Politics of Whimsy at Greenham Common

"Visiting the women's peace camp at Greenham Common," wrote a journalist in early December, "a certain effort of imagination is needed to see what an inspiration it has become to the peace movement." Indeed, looking at the muddy paths, the flapping plastic used for shelter from the rain, the straw bales used for seats, and the blackened kettle perched lopsidedly on the fire, it is much easier to understand how for so long the camp was either virtually ignored by the media or treated as slightly eccentric.

But the arrest of 23 women who occupied a sentry box at the base and of 11 others who laid in front of vehicles bringing sewage pipes for construction there made national news. And when more than 30,000 women stood shoulder-to-shoulder "embracing" the base on December 12, 1982, their action made headlines all over the world. The spark of hope represented by the women's peace camp has set fire to a women's peace movement that is likely to remain burning for a long time to come.

The remarkable story of women's resistance at Greenham Common properly begins in the late summer of 1981, when a group calling itself "Women for Life on Earth" set off on a 125-mile march from Cardiff, Wales, to the Greenham Common air base, an active U.S. military base in southern England. The women were trying to get a televised debate on the Ministry of Defense's plans to site 96 cruise missiles at Greenham Common. The missiles are scheduled for arrival in December of this year.

But the women received little attention in the press. Even chaining themselves to the fence of the Greenham Common base elicited no debate, so they stayed. They set up tents, borrowed camping trailers, built teepees, and began receiving daily deliveries of milk, mail, and bread.

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