Frances Crowe (1919 - 2019)

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Obituary

Frances Crowe, longtime peace and environmental activist, passed away yesterday of natural causes at the age of 100.

Frances was born in Carthage, MO in 1919. She graduated from Stephens College in 1939 and Syracuse University in 1941. With the advent of World War II, Frances took an Industrial Supervision course at Mount Holyoke College, joining the many young women recruited into the workforce as men went to war. During the war years, she lived in International House in New York City and worked for Bell Telephone Laboratories.

When the war ended she married Dr. Thomas J. Crowe and made her home first in Rochester, NY, then in Hartford, CT, and ultimately in Northampton, MA. Tom and Frances had three children.

When the United States bombed Hiroshima, Frances became deeply concerned about the death and destruction caused by war, especially the destruction caused by atomic weapons. Frances' concerns came close to home when she learned that, due to the United States government's testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, her children's milk was being polluted with the radioactive poison Strontium 90. She gathered together with other Northampton women to petition the government to stop atmospheric bomb testing. She sent her children out on their bicycles to carry petitions to potential signers. Subsequently, this group of women formed the Northampton chapter of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

As the US increased troop strength in Vietnam, Frances protested and was arrested at Westover Air Force base, at Sikorsky helicopter factory and at many more war related sites. She threw blood on nuclear submarines at Electric Boat in Groton, CT and spray painted "Thou Shalt Not Kill" on these war machines. One arrest, in 1983, resulted in 30 days in the Rhode Island Department of Corrections. After an arrest the chief of police came out to meet her, took one look at her lengthy arrest record and asked her "How many times have you been arrested?"

"Not enough," was her reply.

As the Vietnam War continued, Frances established an American Friends' Service Committee draft counseling center in the basement of her home, counseling thousands of young men. As she drove the route from Amherst to Northampton, she picked up student hitchhikers and discussed their stand on the Vietnam war with them, counseling them about conscientious objection. Young men and their families gathered in her basement on Friday nights, discussing their opposition to the Vietnam War, spilling out into the street in front of her home. In her later years, Frances would often meet now much older men who would greet her with, "Frances, you draft counseled me."

Frances decided that environmental destruction, especially that caused by the residue of nuclear power plants, was the most important issue facing our planet. She began to work against nuclear power and other environmental degradation.

Frances' work in the movement to shut down Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant was legendary. She worked with her affinity group as they chained themselves to the gates of Vermont Yankee. The local police chief would pick up Frances, book her and release the woman now in her 90s. One day when she missed a demonstration due to a bout with pneumonia the police chief asked with concern, "Where's Frances?"

In the early 2000s Frances decided that unless people had accurate information about the world they would never join her in working for change. She felt that if people listened to Democracy Now! they would have a better understanding of the world and thus she set about bringing the program to local radio waves. When local radio stations refused to carry the program, Frances and a friend set up their own pirate radio station with antenna in Frances' back yard. Today, Democracy Now! Can be heard throughout the valley and beyond.

She was honored with many distinctions. Among them were; Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, University of Massachusetts (1996), Courage of Conscience Award, Peace Abbey, Shelburne, MA (2007), Honorary Doctorate, Smith College, Northampton, MA, (2015) Frances' papers are at the Sophia Smith Archives at Smith College.

Frances was a strong believer that one sets an example through the way one lives one's life. Others were deeply influenced by her. Her courage encouraged others to take risks. Her energy and commitment encouraged others to take a stand. Ralph Nader described her as the most persistent human being he had ever met.

Frances was a Quaker, a member of the Atlantic Life Community (a Catholic peace fellowship), a devoted mother and grandmother. Frances was a stalwart vegetarian. Her organic garden in her front yard was her pride and joy. Her motto was, "Live simply so that others can simply live."

Frances was predeceased by her husband, Dr. Thomas J. Crowe. She is survived by her three children: Caltha Crowe (married to Jerry Allison), Jarlath Crowe (married to Rebecca Wathen-Dunn) and Dr. Thomas H. Crowe (married to Nancy Crowe). She has five grandchildren: Patrick Crowe, Rosa Dinelli, Sean Crowe, Simone Crowe and Tom Crowe and two great grandchildren: Vincent Dinelli and Vito Dinelli.
Published in Daily Hampshire Gazette on Aug. 29, 2019
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