Friday, October 19, 2007

HeRSToRy 012 Judi Kelemen

PeHP Oral Herstory 012: Judi Kelemen
Date: October 22, 2006
Location: Boston, MA
Present: Estelle Coleman, hershe Michele Kramer

*Conversation transcribed by hershe Michele.

Judi Kelemen was a member of the Boston Women’s Video Collective formed in the spring of 1983 with the purpose of documenting events at the Women’s Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice that summer.

J: My name is Judi Kelemen and the date is November 16, 2006.

E: Could tell us how you first got involved with the Women’s Video Collective?

J: I was working at the Cambridge Women’s Commission in 1983 and all of a sudden the door to the office opened and in burst this women who had reddish, blonde hair like the sign of Leo and a great big smile and lots of energy – and she said, just very matter of factly, “Excuse me, excuse me, I don’t mean to interrupt the meeting BUT there’s this very important thing that is going to happen this summer and I’m trying to recruit people to document it.” And she put down a pile of papers on the table and about eight of us started looking at them and grabbed them. It’s one of those things that happens in some people’s lives, and it’s an incredible event when it happens, when you just know right away the answer “Yes, I’m doing this.” I was trying to remember today how much experience I actually had as a videographer at that point – I think I had some but I wasn’t working in it for a living. If anything, I was doing it as a volunteer. I was a photojournalist first, so probably that was how I was making my money at that point in time. So anyway, I knew right away that it was something I wanted to do and that woman was Martha Mollison. She was holding a meeting at her house maybe the next Sunday and I went. There were probably 8-12 people – somewhere in there, it wasn’t a huge group but it was a good, substantial group. I knew from reading the flyer that I believed in what the women’s encampment was about and also as a videographer/documentarian it just worked for me and I think from going to that meeting, it worked for everybody else, too. We all had more or less experience in video - I think that was a criteria – Martha wasn’t looking for people that would have to get training - we all had some experience. So that’s how it started and blossomed from there. Martha had to have had some connection with somebody at the camp because how would she have heard about it? How did somebody in Somerville, Massachusetts hear about this camp in upstate New York?

E: Did most of the women at that first meeting stay involved?

J: Yeah, and that’s why I say that most of them saw the information and said, yes, I want to be part of this. And Martha made it clear that it didn’t require any real long-term commitment. Some people were already working jobs and had to work through the summer. Some people said, I’ll take my 2-week holiday and that’s what I’ll do with it. Other people said, I’ll go up as many weekends as I can. Other people who had their own businesses just said, I’m going for the whole summer. And we made a commitment right away that there would be a contingent of the Women’s Video Collective at that camp at all times - even if it was just two people during x week, somebody would be there. We knew what some of the planned actions were going to be, or we found out, but at any given day you never knew who was going to be coming - marching in from wherever or maybe somebody was just there for a few days from Greenham Common (1) or other countries - so to be able to meet these people and understand how they felt about this issue we realized how important it was for us to always be there.

E: Were many of the collective already working in media?

J: I think a number of them were. I know Martha was, she was working at a TV station in Norwood. I was volunteering at various stations, trying to learn the trade. I had a degree in photography and film but I’d never done video. I think Clarie was already working in video - most everyone had some experience, yeah.

H: Had you worked in collectives before? [Judi shakes her head] That was a first for you?

J: First for all of us, I think, and that was extremely exciting because part of our process was developed after the fact. We made the commitment to document the peace encampment. We made the commitment that we would take the raw footage and bring it back to Boston and other women could take copies of it back to wherever they lived and try to play it on local public access stations. Our goal was simply to get the word out, get the information out, get as many people as we could this information that this was happening and as a result, get people interested in, obviously, the subject - not a hard thing to do in the Boston-area because there had already been lots of action at Seabrook (2), people were pretty well aware of the nuclear arms issue, so it wasn’t that we were trying to convert people who were already involved but there were lots of people who weren’t. We just knew that we all had connections to these public access stations which in that day, were fairly new - Cambridge wasn’t even open yet – it didn’t open until 1985, where I work in Newton didn’t open until 1992, Somerville was open, Boston was open and then there were a few other smaller ones. We knew we could screen the tapes and those were the two initial commitments that we made. But in terms of how we functioned as a group, there were some women – some of us hadn’t even considered it – okay, we’ll just go out, we’ll do the job, get it done, get it seen and that would be that. But then there were some women - it was amazing, who came in and said, you know, how we’re making these decisions is important. They could see that the decision making was falling on the heads of women who knew a little more about video or video work than others did. They had been to the camp and spoke about the fact that it was very important that everybody have an equal voice and they started bringing up these issues. And the rest of us were sitting there going, “what are they talking about?” And we all agreed it was important and then of course the discussion ensued, ‘what does that mean and how do we do that’? As a result of that came the discussion of, ‘what do we call ourselves’ and there was great discussion about a variety of different labels before we came up with the word ‘collective.’ We felt that that described us in the best possible way and it probably took us three or four meetings just to decide that and as a result of that process alone, we realized that brought us together on an even keel. It was something that had nothing to do with technology or who can get tapes, or who’s got cameras or who can go when – all those detail-oriented things. This was really an organic process for us to make sure everybody, not only agreed, but that everybody had spoken their reasons why and that was a really good bonding process, as they say now.

E: At that point did you know you wanted to create something with the footage?

