For Sale: One decades-long hub of activism — The Northampton home of recently deceased anti-war crusader Frances Crowe is on the market

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  • The back door leading to the basement of the late peace activist Frances Crowe's Northampton home. In the 1960s and 1970s, during the Vietnam War, many young men passed through this doorway seeking counseling on the draft from Crowe and others in the Western Massachusetts branch of the American Friends Service Committee that she started here in 1968. Photographed on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The back door leading to the basement of the late peace activist Frances Crowe’s Northampton home. In the 1960s and 1970s, during the Vietnam War, many young men passed through this doorway seeking counseling on the draft from Crowe and others in the western Massachusetts branch of the American Friends Service Committee that she started here in 1968. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Real estate agent Kathy Borawski leads a tour of the home of the late Northampton activist Frances Crowe. In this basement, during the Vietnam War, Crowe counseled groups of young men on the draft and started the western Massachusetts branch of the American Friends Service Committee. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A clipping from the December 18, 1998, Hampshire Life article about activist Frances Crowe, then 79, written by her friend Claudio Lefko of Northampton. Photos for the story taken in the basement of Crowe’s house at 3 Langworthy Road in Northampton. Crowe died on August 27, 2019, at the age of 100. STAFF FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The home of the late activist Frances Crowe, located on the corner of Langworthy Road and Crescent Street in Northampton. Crowe could regularly be seen walking to and from downtown, even in her later years pulling her cart behind her. Crowe died in August of 2019 at the age of 100. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The kitchen in the 1949 Northampton home of the late activist Frances Crowe still features the original metal cabinets. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The back entrance leading to the basement of the late Northampton activist Frances Crowe’s home. Here, in 1968, she started the western Massachusetts branch of the American Friends Service Committee which continued there for 28 years. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The living room in the Northampton home of the late activist Frances Crowe. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Real estate agent Kathy Borawski demonstrates a hideaway ironing board during a tour of the late activist Frances Crowe's Northampton home on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • This light switch in the basement office of the late activist Frances Crowe’s Northampton features a hand-written note to “visualize whirled peas.” Crowe started the western Massachusetts branch of the American Friends Service Committee in the same basement. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Frances Crowe in her living room in 2016. Dave Eisenstadter photo

  • Frances Crowe at her home in Northampton, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. File photo

Staff Writer
Published: 2/21/2020 10:31:27 AM
Modified: 2/21/2020 10:31:14 AM

For more than half a century, a one floor ranch house built in 1949 at 3 Langworthy Rd. in Northampton was a center of activism and grassroots organizing as the home of legendary peace and anti-nuclear activist Frances Crowe, who passed away at the age of 100 on Aug. 27, 2019.

Now the house is for sale for a listing price of $479,000 with a pending offer on the home, according to Kathy Borawski, real estate agent for the home with Borawski Real Estate. During a recent open house, more than 40 people viewed the famous activist’s home.

“I’m absolutely honored that the family asked me to handle this for them,” Borawski said. “I grew up in Northampton and I’ve lived here my whole life. She’s been a fixture in town.”

Crowe started her nationally and internationally recognized activist work after World War II when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki focusing on anti-nuclear activism. During the 1960s and early 1970s, she started working with young men seeking to escape the Vietnam draft by becoming conscientious objectors. In the 1980s, she was a leader in the Nuclear Freeze Movement, which was a campaign against nuclear weapon testing, deployment and production.

Crowe previously said that she was arrested as many as 11 times and one of the last times she was arrested was in 2011 for trespassing at Vermont Yankee Power Plant in an attempt to shut down the nuclear power plant through protest.

She also refused to pay federal taxes, instead choosing to send her money to victims of United States involved wars such as the Iraqi Children’s Art Exchange that will go to the cancer hospital in Baghdad.

Although the hundreds of books of activist literature and all of Crowe’s possessions are gone from the house and its empty bookshelves since she passed away, there remain a few anti-nuclear and anti-war stickers on the basement door of the house where Crowe maintained a one person caretaker apartment to keep up her independence during her elder years.

“She lived to be over 100 there, living independently, and one of the nice things about that house is there’s an apartment,” Crowe’s 73-year-old daughter, Caltha, explained. “By the end of her life, there was always someone living there who provided care for her in return for room and board. That was something that made a big difference for her and allowed her to live there until she was 100 and five months, which was really reassuring to us as her children.”

Caltha Crowe, one of Crowe’s three children, said she and her siblings didn’t grow up in the house, but it was an important place for her mother, who started much of her activist work there.

“Our parents bought it when we all left home,” she added. “When they bought the house, it changed my mother’s life in many ways. She’d been an activist, but as a housewife raising her children. Then her children all grew up and left home.”

Caltha Crowe said the basement of the home served as a draft counseling center for young men whom Frances Crowe helped to become conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War.

The house is now mostly empty, but what reminds Caltha most about her mother is the large living room that was a space for community gatherings.

“Her life was suddenly so different when she bought this house,” Caltha said, adding that her parents bought the property in 1968. “That was the beginning of the middle of the anti-Vietnam War movement. There was so much energy and activity in Northampton at that time opposing the Vietnam War.”

Most of Frances Crowe’s material possessions were sold during a three day estate sale, which also served as fundraiser for independent news program Democracy Now! (Crowe succeeding in bringing the program to the Pioneer Valley, where it airs daily on WMUA at the University of Massachusetts Amherst) as well as Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

“They came and took things that reminded them of my mom and made a contribution to the fundraiser,” she explained. “My sister-in-law, who is a librarian, was obsessed with making sure every book found a good home. For everyone that came, we tried to give them a book that would be meaningful to them.”

The remainder of Crowe’s books were donated to a program that supplies books to incarcerated people, she noted.

As the seller of the home, Caltha Crowe said she doesn’t have control over who buys her mother’s home, but added that its storied history in grassroots activism could potentially continue to fill that role.

“People would come and use it as a call center,” she explained. “People would come there with their cell phones and call to support [Vermont U.S. Senator and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders] or call to support progressive candidates. It was a great space for that.”

Chris Goudreau can be reached at cgoudreau@gazettenet.com.




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