As part of the celebration of Three Decades of Daring Deeds, we are featuring interviews with members who have been with WAMM from its beginnings.
Mary White is one of the founding grandmothers of WAMM. In 1982 she participated in early WAMM meetings at Loretta’s Tea Room (at 26th St. and Park Ave. in Minneapolis), a former restaurant owned by WAMM members and sisters Pat and Kathy Powers.
A social worker with a degree in community organizing, Mary created the Empowering People of Peace Handbook with fellow social worker and activist Dorothy Van Soest. The driving passion at that time was fear of nuclear war. The idea behind the pamphlet was to give people with shared concerns a way to get to know each other. Empowerment groups could be formed in the workplace, in the, with neighbors and friends, really anywhere.
Mary White at an antiwar rally.
Photo by Tom Bottolene
According to Mary, WAMM has survived because the people involved put together the connections between militarism and the corporate industrial complex. The hard work of individuals within WAMM attracted people who do understand the nuclear threat and the militaristic attitude that informs our culture and wish to be a part of taking action around these issues.
The empowerment groups were intended to be the building blocks of an organization to stand on. The three principles established in the pamphlet for people to follow still inform WAMM’s practices: educate ourselves, support each other, and take action of some kind.
The expression, “Never a meeting without an action,” created by WAMM co-founder Marianne Hamilton, became a practice for WAMM as Mary incorporated it into the empowerment process.
WAMM co-founder Marianne Hamilton met co-founder Polly Mann through their activism during the Vietnam War. Marianne went twice to North Vietnam during the war, dodging bombs by running into ditches and holding meetings with the people of North Vietnam.
In the early 1970s Marianne traveled to Vietnam with Father Harry J. Bury as a coordinator of the International Assembly of Christians, thus Marianne’s initial entry to Vietnam was around concern for Catholics in Asia. They traveled with a delegation that included David Dellinger, Cora Weiss, William Sloane Coffin and Richard Falk, as well as family members, who were to bring three American prisoners of war home. (Traveling to Vietnam: American Peace Activists and the War. By Mary Hershberger, 1998. p. 216). Marianne lived in Paris for some time and attended the Paris Peace Talks.
In 1983 WAMM held a seminal conference Marianne helped organize with Pam Costain (WAMM member and later director of the Resource Center of the Americas) on the threat of nuclear weapons and featuring Michael Klare, Five Colleges professor of Peace and World Security Studies.
After the Vietnam War Marianne traveled worldwide. She became WAMM’s international representative as she met with officials and peace and women’s groups, often organizing delegations to many war-torn areas of the world. Countries she visited include many in Asia and Central America, the Philippines, India, and Yemen.
Marianne was highly regarded in Vietnam. In the 1990s, traveling with WAMM member Sarah Martin, she organized a meeting wih Madame Dinh, (Nguyễn Thị Bình) a Vietnamese communist leader who had negotiated at the Paris Peace Conference─where Marianne met her─on behalf of the Vietcong, or National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam. Dinh was Vice President of the united Vietnam from 1992-2002.
In October 2007 Marianne was honored by the Minnesota History Center in a festival of 10-minute films about Minnesota’s greatest generation. “Marianne Hamilton: Voice of Peace,” produced and directed by Kevin KcKeever, tells of the making of a peace activist. Marianne’s papers are housed at the Minnesota Historical Society under the category of Vietnam War Protests.
You are invited to be part of WAMM’s 30th anniversary by joining Mary and Marianne and many others in celebrating Three Decades of Daring Deeds.
The Celebration Party
Three Decades of Daring Deeds
Sunday, July 22 , 2012
4:00 PM to 6:00 PM Program at 5:00 PM
Suggested donation: anything with a 3 and a 0 in it!
Carondelet Center Dining Room
(next to St. Catherine University)
1890 Randolph Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105
All of us, friends, supporters and members, are who and what WAMM continues to be, so come celebrate us! RSVP or reservations are not required.
We hope you can come to the party, but if you are unable to, please help WAMM continue acting for peace and for justice. Donate online by clicking here, mail your donation to WAMM, 310 E. 38th Street, Minneapolis MN 55409, or call the WAMM office at 612-827-5364.
People know they can count on WAMM. In a violent world, WAMM will continue as a strong presence for peace with your help.