J: No, we had no idea how many videotapes - [referring to nine boxes of video tapes stacked in the next room]. We counted them once and you may count more or less, but there were around 80, 20-minute, 3/4” video tapes. And I’ll show you a picture of myself and Claire [Claire Beach, see Herstory 011] taping and the equipment we had to use then as opposed to this little tiny camera that you’ve got now. Fascinating. The thing weighed 40 lbs. You had to hang it over your shoulder. We were permanently injured as a result, but you just worked through the pain! The cameras were humungous! But aside from saying we’re going to take the raw footage back to Boston and then playing them on these public access shows where people would have us on and we’d talk about the experience and maybe other women who had just gone up to the camp that weekend would talk about it and we’d screen some of the videos so people could see it. That was the initial goal, but there was a future, not very well-formed goal which was, down the road, depending on what we have, we could make a longer-format documentary. And that was just a pipedream. It takes a lot of time and I don’t think any of us had made documentaries at that point – there’s a lot of different ways to make documentaries. You certainly have to think about the fact that what’s the purpose of your documentary? Who’s your audience? How many people do you want to see this and how do you make it so people won’t turn away from something where it’s, it’s all-women. We were all, I think, in one way or another, don’t quote me, but, a lot of us were getting involved or were already involved in some form of the women’s movement then. We always had Take Back the Night (3) marches here, there were women’s groups you could go to and this and that. I was, I don’t know how old at that point, ’83, early 30s, so a lot of us had already done some work in the women’s arena in the Boston-area and we already knew that people could peg you as something and put you down when that just didn’t fit and of course we all experienced that at the camp. So we didn’t really think any further about doing a documentary, but what happened is that at one point we were doing a screening in Boston and somebody attended that screening, I don’t remember the gentleman’s name but he came up to us afterwards and he said, “Would you guys be interested in producing a documentary.” And we were kind of like, “Yeah, well, we’ve been thinking about doing it.” This is like, August, or something and he said, “Well, I’m preparing a series on the nuclear arms race for PBS right now and I need one more video to fill a slot – he had 12 shows that he was supposed to provide. And we said, “Not a problem.” [shared laughter] We don’t pass up that opportunity, not a problem. And we turned and looked at ourselves and went, “Oh, my gosh!” To do a professional video tape we knew was going to cost money because what public access stations had for equipment and what we’d been shooting on was below PBS standards, we just knew that. And we somehow made the agreement that we would do this. It took three months of work. People from the industry, who had experience and had access to good equipment, volunteered their time. An editor came on board and volunteered not only herself for half the price, but the place where she worked, which was a downtown Boston, big-time production house. We got it for half-price. We did an offline edit with somebody who didn’t even charge us – an editor from WBZ in Boston and then took that edit to the downtown house and they mastered on 1” for us and it was finished [Stronger Than Before, 26 minutes] the night before it had to go up on the satellite. We worked all night long a lot of nights. I remember myself and another person being the assistant editors and carrying crates of these tapes after we had looked at all of them and written scripts which ones have to go to the editor today and which ones have to go here, and your house and my house and we did it. We did it. And then somebody got in their car, took that 1” master, drove it to New Hampshire, because that’s where they were up-linking from and if you’ve ever seen Broadcast News (4) it was like, here it comes! And they got it and up it went and it was part of that series. The following year, or two years later, the gentleman did another series and he asked to use that piece, Stronger Than Before again, which was wonderful. He felt it was powerful enough and it was the women that were the powerful ones, we just put it together. But all in all, it was powerful enough to run again. So it was seen that initial fall on, I don’t know how many PBS stations picked it up, they picked up the series across the country and Canada picked it up as well, for their public network.

E: Didn’t it win some kind of an award?

J: The award came later. I was working at the time as a volunteer at a cable station in Arlington and I saw a flyer for a contest put on by JVC which is a manufacturer of video equipment. And it said they were looking for any videos from the industry – commercials, sales promotional videos, etc. and they said, ‘new category this year, public access video, anything produced for public access television in any format, particularly documentary.’ So I went, uh-uh, took the form, brought it to the next WVC meeting and said, “Do you think we should do this?” And they said, “Yeah.” And we did, and we won first place with it. We won a camera and a video deck, which I still have someplace, and three of us went to New York and the coolest thing about it to me was, not only did we see the clips of everybody else’s videos and the clips of our video, but people came up to us who worked in production houses and did commercials for McDonald’s and Minolta and big time car companies all day long and they came over to us with tears in their eyes, I’ll never forget this, and they said, “We would love to be able to do what you’re doing.” They were all a little bit older than us, they all had mortgages and kids to put through college which most of us didn’t at that point in time and they just said, “keep doing what you’re doing, this is so important.” And all they saw was three minutes of this video. But they got that this kind of work needs to be done. Now how did we fund it, parents, families, spouses – whoever could give us money. We did have a committee that became the fundraising committee of the group and we did go out and look for funds, but nobody gives you funds to make something, they give you funds to distribute. But then we lucked out because at some point in time, Women Make Movies (5) contacted us, or somebody contacted them, and we worked out a contract with them, a non-exclusive contract so that they put Stronger Than Before in their catalog – I think it was 1984 when it started and it was only about three years ago that they took it out. But they’re still getting calls. So they distributed it and they could get their catalogs out online, particularly in the last few years, to colleges and universities and women’s studies programs across the land and across the world! And Women Make Movies is such a great outfit, that’s where people go if they want to find videos about women and women’s issues, it’s still a very viable, wonderful organization and Deb Zimmerman, we dealt with her for years, was, I think, the founder of that down in New York. So both those things just kind of happened on their own and we were like, Whoa! We couldn’t believe that we could put a documentary together. And then we talked about, well, should we do a longer-format documentary? Because once Women Make Movies got a hold of it and other people knew it existed, we started getting calls and inquiries from people saying, “hey, I saw this on PBS, could we get a copy for our school, could we get a copy for our women’s group, how do we do it?” So we quickly then, had to come up with a rental rate and a sale rate, and do you want VHS or do you want SVHS, and it started to steamroll so we never did make any longer, hour- or two-hour long documentary, which of course, anybody could because there’s tons more footage there. But what the editors were really concerned with was showing the array of things that went on throughout the summer, because we covered a lot of it - climbing the fences and getting arrested, and the whole mess in Waterloo – we didn’t put that in the video, we did a voiceover about it, but there are shots outside the jail and interviews with people and the other side was there – and we showed it all. And trying to get in those soundbites from women all over - different women, different ages, different backgrounds, from different places - to really give the flavor. It’s all on those tapes, once you start to look at it, you’re going to see some stuff that is pretty powerful. There were so many incredible things people said, you could do a huge five-hour documentary and still not cover everything.

