Lillian Willoughby, Quaker activist, dies at 93
LILLIAN WILLOUGHBY had a vision of a world at peace. She and her husband, George, dedicated Quakers, chased this impossible dream all over the world, conducting nonviolent protests against war and preparations for war for nearly 70 years.
LILLIAN WILLOUGHBY had a vision of a world at peace.
She and her husband, George, dedicated Quakers, chased this impossible dream all over the world, conducting nonviolent protests against war and preparations for war for nearly 70 years.
They even refused to pay federal taxes that they deemed were going to pay for war. As a result of these activities, they often ran afoul of law-enforcement and judicial officials who did not share their passion for peace.
Lillian Willoughby died Thursday just shy of her 94th birthday. She lived on the Old Pine Farm Land Trust in Deptford, Gloucester County, part of the New Jersey Green Acres program.
In 2004, she and other activists spent seven days in the federal detention center in Philadelphia for blocking the entrance to the Federal Building in a protest against the Iraq war. They chose jail over $250 fines.
In a statement read in court, she summed up her philosophy of peace and justice.
"I am approaching my 90th year," she said. "I had high hopes of leaving this earth confident that the people on it knew more about nonviolence and conflict resolution.
"Even after 9/11 we had a window of opportunity to do just that. By working with the United Nations and the World Court we could have helped build a stronger world community, a community of fairness and justice for all, where compassion, understanding, forgiveness, imagination, sharing and courage are valued and practiced."
In 2006, she and other older activists, including the poet Sonia Sanchez, then 72, were charged with defiant trespass for refusing to leave a Center City military recruiting station after trying to enlist to serve in Iraq. A judge dismissed the charges.
They called themselves the "Granny Peace Brigade."
In 2003, she and other demonstrators had their heads shaved outside the Liberty Bell in the name of peace. They intended to send the shorn hair to senators from Pennsylvania and New Jersey to express their opposition to the war.
From 1971 to 1987, Lillian and her husband ran a commune in West Philadelphia devoted to helping the community. The site included 20 houses that made up the Movement for a New Society.
The Willoughbys lived in a small third-floor apartment where they practiced living simply. When a Daily News reporter encountered them there in June 1980, they were baking their own bread. The group started the first Take Back the Night rally, an idea that became an annual anti-crime event.
Taking on the simple life was also a way to keep any income away from the federal government. Even so, the IRS confiscated their red Volkswagen for back taxes. During the auction at the IRS headquarters in Chester in 1970, the Willoughbys and supporters served lemonade in the hallway before submitting the winning bid of $900 to buy the car back.
Lillian was brought up on a farm in West Branch, Iowa. She attended a Quaker boarding school and later graduated from the University of Iowa. She became a dietician by trade and worked at hospitals and nursing homes.
She met her husband in Iowa. He was a conscientious objector during World War II and helped find homes for Japanese-Americans who had been put in camps at the outbreak of the war.
"She was loving, honest and forthright," said longtime friend and fellow Quaker Lynne Shivers. "She had a deep belief in the Quaker ideal of creating a nonviolent world. She reached out to people who were down, and cared about them."
She also is survived by three daughters, Sally, Anita and Sharon Willoughby; a son, Alan Willoughby, and three grandchildren.
Services: A Quaker memorial meeting will be held at a future date. *