Women's Video Collective. Copyright 1983. All Rights Reserved.
Ann, singing Waterloo Talking Blues, 1983.
Waterloo Talking Blues
Written by Ann, 1983
PeHP Source: WVC
Written by Ann, 1983
PeHP Source: WVC
This song, written shortly after the incident, tells the story of the 54 women who were arrested in Waterloo in the summer of 1983 as they attempted to march from Seneca Falls, NY to the Women's Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice.
Well, we took a bus from New York City
about 45 of us, we all we’re ready
to meet our sisters for a walk in Seneca Falls.
Slept on the floor of a church overnight,
got up in the morning early and bright
to pay a friendly call on the Women’s Hall of Fame.
Honoring the feminists, community locals,
the founding mothers of our not-to-distant past:
Lucretia Mott, Jane Hunt, Harriet Tubman,
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Well, we gathered en masse upon the lawn,
formed a circle and raised a song.
With our voices high and our banners drawn,
a bunch of us, slightly over a hundred in all
Proceeded in an orderly fashion gaily forward,
up the straight and narrow and formerly public
sidewalk in the town of Seneca Falls
Well, our peace parade moved right along
and we carefully stayed off the town’s folks lawns
And we’re totally amazed when an egg was thrown
from the upper most, flag-draped window of a two-story home
Didn’t do too much damage but it looked as though
our 15-mile hike was indeed going to be a long one.
When a message came down from some women who knew
and had seen just what were about to go through,
a mile or two up the road in a town called Waterloo.
Waterloo? Do you recall what happened to Napoleon Bonapart
when he visited there some time ago. Do you?
Well, never mind, we said, we’ll go straight on through,
singing, “This land I your land, we live here, too.”
In what hitherto, and somewhat mistakenly, I suppose,
was still considered a free country.
Well, we got to the bridge and to our dismay,
there were hundreds of townspeople blocking the way
waving little American flags stapled to sharp pointy sticks.
Screaming “Nuke the Lezzies” and “Kill the Jews!”
“Let’s get some blood on the evening news!”
“Go home, commies!” But all we were trying to do
is to stop the deployment of the Pershing and Cruise.
And to honor our fine, founding mothers and
our fine, founding sisters along the way.
We were mighty concerned about the men folk’s flatteries
and the sheriff’s bullhorn had run out of batteries
so none of the sides could figure out
what was being said exactly but they were getting awful loud.
That sheriff kept getting smaller and smaller
while the peace camp women got taller and taller
which was pretty damned amazing because by then
we were all sitting down in our circle again
In the asphalt lawn on the sticky black pavement
at the very peak of the mid-afternoon, July 30th, Waterloo sun.
Let’s have a meeting with the Waterloo 54.
Well, we reached consensus, soon I’d say,
and agreed, indeed, it was here we’d stay.
The KKK can stand in the way
of a bridge but can not, I repeat, can not, kill the spirit.
But those kindly townspeople were about to throw us
over the bridge to the river below us
but not before they killed us first
with their sharp pointy sticks
or smothered us in the flag.
With guns and feet, four-letter words and fist
they yelled and they swung and they swung and they missed
But the sit-down women, I said, the sit-down women,
yeah, the sit-down women were accused of inciting a riot.
Now a man came out and raised a loaded gun
but he was just a local boy having him some fun
So they hauled him in and let him ride out again
on just a tiny, little, bit of bail.
But the brave and mighty Sheriff Greer
was worried about election year
so him and a couple dozen cops in riot gear
dragged the Waterloo 54 off to jail.
For their own protection, of course,
but mainly for the protection of the sheriff’s job, of course.
But none of the women even backed down,
the sidewalk is public whether village and town
and there ain’t no judge’s cousin or police chief’s son
that should dare to think he could ever own one.
The 54 women held fast that day
being dragged in the wagon and taken away.
Unjustly arrested and falsely detained
and now about to be arraigned
on a misguided, much abused charge of disorderly conduct.
That’s, quote, disorderly conduct, unquote.
Strange how none of them drunked-up, flag-waving hellion,
spewing all kinds of vile obscenities, breaking through the police lines
trying to get at the women were not considered disorderly.
Of course, boys will be boys.
In the meantime
The sheriff searched high and low for a judge
While the D.A. Diller was sitting drunk in fancy little country club
a few miles down the road.
Yep, Huey Diller had been drinking hard
and the judge was home in his own backyard
having a little Saturday night barbeque with his family, friends and neighbors
and wasn’t in the mood to do any favors
for the cowardly sheriff, the drunk D.A., or just about anybody –
especially ones he didn’t even know -
but he was about to meet the mighty expanding family of the sisters Doe.
None of whom looked anything alike but all of whom
had identical first and last names, Jane Doe.
