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Barbara Deming
(July 23, 1917 - August 2, 1984) U.S.A.

Barbara Deming

Peace activist, poet, essayist, and journalist


Barbara Deming was born in New York; she attended a Friends (Quaker) school up through her high school years. At sixteen, she fell in love with a woman her mother's age.

Barbara directed plays, taught dramatic literature and wrote and published fiction and non-fiction works. On a trip to India, she began reading Gandhi and became committed to non-violent struggle. She became a journalist and was active in many demonstrations and marches over issues of peace and civil rights. She was a member of a group that went to Hanoi during the Vietnam War and was jailed many times for non-violent protest.

She understood the vital link between non-violence, peace and the oppression of women that had eluded her mentors, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Barbara believed that it was often those whom we loved that oppressed us and that it was necessary to re-invent non-violent struggle every day.

Barbara Deming's ideas have taken a quantum leap beyond previous theories in several ways: Firstly, she has freed non-violent thinking effectively from its dependence on the religious imagery and justification of Scripture. Second, she has created a body of non-violent theory, based on action and personal experience that is woman-centered and fully sees the potential of non-violent struggle in its application to the woman's movement. Third, she was not martyred: a non-violent philosophy does not automatically lead to a violent martyrdom! It is transformation that is required of us, not death.

She brings a unique vision toward the creation of what Martin Luther King, Jr. called: ' the beloved community'. She says:

Non-violent actions are by their nature androgynous. In them, the two impulses that have long been treated as distinct 'masculine and feminine', the impulse of self-assertiveness and the impulse of sympathy, are clearly joined; the very genius of non-violence, in fact, is that it demonstrates them to be indivisible and so restores human community...


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