Records of the Women's Encampment for a Future of Peace & Justice, 1980-1995
Language of Materials
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Copying. Records may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.
13.92 linear feet ((13 cartons, 1 file box, 1 card file box, 1 supersize box) plus 21 folio folders, 13 folio+ folders, 11 oversize folders, 5 supersize folders, 37 folders of photographs, 12 audiotapes (T-299), 154 slides, 1 reel of microfilm (M-117), and electronic records)
Series I, Office (#1-202), documents the idea of the encampment and the organizational operation of the camp. It contains minutes and agendas of executive collective; camp-wide, and committee meetings, as well as extensive notes and communications on a wide variety of topics by some of the more closely involved members of the encampment, such as Andrea Doremus, Ethel Goldenbirch, Lucinda Sangree, Leeann Irwin, and others. It also includes their vision statement (#192), advertisements for women to work at the encampment, general information and orientation materials, and correspondence, as well as general office records such as phone logs, mailing lists, "non-registration" materials, and visitor books.
Series II, Logistics and Other "Webs" (#203-296), contains records related to the practical aspects of establishing and maintaining the encampment. It includes the indenture granting the land to the Women's Encampment, by-laws, insurance information, information on permits, zoning and regulations, as well as a great deal of information on topics such as septic systems, gardening, temporary structures, and tents. It also includes lists of projects, some completed; inventories of supplies on hand and camp needs; worklists; security logbooks; health surveys and medical information. It also includes information on children and men at the encampment.
Series III, Financial (#297-382), includes notes and reports on finance "web" meetings, bills (including phone records), receipts, petty cash records, and bank account records. It also contains fundraising records, donation logs, grants given by the encampment, and sales records.
Series IV, Art, Music, Writing and Photographs (#383-452, E.1), contains creative work produced at and about the encampment, and photographs documenting life at the encampment and events sponsored by the Women's Encampment. It includes songs by the Average Dyke Band and others, graphic and other artwork and banners, published and unpublished writings about the encampment (see also #724-762f+). It also includes Jane Doe, the encampment newsletter. The 's web site is being captured periodically as part of Harvard University Library's Web Archive Collection service (WAX); searchable archived versions of the web site will be available through this finding aid in 2010.
Series V, Media (#453-475), contains press releases, media contact information, and records some of the media coverage of encampment activities.
Series VI, Programming and Actions (#476-601), contains materials relating to the planning and activities of the encampment women, including civil disobedience actions and marches, workshops on non-violence and feminism, consensus and facilitation, peace conversion and other topics, films, concerts, etc. It also includes legal information intended for and about the women who got arrested during some of those actions.
Series VII, Outreach (#602-634), documents the encampment trying to work with the local community, reaching out to local residents to educate them about the encampment and the concerns of the women visiting there, and to local organizations with similar interests (see also Series VIII). Brochures, etc., about speaking engagements on behalf of the encampment at colleges and for other organizations, as well as an anti-nuclear high school curriculum, are also included.
Series VIII, Other Peace Movements (#635-714), contains information by and about various local, national, and international anti-nuclear, peace, and feminist organizations, including the Rochester Women's Action for Peace, many of whose members were closely involved in the Women's Encampment for a Future of Peace & Justice as well. It also includes information on nuclear arms and the Seneca Army Depot.
At the end of the collection are memorabilia (#715-721m), including buttons, t-shirts, etc; clippings re: the Women's Encampment for a Future of Peace & Justice (#724-762f+); and audiotapes (#763at-774at).
The tract of land, approximately 52 acres abutting the Seneca Army Depot (SeAD) in Romulus, New York, in Seneca County, was purchased in May 1983 by the Seneca Encampment Inc., a not-for-profit corporation, for $37,500. Funds were donated by several national peace groups (including the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and War Resisters League), individuals, and a number of smaller peace and social justice groups from around the country. The choice of location was quite deliberate. In addition to believing the Seneca Army Depot to be a key point for the shipment of nuclear weapons abroad, its proximity to Seneca Falls, New York, the site of the 1848 women's rights convention, helped to firmly establish the place of the encampment in the minds of the organizers as one in a series of important events in American women's history. This continuum is made explicit in the vision statement (#192), and provided the theme for the cover illustration of the "Resource Handbook" (#184).
The original goals of the encampment, as stated in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom letter announcing the creation of the encampment, were to "1) create a broad based awareness about and opposition to the United States' plans to deploy new missiles to Europe and 2) to forge new links in the women's movement of those working for peace and those working for social justice and 3) to create part of the vision of what the world could be like if militarism was not a predominate force in our lives." Patriarchy was seen as intimately associated with militarism and violence, the domination of women and nature. Thus the camp was restricted to women, as an experiment in communal, peaceful living. That first summer an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 women went to Seneca to participate in encampment life and protest actions, some staying only a day or two, some many weeks or the entire summer. Policies were set and decisions made according to a "feminist process"--non-competitive, communal, peaceful and consensus driven--and the women there were expected to take part in this process. They used the theme of a web to illustrate the connectedness and unity they hoped would predominate. They established a network of women and organizations across the world and maintained close contact with their "affinity groups."
