One of history’s longest and most famous feminist protests began in September 1981, in Berkshire, England, when 36 women chained themselves to a fence at Greenham Common RAF base. They were protesting against the decision of the British government to site 96 cruise missiles there. This set off a 19-year peace protest against nuclear weapons: the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp.
The first blockade of the base occurred in May 1982 with 250 women protesting. Regardless, in 1983, the first missiles arrived. This called for escalation. On 1st April 1983 70,000 people formed a 14-mile human chain from the base. 200 women dressed as teddy bears entered the base for a picnic, defiantly coming to a head with heavily armed soldiers. In December, protesters encircled the base, holding up mirrors to reflect back the military to themselves. Nappies, toys, wool and ribbons were tied to the fence. The movement received increasing attention, prompting the creation of more than a dozen other peace camps across Britain and the rest of Europe. Hundreds were arrested.
The camp was disbanded in 2000, but its power hasn’t been forgotten. This was a women’s only protest, one which weaponised traditional notions of femininity to act against a conventionally male-dominated arena. It remains a symbol of collective protest, feminist power, and radical action for change.
This colourful tea towel is inspired by a collage peace sign erected next to the control tower at the base. Nuclear? Let’s steer clear.