(Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp) Page, Raissa

Set of 13 postcards depicting Greenham Common

  • A set of thirteen postcards (two of which are duplicates) dating from the 1980s and early 1990s depicting the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, many from photographs by Raissa Page and one with a manuscript note about visiting the camp and the ordinariness of the women living there, a key theme of the protest’s messaging.

    The Greenham Common protest was established in September of 1981 by Women for Life on Earth, who were opposed to the deployment of nuclear tipped Cruise missiles at the site. What was initially planned as a single march became a permanent protest camp in place until the year 2000, one of the most significant and longest lasting protests of the 20th century. In February 1982, for political reasons, the camp was made women only, and the following month they engaged in their first blockade of the base. Embrace the Base was their next major action. Taking place on December 12th & 13th, 1982, it saw 30,000 women from across from across the UK—drawn by chain letter, word of mouth, and posters such as this one—join hands to surround the nine mile perimeter fence.

    The Greenham Common camp had no hierarchy, and its nature was defined by the thousands of individual women who visited when they could or lived permanently onsite for years. The activists engaged in non-violent resistance by disrupting movement in and out of the gates, cutting down portions of the fence, and trespassing on military property, and they endured frequent police raids, arrests, and evictions. A large number of the protesters were middle aged and older; they considered themselves ordinary mothers and working women, and made a point of the fact that their opposition to nuclear weapons was deeply personal. Their gender was crucial to their message. A Suzanne Moore put it in a remembrance for The Guardian, “a woman’s place was not in the home, but at a protest. Women could use their identity as carers and mothers to say, this is about the future safety of our children. We weaponised traditional notions of femininity” (Suzanne Moore, “How the Greenham Common Protest Changed Lives”, The Guardian, March 20th, 2017).

    The key item here is a colour postcard produced by the movement’s founders, the Welsh group Women for Life on Earth, in late 1983 or early 1984. It depicts a banner celebrating the camp that was made for the British Council Exhibition “A Woman’s Place”, held at the Royal Festival Hall in April 1984. The manuscript note is dated December 2, 1984, and reads, “I still haven’t sent off your pressie, so I may as well write a brief extra note. I went to Greenham Common yesterday with Yan, and 2 of her friends from work. We walked 9 miles around the fence which was tiring, but quite pleasant. There’s still a lot of women staying there, most of them are really ordinary (unlike the impression you get from the papers), there are a lot of older women too. Everyone was nice to use and gave us cups of tea. I went to see Colbert Hamilton and the Hellraisers last night—a black rockabilly band—they sound like Dr. Feelgood. Bye for now, Janet X”.

    Nine of the other cards are from the same series produced by ACME cards from photographs taken by Raissa Page, a social worker who who took up photography in her 40s and is now famed for her images of Greenham Common and the Coalminers’ Strike (numbers RP1 - 8, including a duplicate of 7). They depict the camp in 1982 and 1983, primarily the important Embrace the Base action: a line of women holding hands around the perimeter fence, protesters singing as they blockade Gate 6, an activist being dragged by police, women carrying dove signs and others singing in front of a “Protest Survive” banner. Another shows “Sunday afternoon at Women’s Peace Camp, Greenham Common” in January 1983: camp residents sitting around a fire and talking, writing letters, and reading the newspaper. Another shows a woman with a “Citizen’s Survival Bag” on her head, poking fun at the government’s “Protect and Survive” booklet, which advised the use of paper bags in case of nuclear attack. The most evocative is a photograph of women dancing in a circle atop one of the missile silos in January 1983, probably the image that Suzanne Moore described for The Guardian in 2017: “Greenham was powerful. It taught my generation about collective action, about protest as spectacle, a way of life, incredibly hard but sometimes joyous. Still the image of resistance for me is not the famous photograph of a striking miner confronting a policeman at Orgreave, it is the picture of Greenham women dancing in 1982: witchy, unarmed women dancing on a missile silo. This magical, powerful image shows how the peace camp both played on traditional images of the feminine and then subverted them. Greenham created an alternative world of unstoppable women. It changed lives.” (Moore, 2017).

    Of the final three postcards, one is a portrait of a Greenham protestor on Westminster bridge after a “keening” session at Parliament in January, 1982 (published by Leeds Postcards), and the other two are the same: a photograph by Robin Weaver of two children protesting at Greenham in 1983.

  • ...during the 1980s, including the Embrace the Base action, one with a manuscript note about visiting the Camp in 1984.

    United Kingdom: Women for Life on Earth, ACME Cards, Enterprise Postcards, most cards undated, one copyright 1990.

    12 black & white and 1 colour postcard. The colour postcard with a manuscript note in blue ink. Occasional light rubbing and very minor creasing at corners. Excellent, fresh condition.

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