Tag Archives: Greenham Common

Alison Bartlett – Researching the International Feminist Peace Movement

We asked Alison Bartlett, currently a visiting scholar at the University of Bristol from the University of Western Australia, to write about her experiences researching in the FAS.

In the spirit of Greenham activism, she ‘widened the (feminist archive) web’ to collections relating to the feminist peace movement in Australia.



As an Australian researcher interested in feminist cultural histories, the Feminist Archives South is one of the main reasons I applied for a Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professor position at Bristol University. My research into the 1980s women’s peace movement and especially the two women’s peace camps held ­in Australia has always been in relation to Greenham Common women’s peace camp. The opportunity to sift through the rich archives of this iconic feminist event is a rare treat.

At the same time, I’ve been reading Kate Eichhorn’s book The Archival Turn in Feminism: Outrage in Order (2013) which proposes that the growing interest by feminists to delve into archives is to make sense of the ‘legacies, epistemes, and traumas pressing down on the present’. Eichhorn argues that neoliberalism of the late twentieth century has not only individualized our capacities as subjects but eroded our sense of collective agency, something that archives like the Feminist Archive South restores. Rather than understanding archives as nostalgia for the past, she claims archives reorient our understanding of the past and therefore enable us to reimagine our present.

Triangular shawl with different coloured webs sewn together

Shawl collectively made by women at Greenham Common

The boxes of material on Greenham Common are full of letters, flyers, newspaper clippings, court documents, photographs, stickers, postcards, and even a multicoloured spiderweb shawl and a piece of the green military fence tied with webs of string. I read with astonishment that some Greenham women took US President Ronald Reagan to court in New York over the deployment of nuclear missiles onto English common land. And the letters sent to women arrested and sent to Holloways prison are particularly poignant.

The ferocity of their belief in the necessity to stop escalating military interventions and nuclear arms is inspiring, and it’s easy to see how it motivated a worldwide movement of women protesting war and militarization. Together with the women’s movement, the women’s peace movement formed a significant set of arguments about the continuum of male violence, and women’s agency to imagine other ways of living, loving, and doing civilian politics.

My research into the 1980s women’s peace camps in Australia indicates that they were a direct response to what was happening in Berkshire. They were conceived as support actions but also to bring attention to the particularities of the US military in Australia. The first camp was held in central Australia outside the US military base at Pine Gap in December 1983, coinciding with the day the Cruise Missiles arrived at Greenham. The second camp was held a year later in 1984 at Cockburn Sound on the west coast near Fremantle, a major port into which US naval vessels docked and sailors took their rest and recreation.

Unlike at Greenham Common, an umbrella organization was formed specifically to coordinate the peace camps in Australia, bringing together a coalition of women’s organisations, peace, and anti-nuclear groups. The archives are largely filed under the name of the group: Women For Survival. There are substantial collections at the Jessie Street National Women’s Library in Sydney, and the University of Melbourne Archives in Melbourne which holds the Victorian Women’s Liberation and Lesbian Feminist Archives. But almost every State Library and many university libraries around Australia also hold some material. The Murdoch University Special Collections in Perth holds material in the Gay and Lesbian Archives of Western Australia (GALAWA) collection; and in Adelaide the State Library of South Australia now holds some of the dispersed resources from the Adelaide Women’s Liberation Archive; the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne; and the Fryer Library at the University of Queensland in Brisbane hold material. There are some badges displayed at the Museum of Australian Democracy in Canberra where you can also hear questions in Parliament being played on rotation, and there’s a student film made at the Pine Gap camp available at the National Film, Television and Radio School online. The Northern Territory Archives Service in Alice Springs has a great collection of oral history interviews.

bath women's peace group

There was a traffic of ideas, people, rituals, telegrams, letters, songs, and even parts of the military mesh fences between Greenham and the Australian peace camps. There are traces of this in the Australian archives and in the Feminist Archives South. Zohl de Ishtar stands out as a regular writer for the Greenham Newsletter, campaigning relentlessly to raise the profile of colonized and militarized Pacific nations, especially those used as nuclear testing sites from the 1950s. But it’s the thousands and thousands of women who went to Greenham for a day or a week or a year who register the impact of collective action, and whose traces in the archives demonstrate the mass attraction of arguments for de-militarisation amidst the threat of nuclear war during the Cold War period. I can’t imagine how 30 000 turned up on December 12, 1982 to hold hands around the entire 9 mile perimeter of the US Air Base at Greenham to ‘embrace the base’.

Eichhorn argues that archives themselves are forms of activism, as are archivists. The Feminist Archives South certainly demonstrate the value of feminist archives, and remind us of the possibilities for changing our worlds through collective action.


We welcome all our readers to write about their experiences researching in the Feminist Archive South. It helps us to understand how people engage with our collections, and communicate our holdings to wider audiences.

If you have a FAS story you want to share with readers of this blog, please send it to us (no more than 1000 words).

 Many thanks to Alison for taking time to write up her visit!

New Additions to the Greenham Common Collection – The story of Mrs. Jocelyn Wood

The latest item we have catalogued contributes to our already significant collection relating to Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp.

