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Week 15: Women and Nonviolence Nisha Patel. ‘ Women’s stories have been buried’, ‘since the Men being the Historians, they seldom condescend to record the great and good actions of women ’.

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‘Women’s stories have been buried’, ‘since the Men being the Historians, they seldom condescend to record the great and good actions of women’


‘Thoreau, Tolstoy, A.J Muste, Gandhi, Martin Luther King usually get the credit for the development of active nonviolence, but women – around the world and from the beginning of history have consistently experimented with ways to resist oppression and challenge injustice without endorsing violence’


1300 BC -women provide refuge for male babies condemned to death by law

1600 – women of Iroquois nation boycott sex and child bearing

1987 -women’s involvement in American ‘Sanctuary movement’

1983 -Seneca Peace Encampment in New York

1984- ‘Not in our name’ campaign


Some examples of nonviolent resistance by women

  • India – khadi spinning, Pashtun Army
  • South Africa 1955– campaign against passbooks
  • Germany 1943 – Rosenstrasse women
women and satyagraha
Women and Satyagraha

‘We were not meek, mild, illiterate Indian women, content to remain within the four wall of our homes’

Invokement of female religious figures such as Sita

Promotion of celibacy as a means of resistance

Idea that women are morally suited to nonviolence


M.K. Gandhi

‘to call a woman the weaker sex is libel; it is man’s injustice to woman. If by strength is meant brute strength, then indeed is woman less brute than man, If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior. Has she not greater intuition, is she not more self sacrificing, has she not greater powers of endurance, has she not greater courage?’


The organisation was democratic, aiming to achieve women's suffrage through peaceful and legal means

In 1903 split from the Women'sSocial and Political Union (the "suffragettes"), who wished to undertake more militant action.

Suffragist group continued to grow. By 1914 there were over 500 branches throughout the country, with over 100,000 members.

The organisation aimed to achieve change through creating petitions, leaflets and letters.

greenham common
Greenham Common

Campaign against cruise missiles being located at RAF base Greenham Common

Thursday 27th August 1981 - ‘Women for Life on Earth’.

Sunday 13 December ‘embrace the base’. 30,000 join hands for 6 miles.

greenham common link http www youtube com watch v rrobs7cbec
Greenham common link

1st April 1983 - 70,000 protesters form a 14 mile long human chain from Greenham to Aldermaston.

Dec 1983 - 50,000 protestors encircle the base perimeter

1991 – missiles are removed from the camp

2000- protesters finally leave after 19 years of action

women of the plaza de mayo
Women of the Plaza de Mayo

Azuncena De Vicenti organised a march on the Plaza on Saturday April 13 1977.

They used their image as mothers to gain attention, they became known for their public displays of mourning

As the movement grew the women adopted white headscarves as their uniform, they would often have the names of their children embroidered onto them.


La Prensanewspaper ad on 5 October 1977 – mothers day. 237 pictures of the disappeared were printed along with the names of their mothers. The headline read ‘We Do Not Ask for Anything More than the Truth’

Ten days later a petition with 24, 000 signatures was carried to the congress building

By May 1979 the Mothers ‘held elections, legally registered as an association and opened a bank account.

By 1980 the women had their own office and bulletin.