E: The peace camp was very powerful for so many with things women experienced there that continue to have an effect in their lives. Is that true for you?

J: Oh, very much so, very much so. I was really lucky at that same time period to be working a part-time job with what was called an underground paper but it really wasn’t and it actually still exists today but a guy that I had gone to college with had graduated a year ahead of me and he had become the first editor of that paper, it was called The Whole Life Times. And it drew together people who were interested in politics, social issues, personal issues, wholistic health issues – it really kind of covered the gamut. And it was initially, by its publisher meant to have stories and pictures, which was where I came in, with pictures, but to be a vehicle for people who were starting up these wonderful wholistic health centers, therapy centers, all those different modalities in terms of people learning how to take care of themselves, speak for themselves and that was all a part of what the women’s movement was about, I think, to most of us, no matter how you participated. And so, I was also working in that arena and there were just some incredible people that I still know from 20 years ago and I still see and it’s like, of all my work experiences, that was the best because we were all there for the same purpose and there was just an understanding of how we treated each other. Yes, there was a boss and yes, there were workers and we had our departments that we worked in, but there was no question that we were all equal. That was a great experience and I think, for us at the peace camp, even though we were standing back videotaping and photographing everyone else, we also made it a point – some days we would meet in the mornings and come out of our tents and we would say to everyone who was with us that day, okay, depending on what’s going on, there’s be meetings, there’d be discussion groups, there’d be decisions being made, if you want to go and be part of that today, just say so now. You don’t have to feel like you have to videotape every day. And so, that became, we became part of the process of the camp itself and as a result, when, I don’t know, you’re doing the documenting now of me, but you stand back and you watch and you listen and you try to get good shots and you make sure the sound’s good and you’re thinking of, oh, good, we can use this later or whatever, and you’re one step removed from what’s really going on. When you sit down in a circle and even if all you do is listen, you’re part of that and that conversation becomes part of you and the process itself becomes part of you, so yeah that really did, I think, affect all of us.


J: So I probably wasn’t able to stay for lengths of time, but we would leave, we would get two carloads of women, leave Boston on Friday or sometimes Thursday, if people could get Friday off. There was a wonderful woman who lived outside of Albany, NY - somebody’s going to remember her full name – it was Winnie something – and somebody knew Winnie, it might have been Martha, and we were always invited, no matter what time it was, to come to Winnie’s house and stay overnight and there’d always be food left for us if she was asleep. Beautiful house in the country on a lake because some of us would get up in the morning and go in the lake first thing in the morning when the dew was on the – I can still picture that. And she was, I can’t see her in my mind, but I can remember her, she was an incredibly wonderful person. And I don’t know if she went to the camp or not but then we’d take off and do that drive across the Thruway and get out to the camp and that was our process to get out there so we’d be out there all day Saturday, because we’d leave really early, because it was four hours to Winnie’s and 4 hours more out to the camp or something close to that. So instead of driving all night long we’d do a stop. That was a really nice part of our process. So I think it was more weekends that I was there.

E: Can you tell us what the day was like when you were there? Because I kind of get the impression that you were including people who were at the encampment as part of, people could become crew.

J: Yep.

E: So tell us about that.

J: Yeah, and I’m not sure who thought that up, but I’m thinking it was Claire, and we all agreed. It was sort of something that probably happened when we got there because we realized that a lot of women were interested in the fact that we were doing this and so we would invite them to participate with us and if they wanted to hold a camera or hold a deck to push the buttons to record or whatever it happened to be or help us edit things later or copy things, because one thing we did every night is we’d have screenings in the barn and we put up a sign, I remember on the outside of the barn we’d say ‘screening tonight at 5 o’clock’ or 7 or whatever after everything else was over, usually after supper, and so anybody was welcome to come in and see what we had taped that day and we would just play the raw footage. So it could be, depending on how many camera rigs we had that weekend, because sometimes we’d have a couple and sometimes we’d have five, again people from New York, women from New York and Ithaca, I remember in particular – a woman named Marilyn from Ithaca, she was a professor at Cornell or Ithaca College – one of them, anyway she came up with a rig, women from New York came up with a couple of rigs so we would, so sometimes we’d have four or five or six – so then there’d be lots more footage to show that night and we all traded footage with each other which was really nice because they, I don’t know, actually I do, I think, some of them actually made something but I don’t know if I have a copy of it. Anyway, yes, we did invite any women who seemed interested in participating to work with us in any way that they wanted to. Sometimes they’d act as an interviewer and we’d find women who wanted to tell their stories and then it would simple be like you’re doing – they’d sit down, with usually a hand-held mic, and ask this woman questions, we’d prep them a little a bit.

E: Wow.

