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Make love, not war: Stories of protest from the Vietnam War

Collage of Vietnam War protest signs

By Molly Englund

2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords, the peace treaty signed toward the end of the Vietnam War. The treaty followed years of protests in the United States that were polarizing, even at Goucher. But many Goucher students believed that opposing the war was the right course of action and took part in a college tradition that goes back to women’s suffrage. We asked alumnae for their stories of protests during this tumultuous time—and received too many responses to include. Here are a few of the memories they shared.

Fifty years ago, the Vietnam War was at the beginning of the end. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, massive protests around the United States made clear how unpopular the war had become. In 1973, a treaty was finally signed during the Paris Peace Accords to end the war. The U.S. agreed to withdraw all troops, but the fight between the North Vietnamese and the South Vietnamese resumed, only ending with the fall of Saigon in 1975.

Goucher students were outspoken during the war. Even those who supported U.S. involvement in Vietnam had a voice on campus; students disagreed with each other, but they also listened. They discussed the issues in classes and attended teach-ins and lectures. Those against the war also organized other students, wrote to their representatives, signed petitions, asked for signatures, and attended meetings. And they protested.

Many students at Goucher during those years were affected by the war. In the Ken Burns documentary series The Vietnam War, Carol Crocker ’72 speaks about how deeply her brother’s death affected her, which led her to join protests while at Goucher. The brother of Sally Noetzel Wall ’67 was a helicopter pilot who was also killed in Vietnam; she still finds it difficult to talk about. But Wall did march in Washington and Baltimore, inspired by Professor Jean Bradford, who challenged her students to put their values into practice.

Professor Marianne Githens was also against the war and helped organize students. Alumnae also remember anti-war sentiment or activism from professors Bill Neumann, Rudy Lentulay, Joe Morton, and Florence Howe. Meanwhile, Kathy Allamong Jacob ’72 remembers that President Marvin Perry seemed “mystified by this activism on his campus.” She said, “I think he mistakenly felt he was presiding over a group of Southern belles. I’m sure his office was inundated with calls from irate parents.”

Cyd Slotoroff ’72 had been against the U.S. involvement in Vietnam since 1964, when she went to a progressive summer camp called Shaker Village. “I got educated about the war there and realized that there was a lot of deceitful propaganda from the government,” she said. She went to her first march in Washington in high school and was active at Goucher. “I remember going to Towson and setting up on street corners and getting people to sign petitions,” she said, “and organizing other students to do the same.”

Adrienne Weinberger ’70 had also been against the war since a young age; she grew up in DC and went to marches. Her parents were Pearl Harbor survivors, and her mother was a member of the activist group Women Strike for Peace. Weinberger remembers taking a bus to a march from Goucher with Professor Lentulay. “My feeling was that the Vietnamese should be able to determine their own future,” she said. She was skeptical of the “domino theory,” that more countries would turn to communism if the Republic of Vietnam did. “I felt that we were getting involved in something that was none of our business. The war was a great waste of lives,” she said.

“I was always a peacenik,” said Uneeda Brewer ’70. “It was a personal commitment to peace and equality for people.” Coming from a small town in North Carolina where the one local newspaper hardly carried any information about the war, Brewer didn’t know much about the fighting in Vietnam, but at Goucher, she was galvanized after going to teach-ins held by several professors.

In 1967, Brewer took a bus with other Goucher students for the March on the Pentagon. “We were coming over a rise to cross the road to go to the Pentagon, and to our right was a line of soldiers, marching and preventing us from crossing the road,” she said. She was shocked to see so many men with guns. “I’m a little small-town Southern person, and to see military people at a ‘peaceful demonstration’ was pretty scary.” The protest went on, however, and Brewer sang and chanted.

In college, she also became aware of how young Black soldiers were treated like cannon fodder: Black men were disproportionally drafted while also given worse duties and punished more. “To me, it wasn’t just about the war,” Brewer said. “It was also about who was being drafted to fight the war. And the discrimination that was still rampant in the country—it was unimaginable to me and to many Black people at that time, that we were sending these young men off to fight for the freedom of the Vietnamese, and still in Baltimore, there was segregation. That was hypocrisy.” Brewer and the handful of other Black students at Goucher at that time became involved in protests in Baltimore to fight against discrimination. Today, she is still organizing and protesting in Manatee County, Florida, where she lives, with a group called STREAM, which has been pushing their county commissioners to build affordable housing. At a recent meeting, the county agreed to build 1,000 homes.

