Democracy is not a
given. It needs to be
and closely guarded
hroughout much of history, ordi-
nary people have banded together
to do extraordinary things.
Dr. Marie Hammond-Callaghan('85,'86)
has spent much of her career examining
the things ordinary people do in the con-
text of war and peace. It began with an
undergraduate thesis on British conscien-
tious objectors, and as she continued her
studies, expanded to looking at the role of
women, particularly in peace movements.
Her latest research has centred on the
origins of the peace group the Voice of
Women Canada (VOW). She says VOW
is a particularly interesting study, given
the context in which the group emerged.
"The Cold War was a time when govern-
ment authority carried a lot of power,"
says Hammond-Callaghan, who returned
to Mount Allison as a professor of
women's and gender studies in 2003.
"People assumed their governments were
there to protect them in the West and of
course this was being challenged because
the dangers of the nuclear arms race were
so severe that even ordinary citizens were
moved to protest."
Hammond-Callaghan is interested in
studying how women have protested
against war. When VOW appeared, for
instance, women's opinions on foreign
policy were not exactly sought out, so they
found other means to have their point of
view taken seriously.
"Particularly in the early '60s, they used
the discourse of motherhood," she says.
"Using the language of motherhood gave
them legitimacy to speak out in the public
interest, saying, `As a mother, I am not going
to send my son to war and I don't want to see
other mothers sending their sons to war.'"
The threat of nuclear warfare during the
Cold War years united women around the
world to campaign against nuclear weap-
ons, regardless of which side of the line
drawn in sand they were on.
A number of Canadian women even
attended a World Congress on Women
held in Moscow in 1963 -- women from
"enemy" nations coming together to talk
about common concerns, in particular the
impact of radiation from nuclear testing on
children's health. One woman noted they
did not see much difference between wash-
ing a communist diaper and a capitalist one.
VOW continued to arrange exchange
visits with women from communist coun-
tries, refusing to treat these women as their
enemies. But mingling with communists
in an era when fear of communism was
rampant exposed the group to suspicion
-- another aspect Hammond-Callaghan
is studying. She says the RCMP collected
thousands of pages of surveillance on the
group from the 1960s.
"I'm particularly interested in looking at
how various arms of the state saw them,"
she says. "They could be considered a
communist or `subversive' group, but they
were also viewed as a bunch of respectable
Hammond-Callaghan is using the research
to write a book about the early years of the
"I'm hoping we can learn something about
what works and what doesn't and something
about what it means to be an active citizen
in today's world," she says. "I think peace
building is an ongoing challenge and we can
never be assured that we have reached a state
of peace... Democracy is not a given. It needs
to be carefully nurtured and closely guarded
through active citizenship."
by Aloma Jardine
ReseaRch and cReative activity