What kept Hetty Bower campaigning for peace and justice for over ninety years?

Aimee Vallory, “What kept Hetty Bower campaigning for peace and justice for over ninety years?,” Stop the War Coalition, 20 November 2013

Hetty Bower campaigned for peace and justice for ninety years, from campaigning as a suffragette after the first world war, to marching against the endless “war on terror” in the new millenium. …

Below are Hetty’s own words from the conversation that followed:

I was nine years old when World War 1 started, the so-called war to end all wars. In 1914 we were being subjected to lies and ferocious propaganda. Telling the British people lying horror stories, they injected fear. During war the real horror strikes you, and it leaves a scar that a child cannot forget. Men’s legs and arms were blown off and I can recall, at age nine, asking… why? Nobody could give me a satisfactory answer. I remember the build up – The Lord Kitchener poster with his large index finger pointing – ‘Britain Wants You, join the country’s army. God Save The King!’

She leapt from her chair and reenacted the image pointing her finger and raising her voice.

But who saves the people? What do you mean your King needs you? For what? To die!

Hetty spoke with passion and with a sad expression, before gazing away in thought.

Nobody can convince me that we need war, I am nearly 107 years old and still I do not see the slightest reason for human beings killing each other and going to war. Nobody has given me a reasonable answer, they just tell lies. My father didn’t believe the lies that we were being told. I remember what he said when the Second World War started, on 3 September 1939: ‘Oh, they’ve declared war! Now the lies will begin.’ There is no logic in war; and there is especially no logic in a humanitarian war.

Hetty was 96 years old in 2001, at the beginning of the so-called “war on terror”. In the next 12 years, she marched over 30 times — on anti-war and anti-cuts demonstrations, on protests against nuclear weapons, and in opposition to Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians, when she would often march with the group, Jews for Justice for Palestinians.

Peace is essential for a well functioning society to exist. That is why I march. In my room I have a wonderful New year’s card from the children at Highgate Primary School. I was asked to come and talk to the children about what school was like when I was a child. There were two small 8-year-old boys that kept persistently asking me questions about the First World War. They asked which one was worse, World War One or World War Two? So I responded by asking, why this fascination with war and with killing each other? What made it so interesting? So, I thought I would turn it around and ask them! Why do adults kill each other? I asked. They were confused, they didn’t know how to deal with me.

That New year I received a wonderful card for peace that the children all signed. I take their card to every commemoration. When I go and commemorate Hiroshima and Nagasaki; these are things that should never, ever have happened. Lest we forget, lest we forget – I will not forget Hiroshima, the start of nuclear war.

At a meeting at the 2013 Labour Party conference, just two months before she died, Hetty spelt out what it was that had sustained her commitment to the cause of peace and justice for nearly one hundred years.

We may not win by protesting, but if we don’t protest, we will lose. If we stand up to them, there is always a chance we will win.

Hetty Bower, born 28 September 1905, died from a heart attack on 12 November 2013. She was 108. Her last words were, ‘Ban the bomb, for ever more’.

Read the full article here.