duty in Slovenia. That same evening in Zagreb, Croatian mothers demonstrated with banners reading, 'Mothers of soldiers, unite! Save our innocent children! We don't want a country of invalids and fresh graves.' The protesters were joined by eight busloads of Serbian parents. Together, Serbs and Croats confronted Gen. Zivota Avramovic, telling him, 'We won't let you manipulate our children.'"

A Nation of Widows by Jan Goodwin, Spring 1997, also described the post-combat devastation in the former Yugoslavia.

"'We are now just a world of women,' says Fikreta, through her tears. Aged 42, she lost her husband and 16-year-old son, her two brothers, and their two sons. Her mother-in-law, Aisa Fejzic, 76, lost her daughter and son and five grandchildren. The litany of loss is manifoldly echoed, over and over, when talking to her neighbors or other Srebrenica widows in other refugee collective centers. Most tellingly, the adult population of Bosnia is now 70 percent female. In the aftermath of the brutal four-year war, it is the women of Bosnia who must rebuild their country. "

When Death is a Constant Companion: Why Women Reporters Go to War by Marilyn Stasio, Spring 1998, gives another view of the war-women relationship. "...Combat journalists, many of them with international reputations...perceive their work in ideological, even humanitarian terms.... Michele McDonald gets charged up when she thinks about the medical clinics she saw in Kosovo. The thrill of Ayse Nur Zarakolu's life is 'striking down all the taboos' for the sake of a free Turkish press. Yes, the mission is the thrill, Lindsay Miller agrees; but there is also the indescribable rush of getting the story -- especially when you have to cheat death to do it. 'There's a certain machismo, even if you're a woman, about being in a war,' says one veteran combat reporter. 'Unless they are lying through their teeth, any journalist can tell you there's an incredible adrenaline rush being out there in the thick of things and coming out alive. There's no high like it.'"

A different kind of "high," however, comes from the passion and challenge of combating the war machine...and the thrill of being arrested for "dancing on the missile silos."

The Uncommon Women of Greenham, as told by Leslie Webster and written by Ginna D. Rose, Summer 1991, tells the story of collective resistance at the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp in Berkshire, England.

"Mary brought the heritage of Greenham to life for me with a recounting of the first years of the Peace Camp, when the women worked hard to prevent the Cruise Missiles from arriving and being put into position. They cut fences, blocked roads, lay down in front of machinery, and occupied sentry boxes. In 1982, they sent out 1,000 letters, requesting recipients to ask 10 additional women to gather at the base on the anniversary of the decision to bring the Cruise Missiles to England, a decision which was undemocratically made in a closed session of the Cabinet. On December 12, 1982, more than 30,000 women converged on Greenham, joining hands, singing and covering every yard of the nine mile fence with baby booties, children's clothing and webs of wool. A few weeks later, on New Year's Day, police arrested 44 women for dancing on the missile silos."

Also see Top Ten: Three Years of Stories That Grabbed Readers by Gabrielle Korn in this edition of On The Issues Magazine.

See Books of Note: War and Peace by The Feminist Press in this edition of On The Issues Magazine.

For more articles involving women, health and the environment, go to our Archives and look for these topics in our Complete Story List.

Nan Orrock posted: 2011-07-06 22:28:58

Thank you for this moving tribute to Barbara Seaman - a tribute as well to the feminist health movement that has made such a difference and whose work is yet unfinished! I loved being re-introduced to On The Issues as well! The struggle continues - la lucha continua!

william walter posted: 2012-01-09 14:31:17

Like women, Respect women, men and women who molest the mind of another person are worrisome people to be with! people who have abilities to aid and protect others unknowingly are a joy to be with! I personally don't do any of those things. I leave my trust to the good will of the Elite ones; expecting respect for the privacy and civil rights my mind, body, and spirit are entitlled to. A person who respects both weak and strong people is like a boss who knows when to help a worker and when to get out of their way. A really smart person, like myself never chooses to use mind manipulation techniques on anyone. I don't need the anxiety that comes with being a mother, or father! The weight of helping others draws criticism from others. Some helpers are power grabbing bullies who disreguard the well being of some who are being helped for the good of the many. Having stumbled on this article about Barbara Seaman, it was a nice place to find, for she was clearly reaching out to all. People in families and people without families need to know things Mrs Seaman wrote about.

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