Women's Ways of Peace



Lysistrata: Play & Project

Playwright Aristophanes wrote a farcical play, Lysistrata, in fifth century B.C. Athens when war had already devastated Greece for twenty years. The main character, Lysistrata, whose name means “She Who Disbands Armies,” gets the Athenian women to seize control of the Acropolis and the city’s treasury. They also refusal to sleep with husbands who went to war, forcing the men to make peace with Sparta and end the war.

In 2002 in the United States, the Lysistrata Project begun after the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York City’s twin towers, and after the U.S. administration’s bombing of Afghanistan and then Iraq. One action was to read the classical Greek play in multiple settings. Thousands of actors read the play on March 3, 2003 throughout the world. Most readings donated their proceeds to peace charities and humanitarian aid organizations.

Greenham Common England

The Peace Camps. During 1980s, a host of women’s antinuclear groups emerged in response to United States testing and deployment of Cruise missiles in Europe, and beyond. In 1981, the news that Cruise missiles were to arrive in Britain at the U.S. Air Force base at Greenham Common, Berkshire, resulted in a small group of women organizing a march to the base. There they put up peace camps outside the nuclear installations. The fame of this camp, and the appalling conditions of the women who lived there, facing daily arrests, spread throughout the world. The peace activists noted that, “In a nuclear conflagration, the idea that men go to war to protect us does not work. We all must protect ourselves from the protectors!”

On New Year's Day 1982, forty-four women climbed over the fence and danced on a partially built missile silo. Evictions from the makeshift camp began in May 1982, but those arrested were soon replaced by others as they had a decentralized social structure. The camp’s most memorable action occurred on December 1984 when 50,000 women and some men held hands and encircled the base in a non-violent act of protest. During a ten-day action in September 1984 about 10,000 women camped at the base. That month British prime minister Margaret Thatcher announced that she would get rid of the camp, and after that evictions occurred almost every day throughout Europe and North America. In 1987, the USA and USSR signed an agreement whereby Cruise missiles were to be removed from Europe. The missiles were deactivated in 1991, although evictions at Greenham Common continued to 1995.

Women encircling fence in Greenham Common, 1984

Comiso in Italy

Marches, Festivals, Arrests. The Greenham Commons actions against nuclear missiles served as a stimulus for anti Cruise demonstrations in other countries. In 1982 in Sicily, the small town of Comiso was chosen to house the largest arsenal of Cruise atomic missiles in Europe. Comiso was an especially sensitive base since it would link parts of Eastern Europe and Western Russia, and Turkey, the Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Egypt, and all of North Africa.

Comiso townspeople had a history of mass rebellion, being one of the major towns in Sicily to rise up against the Italian State’s call back to arms at the beginning of 1945; its soldiers, tired of war, refused to return to fight. Soon the deployment of missiles not only activated the people of Cosimo but other Italians as well. Ultimately more than one million Sicilians signed a petition against the base. The participation of women's groups was unique. Since women in Comiso did not circulate as freely as did the men, women went house to house to talk to other women, denouncing the US project and urging their peers to fight against it. Sicilian women also created a document outlining their feminist perspective on violence, with specific reference to the nuclear crisis. Translated into French, German and English, the Sicilian document was taken to international disarmament conferences. It proclaimed an inclusive category for women as those interested in the “quality of life,” having a “respect for nature.” Peace was indispensable to attain the type of life women longed for. Sounding more radical than the mainstream Italian peace movement, they demanded “unilateral disarmament now.”

In 1983, female peace activists in Sicily issued an invitation to women throughout the world to join them in Cosimo in March, on international women’s day. The result was three days of dancing, parades, and an effort to encircle the base. A peace camp, called La Ragnatela (Spider's Web), was established. Violence occurred, however, when groups decided to try and stop trucks entering the base, and the police responded violently, arresting the women and at times dragging them by their hair.

Banner: "Cosimo Wants to Live."
"No to Missles, No to the Mafia"
March 1983

The White Scarf Movement

Using Traditions. In ancient Georgia, fighting men would stop the battle when women threw their traditional headdress, a white scarf, into their midst. This old peace making tradition has been reenacted in recent years through the White Scarf Movement which has women meet in several cities to plan peace strategies. In the early 1990s, the White Scarf movement in Armenia tried to use the old custom to let women break up fights between the men by waving white scarves to intervene in the Armenia and Azerbaijan conflict. And in 1993, 2,000 women traveled by train from Tbilisi to the front line of the battlefield to save their country. In 1994, women met in several cities, including Tbilisi, Warsaw, Moscow, Salt Lake City, London and Paris, in main squares to create a day of peace throughout the world. Their aim: at least one day without shooting!

Kati Doldize, Leader
Georgian White Scarf Movement
September, 1995

Women in Black

Silent Vigils. This group was created by Israeli and Palestinian women who came together to seek an end to war and violence in their homelands. It is still in existence, now a worldwide movement of hundreds of groups. Their primary protest action for peace and non violence is wearing black and standing for one hour in silent vigil at key public places.

Women in Black also works with refugee women. This has inspired other initiatives, like the “I Remember” project (Serbo-Croatian) which encouraged refugee women, through art and writings, to record earlier positive examples of good relations between the different ethnic groups.


Various Actions. Code Pink is a US national organization started by women in November 2002. The name is a play on the color-coded security alerts invented by the Bush administration homeland security officials to indicate the level of terrorist threats in the country. Rejecting the Bush administration's fear-based politics that justify violence, CODEPINK calls for policies based on compassion, kindness and a commitment to international law. The anti-war protesters often engage in attention getting actions.

Lyn Reese is the author of all the information on this website
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