Polly Mann Presente!

By Sarah Martin  Women Against Military Madness Newsletter
Vol. 41  Num. 1  Spring 2023

Polly Mann, a leading force and giant in the Twin Cities antiwar movement, died on January 12, 2023 at the age of 103 in San Francisco, California, where she passed her final days in the home of her daughter Connie. Until just six months before she died, she was still sending ideas and suggestions to the WAMM newsletter editor. Polly always thought big, made things happen, and remained involved.

In 1981, together with her friend Marianne Hamilton, Polly conceived of Women Against Military Madness (WAMM). Marianne and Polly knew that polls showed most women were antiwar but they needed an organization to change the government’s spending priorities from military spending to human services. A vital concern was also the ongoing threat of nuclear warfare. Polly and Marianne felt that there should be a place where women could lead in demanding a peaceful and just society.

Polly understood the importance of having a persistent antiwar presence by making the organization sustainable with an office and staff.

Polly was very well informed, followed events closely, and had a sharp analysis of the depth and breadth of U.S. imperialism. Her response to injustices, oppression, and violence was a demand for swift and strong action when countries were in the crosshairs of U.S. militarism.

At times the organization took unpopular positions such as WAMM’s early decision to support Palestinians in their struggle for liberation from U.S.support for a brutal military occupation, opposition to the U.S./NATO dismemberment of Yugoslavia, and the U.S. involvement in the unsuccessful but highly destructive and propagandized attempt at regime change in Syria.

Polly addressed U.S. foreign policy funded at the expense of human needs. Kim DeFranco, WAMM member and former organizer with the Welfare Rights Committee, said, “Throughout her lifetime and when fighting for economic and social justice, she knew women are the economic and social backbone and needed to be better supported by the government and society.” With WAMM, Polly “wrote articles, joined rallies, demonstrations, and legislative committee hearings, and encouraged the Minnesota legislature to pass important bills that would improve the lives of poor and working families and women and their children.”

Polly went on delegations to many countries including Cuba, Libya, and the Philippines to see and hear firsthand the effects of U.S. foreign policy. She helped initiate an ongoing weekly vigil in St. Paul, Minnesota, for justice in Palestine during the first Intifada in 1988.

Addressing militarized injustice within the U.S., she joined the picket line at the Hormel strike in Austin, Minnesota, and, as WAMM member Susan Giesen recounts, “Guardsmen were blocking the street. She marched right up to the line, approached each guardsman, touched him gently on the shoulder and said, ‘I know you don’t want to be sent to Central America. I will do all I can to not let them send you there.’”

Polly was a prolific writer and wrote columns for the Women Against Military Madness NewsletterSouthside Pride, and the Women’s Press.  She was a popular speaker at innumerable programs and rallies including at the Minnesota State Capitol for the March on the RNC in 2008.

Polly was a beloved, respected and dynamic leader. WAMM member Erica Bouza said on her 90th birthday, “Greatness is rare. Not many of us have encountered it; the courage to stand up for what you believe and the skill to lead and persuade others to pursue the dreams of social, racial, economic, and gender justice are isolated virtues, given to the very few. She is gutsy, scholarly, practical, and effective, a devoted friend and an inspiration to those who dream of freedom, equality, and justice.”

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Raised fist and pen power

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By Published On: May 13th, 2023Comments Off on Polly Mann Presente!

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