Tribute to Joan Ecklein

Joan A. Ecklein

by Mark Solomon

After retiring from a distinguished academic career that included co-authorship of a foundational book on community organizing, Joan Ecklein committed to full-time activism to advance peace and social justice.

That activism was boundless; with combined determination and self-effacement, Joan rarely if ever missed a demonstration, picket line or educational event in support of antiwar activism and in search of systemic change aimed at eradicating racism, sexism, homophobia and all forms of social oppression. She was particularly outraged at the persistence of nuclear weapons, urging the substitution of diplomacy and global solidarity to end the existential nuclear threat.

In recent weeks, despite deteriorating health, Joan joined picket lines at Raytheon, protesting that corporation’s ongoing production of weapons of mass destruction that have afflicted vulnerable civilian populations in the Middle East and other regions. Joan was long-time member and past co-president of the Boston chapter of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the venerable women’s organization that worked tirelessly to unite women all over the world to work for peace and for advancing a better life for all oppressed populations. Joan also was a member or supporter of Mass Peace Action and other groups that contributed significantly to challenging war and reaction. She was a part of the “Raging Grannies,” the activist singing group that graced many movement meetings and once, with Joan’s efforts, wove a protest net around an Army tank to protest militarization of our society. Joan’s home was always available to visitors from all over the world and was open to meetings, social gatherings and conversations embracing a variety of outlooks and ideas.

It is the Joan Eckleins of this troubled world who provide the bodies and souls of movements for peace and justice; that give those movements content, breadth, political clarity and conscience that keeps them going and points the way for new generations to continue the fight for a peaceful and just world. Joan will be missed, but her work endures and inspires those who remain and carry on.

Read more about Joan’s life.

A public celebration of Joan’s life will take place on Saturday, May 21 at 1:00 PM at the First Unitarian Universalist Society, 1326 Washington St., Newton.