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About Peggy Hanna

Peggy Hanna, a Chicago native, became active politically after moving to Ohio in 1965. She was the co-chair of Springfield People for Peace and elected a McGovern delegate to the 1972 Democrat National Convention.

To read more about Peggy Hanna, click here.

Book Excerpts

Foreword

I was a peace activist during the Vietnam War.  Identifying myself as one of those who protested the war, I fear some may not read any further.  Too angry or too bitter toward people like me.  But please give me a chance to speak, to hear me, to know how much I cared about those who answered our country’s call to serve and to fight.

A conservative Midwestern Catholic homemaker, mother of five small children, I converted from hawk to dove in the late 1960’s.  Hawk or dove, I ached for all the young men suffering and dying because our country demanded it of them.  My ache became anger as I learned more about our government and the politicians who created this horrible situation.  My anger became activism, fueled by the knowledge that our young men, not the politicians or their sons, were paying the price for our leaders’ stupidity.  I was protesting government policy, not our service men and women.

I cannot speak for a whole movement, but I can speak for our local peace group,Springfield People for Peace.  We cared deeply about those sent to Vietnam.  And I know countless others throughout this country did as we did – protested the war with only the best in our hearts for those dug in the trenches in Vietnam.

We respected those answering our country’s call.  Even though we believed the war to be wrong, it did not negate their sacrifice, their honor.  We were with those men in spirit, aware how easy it was for us to be protesting compared to what they were living.  But it was the best we could do.

Chapter One:  The Move

March 1966 – I had little knowledge of Vietnam.  I knew we were sending advisors, and then ground troops, but didn’t give it much thought.  Even if I had, I would never have dreamed of questioning government policy.  I’d been schooled by Catholic nuns all through elementary and high school:  follow the rules; respect authority; don’t ask why.  The only precursor to my challenging American policy in Vietnam in 1969 was July 17, 1962, the day my first son was born.  At twenty years of age, it was the first time I had questioned or challenged anything.

I’d been in labor eighteen hours.  My contractions were eight minutes apart when my husband Jim and I decided to head to the hospital.  It was an uncomfortable thirty-minute drive from our home in Griffith to St. Mary Mercy Hospital in Gary, Indiana.  I especially remember the three sets of railroad tracks.  Jim didn’t slow down for any of them; he was in a hurry.

“Stop here,” I said to Jim when I spotted the front entrance of St. Mary Mercy.   What did I care that we were on a residential street and every parallel parking space was taken.  Young and dumb, we didn’t know to use the Emergency Room entrance.

“Let me out,” I said confidently.  “You can find a place to park.”  Always agreeable, Jim helped me out of the car, then left me alone on the sidewalk.  Standing there, I looked up at what seemed like a thousand steps to the front door and hesitated.  Wait for Jim or go for it?   Knowing another contraction was due, I held the sides of my protuberance and headed up the steps alone.  It was a sweltering July afternoon, ninety-something with no breeze.  Sweating in maternity slacks and top, I grabbed the railing and dragged my swollen body up the steps, resting once for a contraction.  Finally I made it to the top landing.  That’s when I saw the sign on the main door:

“Women Not Allowed in Slacks or Shorts”

My knees buckled.  My heart sank.  I had to go home to change my clothes!   Tears welled in my eyes as I turned from the door and started down the stairs, holding tightly to the railing with sweaty hands.  More than halfway down the monstrous steps, I experienced, not a contraction, but my first challenge to authority.  I was having a baby!  I was not going all the way home, over those railroad tracks, just to change my clothes.  At that moment, Jim bounded up the steps to my side.  In tears and with a rush of words and emotion resembling Stan Laurel of the Laurel and Hardy comedy team, I whined and pointed to the hated sign. “The sign says I have to go home and change my clothes but it’s too far and I’m having a baby and I don’t want to change and I’m not going to!  I don’t care what they say!”   I expected an argument from him, but, of course, there was none.  When we burst through the doors into a darkened lobby, a couple of women wearing employee nametags looked surprised to see us.  I braced myself for the fight, but instead they rushed over with a wheelchair.  No one said a word about my slacks.  I had challenged authority, and it wasn’t a sin.

I never challenged authority again until we moved to Ohio three years later.  There in a little village named Yellow Springs, I came to believe it was a sin, in some circumstances, not to challenge authority.