Pink pleads for peace

By Charlie Pearl Published:

In her pink cap and shirt, silver-haired Anne Woodhead stands on the sidewalk in front of the federal courthouse on Broadway holding a “No More War” sign.

It’s been a weekly ritual on Tuesdays between 11:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. for almost eight years.

Sometimes one or two join her. But even when they don’t, she says she doesn’t feel alone.

Although she’s never traveled outside the U.S., Anne considers herself an international citizen. Those who know her best say she has a compassionate heart for the U.S. troops and their families, and the opposition including all the innocent victims of war.

“I firmly believe God sees no borders,” Anne says.

A native of Frankfort, Anne, 62, and her family were members of the downtown Church Of The Ascension when she was growing up. And Anne was a nun in an Episcopal convent for three-and-a-half years in the early 1970s.

She says religion has always been important to her even though she’s no longer a member of any church.

As a peace activist, Anne is coordinator of Frankfort CODEPINK: Women For Peace.

CODEPINK is a “women-initiated grassroots peace and social movement working to end wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, stop new wars, and redirect resources into healthcare, education, green jobs and other life-affirming activities,” according to its Web site.

Anne says CODEPINK emerged out of a desire by a group of American women to stop the Bush administration from invading Iraq.

The name CODEPINK plays on the color-coded homeland security alerts – yellow, orange, red – that signal terrorist threats.

“While Bush’s color-coded alerts are based on fear and are used to justify violence, the CODEPINK alert is a feisty call for women and men to wage peace,” the Web site says.

Anne also is a board member of the Frankfort United Nations Association.

When she first started her simple “peace vigils” in downtown Frankfort, Anne says, “I’d either get the finger or a wave from a lot of people. And I’d have to look carefully to see which one it was.”

She says she doesn’t get “the bird very often anymore.”

But sometimes just her presence with her anti-war sign brings out the worst in others.

Right before the 2008 presidential election an SUV with a No! Bama bumper sticker passed by Anne on Broadway.

“This young woman, maybe 18 to 20, her face full of hatred, put her head out the window and yelled at me, calling me every name in the book,” Anne recalls.

“I’m not a strong political person,” and Anne wasn’t wearing an Obama campaign button. “But anti-war and Obama all went together.”

On the other hand, she’s had pleasant experiences.

“Recently a National Guard member in his camouflage wanted to take my picture with his little boy’s teddy bear that he was holding,” she says.

“He said he didn’t like the war and what was going on, but it was a volunteer force and he joined up. He wanted a picture of me with my ‘No More War’ sign and the teddy bear to give to his son.”

She says she had some interesting conversations in front of the federal building, “a few with military people. I get the feeling most of them respect me for what I’m doing, but not all. A few don’t understand.”

Her signs change occasionally. The first one said “War Is Not The Answer.” When spring first arrives she displays “Spring Into Peace.”

A post World War II baby boomer, Anne Goin was born at the old King’s Daughters Hospital in South Frankfort.

She grew up a few blocks away, went to Frankfort High School and today lives near the school on Shelby Street with her husband, Jim Woodhead, a retired employee of the state Department of Employment Services.

They have two children “and a brand new grandbaby in Lexington,” Anne says.

In high school Anne says she was a “B student and a snob.”

She laughs, saying “I considered myself sort of above everybody else intellectually. I was interested in classical music and that didn’t jive with everybody else.”

She says Melvin Dickinson, music director at the Episcopal Church in her teenage years, inspired her.

“He and his wife had just returned from Germany,” she says. “They both had gone there on Fulbright Scholarships. Melvin is now the head of the Louisville Bach Society.

“I became involved in the church through music, and through the music of Bach especially I experienced a spiritual awakening, an opening to the world. My family didn’t quite understand it. I always felt like an oddball in my family.”

Planning to major in music, she briefly attended University of Louisville and Peabody College in Nashville before entering the convent.

“One of the things that got me interested in the religious life was reading Thomas Merton,” an intellectual who left the mainstream world to become a Catholic monk, priest and author of numerous books at the Abbey of Gethsemani near Bardstown.

Her religious life in the convent “was a very intense experience,” she says. “Learning to live in community with about 20 others was a big thing. The motherhouse was in New York and we had a house in Georgia.

“It was a liberal community that had a big influence on me. I got the anti-war flavor there.”

She recalls going with a busload of other Episcopal peace activists from New York to Washington, D.C., for an anti-war demonstration around the time of President Nixon’s second inauguration.

“That was a biggie,” she says. “I didn’t do a whole lot before then or after,” until the early 2000s.

“In a way, I think I’m kind of making up now for what I didn’t do earlier.”

She’s glad she experienced life as a nun, but she doesn’t regret leaving the religious community.

“Church theology was turning around, becoming more world-oriented,” she says. “To take that further, I felt I needed to get myself more involved in the world.

“I had gotten something special there, and I wanted to be able to bring it back with me. When you come back you feel like you’ve been on another planet.”

After leaving the convent, Anne eventually earned an associate degree in nursing from Kentucky State University. She worked one year at the local hospital then worked about six years in the state’s Medicaid program.

“Then I quit work to stay home with my children,” she says.

She believes her weekly peace vigils are important.

“I consider it consciousness raising if nothing else,” Anne says. “Somehow we have to change people’s minds. I really believe with the Quakers that war is not the answer.

“And U.S. foreign policy is all wrong. I think we have to get off our high horse. Imperialism has got to be stopped. We have to realize we are one nation among many.”

She doesn’t know how long she will continue her weekly peace vigils downtown.

“I’ll do it as long as I can,” she says. “I would like to see us get our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan.”

She also would like to have company, “as many as possible,” each Tuesday on Broadway. “I think more people need to speak up. I feel like I’m standing there on behalf of a lot of people who would really like to speak out but are unable to.”

Standing in front of the federal building at 5 feet tall in her pink attire, Anne doesn’t appear to be a threat to anyone.

“I’ve never been too far from the earth,” Anne says, laughing. “But I’ve always had my head in the clouds, and I have to keep remembering to get out of there.

“I may be only a drop in the bucket, but I’m a drop. I wish we had more drops.”

“Frankfort Faces” is a series that highlights people from within the Frankfort and Franklin County community. Each feature follows one of the city’s most unique personalities and includes a story, photos and video, which can be found by clicking the TV icon attached to the story online at state-journal.com.

 

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