Frances Crowe, WTR and Anti-War Activist Extraordinaire

NWTRCC Coordinator Lincoln Rice wrote yesterday: 

“Brandywine in Philadelphia sent out an email on their list today about Frances Crowe, who is in hospice. She’s been a longtime supporter of NWTRCC, whom some of you may know. Here is the note from Brandywine: “Yes, the amazing peacemaker, Frances Crowe, is in hospice. Friends and loved ones predict she is soon to leave us. Frances is still able to receive visitors and field phone calls. If you wish to say Godspeed and express your gratitude for her magnificent life you may do so. Her number is: 413 586-4950 [Editor’s Note: Frances passed away at her home on Tuesday August 27th. Here is link to a NY Times article about her life.]

Frances Crowe wearing a shirt that says Resist with Compassion, links arms with Susan Lannen

Frances Crowe (left) and Susan Lannen practice living their values every day.

In March of this year, Frances Crowe celebrated her 100 birthday. Folks honored her wish of coming out with homemade signs. Over 250 strolled through the closed off streets of Northampton, MA to celebrate her steadfast commitment to a world filled with peace and justice.  One of the organizers of the event, “Celebrate the Struggle 100 Signs for 100 Years,” stated, “Frances sees what needs to be done, and then she goes out and she does it. We are here today to pay tribute to you, Frances … and to promise, to reassure you, that your work will go on because we here are committed to action.” Amy Goodman with Democracy Now! also joined in the weekend celebrations of Frances Crowe and her nearly 75 years of anti-war activism.

Americans Who Tell the Truth profiled Frances Crowe:

When she was a teenager in her hometown of Carthage, Missouri, Crowe blurted to her father that she was against killing and war. This revelation — she herself is not sure how she´d formed the idea — was prompted by the public hanging of a black prisoner at the local jail.

Her lifelong commitment to the antiwar movement, however, began a few years later in 1945 — after college, graduate school at Syracuse and Columbia, and a spell working in a laboratory that supported the war effort — as she was ironing a placemat in the New Orleans apartment where she lived with her husband. “I heard on the radio that they dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. And I knew, with the description of what it was that it was really bad… So then I literally unplugged the iron and went out looking for a Peace Center in New Orleans. And I didn’t find one. But I ended up in a used bookstore trying to find something to read on nonviolence, and the man who owned the store suggested I start with Tolstoy so I started reading a collection of Tolstoy’s essays on war and violence, and you know that kind of set my direction.”

Frances Crowe described the path that led her to became a WTR after the Iraq War in 2003 in “It Really Feels Good!”  profile from February 2005

My conscience simply would not permit me to (pay war taxes). I really reached the point where I just very deeply felt I could not pick up the pen and write the check. I was a total hypocrite, running around talking about these things, and feeling so strongly, while still funding them.

It was when the war started that I really said, “No, I cannot pay.” I wrote a letter to the government saying, “I’m a Quaker. I can no longer support the military budget. I don’t believe in this war. It is an illegal government, talking about conducting an illegal war and I cannot cooperate.” I’ve been open about it and I file. I wrote them a letter about why I didn’t pay and sent copies to my Congress people and the President. I didn’t hear from any of them. Then I heard from the IRS that I had filed a frivolous claim and that they were going to fine me $500. I call them up and asked, “What is frivolous about it? It is not a frivolous thing for me to break the law. It was a very serious thing and I understand what I’m doing.” And she said, “Refile but don’t put any paper in with it. Just refile. Send a copy of what you sent.” I did and I didn’t hear any more.

 The trouble is that people are too comfortable. They are not hungry, and they are so totally caught in by the major media that they’re just shopping and entertaining themselves and feeling that they have to be happy all the time and diverted. I like to be comfortable. I like a warm bath and I like a comfortable bed at night. I don’t like being hungry.

But there is something else also to life, the joy of struggle, that not enough people have tasted. And the joy of community, and the joy of cooperation, instead of competition; these are the values that I want to perpetuate and talk about to young people. There’s a whole other world out there that they can taste that’s a really wonderful community in the brotherhood of humans.

Americans Who Tell the Truth continued their profile (along with a beautiful portrait of Frances)

“People my age have been lulled into the idea that they shouldn’t take risks, that they should stay comfortable and take the easy way,” Crowe told The Boston Globe. “But we’ve lived our lives, and we have nothing to lose – no kids or jobs to worry about. I say to them, `Have some fun. Get out there and join the community of people acting on their beliefs!’ “Crowe explains what keeps her going: “I have a vision of a better world where people can live cooperatively, without violence, and that we would be able to feed the hungry, house the homeless, and provide shelter for people if we weren’t spending so much money on war.”

Post by Chrissy Kirchhoefer