Public celebration of Frances Crowe’s life to be held Sunday

  • Sally Stuffin of Wendell, left, greets legendary peace activist Frances Crowe on July 14, 2018, during a gathering to witness U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern D-Worcester become the first voting member of Congress to sign two historic pledges that support the abolition of nuclear weapons. Some area candidates also signed the Candidate Pledge for a Nuclear Free Future. FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 03, 2019

NORTHAMPTON — A public celebration of the life of renowned peace activist and city resident Frances Crowe, who died last week at the age of 100, will be held Sunday starting in Pulaski Park and moving to Smith College.

Organized by The Resistance Center for Peace and Justice along with Crowe’s friends and family, the event — called “Do Something!” — is a public service honoring the activist’s life and legacy as a stalwart of the anti-war cause. The celebration will begin at noon at Pulaski Park for a “Speak Out” and will then continue at John M. Greene Hall at Smith College at 2 p.m. following a march down city streets.

“Frances has had a decades-long legacy of social justice work and, most importantly, inspiring people to ‘Do something,’” said Jeff Napolitano, executive director of The Resistance Center for Peace and Justice. “It’s an opportunity for a massive rally of people to remember and talk about Frances and the impact she had.”

The event at Pulaski Park will be an opportunity for participants to share how Crowe’s activism has impacted their lives. Eventgoers are encouraged to bring signs and stories to tell, Napolitano said.

Napolitano said he expects a large turnout as people from Washington, D.C., to Maine have reached out to him for details about the event.

After the speak-out ends, participants will march to John M. Greene Hall for a more traditional service where there will be eight speakers and three musicians. Displayed at the second event will be art, banners and posters celebrating Crowe’s legacy. Both events are free and open to the public.

Among the musicians expected to perform are folk singer Charlie King and song leader Annie Patterson, Napolitano said. U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, and state Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, are among the more prominent speakers confirmed for the event, he said.

Born in 1919, Crowe moved in 1951 to Northampton, where she began organizing anti-war and anti-nuclear campaigns. She wrote an article for the Gazette in 2018 in which she traced the impetus for her opposition to war back to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States in 1945.

Napolitano said organizers chose the name of the event “Do Something!” because it was a message they thought Crowe embodied throughout her life, as she called on everyone to stand up for causes they believe in.

At first, organizers considered only having a more conventional program, similar to the second half of Sunday’s events, Napolitano said. Instead, the promoters decided to do more.

“People thought that merely limiting a memorial of Frances to a bunch of people sitting down in an auditorium was good, but insufficient​​​​,” he said.

A private service for Crowe and her family is being arranged, Napolitano said, but this day of events will serve as a way for the general public to memorialize the late organizer.

“Frances was a giant public figure with a giant impact on the community,” he said. “There needed to be a way for the public to express appreciation.”

Napolitano reflected on Crowe’s impact on his own career, saying her organizing inspired him, like many other people, to become an activist. In 1968, Crowe founded the local chapter of The Resistance Center’s predecessor organization, the American Friends Service Committee, which Napolitano said was before he was born.

“Her impact really can’t be overstated,” he said.

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com.