‘Peace or Perish’ say demonstrators: 1962
Two of the hundreds of members of Women’s Strike for Peace picket the White House January 15, 1962 demanding disarmament and the end of nuclear testing.
This demonstration was a follow-up to their first protest the previous year.
Shown in the photo are Betty Corwin (left) and Ottillie Kaufman from Westport, Connecticut with balloons reading “Peace or Perish.”
The group sent shock waves through the U.S. the year before when the group arose spontaneously and held demonstrations in more than 60 cities and staging a march on Washington in November to protest against nuclear testing fallout and the lack of a test ban treaty.
President Kennedy responded to that demonstration by saying, “I saw the ladies myself. I recognized why they were here. There were a great number of them. It was in the rain. I understood what they were attempting to say and, therefore, I considered that their message was received.”
HUAC responded by scheduling hearings into alleged communist domination of the Women’s Strike for Peace and held three days of hearings Dec 11-13, 1962.
Of the 11 witnesses called, nine invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to testify. The final witness, Dagmar Wilson, founder of the group, gave full testimony in front of 500 supporters in the committee hearing room.
When asked if she would purge communists from the organization, she responded “certainly not” and if asked if she would make the movement equally open to Nazis and Fascists, she replied, “If only we could get them on our side.”
During the hearing, committee counsel Alfred Nittle asked Wilson if she had orchestrated simultaneous demonstrations in 58 American cities on Nov. 1, 1961. Wilson responded that the spontaneity of the feminine peace movement was “hard to explain to the masculine mind.”
As each of the previous women called to testify refused to answer committee questions, each woman was applauded by the partisan audience. Wilson said at the end of the hearing that, “Solid support of the women for those who took the Fifth [Amendment] is an indication that we are simply not concerned with personal points of view.”
Following the hearing, the women marched to the White House where they picketed with signs reading, “End the Arms Race, Not the Human Race” and “Peace is American.”
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The photographer is unknown. The image is courtesy of the D.C. Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.