STORIES & ACCOUNTS OF CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS
Story of Aimee Allison [produced by the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors]
Having been trained to be a combat medic, Allison's C.O. convictions grew to the point where she applied for C.O. status when troops were being deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1990. To read her story, click here.
Anti-conscription cartoon, n.d.
Accounts by David & Julius Eichel [from the Eichel Family Collection (DG 131), Swarthmore College Peace Collection]
David & Julius Eichel were absolutist C.O.s during WWI, who went to prison for their convictions. At times they were in the same prison; when not together they exchanged letters with each other. Their diaries and letters provide a detailed window into their reasoning behind their stance, as well as the treatment they and other C.O.s received in the army camps and in prison. Click here for excerpts [transcribed] from their letters and from Julius' diary.
Story of Rachel Weaver Kreider [from Mennonite Life vol. 57:4, Dec. 2002]
Rachel Kreider was a graduate student at Ohio State University in 1934, who felt called to speak out against ROTC on the university campus. To read her story, written by James C. Juhnke, click here.
Account by Alfred H. Love (1830-1913)[from the Universal Peace Union records (DG 138), Swarthmore College Peace Collection]
When drafted in 1863, Love refused to serve in the Union army or to pay for a substitute to go in his place. He also did not allow his woolen commission business to sell goods in support of the war effort. As a result, his business suffered, and he also endured criticism from those who found his absolutist pacifism too uncompromising. He was one of the founders of the Universal Peace Union in 1866; he edited its periodicals, as well as served as its president until his death. For 1861-1863 excerpts from his diary, click here.
Story of A. Mary Stone McDowell (1876-1955) [from Mary McDowell collected papers (CDGA), Swarthmore College Peace Collection]
Mary McDowell was a member of the New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. A graduate of Swarthmore College, she was appointed in 1905 as a teacher of Latin in the Richmond Hill High School. Subsequently, she transferred to the Manual Training High School in Brooklyn (NY). At the beginning of WWI, she became interested in war relief efforts, particularly those of the American Friends Service Committee ( her brother, Dr. Carlton McDowell, served with the American Friends War Victim Relief Committee in 1918-?), and contributed $35 a month to this work. In Dec. 1917, the principal of her school asked her for an expression of her views on war, and her ordeal commenced. On Jan. 10, 1918, she was called before the Board of Superintendents and closely interrogated, and her answers constituted the basis for the charges of "conduct unbecoming to a teacher." The Board reported that "she did not consider it right to resist by force the invasion of our country, that she would not do her part in upholding the national policy of resistance to invasion, that she would not uphold our country in resisting invasion and that, if our country were resisting invasion, she believed it to be her conscientious duty to refuse to bear arms to repel the invaders;.... That she would not urge her pupils to support the war; That she would not urge her pupils to perform those Red Cross services which either promote the war of the United States against the German Government or better the condition of the soldiers in the field; That she would not urge her pupils to buy Thrift Stamps, the sale of which supports the United States Government in carrying on the war against the German Government." [from her Brief, p. 1-2]. When asked "Would you do your part in upholding the country?..." She answered "If it were the law that I should have to bear arms, I should believe it to be my conscientious duty to refuse" [from her Brief, p. 1-2]. Stating that "The same degree of loyalty is asked of the teacher as of the soldier..." and that "...wars are won by people, not by arms"[from article in unidentified newspaper, May 16, 1918], the Board voted to dismiss McDowell from her position in 1918 because of her refusal to sign an unqualified loyalty oath. Her trial and dismissal were important enough to be reported in The New York Times and other New York newspapers.
Sign that appeared in a Plymouth (NH) barber shop
until public opinion forced the proprietor to remove it, ca. 1942-1943. This shop was near CPS Camp #32 (West Compton, NH)
McDowell's position in the school system was not restored until 1923, whereupon she taught until her retirement in 1943. During and after World War II, she was a war tax resister. She wrote to the IRS on Nov. 12, 1954: "In reply to your notice of Oct. 7 that I owe...$246.28....I believe that war is wicked and contrary to our democratic faith...and it is also contrary to our Christian faith which teaches us to overcome evil with good. Moreover, in the atomic age and in an interdependent world, even victorious war could only bring disaster to our own country as well as others. War preparations and threats of atomic war cannot give us security. True patriotism calls for world-wide cooperation for human welfare and immediate steps toward universal disarmament through the United Nations. Accordingly, I still refuse to pay the 70% of the tax which I calculate is the proportion of the tax used for present and future wars. The portion used for civilian welfare I am glad to pay."
Interview with Michael Simmons [produced by the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors]
Simmons, a C.O. during the Vietnamese Conflict who did not receive the support he needed from the traditionally white organizations like the CCCO or the Friends Peace Committee, talks about his experiences and about the contribution of black people to the anti-war movement and the peace movement as a whole. To read the interview of Simmons, click here.
Stories of C.O.s from Peace Blend page of the Third Way Café web site [produced by Mennonite Media]
- Glen Guyton
- Dr. Dennis Lipton
- Richard Ross
- Emanuel Swartzendruber
Poem "Conscientious Objector" by Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1934 [from Collected Poems, Harper & Row; copyright 1934, 1962 by Edna St. Vincent Millay and Norma Millay Ellis]
I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death.
I hear him leading his horse out of the stall; I hear the clatter on the barn-floor.
He is in haste; he has business in Cuba, business in the Balkans, many calls to make this morning.
But I will not hold the bridle while he cinches the girth.
And he may mount by himself: I will not give him a leg up.
Though he flick my shoulders with his whip, I will not tell him which way the fox ran.
With his hoof on my breast, I will not tell him where the black boy hides in the swamp.
I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death; I am not on his pay-roll.
I will not tell him the whereabouts of my friends nor of my enemies either.
Though he promise me much, I will not map him the route to any man's door.
Am I a spy in the land of the living, that I should deliver men to Death?
Brother, the passwords and the plans of our city are safe with me; never through me
Shall you be overcome.