Democrat and Chronicle
July 17, 1998
‘Fire still burns’ at peace camp
by Doris Wolf
ROMULUS – In 1983, more than 12,000 women came to a humble white farmhouse on the outskirts of this rural Seneca County village.
The Women’s Peace Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice attracted women from Europe, Canada and across the country. They were housewives and flower children, Buddhist monks and self-proclaimed witches, feminists and families. They came to protest the Seneca Army Depot believed to be the largest storehouse of nuclear weapons in the northeast at the time.
They marched and tied yarn webs on the depot fence. They scaled the barbed-wire-topped chain link that surrounded the 10,600-acre facility. And when they were arrested, they received letters banning them from the site and barring them from protesting there again.
Today, the soldiers and the nuclear weapons have left the depot, which is slated to be closed in 2001. The white farmhouse is a faint echo of its former self.
But that will change today and tomorrow, when female peace activists again gather to recall their glory days. Called “The fire still burns,” the gathering will be an open campfire, at which women will share stories and songs of the peace and feminist movements.
“To retell the old stories is very inspiring, especially to the younger women,” said Estelle Costello [sic], a member of the nine-women collective that owns the former peace encampment. “It’s nice to see their enthusiasm and awe.”
The 52-acre site, with itsprivies, outbuildings, fields and two-story house, is now a land trust called Women’s PeaceLand. Members meet annually on July 4. This year they celbrated their 15th anniversary.
“Not bad for a group with no leader and no income,” said Costello [sic].
Members are struggling to pay $1,700 annual taxes – school taxes have tripled this year.
Ann Herman, the last woman to live in the house full-time, left in February 1996 to protest at the School of the Americas in Georgia against the use of federal money to train government operatives to work in Central and South America. She was arrested for protesting and is in [sic] currently in jail.
Costello [sic] said the group was “thinking and talking, looking for new direction.”
But Laurie Twilight, another collective member, rejects the suggestion that the peace encampment is without a mission.
“This is a place that’s become symbolic for many women, an inspiration to keep going, doing the work, keep hanging in there, and trying to make the world more peaceful.”
Twilight said women throughout the world viewed [sic] Women’s PeaceLand as a special place. “People are inspired by it from afar. They are very happy to hear there are still peace activists,” she said.
The property is used by groups that share the collective’s mission, said Costello [sic]. Recently, a group of radical feminists from Canada and six states in America met to share tactics and information.
“The focus here is not on the land, but on becoming politicized, radicalized here and going back to their community. It’s a place to regenerate, reconnect and network,” Twilight said.
The collective has issued a request for proposals from groups and individuals who want to share the land and buildings – and expenses. “What we need is more people, energy and resources to use this land. We are flexible and open to a wide range of ideas,” she said.
Payment could be in money, or other negotiable resources such as energy, structural improvements and skills, Twilight said. “As far as the depot goes, we feel we’ve accomplished a lot. But there still needs to be peace in so many places. And places for women to gather, a safe place, a woman’s place.”