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Uranium is also a feminist issue

March 9, 2020

by Angelika Claussen

Women’s Strike for Peace-And Equality, Women’s Strike for Equality, Fifth Avenue, New York, New York, August 26, 1970. (Photo by Eugene Gordon/The New York Historical Society)

Around the world, women are resisting the civil and military use of nuclear technology

Women have always and everywhere been part of the history of uranium processing and nuclear technology—as workers in uranium production, as residents in the vicinity of mines, or as victims of military and civilian nuclear disasters. Women are particularly vulnerable to the health effects of uranium production because they are twice as sensitive to radiation as men. Indigenous women suffer doubly, because uranium extraction and nuclear weapons testing takes place in large part in (formerly) colonial areas. Resistance against uranium mining and nuclear technology is supported by female doctors, physicists, and journalists all over the world, who raise awareness about the consequences, which are otherwise often whitewashed or inadequately documented. Nevertheless, women’s role in organizing the struggle against nuclear weapons and energy remains extremely underexposed.

Read Dr. Claussen’s full paper, published online by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung

Dr. Angelika Claussen, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist, is IPPNW’s regional Vice President for Europe.

  1. March 9, 2020 10:11 am

    Thanks, Angelika. This was a really informative and timely contribution to International Women’s Day. The past and present leadership role of women in the peace, disarmament, social justice, and environmental movements cannot be overestimated. A very important addition to the list of primarily European women who inspired your own activism is Helen Caldicott, who brought countless people in North America and elsewhere into the twin struggles for nuclear weapons abolition and the elimination of nuclear energy. I credit Helen for my own early education into the dangers of nuclear energy around the time of the Three Mile Island catastrophe. Shortly after that, when I was looking for a way to get involved in the nascent US nuclear disarmament movement after Reagan’s election and the escalating Cold War, it just so happened that Helen and I were living in the same town, making it easy to connect with her and with her new organization, Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament, first as a volunteer and then as the lone male staff member. (Helen used to tell newcomers at staff meetings, “it’s okay, John is really a woman”… possibly the best compliment I’ve ever received.) Helen criss-crossed the country in those years, speaking passionately and articulately about the medical consequences of nuclear war and nuclear radiation, whether from weapons or power-generating reactors. Along the way, she befriended Patti Davis, Ronald Reagan’s daughter, who arranged for an unlikely Oval Office meeting between the two. Many of us believe, with good reason, that this meeting contributed significantly to Reagan’s late-life call for the abolition of nuclear weapons.


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