We were recently contacted by Michael Wood, the son of Mrs. Jocelyn Wood, who sadly recently passed away, to see if we would be interested in housing a piece of the Greenham Common fence and some photographs of the camp. Of course we said yes!

An email from Michael is included below to introduce his mother’s text, which outlines her memories of being stationed at Greenham Common during the Second World War, years before she returned to Greenham as an activist.

A big thankyou to Michael for letting us post this story on the website, along with the photos. If you want to view the items in the flesh, they bear the catalogue number DM2123/1/Archive Boxes 129.


My wife has recently contacted you about a piece of fence from Greenham Common from my mother (Jocelyne Wood, nee Withycombe) – correspondence below. We think she has some photos as well which we will try to dig out and send them together.

DM1981 129 1 5 065

She did write a few notes about her life – nothing about going to Greenham during the seventies (?) but she was stationed there for a few months during the war until the Americans arrived – see attachment.

We’ll be in touch again when we’ve found the photos.

Best wishes

Michael (Wood)’

DM1981 129 1 3 061

DM1981 129 1 6 067RAF Greenham Common was like a holiday camp after Hednesford, I spent three very enjoyable summer months there July to August 1943, WAAFs were billeted in a large house with a garden stretching down to the Kennet, a fast flowing chalk stream, It was ideal bathing, We were working outside doing daily inspections on Oxfords, which in good summer weather was pleasant work.

We did the same jobs as the RAF – for which as far as I can remember we got half the pay, NCOs were all RAF and most had served RAF apprenticeships.

DM1981 129 1 4 064Greenham was a Training Command station. WAAF mechanics were never sent to active service stations – a fact you were not told when you joined up. Our Greenham was very different from the USAF cruise missile base, The main Basingstoke road, now diverted, ran through the camp. As far as I can remember there were no fences even round the runway. It trained for night flying so there must have been some way of stopping traffic when flying was in progress.

Hitching to Fleet from Greenham was easy usually only taking about an hour, so I went home a lot – sometimes just for a half day.

The road to Basingstoke was beautiful with wild clematis and scabious. I had my cycle with me as did most of the others. A favourite evening ride was to Kingsclere where there was a good YM canteen in a magnificent barn. (I have since tried without success to identify that barn.)

DM1981 129 1 1 059

The Services’ canteens and hostels were very useful, There were hostels in most major towns which I made much use of on my hitching expeditions. London ones were particularly useful making theatre visits possible, A uniform opened many doors. Looking back it seems very unfair. Girls conscripted to factories like ROF Chorley worked much harder and for longer hours than we did, were away from home living inferior hostels with inferior food but had no such facilities, nor did the Land Army.

For other entertainment there was Newbury and the Americans, There were several US bases nearby that invited us to dances, The main attraction was the food rather than the G.I.s most of whom were boring. There were WO exceptions, I got to know David McGeon because I happened to tell him I was reading War & Peace. I went out with him several times. He was a film script writer and was fairly left wing. He was interesting, but too introspective to be easy company, Then Stan Sobolewski took over. I met him at a dance at the Corn Exchange in Newbury from where we walked through the park by the river orchestrated by thunder and lightning – but no rain.

DM1981 129 1 2 060

I saw a lot him during the next two weeks. He was tall, dark and handsome and very attractive, but not political. He was of Polish origin and came from Detroit, Two weeks later the blow fell: the Americans were taking Greenham over and the RAF had to move. Stan and I corresponded for several months and met once in London, but the magic had gone. I had had a lucky escape.

The news of the move was devastating to everyone. We all liked Greenham. We had one week’s notice. A special train was provided for the move. The whole station packed up and moved. Our destination was Long Newnton, Glos. It was an unattractive camp and the nearest town, Tetbury, was no compensation for Newbury in spite of its lovely old buildings. I was there less than a week before I was posted yet again – to the Fitters’ Course at Halton.

Greenham Materials

This week we were visited by Conni Rosewarne who is filming parts of the archive for her third year university project.

Conni was particularly interested in material relating to Greenham Common, as both her grandmother and mother protested at the camp. Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, established in Sept 1981, was a protest against the presence of nuclear cruise missiles on British land. Missiles were removed from the camp in 1991, but women still protested there until 2000. For more information about the camp, please visit here and here.

Piece of the Greenham Fence - green wire on a white background

             Part of fence at Greenham Common

This photo is a piece of the fence, which women used to cut into during actions.

Triangular shawl with different coloured webs sewn together

Shawl collectively made by women at Greenham   Common

This photo is of a collectively made shawl by Greenham Women which depicts a number of spider webs sewn together. Before the world wide web connected people across the world, women at Greenham used the metaphor of a spiders web to imagine global connections between peace activists.

Picture of the wire and shawl together

Conni films the shawl and piece of the fence, which are placed on the table in Special Collections at Bristol University

Brighton University Student Conni Rosewarne films the shawl and piece of the fence for her university project

Conni in action! She has promised to send us her film when it has been made – so watch this space!

Another picture of the fence from a different angle

                     The fence, from a different angle

Another close-up of the fence – a highly emotive part of our collection. If you want to see some amazing pictures of Greenham, visit Cary Welling‘s site.