J: You know, get their stories and why they were at the peace camp and what they hoped would be accomplished by this, or what they hoped to get from it themselves – whatever, I forget the actual questions, but you’ll hear them when you see the tapes. And that was a really nice thing to do, because it gave women the power right away to say you can make these decisions about where to put the camera, what questions to ask. Up until that point, and it’s not just women only, up until that point, before portable video cameras got into the hands of the people, so to speak, which was really the mid- to late-70s, that was still fairly a new idea, most people were like, what is that? News, they’d see a news camera on television and that was done by the broadcasters – that was done by NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, period. People didn’t do this stuff. So that was part of what we wanted to say – yeah, you can do this. I think as a result now, independent film, a lot of people who can’t afford film and film cameras are using the very high-end digital video cameras and making some pretty remarkable pieces. It’s really, really opened doors for a lot of creative filmmakers and video makers – this technology in itself so, I think in a way we were really at the forefront of that. In fact, I have a very close friend at NYU who’s a professor there, and he had a class of students one year, probably I’m going to say ’75 and public access stations were just starting to pop up across the country in odd little places and he decided that that summer his group of students of 12 of them, I don’t know exactly how many, but they were sent out across the country to train other people in how to use video cameras and say, here’s what you can do with them, you can tell your own stories. You can do stories about issues that you care about not what the big media cares about or thinks you should care about. So my, just people a little older than me, were out there on the frontlines and we were kind of a little bit of a second wave.

H: Do you remember any reactions from townspeople or military or women when you were out there shooting?

J: We saw the reactions to the protestors, we photographed those. I think, depending on where the cameras were, we were often off to the side, as opposed to being right in the middle of an action but I’m sure people were, they were just screaming things at all of us but it was something that we had to turn off. Their voices are recorded but we couldn’t allow ourselves to say anything back other than pointing a camera at them. Just to record it because it was a fascinating dichotomy, let’s say, that was going on and I don’t, I have to say myself, I wonder how many people who organized the camp and I’ve been starting to read some of the stuff on the website, really had any idea, and probably nobody had any idea, how much of that was going to happen because it was pretty scary some days. It was pretty, just awful and mean and horrible and people weren’t listening and it was all about, we noticed the women, it was just like anti-war – see, I’d been anti-war myself in the 60s, late 60s and early 70s, a lot of us had, and it was about trying to get a dialogue going, it was, yeah, I know where you stand, but you have no idea what I’m talking about – you gotta stop and listen, you know, stop with the slogans, stop with the ‘America Right or Wrong,’ ‘Commies Get Away.’

E: Did you get a reaction from other media sources? Did you, were there times when both, like CBS or NBC or anybody else was around and how did they respond to the women in the red shirts?

J: Nothing that I can recall personally, but there could have been dialogue, there could have been response, there could have been conversation, I’m not remembering anything personally. So other women that you talk to may have had more interaction – especially people who were there longer. I think that any press that came obviously was greeted and told where they could and couldn’t go by people at the encampment. I don’t think I had any personal interactions with them myself, to my knowledge, but it’s just such a distant memory if I did.

E: I have heard comments that it really opened things up for women because men were not allowed to come beyond the barn and consequently the Women’s Video Collective had access to all of the land. And that was something that was constantly being put out there, that, send women if you’re going to send media, send women.

J: That I remember, that you did that, yes, and some of them did, didn’t they?

E: Some did.

J: Some did, yeah, but they kind of were like, probably, we don’t have any women or just totally baffled by, what? [laughter]

E: So do you feel that, in fact, you all opened the doors for women?

