We celebrated the power of civil disobedience on Wednesday May 25 2016 at the South Bay Yacht Club in Alviso.
We gathered on the 50th anniversary of the anti-Vietnam War action by four South Bay women--Aileen Hutchinson, Beverly Farquharson, Lisa Kalvelage and Joyce McLean--who blocked a forklift loading napalm bombs at the port of Alviso. Newspaper headlines dubbed the the four "The Napalm Ladies". Their arrest and five-day trial exposed the horrors of the war and received widespread press coverage. Lisa's powerful statement at the trial was put to music by Pete Seeger.
The gathering in May at the South Bay Yacht Club was held close to the site of their action and a commemorative plaque designed by Gil Epis was left there. Speakers included Barby Ulmer, who talked about how they had learned at a Stanford teach in that the napalm bombs used in Vietnam were being manufactured locally and they all decided to do something about it. Reed Searle, the lawyer who represented the women at trial, also spoke. He said he took the case on a pro bono basis because Barby asked him to. He explained that what had really swung the judge had been Lisa Kalvelage's testimony as a German war bride who did not want her young daughters asking her years later what she did to stop the war.
Doug Maclean, husband (now widower) of Joyce Maclean said that the women had made a deliberate decision to get arrested to dramatize their objections to a war being prosecuted by a government that wasn't listening to reason. He talked about how they had gone out to Alviso to get arrested in their Sunday best clothes—dresses, white gloves, and high heels. It was a deliberate "We're not just hippies doing this!" statement.
Other speakers included Kathy Dunn, the daughter of Beverly Farquharson, Reverend Nina Kalmoutis of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Sunnyvale, and Judy Adams of Palo Alto WILPF, who had interviewed Lisa Kalvelage for her book Peacework: Oral Histories of Women Peace Activists.
Lisa's daughters also spoke and family members of the four women expressed gratitude that their mothers' actions to stop war still resonated and hopefully will inspire others. To wrap up the evening, Phil and Ann Pflager from Veterans for Peace Chapter 101 led the group in singing the song written by Pete Seeger to honor the four women's action.
Slide Show of the evening (below) with photos provided by Len and Nancy Tsou:
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Other resources on the "Napalm Ladies" action:
A statement by Aileen Hutchinson:
'At Alviso we discovered that bombs were being unloaded from barges .Deciding to take immediate action, we moved around a locked fence and walked about six city blocks down a spit of land to where the unloading was taking place. The bomb crates were lifted from the barge and moved down a narrow ramp which was easy to block. We stood in front of the ramp and refused to move on or be shoved out of the way. Since all operations were stopped, the various authorities, after more than an hour of pleading, had no alternative but to arrest us for trespassing and interfering with a 'lawful' operation.'
From March 16 1966 Redwood City Gazette
Oral Histories of Women Peace Activists
Judy Adams from the Palo Alto branch of Women's International League for Peace & Freedom read from her book Peacework: Oral Histories of Women Peace Activists
Watch the video here.
To obtain a copy of her book, contact Judy: judyblueeyes1 AT gmail.com