Wearing a pink coat and cowboy boots against the cold, Francine Porter of Codepink Pittsburgh Women for Peace shepherded nearly a dozen local women activists onto the stage in Market Square on March 8 for International Women's Day. She said the Bush administration's color-coded terror alerts were fear-based, but Codepink's signature color was a "feisty call to action."
The day, observed in countries worldwide, began in the early 1900s and was first officially celebrated in the U.S. in 1909. This year's rally, which drew a crowd of about 30, featured women from social-justice backgrounds, anti-war activists, and health-care and reproductive-rights advocates speaking, singing and performing poetry.
Eva Havlicsek of the Women's International League of Peace and Freedom, the oldest women's peace activist group in the world, spoke of two women pioneers in U.S. government: Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and the first female member of Congress, and Barbara Lee, who represents California's 9th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Both women have fought for peace, with Lee casting the sole "no" vote in 2001 to authorize war in Afghanistan. Rankin is one of the women profiled in an upcoming play Most Dangerous Women. The work profiles WILPF activists throughout history, who were called "most dangerous" by former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover for their organizing-for-peace efforts. The play will be performed at the Eddy Theater at Chatham College on March 21 at 7 p.m.
Marie Skoczylas of the Pittsburgh Organizing Group recalled "the traditional role of women as hell-raisers. This tradition is one of the reasons I'm compelled to take direct action," she said. She spoke about the women and men of POG successfully shutting down the National Robotics Engineering Center [See City Paper Main Feature, "Stopping the War Machine," March 7, 2007.] "Those in power aren't going to give it up if we just act nicely," she said.
It was also revealed that among the students, puppets and rabble-rousers of all stripes making noise at this year's fourth anniversary of Iraq War March and Rally, on March 24 in Pittsburgh, will be a "Molly Contingent" made up of women remembering two notable feminist Mollys.
One Molly, anti-war columnist Molly Ivins, died this year. The other, Molly Yard, ended her long life of feminism in Squirrel Hill at 93 in 2005. Activist Jeanne Clark called on the crowd at the rally to join the contingent and stand with women for peace.
"There's not much difference between men in government, liberal or conservative," said Clark. "They don't want to share the pie with women, they don't want to hear women's ideas. We can see the boys clustering in and excluding women. We need 51 percent women in authority. As long as there are only a few women, they can be muscled."