History of WAMM
WAMM Celebrates Thirty Years. 1982-2012.
Women Against Military Madness has been an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization since 1982. From the beginning, WAMM has used creative, and often playful, means to educate the general public about militarism, inequality and injustices.
Ten women met at Loretta’s Tea Room, which was owned by one of the WAMM founders, in the 2615 Park Avenue building during the fall of 1981. Marianne Hamilton and Polly Mann called together Cathy Anderson, Pam Costain, Moira Moga, Eleanor Otterness, Pat Powers, Mary Shepard, Lucille Speeter, and Mary White to discuss the change in the national government spending priorities, from human services to military spending. This discussion was intensified by the on-going threat of nuclear warfare, and the women were inspired to bring change. Finding polls and information that showed most women were anti-war, they needed an organization that empowered women to challenge the priorities of the current government. These women wanted a platform for women to become leaders who would demand a peaceful and just society. Thus, WAMM was born.
The next year, on January 16, 1982, on the coldest day of the winter, more than 100 women came to the WAMM founding conference at the Newman Center near the University of Minnesota campus. It was imperative to get information into the hands of the public. Therefore, the women of WAMM decided that a monthly newsletter would be necessary to inform the public about peace and justice issues.
Following the meeting, the women marched with their signs along University Avenue in Minneapolis. With this action, the newly minted organization had gained its first moment of notoriety. A stringer reporting for The New York Times covered the event, and a photo showing women with signs that read “Moms Against Bombs” and “Women Against Military Madness” was published in the Times and picked up by newspapers around the country! From this conference, a tradition was born: Never a meeting without an action! This mantra is followed to this day.
In the 1980s, WAMM opposed the nuclear arms race and U.S. interventions in Central America. Several committees were developed to tackle the many injustices happening around the world. Members appeared and were interviewed on The Donahue Show. From this moment in the national spotlight, hundreds of letters were sent to WAMM from women around the country – all in support of the work being done.
Over the years WAMM made connections between international and local instances of violence and injustice. WAMM members actively supported Native American spearfishing rights guaranteed by U.S. treaties by standing peacefully on lakeshores as witnesses to the bitter, racist taunts of whites who opposed those treaty rights. WAMM members picketed with nurses challenging unfair hospital contracts in the Twin Cities and P9 union meatpackers in Austin, Minnesota, striking Hormel Foods. In coalition with local activists, WAMM supported the rights of families receiving welfare support, confronted incidents and patterns of police brutality, and challenged the Minneapolis-based corporate headquarters of weapons manufacturer Honeywell Corporation to stop producing land mines.
Making the statement that war is not a game, WAMM members demonstrated against war toys by buying out one store’s supply of the toys before Christmas, only to return all the war toys after the holiday. From actions such as these, WAMM became known for its creative and consistent non-violent activism. WAMM began freeway bannering, weekly marches, empowerment groups, a speakers’ bureau, counter-recruitment efforts in schools and providing resources to the community looking for answers in a troubling time.
In August, 1990, WAMM worked with coalition partners to hold the first protest in the U.S. in opposition to troop deployment that ultimately led to the first Persian Gulf War. The co-director at the time, Lucia Wilkes, appeared on CNN’s “Larry King Live!” to discuss the WAMM position, to say no to war. The slogan, “Who will profit? Who will die?” was used on signs and buttons that were requested by peace groups and shipped around the country. Following the Gulf War, WAMM continued to fight deadly sanctions and demand an end to the bombing of Iraq.
Beyond Iraq, WAMM worked against interventions in Panama, Yugoslavia, East Timor, Somalia, Palestine/Israel. In Minneapolis, WAMM promoted police accountability by working within an activist coalition to establish an independent “Civilian Review of Police” Board. When that board ultimately was implemented, and the coalition determined the board was powerless, WAMM worked with other coalition members to monitor and publicize the board’s ineffective nature. Another coalition organized to support post-Gulf War conscientious objectors fighting persecution by military hierarchy and defeated attempts to introduce Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) in Minneapolis public high schools.
During the 2000s, especially to the build up to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, WAMM worked tirelessly to get people out to protest the wars! Our “Say NO to war!” lawn signs became a hit, as community members requested more and more of them! There were hundreds of actions dedicated to holding our congress and president accountable for getting us into unnecessary war.
Through today, we coordinate, educate and demand our community about the trauma and expense of war and militarism perpetrated by our government. We seek to hold our politicians accountable and to seek peace for our world. Join us, as we fight for peace, justice and equality!