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A young Hannah Rabin was the peace movement’s Greta

October 23, 2019

by Vappu Taipale

Founders of the Children’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in 1982. From left: Susie Dennison, Hannah Rabin, Solves Schumann, Nessa Rabin, Maria Schumann, Max Schumann, Becky Dennison.

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, has become the face of an entire generation demanding urgent action to prevent climate collapse. We older members of the peace movement remember very well our own young activist, 16-year-old Hannah Rabin from the USA, who campaigned to prevent nuclear war in the early 1980s.

Hannah and her friends started their activities against nuclear war by collecting children’s letters to US President Ronald Reagan. They promised to travel to the White House, where they read aloud more than 2,000 letters. The White House did not receive the children, but they were allowed to gather on the front lawn. Alas, the sprinkling of the lawns started too early and many of the letters were soaked.

Hannah participated in our congress “Children and War” in Helsinki in 1984, and presented the opinions of children her age. Guido Gruenewald later published the children´s letters in a book “Children´s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament,” in 1985.

This all took place long before peace activists could make use of digital communications and social media, yet it was just as brave and commendable as the youth campaign for the environment today.

Thank you, Hannah! We know that you and your family remain active today, not only for the elimination of nuclear weapons, but also in activities against small arms, and for peace and the environment.

Vappu Taipale, a former co-president of IPPNW, was Minister of Health of Finland from 1982-83, and Minister of Social Affairs from 1983-1984.

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