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Friday Takeaway By Frances Crowe

  • Carol Lollis

  • Frances Crowe during a anti war rally in Northampton Monday morning. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Andrea Ayvazian walks with Frances Crowe during a anti war rally in Northampton Monday morning. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS



Friday, September 14, 2018

As I reflect on nearly a century of community interaction, involvement with humanitarian agencies, radical activism, and commitment to the Quaker way, I contemplate my roots in a thriving Missouri town, Carthage.

The year I was born — 1919 — ushered in a decade of prosperity and optimism at the end of “the war to end all wars.” My mother took me to my first march when the soldiers from Carthage came home.

I was only a baby, but I have always had the feeling that war has defined my life.

My three sisters and I grew up in a solid Midwestern family, and our parents stressed the importance of social awareness.

In keeping with prevalent custom, my spirited, active mother stayed home while my father ran his prosperous plumbing and heating business. Looking back on our upbringing in an observant Roman Catholic home, I realize the influence of our household on the commitments of my later life.

Tom Crowe, my late husband, and I moved to Northampton in the middle of the twentieth century after his time in the military and mine in the defense industry during World War II.

A practicing radiologist, Tom knew full well the devastating implications of atomic and hydrogen bombs. When we, the United States, dropped atomic bombs to kill tens of thousands of civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the war, I knew instantly that I had to devote my life to resisting nuclear weapons. Soon, I would realize that I had to resist nuclear power. And I always knew that I had to resist war.

Tom and I shared a deep concern that we had opened Pandora’s box by splitting the atom to develop nuclear weapons. I knew I could not be silent, and I knew that we would find a way to make a difference.

In the early years of our marriage, we concentrated on finding work for Tom and raising a family. Early on, with one of our three children deaf, we investigated ways to support the unique individual personalities of our three children. After much consideration, Tom bought a medical practice in 1951 in Northampton that allowed us to be near the Clark School for the Deaf.

In Northampton, we also found supportive activist communities and Quaker meeting. Eventually, in coordination with the Society of Friends, I founded a branch of the American Friends Service Committee. We encouraged civil rights, countered apartheid, supported migrant workers, resisted nuclear weapons and opposed nuclear power plants. As the years passed, AFSC offered a platform for opposing war in Vietnam, the Middle East and elsewhere in the world. Through AFSC, I provided draft counseling about conscientious objection, especially to the war in Vietnam, to some two thousand young people.

I affiliated myself with national and international peace action groups, including the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. In the early 1960s, Gertrude “Trudy” Huntington and I founded the Jane Addams WILPF branch in Northampton with more than 125 members.

When the situation warranted, I sometimes crossed the line to do civil disobedience. I spent time in jail.

With the opportunity to write a regular column for Hampshire Life, I hope to review moments from my long life of witnessing for peace and justice.

In many ways, those moments began back in Carthage, Missouri. As the second of four sisters, I saw my older sister as a model child always doing what our parents told her, rarely stepping out of line. I decided that I had to do things differently if I were going to be noticed.

Our parents did not discourage my bid for individuality.

My first significant action occurred when I was in high school in the 1930s. I worked to have physical education classes for girls and joined others in standing up to oppose the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps.

Something had stirred in me to oppose war.

That something lives and breathes in me to
this day.