The magistrate, sunburned and grim,
couldn’t believe what had happened to him
that even he was being dragged in
on a Saturday night to arraign some innocent women for walking on a sidewalk.
Falsely accused, unjustly detained,
the Waterloo women agreed to maintain
dignity, composure, solidarity and silence - and that was just for openers.
“What’s your name?” “Jane Doe,” the first woman said,
and they threatened her with all they threaten women with
if you don’t tell them who you are from the very start.
“Will take your property, your watch and your car
and then we’ll even add on an extra charge –
‘obstructing governmental processes’ and we’ll put you all behind bars
for a year. Who the hell do you think you are, anyway?”
“Jane Doe,” the second woman said the exact same thing
and so did the third and the fourth and the fifth
and so it went on down the line,
mothers, sisters, daughters and wives
sharing one of the truly amazing adventures of our lives
in the rapidly expanding family of the sisters Doe. My how they multiply.
Well, we all got moved to the Interlaken Jail
and we all got held on $50 bail
which we all refused to pay
and awaited a court date five days away.
Then Julie came in to save the day,
“Legal counsel,” she said, “we’ll do what we can.”
“C’mon, Julie, just get us out of here and on our way.”
“Well,” she said, “we’ll do what we can.”
Well, we tried to figure out what we’d do and say
and worked out the details of bail solidarity
and even did local outreach in a limited way
due to the nature of our geographic area.
Mona was our guard, solid all the way,
brought in the veggies, took the junk food away
and even brought us some cigarettes as we watched day merge into day.
August 1st we were ready for action
but separated from our peace camp faction
so we thought we’d start a little reaction of our own
to what was going on outside of the Seneca gate without us.
So we stacked our cots, blockaded the door
and raided Pepsi from the lunchroom refrigerator
and chanted and sang and danced on the floor
until they sprayed the mace through the kitchen window.
Now the papers said that the food was flying
and we were even throwing furniture at each other but they were lying,
trying to make it appear that we were creating a distraction.
Well, the truth of the matter was at eight in the morn
long before the blockade of the jailhouse dorm,
while the guards were busy playing Frisbee on the lawn,
two little ones, so brave and strong,
got a wild hair somewhere, got over being scared,
jumped out a window and simply disappeared.
It was a long, long time – about 14 hours and 12 headcounts later –
before they were even discovered missing. Escaped.
In legal jargon, this constitutes a felony. And that, of course,
opened the rest of the women to the standard
prison harassment technique of a strip search.
What was that? Strip search.
Well the matrons came at us wearing rubber gloves,
things came to push, things came to shove
and we assured those jr. high school jailhouse guards
that we weren’t hiding any prisoners up our vaginas.
“Girls,” she yelled.
“Women,” we said.
“All right, girls,” she said.
“We’re looking for razor blades, knives, guns and bombs,
rubber bands and any other deadly weapons
you may have smuggled on your 20 foot walk
from the cafeteria to the bathroom.
But we all sat down and we all held hands
in a tight little circle and refused to stand
for this indignity and simply wouldn’t move.
“I got herpes and aids,” I cried
and then sat back and waited for the panic to subside.
The prison guards were utterly horrified,
after all, it’s what they suspected all along.
But it wasn’t until Barbara Jane Doe,
tribal elder among the wisest of all,
stood up and spoke to one and to all
that a feeling of calm came over that hall.
“The hour’s late and we’re tired and worn
but were willing to talk for however long
it takes to establish some communal respect.”
And that’s just exactly what we did.
We knew that the guards have difficult jobs
and the women here face unlikely odds
that we’ll ever be able to leave here
unconditionally free and clear.
Well, eventually it came around to August the third,
the day that the Jane Does were allowed to be heard,
there were 43 of us left in the prison yard
and hundreds more being banned and barred
at the Seneca Women’s Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice
right next door to the Seneca Army death-dealing Depot
in the teeming metropolis,
the town of Romulus,
New York, just off Route 96.
Well, some 15 Does had our private say,
we were given trial dates a month away
and we all announced we would refuse to stay
on hand to participate
in such a miscarriage of justice.
Well, the D.A. sat with beady little eyes
and a starchy white collar, he just realized
how much this illegal detainment was actually costing.
And he knew he’d never recover those dollars,
he was wilting in the heat like week-old flowers
so he called a recess and conferred for a couple of hours
with the judge.
And to this day he’s probably holding a grudge
because he couldn’t convict us of a charge
that didn’t exist.
Now, Jane, from Vienna, spoke of the Nazis;
Jane, from Nebraska, complained of the Klan;
Jane, from Virginia spoke of the waste and
how we’d neglected the elders of our land.
With one mass hearing, they met our demands.
We got back our fingerprints and photographs.
And the Waterloo 54 walked out the door,
even freer then we were five days before.
She wrote no more.
But praise the Goddess and
long live the name of those fine, fine women:
the Waterloo 54!