Maureen Daly ’73 also took part in protests throughout her time at Goucher, including one that would follow her for a decade. Two years before the Peace Accords, tens of thousands of people came to Washington to take part in what would become known as the 1971 May Day protests. Planned by members of anti-war organizations, the multiday protest was intended to stop the government from functioning. “The thinking was to bring the government to a halt so that until the war ends, the government can’t do any work,” said Daly. “It was a strong and radical position.” To do this, protesters tried to prevent government employees from getting to work by blocking intersections and bridges.

Coincidentally, Harriet Hemmerich Woods ’70, who had participated in a few protests while at Goucher, had become a federal worker and was there that day trying to get to work. “I saw the national guard on top of many buildings, and I got tear gas in my eyes,” she remembers.

Many, including Daly, had been trained ahead of time in nonviolent tactics. The government, meanwhile, brought in more than 10,000 federal troops alongside 5,000 police officers and 2,000 National Guardsmen. By the morning of May 3, the day the protests got underway, thousands of people were arrested throughout the city. “They were doing sweeps of the city, arresting anybody who looked like a protestor,” Daly said. Washington’s jails couldn’t hold them all, so those who were arrested were sent to temporary detention centers, including one at the Washington Coliseum, an arena that was the former home of the Washington Capitols basketball team.

The next day brought more arrests, including 2,000 people outside the Justice Department’s headquarters who were taking part in a sit-in. And on May 5, Daly came to DC with a friend from Goucher to attend a protest on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building.

Daly and her friend knew that many of the protesters would be engaging in civil disobedience, but they only wanted to take part in a peaceful demonstration and had no plans to get arrested. As they stood on the steps, Daly thought they couldn’t be doing anything unlawful; U.S. Rep. Parren J. Mitchell from Maryland was there, speaking to the crowd alongside other House Democrats.

But then the police arrived. “We saw them pull up at the bottom of the steps in school buses,” said Daly, “and they parked them nose-to-tail, so it created a fence.” Everyone on the steps was trapped. The police began to systematically process each demonstrator, which took hours. Daly remembers feeling scared and deciding to cooperate. “Some people would refuse to give any information,” she said. “I was not like that. I gave them my name, they took my picture, and they told me what the charge was.”

As many as 1,200 people were arrested on the Capitol steps; more than 12,000 people were arrested throughout the May Day protests. It’s still the largest mass arrest in U.S. history.

Everyone who was arrested at the Capitol building was brought to the Coliseum, where police took their fingerprints. Daly estimates that about 600 of the protestors wouldn’t give their names. They were let go after a day or so, while the 600 who did cooperate were held for two days.

“We were put on one side of this big, open room,” said Daly. People shared what they had with each other; it grew cold, and someone lent Daly a blanket to sleep with on the hard floor.

After two days of this, the protestors were taken to court and formally charged, then released on their own recognizance. The American Civil Liberties Union took on their case, arguing that it was unlawful to arrest people who had been peacefully listening to speeches. While Daly was eventually told she wouldn’t be prosecuted, the case still dragged on for 10 years. She remembers occasionally getting updates in the mail. In 1981, the ACLU prevailed and even won damages for the protestors; $2.5 million was divided between more than 1,000 people.

Daly believed everything would turn out all right because she believed in America. “I had, perhaps, unrealistic confidence,” she said, “but I believed in our systems and believed the war had to end.”

Cyd Slotoroff remembers an organizing meeting where one student asked how they could possibly change the foreign policy of the most powerful country in the world. Marianne Githens responded, “I do this because I can’t not do it.”

It was a powerful moment for Slotoroff. “That’s true with any movement,” she said. “You do it because you have to, because you see something that’s not right, not because you weigh the odds of success.”


More memories of the Vietnam War protests from alumnae

I have strong memories of protesting the Vietnam War.