Women came to the Women's Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice from all over the country and the world, from all walks of life, although it was predominantly white and middle-class. The organizers of the Encampment were very desirous of a diverse community, but a few "types" dominated. Although they tried to accommodate varying points of view and backgrounds, factions developed, particularly between more radical feminists and lesbians and more conservative women. The numbers who visited the encampment and participated in encampment events dropped dramatically in subsequent years, and the population was made up of a smaller number of more radical women.
The focus of the Women's Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice quickly grew from just militarism to embrace a whole range of issues, particularly social prejudices and injustices. The women worked against paternalism, right-wing oppression, anti-Semitism, U.S. intervention in third world nations, and racism. They developed a membership that was largely lesbian and bi-sexual, embraced a number of "women's" causes, and took on a number of other issues, including environmentalism, speciesism and vegetarianism.
Regular protests were staged at the gates of the Seneca Army Depot, as were marches like the one in July 1983 through Waterloo, New York, which ended in the arrest of 54 participants. Women were encouraged and trained to participate in acts of non-violent civil disobedience, but not required to do so. The Women's Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice network included provisions for legal as well as emotional support.
By 1984, during the second summer, a greater emphasis was placed on education, and a number of workshops were held on feminism, non-violence and peace issues, consensus and facilitation, and civil disobedience training. Without losing sight of their original goals, especially regarding protesting the use of nuclear weapons, the Women's Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice developed a new agenda focused on the encampment as a resource and educational center for women committed to non-violence and feminism.
To promote the ideals embraced by the Women's Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice, and to reach a wide audience, the Encampment produced a newsletter (Jane Doe), wrote and distributed leaflets, made presentations on local radio stations and on college campuses, and sold t-shirts and posters, in addition to continuing to stage protests and civil disobedience actions. Participants were committed to creating a safe, legal encampment. Early in 1984, the planning committee decided to make the encampment a legal, permanent campground where women could gather. This involved making the physical campground comply with local and state health and zoning regulations. New septic systems were put in place, a well dug, and the water tested.
The encampment was not popular locally. There were a number of counter-protests and women were harassed by local residents, especially men. The encampment was sited in a very conservative area. Law enforcement agencies in surrounding towns resented the fact that the presence of the encampment caused them a great deal of extra work, both because of the regular protests and the extra traffic in these predominantly summer communities. The cost of additional personnel was also an issue. The Encampment was interested being accepted by the community, and looked for opportunities to involve and educate their neighbors. They enacted policies, such as banning public nudity, to show their respect for other members of the community and women were called to task for ignoring or flouting these "respected policies."
In November 1984 a series of newspaper articles entitled "Witches of Seneca" appeared in the Syracuse Post-Standard written by a reporter who, with the knowledge of Encampment members, had spent several days at the camp. The articles described the women as vegetarians and lesbians, and detailed the practice of witchcraft and feminist spirituality. These articles seemed to confirm the impressions formed by local communities about Women's Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice women and reignited the debate about their activities. Encampment women disagreed among themselves about this issue, some approving of the publicity about their lifestyles and others disliking the attention taken away from their mission as a focal point for anti-nuclear protests. Over the next few years only a few women were living "on the land" at any given time, but the debate continued, often focused upon the question of lifestyle and antisocial behavior and those Encampment women who refused to abide by "respected policies," especially nudity, vandalism, and consumption of meat, alcohol, and drugs. In 1985, approximately 800 women attended the Women's Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice, with demonstrations held on May 12 (Mothers' Day) and July 7. Smaller actions continued in 1986-1989.
In the summer of 1990, the organizers organized a series of discussions about the future of the Encampment, with the theme "transform or die," during which a number of options emerged. The result was to establish a not-for-profit land trust (called Women of Peace Land) and an intentional community for women.
- I. Office (#1-202)
- II. Logistics and Other "Webs" (#203-296)
- III. Financial (#297-382)
- IV. Art, Music, Writing, and Photographs (#383-452, E.1)
- V. Media (#453-475)
- VI. Programming and Actions (#476-601)
- VII. Outreach (#602-634)
- VIII. Other Peace Movements (#635-714)
Immediate Source of Acquisition
These records of the Women's Encampment for a Future of Peace & Justice were given to the library by the Women's Encampment for a Future of Peace & Justice and its members between December 1986 and October 1999.
- Carton 1: 1-7, 9-32, 34, 36-47
- Carton 2: 48-63, 65-95
- Card File Box 3: 64, 464
- Carton 4: 96-130
- Carton 5: 131-161
- Carton 6: 162-196
- Carton 7: 197-251, 253
- Carton 8: 254-274, 275, 277-284, 286-300, 302-304, 311-317
- Carton 9: 318-324, 326-360
- Carton 10: 361-364, 366-383, 386, 388, 390-394, 431-447, 451-458
- Supersize Box 10A: 387a+
- Carton 11: 459-464, 466-488, 491-508, 510-523, 525-533, 535-540, 542-549, 551-554, 558-560, 562-565, 567-569
- Carton 12: 570-619, 621-654
- Carton 13: 655-677, 679-682, 684-687, 690-694, 698-714
- Box 14: 715-721m
- Carton 15: 724-761
By: Jacalyn R. Blume
- Women's Encampment for a Future of Peace & Justice. Records of the Women's Encampment for a Future of Peace & Justice, 1980-1995: A Finding Aid
- Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
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