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