I marched on a long, cold day in a mini-length coat in the March on Washington. I had first protested my father’s edict: “No child of mine…” I walked right out the front door to catch my ride to D.C. After parking far away from the action, we walked and walked to join the march. It seemed vast and leading nowhere. Finally, we sat on the ground and heard the most cutting-edge singers of our time. We sang along. Then dispersed. While trooping back to our cars some groups were rowdy and were hit with tear gas. We ran for cover in doorways on Capitol Hill. We lost our friends for hours (no cell phones). I don’t remember eating anything the entire day.

Then, on a mild spring day in downtown Baltimore, we marched past construction workers watching the protest of the war. Crazy, unfettered students in contrast to those weighed with the loss of brothers and brother’s legs and minds in Vietnam. Napalm.

I was in the class of ’70 and at the time a student photographer and yearbook editor.

You must have the picture from one of the yearbooks (’69 or ’70) of students standing on the Goucher fountain with raised fists. Not many students. There was a blanketing disinterest. Some classmates were married to Navel Academy graduates. Also, protest wasn’t good for business.

I remember visiting Ellen Ditzler in her off-campus apartment one night when she was waiting for her boyfriend who was on leave from Vietnam to arrive. We heard him downstairs, and she ran ripping out those huge hair straightening rollers the curly headed wore. Blushing and running long legged down the steps to his embrace.

I remember my mother’s agony with five sons, two of whom were in the draft lottery. A-one. In the kitchen the day the announcement came to end the war there was a sense of profound deliverance but not agreement with Peace and Love.

You will have seen the materials published: “(named student looking neat and clean) isn’t Revolting.” In contrast to the classic shot of Margo Magid rising upward with her fist in the air. – Diana Van Fossen, Class of 1970


To be perfectly honest, I was ambivalent about the Vietnam war through the ’60s. A high school friend was in the infantry there, but, despite his letters, I didn’t quite grasp the horror of our mistake. Then I started working for Goucher’s Florence Howe, a leader in “the movement,” who, as you may know, passed away a few years ago. Her passion for feminism and for justice changed my life—including how I thought about the war.

In 1969, a then-boyfriend who wanted to protest the war came to Baltimore so we could march in DC. I was nervous, since stories about people being gassed in Union Station were circulating, but, as the compliant girlfriend I was in those days, I agreed to go. The good news is that we weren’t gassed, although the odor of gas floated randomly around the station, reminding us that at least others had been subjected to it. The crowd chanted and applauded speakers, and it felt as though we were truly making a statement—and could make a difference. Maybe we did.

But what has stayed with me all these years was the terrifying sight of men with rifles and in uniform (from the National Guard or police) on the roof of what seemed like every building on the street. As we walked, those rifles were pointed down at us. The memory still haunts me. – Laura Schneider, Class of 1970


I was living and working in Washington, DC, during the May 1972 anti-war protest in the midst of the Watergate scandal. Although I did not take part in the protest, I have vivid memories of that day and the evening before. Coming home to a ring of soldiers around Washington Circle,  a block from my apartment—with bayonets fixed, bristling outwards. Then in the morning helicopters rattling my window blinds and the window glass. Then getting tear gassed on the way to work. I even had a couple friends who took part in the protest and were arrested. – Té Revesz, Class of 1967


Related signs of the times, 1967-68—after Goucher, my housemate at UNC Chapel Hill was very scrupulous about not paying the phone tax that was a war-funder added to our bill. Needless to say, we soon didn’t have a phone service. Long before the ubiquitous cell phone, this was a big deal.

We marched to mark Martin Luther King’s funeral through Chapel Hill and Carrboro to an AME church so crowded the chandeliers were swaying to the musical feet above us as we gathered with the overflow in the church basement. The university allowed incompletes for courses so students could travel to Washington to demonstrate against the war. – Linda Jeffries-Summers, Class of 1967


I graduated in 1967. I moved to New York City that September, where my boyfriend was a first-year student at Columbia Law School while I got an M.F.A. at Pratt Institute. In 1969 we went to Woodstock. I was working at MOMA, where my co-workers really didn’t understand why I would want to go there. The impressive thing about Woodstock was the realization that there were no “adults” there, no authority figures. That fall my boyfriend who was designated as a “Legal Observer,” and I joined the Moratorium march in Washington. My first response was the same as Woodstock in witnessing the massive number of protesters who were our age. The difference was that there were authority figures—the police. Even with the tear gas, we really felt we were doing something to affect our country’s future in the best way. We were part of a huge demonstration of the power of the people and proud of our generation.

