“Napalm Ladies” was produced by 48 South 7th, the video project of the Peace & Justice Center. The following review was contributed by SJSU intern Jamie Silva:
Napalm Ladies is an extraordinary story about four women determined to make a difference. This story follows Joyce McLean, Beverly Farquharson, Lisa Kalvelage, and Aileen Hutchinson and describes how their actions became a catalyst for informing the public of war events here in the Bay Area during the Vietnam War.
The most important day of the Napalm Ladies’ anti-war efforts was May 24th, 1966. They informed the media of the napalm shipments that were leaving from a port in the town of Alviso, CA and of their attempts to stop these shipments planned to leave that day. These women had mentally prepared for the worst, jail, in the time before the actual day. They had planned on the possibility of being sent away for 6 months, with prior arrangements being made with family and friends. I can only imagine how difficult planning something like that might have been, but must also take into account the level of determination these women must have felt for their cause to put themselves at risk to be taken away from their family and the comfortable life they lived. This day, although they were eventually arrested and tried, these women’s actions proved to be the first step in informing the public, through the media, of the injustices happening locally. The publicity gained from their personal protest on May 24th to their subsequent arrest and trial, they were even able to influence famous singer/songwriter Pete Seeger to the point of having him write a song about the events and even perform benefit concerts on behalf of our own San Jose Peace and Justice Center on 48 S. 7th St. in downtown San Jose.
What personally stuck me the most about this story was these women’s approach to the anti-war protest, by way of their attire. These women had seen current displays of protestors who were slightly disheveled, younger teenagers. They decided to take a stand with a different look. They dressed in their best dresses, pearls, high heels, and gloves, posing as clean cut, established women, protesting a war they felt was unjust. Their approach helped the anti-war protesting at the time because it showed that not just younger generations but older generations as well did not approve of the Vietnam War.
Another interesting point made was why Joyce McLean believed that horrific things were being allowed by the public in times of war. McLean believed that the public becomes brainwashed during times of the national distress and the public “hoists the flags” immediately. She believes that people should not blindly accept all the government proposes, taking time to determine the effects of each action our country’s top officials make and be able to point out when things are wrong and should be set right. I found this to be a bold statement, especially since our country is in a state of war-like mentality with the Middle East. Losing our own to preserve US foreign policy is simply unthinkable and incomprehensible. We need to come together, as McLean has stated, and change the current course of events to bring our troops home from an invasion that we are not going to “win”. There are current injustices being committed “in the name of national security” of racially profiling people of this country, even those who are citizens, of acts of war and treason and subsequently being deported for any suspected links to enemy power. Although I am not saying that the country would not be as seemingly safe as it is without government officials initiatives that have protected the citizens, does not give the government the right to have free rein while those benefitting from the war are getting richer under false pretenses of national security risks.