J: Oh, I wouldn’t say that in any great fashion, no, because I think that what we found was that there were women coming into the land who also wanted to document what you were doing – they could do it on their own, they could join together with us – there were lots of women out there already doing this, we weren’t the first and as I say, many of us had already, as I say, done some of this work, in terms of social issues, women’s issues, with or without video cameras, I’d done it with still cameras. So we’d been in the fray somewhere most of us already, so no, I don’t think that WVC necessarily opened doors, if we did, it was for those individual women who were there for a day or two or a week and met Claire, or Glynis [Glynis Loman, see Herstory 013] or Nancy Clover or Martha Mollison and it was like, come, join us, follow us around for a day if you want to do any of this stuff that’s great, what would you like to do? I think for them, it’s kind of like that adage, it’s one person at a time that gets the change and I would wager, I don’t know who those women are, I don’t know where they are now, but some of them probably just had their eyes and minds and hearts totally opened by the concept that it was okay to take that step, it was okay to do this. Technology is not something most women were raised with at all. I had to, I mean, I went through training with public access, thank goodness, it’s a wide-open door policy from day one at those kinds of places but the women coming up to us at the camp hadn’t been to those places. See, most of us around Boston had because there were a lot of them. We had those opportunities. So I think that was what we were able to pass on and help inspire others. And one can only assume, like you said, is when you have experiences like this in your life, it takes you through the rest of your life, you can remember it and then you can try work for something in something else you’re, that’s going to give that same feeling or results or whatever in terms of that. For us, again going back to the very beginning, working together as a group, and I cannot recall, and maybe I’m whitewashing it, but I cannot recall any times where any of us had any bad blood between us or controversy or feelings of inadequacy, it was very much, and it wasn’t like anyone was really conscious of it, but it was very much like we were, as a group, all helping each other, if there was a new piece of equipment or something didn’t work, somebody would step in and say, oh I think I know how to fix that, or let me figure that out. I would go, hello, I could never do that! And then I’d watch and I’d say… the woman, her name is Glynis, and I think either you’ve met her or you’re going to interview her? I remember her having these little tools and I’m all, where’d you learn that? She wouldn’t tell me and then she’d tell us outloud what she was doing, she would just talk about it as she was… and it was like, this is marvelous, what man do I know who does that? Most girls, their dads – that’s just how it was, just how it was. We didn’t get that kind of background training about what even electricity is. I remember when I found out what electricity was and electrons were and how they go through wires and how sound works – I was absolutely fascinated, I’m like, this is really cool! It’s kind of magical, it’s kind of amazing stuff and down the road with video, you read a book or you’re somewhere in a meeting and somebody starts talking about this… I think it’s more that we took ourselves to a place where then in the last 20 years we’ve all been able to blossom from that experience. All the things I’ve been talking about – working together as women, figuring our how to work together as a group – there was no one leader in our group. There was no one leader. Now, when we formed to be a nonprofit, we had to put names on paper and we hated doing that. We hated designating – who was the president? Who was the vice president? We were like, it’s just for the government, ugh! But we always, I don’t even know how we ran our meetings – they just ran. And we were able to do what we set out to do without any major sticky parts and I’ll tell you another story which is that the group stayed together for 10 years, which is pretty incredible when you think about any group or organization staying together that doesn’t have a major source of funding and what we decided to do is to take on projects that we felt strongly about and over that 10-year period we produced four or five other major documentaries and then we decided to do a monthly show on a local cable access station called Women’s Vision and as a result of finding all these [referring to videos shot at Seneca in 1983-84], I found 27 shows we produced, 60-minute shows on different topics. The women who came and went out of the group, it was up to someone to come up with an idea and then the rest of us would volunteer to work on that show with them, so we’d be crew, we’d be researchers, we’d be interviewers, we’d do location work - we’d set it in a studio, but it was mostly video tapes that we were showing. We’d introduce them and show the videos and talk about an issue, whatever the issue happened to be. I was amazed. I knew I had those tapes somewhere and I found them and it was really cool to find them. So you see, it gave us, by doing this at the camp and bringing us together, it gave us all, without us even knowing it, this opportunity to carry on and continue, continue the experience of working together, but also the experience of making videos that then we could put out for whoever wanted to see them, to provide information to people, to disseminate information because what else are we doing this for? It’s to communicate, it’s to tell people things that they may not know about or ask them to think about something in a different way that they hadn’t thought about it and I just think documentaries are some of the most powerful, oral histories as well, but some of the most powerful vehicles in terms of media that there is. Thank god, there’s still, Nova’s being funded and Discovery Channel has really good documentaries and Sundance and I think there’s another, I think Sundance has started a documentary channel, or somebody’s started – I don’t have it but, so people can see this stuff because people are still out there and still committed and still making it and it’s great to hear that you’re bringing in younger people to get inspired and still carry on this work.

E: Well, that’s one of the things that I’m real concerned about is funding for women’s projects. Is the stuff going to get lost? Is it going to fall through the cracks? Something happened that was truly an event. It was a major event for a large number of people. And it affected us not just for that time, but projected into the rest of our lives. So I feel like, somehow that needs to be available to people. People need to hear it and see it feel it and I don’t know how to get the funding or how we can do it but I feel like we need to do it, that stuff needs to be preserved and archived and I’m going to go through considering myself as a folk historian and really work on New York state because this happened in the state of New York.

J: Well, why not go to the top, start at the top? Go to, go to the senate, go to people, find out and just research who’s up there. Everybody’s got a past, everybody’s got a history. It’s like, all right, who still cares about women’s issues? That and also, I think, you’re finding the colleges and universities, the women’s studies programs – where are they? Which are the most viable, which have been around the longest? Who are those professors who have been there the longest and who really care about this stuff. You target them initially and then the stuff trickles out and around and down and out in the circles or the spirals, to the other places that start to hear about…because that’s what I feel happened with our work is that, initially, I mean, again, I wish I could remember this man’s name, but who took the tapes, put it up on a satellite and got it in this PBS series and it was seen, I’m hearing the number in my head, of 150 stations – I mean, to us this was just, wow! And out of that came people who saw it in their homes, [thumping on table] sorry I’m pounding the table, in their living rooms and were already, or they were starting women’s studies programs, or they were involved in them or they were teaching at a college or they felt like, or they were in a women’s group or organization somewhere in the middle of Kansas and contacted us or contacted their station and said, got back to this guy who then got to us and said, how do we get a copy of that? We want to take that and show it to our group of women here and have a discussion around it. We need to, we need to use this. In fact some of the things when you read through the list of some of the distribution places, it’s not just schools, there’s tons of conferences that order this to play during a conference. People who were mobilizing for something, people who were just having some sort of a meeting, I mean, it’s amazing, we kept track of, like I say, it’s not totally conclusive but it’s as many as I could find from the old records of. We initially distributed the work ourselves and then, as I said, Women Make Movies came up to us and said, we’d like to take this and help you and distribute it and, you know, we did a 60:40 split with them and they, but they said if you get a call directly, that’s yours – you know, we could distribute it ourselves, but if the call comes to them, they did the distribution. But, you know, like I said, they could also advertise it farther and wider than we ever could. So, I think that there’s a ripple effect that happens and by having gatherings, by having screenings that are fundraisers and drawing key people into them who, you know, are involved somehow in some aspect, or had been involved in some aspect of the women’s movement, whatever that means, then, you know, they’ll take it out and go further with this idea.

E: Yeah, because we have lost so many women’s studies programs and so many women’s newspapers and women’s bookstores. Things have gotten narrower.

