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On this week's Peace of History:
We shine our spotlight on the early political activities of Marjorie Swann, another founding member of the Voluntown Peace Trust and a decades-long luminary of peace and justice activism. Through over a half-century of involvement in civil rights, community relations, and international peace activities, Marj Swann grew and spread the active nonviolence movement in the United States, forging important connections with a wide diversity of people along the way.
In 1942, at the age of 21, Marj became a charter member of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), where she first experienced nonviolence training. So influenced was she by the training she received through CORE that she came to organize and facilitate countless more nonviolence trainings over the years, working alongside other famous activists of the civil rights and anti-war era. With her husband, Bob Swann, Marj helped found the Committee for Nonviolent Action in 1957, focusing on ending the arms race. The next year, Marj was arrested during a civil disobedience action for walking through the gates of a new nuclear missile base in Omaha, Nebraska. Redbook Magazine wrote an article about her entitled “You are a Bad Mother” -- words spoken by the judge to Swann as he sentenced her to prison for six months. Neither the judge’s criticism nor the prison sentence deterred Marj from her activism for very long, and in 1960, Marj and Bob came to New London, Connecticut to organize opposition to the nuclear weapons-carrying submarine Polaris. The couple moved their family of four children to the farm that became the Community for Nonviolent Action (on the Voluntown Peace Trust). Even as she worked on such globally-affecting issues as nuclear disarmament, Marj always cultivated relationships closer to home, as well. Marj was known for asking local mothers how their enlisted sons were doing in Vietnam. After the Minuteman attack on the Voluntown farm in 1968, Marj even brought food to the families of the imprisoned Minutemen. And the breadth of her resistance activities continued to expand and deepen across the span of her life.
Next week: We will examine how Marj Swann’s diverse network of activists and organizers developed over the decades, and how that network affected her political activism later in life. We will see what sort of fruit may grow from such purposeful cultural cross-pollination -- perhaps to learn some lessons from this extraordinary woman.