Dagmar Wilson
Dagmar Wilson founded Women’s Strike for Peace in 1961 at the height of the Cold War calling for end to atmospheric nuclear testing and an end to nuclear weapons.

Wilson’s organized women in 60 cities who turned out over 50,000 people nationwide in their first action in 1961.

The protest struck a chord in the throughout the U.S.

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.”

Two years later a partial test ban treaty was signed by the United States, Soviet Union and Great Britain—three of the four nuclear powers at that time. France has never signed the treaty. The treaty banned atmospheric testing but permitted underground testing.

Wilson’s group organized many subsequent demonstrations.

In December 1962 the House Committee on Un American Activities attempted to discredit the group, but Wilson was time-enough for them.

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 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.”

Wilson and Women’s Strike for Peace were equally active during the anti-Vietnam War movement.

Upon Wilson’s death in 2011, the New York Times wrote:

“Ms. Wilson, an artist and illustrator of children’s books, had never been an activist but had long been worried about nuclear fallout. Women, she decided, should strike — take time from their jobs and homemaking for the cause of peace.”
“’I decided that there are some things the individual citizen can do,” she told The New York Times in 1962. ‘At least we can make some noise and see. If we are going to have to go under, I don’t want to have to go under without a shout.’”
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