The legendary peace activist Frances Crowe has just turned 100. She was born on March 15, 1919. Frances has been arrested countless times protesting war, nuclear weapons and nuclear power. In 2005, Amy Goodman interviewed her onstage in Northampton, Massachusetts. She described how she became a peace activist on August 6, 1945—the day the U.S. dropped the first nuclear bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. She also talked about setting up a pirate radio station in her backyard to broadcast Democracy Now!
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. The legendary peace activist Frances Crowe has just turned 100. She was born March 15th, 1919. Frances has been arrested countless times protesting war, nuclear weapons and nuclear power, as well as pipelines that are criss-crossing this country. I just went to see her just after her birthday in Northampton, Massachusetts, and asked her, could she tell me exactly how many times she had been arrested, and she replied, “Not enough.”
Well, back in 2005, I interviewed her onstage in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she continues to live today. She described how she became a peace activist August 6, 1945—the day the U.S. dropped the first nuclear bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. At the time, her husband Tom was a physician in the Army Medical Corps.
FRANCES CROWE: I was a bride. My husband was in the Medical Corps in the Army. He had told me a few weeks before that he had heard rumors that we were developing this incredible weapon. And he was at sea when we dropped the bomb, but I was alone in our apartment in New Orleans. And when I heard it on the radio, I really unplugged the iron, left the placemat that I was ironing, and went out looking for a peace center in the streets of New Orleans.
AMY GOODMAN: And then what happened?
FRANCES CROWE: And then, you know, slowly, we kept moving in the direction of working for change. My husband, when he was discharged, he went to the University of Rochester, where he was studying radiology. And there, of course, the head of the Manhattan Project had been Leslie Groves from the University of Rochester. So that was a challenge. But eventually we ended up in Northampton, and it was fertile ground for organizing, I found, in the early '50s. There were a lot of people very concerned about the atmospheric testing of weapons. So, a friend and I set up a Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. My husband worked with the Physicians for Social Responsibility. And we’ve just continued.
AMY GOODMAN: Frances Crowe, how did you move from peace activism to media activism? What is the connection that you see?
FRANCES CROWE: After 28 years of trying very hard to organize on issues of peace and justice locally, I finally came to the realization that the only way we were going to bring about change in this country was to have independent community radio. And I had tried to get our local NPR station to carry Democracy Now!, and they had refused. And we worked on the University of Massachusetts station, and they also turned us down.
So, finally, when a friend, I heard, was broadcasting from the top of a mountain Democracy Now!, I got in touch with him and said—you know, the road was about to close, and we couldn’t do it in the wintertime, although he was on the air every afternoon from 4:30 to 5:30, so we tried to get several other venues in Northampton where there would be higher spots. So, finally, we said we’ll try my backyard. So I put a pole up, and we were on the air.
And, you know, I’ve never broken a law that I felt better about. It gave me a large charge every day.
AMY GOODMAN: Peace activist Frances Crowe, speaking in 2005. The man she describes climbing Mount Holyoke each day to broadcast Democracy Now! with an antenna in his backpack was Ed Russell. He died last week and is being mourned by the whole peace community in the Pioneer Valley in Massachusetts. Democracy Now! has since gone on to be broadcast on WMUA, the University of Massachusetts college radio station, has been broadcasting there for years, and is now broadcasting on over 1,400 public television and radio stations around the world, on many NPR and PBS stations, on public access TV and college and community radio stations. Frances Crowe celebrated her 100th birthday on March 15th. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.