J: Yep. But you’ll find there’s still, there’s the younger women out there who still want to be involved you can’t lose them, you can’t let them go if they’re there, so maybe talk to them and find out what kind of venue, what would work for them. Let them, get them involved to think up ways to, you know, raise money for whatever it is you want to do in terms of the archiving and the duplicating, but also, just to fund yourselves, you know, to get around and head up ways to talk to people and stuff like that. I mean, I think that obviously money’s involved. People in ’83, ’84, ’85 around here were just, you know, it was somebody’s living room and, you know, everybody brought food and you can still go back to doing that. America has become chain linked or whatever you want to call it, but we’re still here and we’ve had these experiences and they’ve made a huge impact on our lives and so it’s really important to say, for people who still care about whatever the issue happens to be, you know, to be able to find a way in, and find a way to do something… there was a generation of, I have friends who have kids just going to college and then I have friends who have kids who are 30, 35 now and have families, but there was a generation of kids that I know somewhere in the last 10 years that, I, I’m very interested in social development issues and how the times affect people – that’s kind of what I did my graduate work in and – there were a lot of kids saying like, we don’t know what we want, we don’t care about anything, there’s nothing to do. And the parents were all like us going, oh my god, there’s Iraq! And there’s this and there’s, and you can protest! And the kids were like, eh, what good will it do? Look what happened in the sixties. And we were like, no, look what happened in the sixties! There’s a very important history there and it’s a very recent history people are starting to convey that and I think younger people are starting to learn and get it and not just, oh, the 60s you all took drugs and you all were out of your minds and you wore those crazy clothes. We were driven to get out of the 50s mold and to me there’s a correlation from there all the way up to what happened at the peace camp in terms of, again, all the decisions that were made, of, we weren’t just videotaping, we were listening in terms of how everybody there got along and how decisions were made. And I remember there were some heated discussions that went around for days to come to consensus that was our first experience with that.

E: For me, meeting women from so many countries, getting things from their mouths rather than from TV or radio or the newspaper, but hearing about the women, what was happening in their in countries and why they were here or why they were traveling or how they felt about the flag, what the flag meant to them. It opened a whole world that I had been very sheltered from. I had not had those kinds of experiences and never traveled. I didn’t have a lot of exposure to a lot of those kinds of things and it was major.

J: Yep, and I think you speak for hundreds of women on that subject alone. Not only watching the process, but the subjects that were discussed – many people had never had the opportunity to discuss those things before or it wasn’t discussed.

H: So you were there only on some weekends but you must have seen so much of what went on that summer by virtue of watching the footage.

J: I remember sitting in Glynis’ apartment in Cambridge and going through every videotape and four or five of us sitting there, oh, that’s a great one! No, no, that’s not so great, no, this one’s better! We gotta use this, no we gotta use this! We realized editing by consensus [laughter] was not the best way to edit. But we did come up with a list of things we thought were really, really important and that we sat, two of us took that list to the woman who offered her time to do the initial edits and of course, she had some feelings about it as well, which was great, because she was looking at it more from, how’s this going to play to an audience? You got too many people saying ‘this,’ and nobody saying ‘this’ or, you know, you don’t need this many people saying this same thing they’ll get it if they hear it once. They’ll get that that represents, you know, something or if it’s a statement somebody made, so she, we knew we had to make a 27-minute video, was what they asked for – 27 minutes out of this?!? Aaargh! So that’s why we had to look through every single tape – it took weeks! I mean, almost every night, there would be a group sitting at Glynis’ house, after work or whatever, we’d just start playing them.

H: How did you decide who that group would be if there were so many involved all along?

J: I think a group of women came forward, I’m guessing, and said, we’ll be the ones to do that. Some of us can’t be there every night but at least, you know, that core will be. That’s what we learned, is that we had to hone it down enough to then go to one person with two people who’d been through that process to say, okay, these are the things we think are important. I remember us even sitting at Glynis’ and putting together an opening sequence that we thought was great and it was, it was pretty darn good, but Linda Rubin took one look at it and she said, I don’t think so.


J: So Linda Rubin took a look at our opening and I guess wasn’t impressed and decided to do something else and she’s the one that opened, that decided to open the video with the woman right at the beginning, I know she has a headband on and short brown hair, and she reads a statement, she’s standing at the gate: We the women, something, something, something…” I heard it six thousand times, you think I would have memorized it, but it’s 20 years later, and she [Linda] said, “That is going to knock people out, it’s going to keep their attention.” And she taught us to think about it one step removed – we were all there, we taped all this stuff, we were having trouble making decisions about what’s important – “how could we throw this stuff, this is important!” It’s very difficult to edit anything no matter where you come from. But she hadn’t been there so she could look at it with a pure, objective eye and she, she, she simply took what we had, reorganized it, pulled out some other footage, looked at it, and pieced together the opening statement because you see the woman on the screen for four or five seconds but then you keep hearing her voice and it cuts away to shots of actions and we probably had already picked those and then the music starts and then there’s more actions, you know, so she’s the one that kind of said, this is how we’re going to weave it together and we all just went, yeah, that really works. So again, none of us, I think, had ever edited a documentary, and she got that this was going on PBS, number one, and she got that this had to really be powerful and she got how powerful it was just by looking at even small bits of the footage.

H: So there’s no way she went through all of it – you guys trimmed it down for her and she took it from there?

