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Women Strike for Peace Records

Identifier: SCPC-DG-115

Scope and Contents

The records of Women Strike for Peace, the bulk of which were donated by Amy Swerdlow, a member of New York, New York WSP and former editor of its national bulletin MEMO, are predominantly from National WSP, New York (City) WSP and Southern California WSP. They contain minutes, flyers, mailings, position papers, news releases, correspondence, peace action and subject/reference files, newspaper clippings, films, posters, and photographs. Records from National WSP (1961-late 1980s) include the minutes of the National Steering Committee (1962-1970), the National Consultative Committee (1970- 1973), and the National Board (1988), annual conference material (1962-1983), documents describing the history of WSP, and literature (1961-date) it produced and disseminated.

There is correspondence collected by WSP leaders Dagmar Wilson and Ethel Taylor, as well as their speeches. There is also correspondence which was found unfiled which is called "general correspondence" in the checklist. Peace action files contain correspondence, WSP literature, and working documents about events initiated or participated in by WSP. The records of Southern California WSP contain its literature, both general and subject-related correspondence, and extensive files donated by Mary Clarke, some of which describe WSP work with amnesty during the Vietnam War. There are peace action files from San Francisco and East Bay Women for Peace as well as their literature. New York (City) WSP records include the minutes (1961-1971) of its Central Coordinating Committee, literature, and correspondence. Documents from the Long Island area of New York include a Great Neck WSP collection of literature (1962-1974), and the general files and draft files of Irma Zigas of the Nassau County WSP. There are smaller amounts of material from Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. WSPs as well as from other branches. Peace action and subject/reference files cover subjects and events of importance to WSP including, at a general level, disarmament, radiation contamination, amnesty, nuclear protest, the draft, Vietnam, and Indochina. More specifically, subject topics include WSP confrontation with the House UnAmerican Activities Committee (1962, 1965), trips by WSP members to the USSR and the Accra Assembly (1962), the Hague (1964), Djakarta (1965), WSP lobbying efforts against the MX missile and B-1 bomber, and organizations with whom it worked.

Many WSP periodicals including MEMO (1964-1973), LA Wisp (1962 1967; 1973- date), The Washington WSPer (1963-date), and the WSP Newsletter (1963-date) are housed with Retired Periodicals in Swarthmore College Peace Collection.

Correspondents include: Bella Abzug, Barbara Bick, Sally Bortz, Mary Clarke, Folly Fodor, Lorraine Gordon, Hazel Grossman, Frances W. Herring, Rita Handman, Kay Johnson, Vicki King, Janet N. Neuman, Ava Helen Pauling, Pat Reif, Phyllis Schmidt, Jean Shulman, Patricia Simon, Lynda Stein, Amy Swerdlow, Ethel Taylor, Edith Villastrigo, Dagmar Wilson, Trudi Young, and Irma Zigas.

Accessions received after 1989 remain unprocessed and are stored by accession number. These accessions include files of WSP offices around the U.S. and papers of individual WSP members. Please consult Swarthmore College Peace Collection staff for further information.


  • Creation: 1961-1996


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use


Historical Note

At its first national conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1962, Women Strike for Peace adopted the following declaration: "We are women of all races, creeds and political persuasions. We are dedicated to the purpose of general and complete disarmament. We demand that nuclear tests be banned forever, that the arms race end and the world abolish all weapons of destruction under United Nations safeguards. We cherish the Historical Introduction right and accept the responsibility to act to influence the course of government for peace. We join with women throughout the world to challenge the right of any nation or group of nations to hold the power of life and death over the world."

In a 1984 statement, WSP describes its own history thus: "We came into existence on November 1, 1961, as a protest against atmospheric nuclear tests by the U.S. and the Soviet Union which were poisoning the air and our children's food. That year 100,000 women from 60 cities came out of kitchens and jobs to demand: END THE ARMS RACE - NOT THE HUMAN RACE, and WSP was born. "...In the following years WSP educated and organized for peace anddisarmament; distributed facts on radiation to Congress through Lobby-by-Proxy campaigns, and to the public wherever people congregated. WSP women lobbied Congress as well as U.N. Disarmament Conferences in Geneva. WSP demonstrated at the nuclear bomb testing site in Las Vegas, warning of the consequences of above ground tests of nuclear weapons. In the early 1960s the House UnAmerican Activities Committee subpoenaed 20 WSP women, and they made a laughing stock of HUAC, helping to start it on the road to its eventual demise. WSP played a major role in the passage of the Limited Test Ban Treaty in 1963. WSP was among the first groups to demonstrate against the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. When NATO countries met at The Hague to create the Multilateral Nuclear Fleet, WSP initiated an international conference and 1200 women from 14 NATO countries demonstrated against the MFL.

During the Vietnam War years, WSP established a Draft Counseling Service, organized a historical meeting at Djakarta of WSP and Vietnamese women, and sent a delegation to Hanoi which resulted in opening communications between POWs and their families. In the 1970s and 1980s it was a natural progression for WSP to become involved in opposing U.S. intervention in Central America, and campaigning against the militarization of space. "We undertook a drive against the new weapons which sprouted up much faster than arms control agreements. We fought against the proposed ABM system and together with other peace organizations brought it to a standstill. During the International Year of the Child in 1979,WSP initiated the campaign: Proposition #1 - A Peoples Referendum for Survival, and delivered over a hundred thousand signatures to the White House after a huge rally. WSP women all over the country were in the forefront of the Nuclear Freeze campaigns which swept the U.S. in the 1980s. "In the spring of '84, WSP sent a delegation to the Prime Ministers of the Netherlands and Belgium, urging those countries to refuse to place U.S. missiles on their soil. We initiated a nationwide educational campaign to expose the Reagan Administration's Defense Guidance Plan which envisions fighting, surviving and even winning a nuclear war.

