Category Archives: goat

Revolutionary Mother’s Day.


(me, in bonnet, and my Mama, c. 1982)

Arise then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts! Whether your baptism be of water or of tears! Say firmly:

“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,

Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.

Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.

We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.” Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.  As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home, for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means Whereby the great human family can live in peace…

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality, may be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient and the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

—Julia Ward Howe, 1870

Mother’s Day wasn’t founded for mothers. It was founded by them—and with revolution in mind.  Acutely aware of the costs of war, industry, and greed, Julia Ward Howe and like-minded women initiated the first Mother’s Day as a day of activism, a day in which women would stand upon the basic principles of motherhood to demand a more peaceful, just world.  It wasn’t the first time women made such demands, and it would not be the last. Having gone through the pain and joy and struggle and exhilaration and labor of bringing children into the world and raising them to be caring, responsible, creative, moral members of society, many women have historically found it difficult to stomach the wars and social forces which then twisted the bodies and minds of their children—and the “enemy” children of other mothers—in the interests of ideology and profit.

m_a8df780893a0da8711f0f5299a27bc44 (Meeting a goat at the Evergreen State Fair, c. 1987) are as many examples of mother-activism as there are cheesy Hallmark Mother’s Day cards.   One of my personal favorites: On 1 November 1961, incensed to learn that radioactive istotopes from domestic nuclear testing had contaminated their breastmilk and the cows’ milk they fed their children, some fifty thousand mothers walked out of their kitchens in a nationwide “Strike for Peace.”  The walkout had been organized via women’s networks, like PTA and Christmas card lists, knitting circles, and childcare groups.  Well-aware that any seeming “radicalism” would lose them public sympathy, these women utilized their roles as mothers to protest, couching their opposition to testing in terms of their children’s safety, rather than any larger political formulation.  Brought before the Anti-Communist McCarthy hearings, the members of the new movement, Women Strike For Peace, made a mockery out of the hearings by wheeling in strollers and breastfeeding their children as they were interrogated for Communist ties.  They made the contamination of milk by nuclear testing a national issue, and the effectiveness of their message helped drive testing underground in 1962.

Another one of my favorite mother-activism stories, as told by the mothers themselves:

My mother raised me to stand for peace.  She taught me as a child that change is not brought about by grand pronouncements or flashy leaders, but by the steady, daily work of ordinary people, women and mothers in particular.


She taught me to grow my own food in a backyard garden, and taught me how to spin wool into yarn, which she taught me to knit into hats.  She taught me how to return to the stories and documents of the past to illuminate the work of living and the injustices of colonialism and patriarchy.  She is a brilliant writer, and the keeper of many stories.  She gives selflessly, loves fiercely, and works, tirelessly, to realize her hope for a more peaceful and sustainable human path.

One of my earliest memories:  we are in the livingroom of our old house in Snohomish.  The air is cool, and the overhead lights are off.  I think it must have been summertime, and I remember the glowing radio display on the old silver stereo.  Maybe she was holding me, or I was standing next to her looking up, or I was standing on a chair to turn up the volume myself… ??

The group vocals of “We Are the World” flooded the livingroom, and I remember her explaining to me what the song meant.  That we are all connected.  That this was an important song, because all of these people had come together to sing about peace, for children.   And we danced around the livingroom together, as we often did.

Today is my mother’s twenty-eighth Mother’s Day.


And so, for this mother’s day…

I want her to know that I’ve been listening, for all these years.  I love her so much, and I couldn’t have asked for a more loving, powerful mother.  In honor of my mother Theresa, my grandmothers Marian and Frances, and their mothers before them, I have made a donation to Code Pink, to support the revolutionary work of Mother’s Day.

Here’s a little nostalgia to dance around to…



Filed under Americana, Civil Disobedience, goat, History, Mothers, Nuclear weapons, Peace

Sunny days and strange nights.

February dawned exquisitely in West Seattle. 3000 miles east in Puxatawney, PA, a gang of middle-aged white male business owners hauled a groundhog out of a stump and hoisted it into the air,

then announced we were going to have six more weeks of winter.
Meanwhile, temperatures in Seattle came floating steadily up out of the 30s. Thick grey fogbanks burned off by late morning, and the sun fell across our hilly neighborhood like a soft blanket. Honeysuckle started blooming alongside our house, attracting swarms of softly humming bees.

A local goat wandered off from home, and was taken into protective custody by the Seattle Police Department until its owner came to claim it.

The sun, the goat, the honeybees…. its all been a little surreal. Walking Assata down the hill to Lowman beach on Monday, I had to shed my hat, gloves, sweater, scarf, and hoodie, until I was following her across the driftwood and beachrocks bareheaded in shirtsleeves. She poked her way across the beach to visit some gulls, who all rose up into the air at once, backflapped a dozen yards, and settled back into the water. She stood ankle-deep in the small waves, watching the gulls with her head cocked. I saw a seal slipping through the waves, and a giant freighter slowly chugged past out in the shipping channel, with two giant cranes (the ones that look like massive, angular dinosaurs) bound for the port of Seattle around Alki point.

(Assata watching a less water-phobic dog-friend at Lowman Beach)

Walked home in the glowing sunshine. Noticed birdsong as we walked the sidewalk up the hill through the ravine. Got ready for my five-oclock waitressing shift.

Set out on my customary walk-to-the-junction, a gentle uphill mile trek to the business district of our neighboorhood. My mother, who grew up in Seattle, says our neighborhood reminds her of hers in the 1950s and 60s. Lots of small family-owned businesses, largely non-corporate, old signs, familiar faces. As I neared the restaurant I work at, I saw a news van parked nearby. Walking closer, a spotted a pile of flowers on a table in front of the bar next door to ours. One of my co-workers came out and stood next to me in front of the table.

“someone got shot out front last night, after you left work,” he told me. “He ran into the bar next door and collapsed, and he died in the hospital this morning.”

(images thanks to WS Blog).

“Look,” he said, gesturing behind him. “You can see the bullet holes in the wall.”

That night, the restaurant was quiet. My only real tip income was from a large table of journalists and staff who’d been laid off from a local news network that day, and had decided to rendevous one last time for beers before going their separate ways in search of work.

Every now and then, Seattle PD officers walked by out front, “foot patrolling” to make the neighborhood feel safer. A news crew camped out on the sidewalk and accosted passerby to see if they were grieving for the man who’d died.

Walking to yoga the next morning, breathing deep and glorying once again in the crisp sun-lit air, I trailed my fingers across the filled- in bullet holes in the wall of the restaurant next to mine, a wall I walk past 2 dozen times a week, walking to the vitamin store or the used clothing store or the yoga studio or the farmers market.

I thought about how strange it was, how quickly it had happened and how quickly all evidence of the event had been erased from the sidewalk. We expect children in far-away countries to die in ugly and senseless wars. We expect strangers and people we scarcely know to succumb to cancer and die in car wrecks. But we never expect that death will draw near to the people we love, or to us, or to our daily routines.

I didn’t know this young man. My heart goes out to his family. But I can’t help but think the event was lost on the rest of us: as a society, we fill the bullet holes with putty and paint them the same color as the rest of our lives.

I feel safe as ever in my neighborhood. I keep on glorying in the sunshine, taking my dog to the beach, walking to work and yoga, and saving tip money for our wedding. Reading the West Seattle blog, my heart ached at the sight of the young man’s picture, holding his niece. Sunny days and strange nights, as the economy teeters and the wars continue and the country waits for “Change.”

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Filed under Assata, goat, Groundhog Day, layoffs, Lowman Beach, violence, waitressing