When I arrived at Goucher in 1963, the students’ biggest political demonstration was a planned march against “war toys.” Four years, an assassination and a war really changed our perspective. – Barbara Toll, Class of 1967


I was never a protester, but I do remember (correctly, I hope—brain has turned to mush after all these years!), after Kent State, lots of college students, me included, descended on DC to speak to our congressional representatives. What was amazing was we recognized our “hippie-ish” look was not appreciated. Women were in dresses and men were in jackets and ties. Hair was cut and styled. We all tried to look “respectable.” I can’t remember who was with me, but I do remember going to my representative’s office, and just as I arrived, he had to leave for a quorum call. I didn’t think he even knew I had been there. I was wrong. A few weeks later my father was standing outside our church when the congressman drove by. He stopped and told my father about my visit. Much to my surprise, my father was pleased and proud we had done what we did. The only other sign of protest I remember was we all wore black armbands at graduation. – Jane Overbagh Zollinger, Class of 1970


I got my start protesting while I was at Goucher. Dr. Jean Bradford challenged us to put our values into practice.

She and several Goucher folks demonstrated on the island outside of the Baltimore County jail in support of the Berrigan brothers who were being held there after being arrested for anti-war civil disobedience.

Later, I marched on Washington and locally in downtown Baltimore to protest the war. – Sally Noetzel Wall, Class of 1967


It felt like everyone was in Washington! That was far from true, but it was a very intense time. I went to DC for several of the big marches, especially memorable was the one after Kent State. There were National Guard on the tops of federal buildings, tanks parked in their court yards. I know I took pictures but not sure if they are still around. The Goucher dorms filled up with students from other colleges that came to town, stayed with Goucher friends, and went into DC. I wasn’t an organizer by any means, just a foot soldier. I don’t recall buses being rented but they might have been.

There were big questions (as I remember) over whether classes should be cancelled for the big moratoriums. I don’t believe they were, but some professors, mainly Maryanne Githens, helped organize students. Professor Githens also helped students whose boyfriends were getting drafted to find ways out. Bill Neuman (history) was supportive, too, and there were several others. – Kathy Allamong Jacob, Class of 1972


Memories! My mother was a member of Women Strike for Peace! (I grew up in D.C.) I went on marches in high school and college. I remember going on the bus from Goucher to a march. My Russian teacher at Goucher, Rudy Lentulay, a really nice guy and good prof, was on it too. We were both amazed that so few Goucher Girls were on the bus. (I still have the poster I carried—“Vietnam for the Vietnamese.”) I also remember going with my Hopkins friends—many more of them.

There was a talk at Goucher at Kraushaar when we were freshmen. I think it may have been a debate about the war in Vietnam, and one of the presenters was an Army guy in uniform. I asked him why is the U.S. involved in this war, when many people hate us for it? He brushed off my question, but a number of my friends complimented me for being so forward! There were also informative events at Hopkins, which I attended. Many years later, I went to Vietnam with my husband. What a poor country, but the food was wonderful. My feeling is, and was, that the war was a great waste of lives. – Adrienne Weinberger, Class of 1970


I was not a big rebel, but I participated now and then. One student called me apathetic! I remember marching in Baltimore once.

Someone set up typewriters, etc., around the fountain outside the snack bar to make it convenient to write letters of protest to our congressmen.

Political science majors were especially active. My roommate told me one night how she was one of many arrested during a protest in Washington.

Because of the war, us seniors did not have to take Comprehensive Exams for graduation in 1970.

Ironically, a couple of years later, I was working for the federal government in Washington during a big protest to prevent the government workers from getting to work. As I walked through the protest from my bus to my office, I saw National Guard on top of buildings and got tear gas in my eyes. – Harriet Hemmerich Woods ’70