It will be impossible to emulate her passion for peace
FOUNDING MEMBER of WILPF: LUCY'S ENDURING LEGACY
By Ruth Hunter
A young eager child of ten clutched her "suffragette" mother's hand as they Stepped into her first march. The Year was April 1914, the action was taking place in Washington, D. C. At first, her mother was reluctant to take her daughter to the protest. Lucy Haessler, persuasive even in those tender years, made the clinching argument when she said, "Please let me go 'cause I want you to have the right to vote, and I want to be able to vote when I grow up."
She marched from the White House to the Capitol, proudly wearing the symbolic colors, the white middy and skirt decorated with a purple and gold sash across the front. "I loved every minute of it." When she was twelve, her mother took Lucy out of school to march with Jeannette Rankin in protest of WWI. It was another high point; marked also as the year young Lucy and her mother became founding members of WILPF. To date, four generations in Lucy’s family have been members.
Her mother instilled in Lucy two gifts that lasted all of her long productive life. One was the love of humanity and the will to work for peaceful social change; the other was a love and appreciation of music. In Lucy's memoirs recorded by her grandson, Anthony, she spoke about her home life as a teenagers "My parents were internationally minded ... many foreign visitors came often ... my mother had open house two Sundays each month. Young, intellectual adults gathered for potluck. It was like a salon. We never had small talk at the dinner table ... it was always politics, always interesting."
When Lucy was sixteen, the abrupt separation between her mother and father profoundly changed her fate. She felt abandoned, her comfortable life and dreams of entering Vassar shattered. From then on, working at subsistence wages, often made Lucy feel she was being shuffled from piller to post. When she met her first husband, she once again knew the joy of home and companionship. She adored her two little girls, resisting returning to work until they were older. Tragedy struck again when her husband left her, providing only minimum support. The life of a single mom was an arduous one.
An old friend, Carl Haessler, later her husband, opened exciting doors. It was during-these years of friendship and later, in their marriage, that significant political events revolving around issues on labor, the Vietnam War, and progressive candidates' elections continued to occupy Lucy. She also worked with her editor husband on The Federated Press, labor news service where she researched, wrote and proofread.
After her husband's death, Lucy, in 1974, moved to Santa Cruz to be near her daughter, Celia. Here, her dedicated contributions to peace once again engaged her. Although she had traveled to the Soviet Union with the International Democratic Women early in the 60's, her global peace work accelerated in the 80's. One powerful experience was in Brussels on March 8. 1983, when she met and marched with 10,000 women in a WILPF-sponsored STOP THE ARMS RACE, (STAR), protest against deploying Pershing II and Cruise Missiles in Europe. She marched in good company with Holly Near at her side. Other notable peace missions undertaken by Lucy included the WILPF Biennial in Tokyo where she also visited Hiroshima and was overwhelmed with emotion when thousands of white doves circled above the Peace Memorial Park. She was also part of the march on Washington to protest the Vietnam War.
One of her proudest achievements aside from being Co-Chair of local WILPF was organizing a "Women's Poll" in 1984, throughout Santa Cruz. The WILPF committee contacted 846 women on issues of the: nuclear freeze, military involvement in Central America, military spending, and federally funded child care programs. Those who replied were far more discerning than the government! Another proud achievement was organizing the national WILPF Biennial Conference at UCSC. Lucy invited Linus Pauhing to be the main speaker. Rep. Leon Panetta and Randall Forsberg, founder of the nuclear Freeze movement, was also part of the program. This successful event elevated Santa Cruz WILPF permanently into the orbit of outstanding WILPF conferences.
As her contributions to peace and service in Sam Cruz increased, so did the accolades heaped upon her. These included an honor bestowed by Senator Mello twice as "Woman of the Year" of the l7th District. The first honor was at her 8Oth celebration hosted by WILP at Pogonip; the second on her 90th at the Democratic Women's Tea- Here she really scored! She was honored again by Senator Mello, by the County of Santa Cruz and by the Democratic Women's Club. There were others acknowledging the extraordinary commitment Lucy had to her community and beyond.
Since Lucy's death, many WILPF members have reminisced about her:
Jane Podesta-- "I was always in awe of Lucy's knowledge, energy, experience, political activism, and devotion to WILPF."
Marilyn Lucier--"I loved working with Lucy on literature. She had so much respect for each item ... her pride in WILPF was so genuine ... so joyous. No matter how hard I tried, I could never arrive at a tabling event ... ahead of Lucy. I have this wonderful image—Lucy waiting patiently ... also annoyed. I wonder if they make them like that anymore. Her life spanned almost a century ... her heritage and sense of right, so strong, so remarkable. When I was to have my operation, she knit a multi-colored pastel cap to keep my head warm. A dear memory."
Rosalie Kraft—"After Lucy arrived in 1974, our local branch changed for the better. I think it would be appropriate if the memorial money would be set up for a scholarship fund for peace education."
Alice Davis—"Lucy was a steady at the mailing table for WILPF. When her family came to visit, she brought them along to work on the paper. I remember that she came into the 90's driving herself over to our house. One day, a new member said something about WILPF being a chapter. Lucy, in her own inimitable way said, 'We are not a chapter, we are a branch. A chapter is a sorority. Nobody argued with Lucy."
Patricia Schroeder—The meeting that Lucy had arranged when she brought Kay Camp, National Board member, to Santa Cruz, included a discussion on disarmament issues. I was a visitor asking innumerable questions. Finally, Lucy said, ‘That's enough questions. Join WILPF and you will get the answers.’ And, so I did!"
Ruth Hunter—"Lucy was our pillar of dependability for the Latin American Committee until she became ill. Every Saturday, she was at the Mailing tabling on issues relating to US. Policy. She was patient and knowledgeable explaining the issues, at the same time, managing to make our donation can heavier. We miss her --our anchor of dependable tablers."
Seema Weatherwax—"When we first met, I was Lucy's downstairs neighbor. It appeared that her social life revolved around WlLPF--out-of-towner's made her place their headquarters. She was conscientious, following through on commitment and expected the same from others. Lucy was a prime-recruiter, urging the women she met to join WILPF. She assumed the welcoming-role-orienting new members through her slide show which highlighted the history and merits of WILPF."
An elegant woman graced the lives of hundreds of women—the model that exemplified the worthiness of each task for social change, whether it was globe trotting for peace, tabling, helping with mailings, writing articles, protesting or just calling a congressman--Lucy Haessler did them all.
It will be impossible to emulate her passion for peace, disarmament and justice, her fervent belief in women's power to affect change. However, we can draw inspiration, walk in her footsteps, and continue her vision of a world free of violence, a world with bountiful gifts accessible to all.