WSPers have not only worked for ERA but have participated in the electoral politics on all government levels...." Sometimes called WISP (Women's International Strike for Peace) or Women for Peace, Women Strike for Peace functions primarily at the local level. A National Board, was located in Philadelphia by the 1980s. WSP interacted, throughout its history, with many other peace organizations. These include the Disarmament Working Group of the Coalition for a New Foreign and Military Policy, the Peoples Coalition for Peace and Justice, the National Committee Against Repressive Legislation (NCaliforniaRL), the National Council for Universal and Unconditional Amnesty (NCUUA), Women Act for Disarmament which it co-sponsored with Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, the Campaign to Stop Government Spying, and the Indochina Peace Campaign, as well as larger organizations like SANE and the War Resisters League.

By the late 1980s the national WSP office in Philadelphia closed. The WSP legislative office and various WSP branches around the U.S. remained active through the 1990s.


45 linear ft. (45 linear ft.)


Women Strike for Peace came into existence on November 1, 1961, as a protest against atmospheric nuclear tests by the U.S. and the Soviet Union. By the late 1980s the national WSP office in Philadelphia closed, but the WSP legislative office and various WSP branches around the U.S. remained active through the 1990s.


Processing of WSP records began in 1984 and was continued in 1989. Series A is the records of National WSP; Series B and C hold California and New York records respectively, and Series D contains the records of smaller branches, including Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. Much WSP material was unsorted when it reached the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, but there were also files from its leaders and collections of subject-related correspondence. Hopefully, the provenance, or original order, of this latter material has been preserved. In arranging unsorted material, similar documents, such as minutes, literature, correspondence, etc., were placed together. Chronological order was used throughout this collection, with the exception of files found in original alphabetical order. Correspondence is in chronological order by year and month, not by day. WSP literature is also together by address of origin. All newspaper clippings are in Series A although many describe events of WSP branches. Photographs, films, and posters are stored with other Swarthmore College Peace Collection audio-visual materials to promote better conservation. Periodicals can be found in the Retired Periodical section of Swarthmore College Peace Collection.

Much unfiled reference material was removed from the WSP records and relocated to other Swarthmore College Peace Collection collections. Acessions received after 1989 remain unprocessed, and may be located by accession number.

Custodial History

The Swarthmore College Peace Collection is the official repository for these papers/records.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Donna Allen, Evelyn Alloy, Barbara J. Balaban, Pam Block, Eve B. Carlson, Mary Clarke, Robert Claus, Jean B. Gaede, Hazel Grossman, Rose Hausman, Amy Swerdlow, Phyllis Schmidt, Jean Shulman, Ethel Taylor, Irma Zigas, Women Strike for Peace: National, Southern California, Los Angeles, East Bay [California], , Washington, D.C., Main Line [Pennsylvania], Nassau County, Great Neck, and New York, New York. 1978 [accs. 78A-018, 78A-020]; 1979 [acc. 79A-071]; 1980 [accs. 80A-091, 80A-099]; 1981 [accs. 81A-013, 81A-029, 81A-059, 81A-074, 81A-077, 81A-113, 81A-116, 81A-118, 81A-122] ; 1982 [accs. 82A-087, 82A-110, 82A-129, 82A-133]; 1983 [accs. 83A-014, 83A-047, 83A-087] ; 1984 [accs. 84A-014, 84A-028, 84A-032, 84A-034]; 1985 [accs. 85A-070, 85A-084, 85A-124, 85A-135]; 1986 [acc. 86A-016]; 1987 [accs. 87A-023, 87A-113, 87A-120]; 1988 [acc. 88A-033]; 1989 [accs. 89A-024, 89A-026, 89A-068, 89A-072, 89A-098] 1990 [accs. 90A-015, 90A-022, 90A-028, 90A-043, 90A-056, 90A-060, 90A-063] 1991 [accs. 91A-018, 91A-033, 91A-084, 91A-107] 1992 [accs. 92A-038, 92A-046, 92A-071, 92A-106, 92A-112, 92A-113, 92A-118] 1993 [accs. 93A-008, 93A-035] 1994 [accs. 94A-005, 94A-032, 94A-051, 94A-074] 1996 [accs. 96A-012, 96A-040, 96A-047, 96A-061] 1998 [accs. 98A-002, 98A-088, 98A-089 1999 [acc. 99A-048] 2001 [accs. 01A-005, 01A-040] 2008 [acc. 08A-033] 2009 [acc. 09A-017] 2010 [acc. 10A-076]

Related Materials

For related materials, search the library's online catalog

Separated Materials

Items removed from the collection include photographs, audiovisual items, memorabilia, posters, and periodicals.

Bibliographic References

Guide to the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, 2nd ed., p. 76.

Bibliographic References

Guide to Sources on Women in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, p. 28.

Legal Status

Copyright has been transferred to the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. Rights to some items in the collection may have been retained by the creators/authors (or their descendents), as stipulated by United States copyright law. Please contact the Swarthmore College Peace Collection Curator for further information.

Processing Information

The first accessions of this collection were processed by Swarthmore College Peace Collection staff in 1989. The finding aid was revised by Wendy E. Chmielewski in 1999, and this version of the finding aid was created by Wendy E. Chmielewski in September, 2012, and updated by Anne M. Yoder in July, 2014. Accessions received after 1989 remain unprocessed.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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