J: Yeah, yeah. It’s not that she wouldn’t say at ten minutes into the video, what else you got? And so we’d say, we’ll come back tomorrow night, we’ve got… – we had all our logs – mountains of them, log sheets and we knew what we had so we’d say, well, we’ve got this woman from such and such a place and she’s saying such… And she’s say, bring it in, I want to see that. I need something else here, this transition doesn’t work, I need another statement, or, does anybody else say this thing as well but better? Or, we’ve got too many women speaking who are all the same age – give me somebody who’s older, give me somebody who’s younger. She was the one to be able to say, you know, keep us on track of what our goal was but be able to be one step removed which was difficult for us.

H: Was it difficult, in making a documentary, that your perspective was pretty close to the women’s, versus like, military, town – sort of a more objective view?

J: I don’t think so because I think we did try to show what was going on in the area in reaction to what was going on at the camp. But we didn’t insert all the news articles or say, CBS said this, or whatever if we’d done a longer format to our documentary then I think we would have brought in a little more varied perspective of what other, you know, reporters were thinking of or even get permission to use somebody’s story from NBC that night or Ted Koppel’s story, whatever. We might have chose, we didn’t, to actually, I don’t think, to actually go around the town and interview people after the fact. You know, we could have gone back the next year and done that and gotten people’s stories. Because you know, there were some really good stories there, I’m not just talking about the people who acted badly, there were women that came over to the camp, and I remember them saying, if my husband found out I was here, he’d kill me, but I need to be here.
They just knew they needed to be there and find out what was going on. They knew it was important, they knew it was something about all these women together that was important it drew them from all, for all kinds of reasons. I remember hearing that and I always, I don’t know if we, I don’t think we interviewed them, we might have, but it’s not on the video tape so in other words, a longer format documentary or a different documentary could have had a little bit broader perspective, but I think ours, our, what we were trying to focus on, was the peace encampment itself, the actions that came from the peace encampment, the people who marched into the camp, the marches to the gate, the actions at the gate, really trying to show what it was about from that perspective and then also interviewing the women who’d come from all these different areas and why had they come and what did they hope to accomplish by being there and why was it important for them to be there and those kinds of questions. So I think that our focus was, was, from the get-go, planned to be that, and again, I don’t know who made that decision per se, but I think that there may be tapes that contain lots of things that don’t have anything to do with that per se – there may be interviews with townspeople – I don’t know, but when we chose to do this 27-minute video, we had to make decisions. You’ve got to pick a focus, most of the stuff you did was in the backyard or going along with the marches. We would assign ourselves to, okay what’s going on today and who’s going to take this rig, you know, the two of you go out and follow these people if they go over there and do this or they’re making their costumes or masks or whatever or even just having a meeting or prep for, because women would get together, I remember, in these small groups and just prepare themselves to go to the Depot, and that was a really powerful thing and to have the access to get really just right in there and personal was amazing. So I think that as a result of being of that camp, we discovered right away what we felt was important and then probably when we made the video it was a question of, well, this thing makes no sense, why put it in? It doesn’t fit with rest of it.

E: Did you videotape much music or singing?

J: Yeah. I found some tapes. You’ll see there are tapes full of singing, so yeah.

H: I’m curious about the collective itself and how you came to end it after 10 years?

J: I remember some meetings where less and less people would show up and it just became apparent that people had other things going on in their lives, many women had young children, some had married, some had moved away, some had gotten full-time jobs that were fairly consuming so going out on a Sunday night to a meeting was just, [laughter] you know, when you’re not 32, you’re 42, was like, oh, I want to stay home on Sunday nights, I don’t want to go out, I don’t want to go to the meeting. And so, a discussion ensued of, well, are we going to produce anymore tapes? We’re still distributing tapes and what are we going to do? And after some discussion, it was decided to, you know, pretty much, to disband the group. Which didn’t mean that people weren’t going to stay in touch and see each other. About four or five years ago I was at an event at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, it was a video festival, and a guy walked up to me in the lobby and said, hello, how are you, nice to see you after all these years – it was Nancy Clover’s husband. [hershe laughter] And I’m kind of like, you look familiar, but, you know, I can’t… And he’s like, Paul Clover. I’m like, oh my god, is Nancy here?!? I hadn’t seen her in like, years! Because they’d moved up to northern Massachusetts, right, and so it’s not as easy as, oh, she’s down the street in Somerville, let’s get, you know, get together or have dinner or something. And I knew they had had kids, they have two kids now. Anyway, so Paul said, Nancy’s here. And I said, look, I have to speak and introduce somebody at this video festival, don’t tell her that I’m here, she’ll see me on stage. And then I’ll see her afterwards. So it was great [hershe laughter]. So we have, we haven’t seen each other but we’ve certainly emailed and [cough] gotten together. About, less than 10 years ago, I went to Seattle, I have a cousin in Victoria and I was at a conference in Tacoma, or something like that, and anyway, I decided to go see my cousin in Victoria and I knew Claire was in Seattle, she’d just gone out the year before – called her up, Claire, I’m coming out. She’s like, well, you’ve got to stay with me, [hershe laughter] you’ve got to stay a couple of days, come on up. So, you know, got to see Claire for a couple days. And that’s how it is when you have that, like what, 10 years experience, but even if it was just had been the peace camp, I think we’d all feel that way, when I called a couple of other women, you know, to see if they wanted to be part of this this weekend with you guys, they were thrilled. And one of them, in fact, has said, “we should all get together again!” And one of them does see, she lives in Cambridge, and she still is in touch with some of the women in the group that I’m not in touch with, so she’s trying to get a little something together, you know, during the holidays when we can all get together and have a potluck or something. Because it just happened, people, others things happened in people’s lives. A lot of us stayed in video, and like I say, there were, just opportunities opened up as more and more stations opened. Some people went into broadcast, some people went into educational media, you know. People were taking their skills and earning a living with them which was fantastic, you know. So that’s what happened.

