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Voices of Spencer Creek

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: My Friend Peg and the Peaceful Good Fight

Or What Makes a Political Activist

By Lois Barton

Posted on May 4, 2007

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Friends and Peg at Peace Rally in Eugene, '05, photo by Sarah Gray

My friend Peg Morton is a political activist. I observe her dedication and the experiences it leads her into and stand aghast. This woman has for years been involved in daring activities I would never have the courage to undertake. Years ago when I first knew her she was spending weeks in Central America accompanying refugees home from exile. I don't know how many times she went to Fort Benning in Georgia to join the protest aimed at closing the School of the Americas. She even crossed the line there three years ago and spent three months in jail for doing so. She is just completing a fast for peace and justice in the world. Not long ago she fasted on the steps of the Capitol Building in our capitol city, supporting legislation needed for services to the disabled. In a recent trip to Columbia with the Fellowship of Reconciliation she visited a peace community there offering support for their work. Between "big ticket" items she is out on the street here with protest signs several times a week.

Because I too have a concern for our troubled world and support organizations that work to heal the trouble, but lack the dedication Peg demonstrates, I recently asked her how she got to be so committed and involved. She made it clear that her background was largely responsible for how, at 76 years of age, she chooses to fill her days.

She was born into a very committed and well-to-do family in Cambridge, Mass. Her parents were actively involved in a liberal Congregational church. Her mother was in charge of the Sunday School and eventually became a ordained minister. Her father was a deacon in the church. When their friends went skiing on Sundays, they stayed home to go to church. Her mother was spiritually sensitive and deeply concerned about such things as the Holocaust. Her father was a member of the Human Rights Commission and her mother was on a human rights committee, so they were both doing work to integrate Negroes, as they were called in those days, into professional positions. When children from a nearby settlement of Negroes came to Sunday School they were welcomed by her mother who then called on their families to come to church as well. Eventually this led to their church becoming at least modestly integrated.

An aunt got her Masters in Social Work degree in 1924. First she was a social worker in the settlement houses in Boston. Later she served on the staff with the World Student Christian Foundation traveling to many countries. As an older adult she bought a house in the inner city of Boston and dedicated her life working for improvements for the people. She joined the people to help prevent gentrification of their housing or it being destroyed to make room for highrise expensive apartments. This aunt went to Europe at the end of WWII, taking Peg with her when she was in high school. Among other things her aunt adopted a French war orphan.

Peg was impacted quite strongly by this boy who was her age as well as effects of the bombing and other war damage.

In college at Oberlin she began to attend Friends Meeting, finding the silence nourishing.

She also attended an African-American college as an exchange student. On a bus trip through the south with some of those students she faced the shock of separate toilets and eating facilities for blacks and whites. She attended a World Council of Churches international workcamp in southern France in a village that harbored Jews during the war. All these experiences, plus the example of her parents and aunt, had their impact. She had met wonderful people who had made all these sacrifices.

In her 40s while raising her children she was involved in the housing and school integration movement, democratic and school politics. Peg said she isn't good at committee work. The political statements that are meaningful to her she can comfortably give time to such as war tax resistance. Public witness is very important to her, and that is where she works most satisfyingly now.

After our conversation the other day, Peg told me this life of activism has been very much of a spiritual path for her. Over the years each experience has somehow led to the next and in spite of mistakes has felt "right." Her understanding of what feels like serious fascist growth within our government requires her, both spiritually and emotionally, to continue to respond in any way she may be led.

It takes all kinds of people to run human affairs. Peg is a capable example of one kind.

Her background and experiences explain clearly how she got to where she is today. I no longer feel the need to join her in ways that are not comfortable for me. Obviously we are different kinds of people filling different needs in human circumstances. Blessings on her.

You may visit Peg Morton's articles at for articles from the horse's mouth:

Gandhi and the Future of Non-violent Transformation

End of Summer Reflections

Peg Morton's Letter from Prison: Moments of Quiet, Moments of Anger and Fear and follow links or search for more of her articles.

Copyright ©2007 by Lois Barton

Writer and historian
Lois Barton

Lois Barton is an 88 year old mother of eight children. She has lived on the same rural acreage just south of Eugene, Oregon for more than 50 years. All their children learned to milk, to keep the woodboxes filled, to do their share of household and garden chores. Her first book, Spencer Butte Pioneers, was published in 1982 when her youngest started to school. Since then she wrote five other books: Daughter of the Soil, now out of print; One Woman's West; A Quaker Promise Kept; and Through My Window, autobiographical sketches, sequel to Daughter Of the Soil.

Through the years Lois has been a 4H leader, president of the neighborhood association, a precinct committee woman, election board clerk, editor of the Lane County Historian, and a life-long Quaker. She spent a month in Southeast Asia in 1974 as a member of a church peace mission, after working for ten years as director of the Eugene Chapter of the World Without War Council.

Follow the links of the Voices of Spencer Creek for the most recent articles by Lois Barton, including:

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Lucy McIver, Peace Pole Artist

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: These Stones Are Speaking

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Telephones, Then and Now

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Remembering Bovine Tuberculosis

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: What Is a Quilt?

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Quakers in the British Virgin Islands

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Manta Rays, and Dandelions, A Poem, also introducing Carolann Krohn

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Those Husky Macadamia Nuts

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Fender's Blue, a Nine Day Wonder

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Frannie and the Arrow

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Bhavia's Cambodia

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Saga of the Smoking Chimney

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Saga of Big Oak Stables

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: A Fishy Story

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: A Different Peace

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Hal and the Mountain

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: A Rogue River Adventure

Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Obituary for a Country Cat

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Cortesia Sanctuary

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Tree and Me and Lady Slippers

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Cranberries

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Endurance Riding

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Butterflies and Community Development

and The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Last Gift.

See more of Lois Barton's articles in West By online magazine's archives:

Visit the Heron Rookery

Sauerkraut and All That

Charlotte's Overdose - Just who is Charlotte and what did she take?

The Midwife–The midnight call awoke an unusual midwife.

The Mystery of Fox Hollow - Fact and fiction meet in this story of the origins of Faith Rock.

Trees, Tame Trees and Squirrel.

© Copyright 2000-2006 by West By

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