Marjorie Swann, Nonviolent Activist

Marjorie Swann, Nonviolent Activist

Marjorie Swann, nonviolent activist for disarmament, peace and civil rights, died March 14 in her home in Santa Cruz. Swann was 93 years old.

Marjorie Swann was instrumental in many of the historic anti-war  demonstrations of the 1960’s. She joined Dick Gregory in a 22 month fast seeking an end to the war.

In the 1950’s Swann was a leader of nonviolent direct action campaigns against nuclear weapons at the Polaris nuclear submarine base in Groton, Connecticut.

In 1958, Swann was arrested for trespassing during civil disobedience at an Omaha, Nebraska nuclear missile site, and sentenced to 6 months in federal prison.

Marjorie Swann and her husband Robert Swann founded the New England Committee for Nonviolence Action in 1960, and for 12 years they dramatically popularized nonviolent resistance to the U.S. war in Vietnam. Based in a farm in Voluntown, CT, they traveled throughout New England conducting vigils, walks, fasts, caravans, draft and military counseling, war tax resistance, military base conversion projects, and preparations for large-scale anti-war demonstrations in Washington, D.C. Their farm was attacked by right-wing paramilitary Minutemen with fire in 1966 and guns in 1968. Swann and her
companions held fast to their commitment to nonviolence, and after these attacks surrounding neighbors befriended them.

Marjorie Swann was a charter member of the Congress of Racial Equality, and was active with the NAACP, War Resisters League, American Friends Service Committee, the National Committee on Conscientious Objection, and Cambridge, Massachusetts Friends Meeting.

Swann was the mother of four children. She wrote “as a woman, I certainly experience a kind of rage and frustration similar to that which Third World people do, and as a woman working on women’s liberation issues, I advocate and practice aggressive nonviolence to deal with the injustices I feel as a woman.”

Swann worked as Executive Director of the Women’s Resource Center of Rhode Island and was Director of the American Friends Service Committee in Cambridge, MA. Swann co-founded the Domestic Violence Program for Latin Women in Willimantic, CT, and worked at St. Mary’s Homeless Shelter in Oakland, CA, among many other community organizing roles.

Swann wrote, “most of us do not realize, or have not accepted, the reality that disarmament and peace and the development of a ‘nonviolent world’ call for some startling changes in economic, social and political structures.”

Swann lived in Santa Cruz during her last years, attending Santa Cruz Friends Meeting. The Resource Center for Nonviolence hosted a 90th birthday celebration with Marjorie Swann in 2012, when friends and relatives from around the United States shared stories about the rich life of the groundbreaking activist.

“I feel so fortunate to have met Marjorie Swann,” said Candace Laning, staff member for the Resource Center for Nonviolence in Santa Cruz. “Her example as a mother who was an amazing activist tells me that it is possible to love my family and my world and take creative action for policies that enable all families to live in peace and justice.”

A memorial meeting for worship will be hosted by the Santa Cruz Friends Meeting Saturday, August 16, 10:30 AM, at the Friends Meeting House, 225 Rooney Street, Santa Cruz.

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