H: How did you decide that you would end up with the tapes and Nancy would have the photographs?

J: We just made those decisions based on what made sense at the time - who had the storage and who wanted the responsibility. And I said that I would still stay in touch with the distributor and we would keep the bank account open so if we needed to make more copies, we’d have money to do that. So we did that for quite a while. I have, we had initially two, 1” masters of the show [Stronger Than Before] and then other copies were made from that and I kept one and another person kept one because we thought, what if somebody’s house goes down? Flood, whatever, we still got a master. So we just kind of made those decisions and that’s how that happened.

H: One of things that Nancy showed us had a thing about how part of your vision was archiving women’s history and that this [WEFPJ] happened, so, what was your thinking about what would happen to these [WEFPJ videotapes] eventually?

J: Well, we hoped and tried to contact, in fact, a few women’s colleges after we disbanded to see if any of them were interested in archiving this raw footage. We made a full list of every videotape and what was on it. It’s all written on the covers, but I still have those lists. So I mean that was weeks of work just to do that. And we had heard that places, I think Radcliffe was one of them, and then two or three other colleges did have archival storage for video but I still, actually I found the letters the other day, saying, we’re sorry, we just don’t have enough space to store 80 tapes, we’ll store your masters or a copy of your masters. So we did send them copies of the masters but nobody had the space at that point and time to do it. And I think nowadays, you know, they knew the size of these puppies as well, [laughter] and that’s what was out there – they had 3/4” tapes, I’m sure, in their archives already and that the thought of 80 more, phew, they just couldn’t do it. What they felt was that if they did it for us, they’d have to do it for any other group that came forward with 80 or 100 tapes from some event of some kind. [laughter] I just can’t imagine what else other than… but, so I kept them. I just don’t like throwing things out that I think have some value.

H: Thank goodness you didn’t. What about the peace camp, did you still know about it over the years or was 1983 it for you in terms of consciousness about the peace camp?

J: I think in terms of my going there, I don’t know if I went back any other time – I know some of the women did, you’ll have to ask them. It seems to me some did. But just down through the years different people would hear different things about what was going on and we heard that there was a push a one point to buy the land, did that not happen?

E: Well, we had bought the land originally, and then when we put the wells in, we needed a second mortgage to pay for them and we eventually paid off that mortgage years later - it took us a long time. And then last year we lost the land.

J: And that was because there wasn’t enough money left, or?

E: Not enough women…there never was enough money. We never had any major funding after that first summer but things continued. It was pretty active up until the late eighties - there were still actions going on. We were doing Mother’s Day every year but it was always diminishing in numbers and there was a lot of transiency and then we went into Transform or Die and we tried to do intentional community and we became Women’s PeaceLand. We’d been behind in the taxes for years and this past year when we went to pay the taxes, the house had been sold. It was a huge loss but in some ways it was really already lost because over the years women have continued to want it to be there but the energy to keep it going and the money to keep it going was left to a very small group of people and we just couldn’t carry it anymore.



1. Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp - an ongoing nonviolent protest outside the U.S. Air Force base at Greenham Common in England, 1981-2000. On August 28, 1981, 40 women marched 110 miles to the U.S. Air Force base at Greenham Common, the proposed site of 96 U.S. cruise missiles. Eight days later, four women chained themselves to the air base fence. From this direct action a women’s peace camp was born. On March 21, 1982, 10,000 people demonstrated at the base. 250 women engaged in a 24-hour blockade – 34 were arrested. On December 12, 1982, 300,000 women linked hands to embrace the 9-mile fence encircling the base. Although the last of U.S.’s 96 cruise missile were removed in 1991, women stayed on at Greenham until 2000 to ensure that the base was closed down. In March of 1997, the land was purchased by the Greenham Common Trust and returned to a variety of civilian uses.

2. Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant – a nuclear power plant located in Seabrook, New Hampshire, approximately 40 miles north of Boston. Seabrook was the site of anti-nuclear protests culminating in a 2,000-person occupation on April 30, 1977 where 1,414 people were arrested in New Hampshire’s largest act of civil disobedience. The plant began operating in 1990.

3. Take Back the Night - (also known as Reclaim the Night) is an internationally held march and rally originated by the radical feminist movement to protest rape and other forms of violence against women. The term "Take Back the Night" came from the title of a 1977 memorial read by Anne Pride at an anti-violence rally in Pittsburgh.The first known "Take Back the Night" march in the United States was organized in San Francisco, California on November 4, 1978, by Women Against Violence in Pornography and Media and marched through the red-light district of San Francisco in protest of rape and pornography.

4. Broadcast News - 1987 romantic comedy written, produced and directed by James L. Brooks, about a virtuoso television news producer (Holly Hunter), who has daily emotional breakdowns, a brilliant yet prickly reporter (Albert Brooks) and his charismatic but far less seasoned rival (William Hurt).

5. Women Make Movies - Established in 1972 to address the under representation and misrepresentation of women in the media industry, Women Make Movies is a multicultural, multiracial, non-profit media arts organization which facilitates the production, promotion, distribution and exhibition of independent films and videotapes by and about women.

1 comment:

Carol Kraft said...

Michele and/or Estelle

I have a friend in her 60's who was there at the Seneca Peace camp in the early 80's. She can't go online due to her epilepsy, so I agreed to help her out.
She is from Ontario, Canada
Very interested in having a reunion the the other gals involved in the Peace camp at that time. Do you have the contacts and links?
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Could this be done? Do you have contact emails