[Marxism] Frances Crowe, Peace Activist and War Resister, Dies at 100

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Aug 29 09:29:19 MDT 2019


NY Times, Aug. 29, 2019
Frances Crowe, Peace Activist and War Resister, Dies at 100
By Katharine Q. Seelye

In 1945, when she was at home in New Orleans ironing a place mat, 
Frances Crowe was alarmed to hear on the radio that in its efforts to 
end World War II, the United States had dropped an atomic bomb on the 
Japanese city of Hiroshima. The bomb instantly vaporized tens of 
thousands of people and ultimately killed as many as 135,000.

She immediately unplugged her iron and went looking for a gathering spot 
or peace center, to find like-minded people with whom she could share 
her distress. Unsuccessful, she went into a used-book store, where she 
searched for material on nonviolence. The bookstore owner suggested Tolstoy.

“So I started reading a collection of Tolstoy’s essays on war and 
violence,” she recalled years later, “and, you know, that kind of set my 
direction.”

She was 26 at the time. For the next three-quarters of a century, she 
would dedicate herself to trying to make the world a more peaceful place.

Ms. Crowe died on Tuesday at her home in Northampton, Mass. She was 100.

Her daughter, Caltha Crowe, said Ms. Crowe was exhausted and had taken 
to her bed several days ago, a highly unusual development for this 
energetic centenarian. She said her mother said, “This body is no longer 
livable” and “This is what it feels like to die.”

For decades, Ms. Crowe was a fixture in the peace movement and in 
multiple causes for social justice that swirled around Northampton, the 
college town where she raised her family.

Ms. Crowe was an instinctive pacifist for almost all her life. Her 
professional activism began in 1968, when she started counseling young 
men facing the draft during the Vietnam War about becoming conscientious 
objectors. Fifty years later, she was arrested for protesting the 
expansion of a natural gas pipeline through a state forest in western 
Massachusetts. She was 98 and in a wheelchair.

Soon to turn 100, she said: ‘I don’t want a party. I want an action that 
will accomplish something.’
“Somebody just told me that at my age, the way to be happy was to play 
cards all day, and I said, ‘Hogwash!’” she said in an interview for this 
obituary in November.

“People my age can afford to take risks, to be arrested,” she added. 
“After you’ve raised your family, now is the time for us, the elders, to 
act.”

A tiny, sprightly woman with a thick mop of white hair, a pleasant smile 
and a polite manner that belied her determination, Ms. Crowe was 
arrested so often that she lost track.

“Not enough,” she said when asked how many times she had been booked. 
“But probably around 100.”

She said she had been jailed in every state in New England, usually on 
charges of trespassing or civil disobedience. Her chief cause was 
protesting nuclear energy and nuclear weapons, which she said was her 
priority given their power to wipe out life on Earth.

In 1984, she spent a month in federal prison after painting “Thou Shalt 
Not Kill” on the casings of missile tubes at a nuclear submarine base in 
Rhode Island; she was released at the urging of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, 
who was running for president and hoping to find favor with white 
liberal New Englanders.

Working in the pre-internet era, she did much of her organizing by the 
seat of her pants. During the Vietnam War, when she was counseling 
draft-age men, she would mimeograph fliers with information and then go 
out and pick up students who were hitchhiking among the colleges in the 
region.

“I drove back between Northampton and Amherst, spent the day talking to 
my passengers, saying, ‘Well, what are you going to do about the draft?’ 
and passing my fliers back from my front seat,” she said in a 2008 oral 
history interview archived at Smith College. “I drove slow and talked fast.”

She eventually counseled roughly 2,000 young men.

Her list of causes kept growing. She embraced actions against apartheid 
in South Africa and against the B-1 bomber. She made financial 
contributions to a cancer clinic in Iraq. She fought for a sustainable 
environment and rigorously sought to reduce her carbon footprint — 
eating locally grown food, avoiding buying items that were overly 
packaged and leaving her car in the driveway, except to take bottles to 
the recycling center.

