By Jeanne Arnold
The Journal Times reporter pulled it all together: “Gruesome images of aborted fetuses on poster-sized picket boards made it difficult to ignore when pro-life demonstrators of the Missionaries of the Preborn picketed outside Planned Parenthood’s local offices.”
Protesting the picketers in Racine in 1979
A Preborn picketer shouted at us: “Murder is disgusting, abortion is murder, therefore our signs are disgusting.”
Our group of counter protestors carried signs saying, “Choice: a principal of freedom” and “Pro-choice for the mother.”
My sign said, “Get your laws off my body,” as I stood on the curbing to attract car traffic on Main Street.
Most of us were Unitarian. My friend Robert Trobaugh held his sign read, “Remember the back alleys!” He stood on grass so as not to impede walking traffic. My elder friend Joan Rohan held her sign while sitting in her wheelchair. A Preborn woman in a weary sackcloth robe sat at Joan’s feet and repeatedly cried out, “Abortion murderers of mankind trigger this holocaust.” And “Contraception is abortion because it prevents conception.” Joan was silent. We were told not to say anything; to protest in silence and avoid violence.
That was hard for me to do, especially when this fuzzy-faced guy approached me. His black suspenders stretched across his white t-shirt framed a bold blood red kind of cross with white letters declaring that “Abortion Is A Sin.”
He stepped into the street and got into my face while I looked past him at the traffic. He confronted and insulted me. Passing cars honked. Were they for or against us? I stood my ground as he edged closer, never stopping with his scorn to get a rise out of me. I even felt spittle landing on me.
His voice grew softer when he leaned nearer, “What cha doin’ here anyway? You’re too old to be worrying about havin’ a baby?”
“I have a daughter. She has the right to make her own decisions.”
“Where is she, then. She should be here to see what aborted fetuses look like.”
“I’m here for all women to choose whatever they need.” I showed more determined, stronger. I didn’t move my head, but I waved my sign. “Get your laws off my body!”
“You better watch out,” and moving closer. “Or—or—or,” as he tried to come up with the worse possible fate that will happen to me if I continued to protest against him and his beliefs.
I thought, “He’s not one for words.”
He sputtered and raised a righteous finger with jagged, dirty fingernails: “Gonna—Gonna—Gonna be—“
Can he really come up with the most horrendous life I’ll end up with? A pagan witch? Well I’m kinda one already. A nymphomaniac? Well, my lover may think so. A murderer? A pedophile? A cannibal? How about a murdering cannibal like Jeffrey Dahmer? What could be worse!
“If you keep thinking like you do,” he paused to see if those around us were paying attention. “You’re gonna be—“
He inhaled deeply, stepped a step back and shouted, “a Les-Be-An!!!”
I swallowed my laughter, didn’t even smile, but inside, I couldn’t have been more proud—but I did laughed when Old Saliva Face and his gang picked up their fetus images and marched away from the Planned Parenthood clinic and our Pro-Choice counter-demonstration.
Our local newspaper headlined the story “Abortion foes, supporters state their cases,” and printed, in color, my determined profile and my sign with their scruffy disciple barking at me.
Meant to be what it is
By Jeanne Arnold
Norcroft was a feminist women’s writing retreat sponsored by Joan Drury, a Duluth-based publisher of the feminist Spinsters Ink and a supporter of women writers. After submitted a lengthy application, I proved to be a dedicated feminist writer and I flew there for the last two weeks in October to live with three straight women writers from New Jersey, New York City and Duluth. All were on scholarships.
The object was to put you and your writing first without distractions or interruptions. No talking until 4 p.m. We work in little cabins to write, read, meditate or sleep. There’s no booze so it’s cold turkey for me, but I brought a jar of olives in case I need a just a taste of martinis.
My Norcroft mates have grown close. We chat in the evening or share our new work. One night our single gal and I talked about her expectations and frustrations about her newly divorced boyfriend who was sending mixed messages to her.
“He wants to be friends, etc.” she explained. “He’s a great dancer.”
“That can be more fun than sex,” I said.
“We share a spiritual component—with my pagan awareness.”
“Well, that can be better than sex too.” I made sure that she was aware that sex has a high priority in my life, but sex with a loving person, a partner.
“Is life better being in a lesbian relationship?”
“Definitely, but ‘better’ may not be the best word: vastly different perhaps and much more — yet not perfect.” I choked up thinking about it and coming to acknowledge the truest reasons of lasting in our committed loving relationship, through thick and thick all of these years: respect and equality enriched by positive life experiences before, during and now. Barbara and I were chosen to be together. No one else could cope. We were meant to be. Actually, my whole life was meant to be what it is.
Graphics by Mary Nelson
UNsung Women: the UN-known Herstory History
Loreen Greene Mohr and Samiera Gdisis and now Diane Wilson are our UNsung woman for March, April & May. Nominate more UNsung women to be selected up to the mid-June, 2022.
Submit written nominations about past or present women from Racine/Kenosha whose contributions to the wellbeing of our families, churches, schools, communities and beyond who have not or have been UNder acknowledged.
The nominator is asked to provide:
• answers to Who, What, When, Where, How and Why details of your nominee’s herstory in a document or resume format.
• photographs, drawings, illustrations to enhance herstory;
• a reference person or documentation serving as evidence of proof.
Submit your nomination details to <email@example.com> with your name and where you may be reached.
Please do not nominate women who have already been “sung.”