Early Childhood Educator, Anti-war activist, Peacemaker, Founder, CEASE
Peggy Schirmer died in 2004.
CEASE began in 1979 with Peggy Schirmer's determination to add the voices of early childhood educators to the call for a world free of nuclear weapons. At that time the nuclear freeze movement was gathering momentum. The UN Conference on World Disarmament had responded to the rising concern about the bomb and the dangers to everyone, especially children, from the poisoning of the environment by nuclear waste. In 1982 a million people from all over the world demonstrated for peace in New York City.
In the summer of 1979, Peggy heard that a mock nuclear bomb explosion was to be set off at Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod. She and a friend walked onto the base and into its child care center to alert the teachers to the dangers outside their classroom. The teachers, busy with keeping the classrooms safe, were unaware of the imminent test. Determined to raise the awareness of teachers, Peg and her friend created a slide show, "Children of Hiroshima," based on the drawings and words of children who survived the nuclear blast... children who had been "safe" in their homes and classrooms when the nuclear disaster struck.
Peggy then organized a workshop for the NAEYC national conference, "Nuclear Weapons, Our Legacy to Children?" Through the workshop, sixteen teachers found each other and decided to become an organization. They decided on a name, "Concerned Educators Allied for a Safe Environment", and began the development of a network of resources, support and appropriate actions. The CEASE newsletter, (edited and mailed from Peggy Schirmer's kitchen table), and the annual CEASE Seminar were planned. At the 1980 NAEYC Conference a speaker from Physicians for Social Responsibility described the dangers of nuclear radiation for children, followed by the slide show, "The Children of Hiroshima."
Two years later the newsletter lists members and their activities in many states as well as involvement with NAEYC affiliate groups. Clearly, this network struck a responsive chord.
Peggy always attended the yearly NAEYC board meetings "respectfully submitting" suggestions for ways that the Association could address the issues of social policy which so directly affect children's lives: military toys, violence on TV, welfare reform, violence in society.
Every issue of the newsletter included an editorial written by Peggy: short, clear, relevant to the current situation but always placing the topic in the larger context of militarism in conflict with life-giving social policies. In 1995, she writes, "reliance on military dominance permeates our whole society endangering international relations, glorifying violence in the media and wasting the resources needed here and abroad to build a safe and healthy world for children."
We honor her vision and leadership with our determination to continue her work as she becomes our "Founder, Emeritus."
A Memorial for Peggy
Peggy was a true peacemaker, a gifted organizer and a visionary. In 2006, CEASE members arranged to have a memorial plaque, pictured here, placed at the Peace Abbey in Sherborn, MA.
The words on the Plaque at the Peace Abbey
Early Childhood Educator, Anti-war activist, Peacemaker,
Founder, CEASE, Concerned Educators Allied for a Safe Environment
"Teachers need to advocate on three levels,
First, we must advocate for taking children's concerns seriously.
Secondly we must advocate for their immediate needs as against the cutbacks,
and above all we must advocate to prevent nuclear war and for disarmament."