In her later years she wrote a memoir, “Finding My Radical Soul” (2014), 
and protested the nation’s war efforts by refusing to pay federal income 
taxes. She put her house and other assets in a trust. The government 
then docked 15 percent of her Social Security check each month.

She gave a third of her tax savings to international peace 
organizations, a third to American peace organizations and a third to 
the Northampton public schools.

As she looked forward to her 100th birthday, she told The Times: “I 
don’t want a party. I want an action that will accomplish something.”

On the day she turned 100 — March 15, 2019 — hundreds of well-wishers 
swarmed into downtown Northampton. She led a celebratory march in her 
wheelchair; marchers carried signs supporting the Green New Deal and 
calling for an end to gun violence and war.

“I see so many young people,” she said, “which gives me great hope.”

Frances Hyde was born in Carthage, Mo. She was one of four daughters of 
Chauncey William Hyde, who owned a plumbing and heating business and 
later a flower shop, and Anna (Heidlage) Hyde, a homemaker.

One of her earliest memories was when the town handed out tickets for 
the best views of the public hanging of a black man. She blurted out to 
her father that she opposed killing, adding for good measure that she 
also opposed war. “You wouldn’t say that if you had lived through World 
War I,” her father admonished.

But she was a natural skeptic, with little use for authority.

“I think that I was kind of born a rebel,” Ms. Crowe said in the oral 
history interview. She said her older sister always obeyed their 
parents, and “I decided that I had to do things differently if I were 
going to be noticed.”

She had grown up an observant Roman Catholic, but by the time she got to 
college — graduating from Stephens College, a two-year school, in 1939, 
and then from Syracuse University two years later — she was questioning 
the faith.

“It seemed to me the church was very hypocritical, that they were 
opposed to violence and killing but they were sanctioning war,” she 
said. She also thought women should be priests.

One day, she said, “I just literally walked out of a Mass and never went 
back.”

She met Thomas J. Crowe at Syracuse, where they both were wrestling with 
their faith. They married in 1945, and he died in 1997. In addition to 
her daughter, she is survived by her two sons, Jarlath and Dr. Thomas 
Hyde Crowe; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Notable Deaths 2019: Politics and Public AffairsApril 1, 2019

During World War II, she worked in the personnel department of Bell Labs 
in Manhattan. Her future husband, who had earned his medical degree and 
was training to be a radiologist, joined the Army. At one point he was 
stationed in the Panama Canal Zone, so she moved to New Orleans to 
facilitate their visits. They were married there.

“I supported World War II,” she told The Times. “It was Hiroshima and 
the bombing of Dresden that helped me reach the decision that war was 
not the answer.”

Their son Jarlath was born deaf, and the family moved to Massachusetts 
in the early 1950s so he could attend the Clarke School for the Deaf in 
Northampton.

Ms. Crowe, who was a homemaker at that point, became active in the 
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and in SANE, the 
antinuclear group, holding meetings in her basement. She began her draft 
counseling and became involved with the American Friends Service 
Committee, making contact with and providing a bed for progressive 
speakers who came through town.

She  regularly attended Quaker meetings.

Ms. Crowe relied on the rudimentary tools at her disposal to reach 
people and rouse them to action. This included erecting a radio tower in 
her backyard to broadcast the progressive global news program “Democracy 
Now!” before it was widely available over the airwaves.

“I’ve never broken a law that I felt better about,” Ms. Crowe told Amy 
Goodman, the program’s co-host, in 2005 of her act of piracy. “It gave 
me a large charge every day.”

At 99, Ms. Crowe attributed her longevity in part to Ms. Goodman. She 
told The Times, “I get my day started with Amy Goodman, who sets my 
gyroscope.”

She credited other factors too: “Good genes, growing up in a healthy 
environment — there was not much pollution in Missouri — eating 
vegetarian, having a husband who was a physician. And I have a passion 
for justice. That’s what carries me.”




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