Everyday Nonviolence

Juanita Nelson at home

At home, 2007. Photo by Ed Hedemann.

Activating Everyday Nonviolence: Juanita Nelson’s 100th Birthday Celebration and Gathering” is coming up August 17–20 in Western Massachusetts. Although Juanita died in 2015, fellow activists and friends (many associated with Pioneer Valley War Tax Resistance) were inspired by her life’s example to offer a weekend of exploration into everyday nonviolence and the nonviolence of everything. An underlying goal is to have attendees leave committed to answer a frequent Juanita question, “Well, what are you gonna do?”

The gathering will include workshops, trainings, celebration, theatrical performances of pieces written by Juanita, music, food, fun and building community connections. You can find all the info on The Nelson Homestead website (which seems to work better in browsers other than Firefox).

The website also features audio interviews, videos, writings, a Q & A about the Nelsons, and lots more on that website, but here’s part of a bio that Juanita wrote for NWTRCC some years back:

I became a dedicated war tax refuser in 1948, the year Wally Nelson and I became partners. Support the military so directly when Wally had just spent over three years in prison for saying No to that form of organized crime?? We joined the newly formed Peacemakers which had as a major tenet nonpayment of federal taxes.

I found part time jobs which paid the maximum nontaxable income. Wally did odd jobs with no withholding. I was therefore able to claim him as a dependent, permitting me to earn $50 a week at that time.

Because my employers reported my income, the IRS finally caught up with me after 11 years. I was arrested in only my terry cloth bathrobe* for refusing to give information. (IRS agents sometimes keep early hours.)

Wally and Juanita Nelson at their home in New Mexico with Craig Simpson.

On one of my odd jobs — artists’ model at the Cincinnati Art Museum — four dollars were mistakenly turned over to the IRS. I rather regretted that, but I decided not to worry about it. Makes a good story.

Wally and I left city living in 1970, part of an effort to lessen dependence on a violent society. We spent over three years in a village of 500 in northern New Mexico with electricity as our only modern convenience. In 1974, we moved to Woolman Hill, a Quaker Conference Center in Western Massachusetts, built a 900-square-foot home with most of the material coming from a small house we dismantled.

Juanita and Wally (who died in 2002) grew most of their own food and also sold produce at the Greenfield Farmers market. They cooked and heated with wood, drew water hand over hand from a well, had two propane gas lights rather than electricity and perhaps the only certified outhouse in Franklin County. A network of friends and volunteers — cultivated through lives centered in community  — helped each of them through their last years with gardening, meals, visits, and accessible housing as needed. Many of these same friends maintain the Nelson homestead (visitors by appointment) to continue teaching about everyday nonviolence.

— Post by Ruth Benn

* Read the story of Juanita’s arrest in her bathrobe here. You can still buy the bookmark set featuring quotes by Juanita and Wally Nelson, Maurice McCrackin, Eroseanna Robinson, and Ralph DiGia.

One thought on “Everyday Nonviolence”

  1. Chrissy Kirchhoefer says:

    A 2 night stay near the Nelson Homestead is one of the many items that are featured in NWTRCC’s 2023 raffle! Send your tickets in now to qualify https://nwtrcc.org/raffle/

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