Having just come back from the England and Wales Green Party conference I'm feeling both exhilarated by the time spent with lots of people passionately devoted to saving the human race from itself, and slightly daunted by the thought of the task before us. Ann Pettitt's Walking to Greenham: How the Peace-camp Began and the Cold Way Ended has thus been the perfect reading matter, for it shows that one person - in this case one very humble, self-deprecating woman - can really make a difference.
Pettitt deserves the title of "one of the founders" of the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp, for she was one of the leaders of the walk out of which this genuine mass movement - hundreds of thousands of protesters were involved there over its 19-year existence. Yet the beginnings were so small. She and her partner had downsized before the term was even invented, swapping an intellectual London life for a smallholding in Wales, where in between raising two small children - struck by the fear that they might not have a chance of adulthood - she got involved in the anti-nuclear movement.
A year later I was trying to help write a leaflet in someone's house in Kidwelly, about nuclear-free zones. I was feeling bored and stuck general with the way we seemed to be creating a re-run of the CND cmapaigns of the Sixties ... What was the point of your local town declaring itself a 'nuclear-free zone' when what we were facing was the possibility of a nuclear war 'limited' to Europe. My eye caught an item in a Peace News magazine that was lying open on the floor; about a group of women walking from Copenhagen to Paris to protest about this threat. I no longer felt bored or stuck, I felt terribly excited.
In between childcare, struggling with the family smallholding and the lack of cash and resources - in rural Wales Pettitt couldn't even drive - she organised with three other women (they had six pre-school-age children between them) a walking group that eventually totalled 40. Often they encountered disbelief that they could simply be women who'd decided to act:
"..this march thing, is too big to be just ordinary women, like you say you are, doing it. There must be some organisation begind you - I just don't believe you're acting on your own, that's not possible."
"Well, you're just going to have to find out aren't you? Just tell me one thing - are you going to organise lunch for us or am I going to have to find someone else?"
"Oh all right then. What do you call yourselves?"
"Women for Life on Earth. Thank you. I'll be in touch." Good, I thought, that's another lunch-stop sorted.
But finally, with most of the lunches and sleeping arrangements sorted, forty women set out from Cardiff to walk to Greenham Common on August 26, 1981, to protest at the plans to place American Cruise missiles there. For many it was their first protest of any kind.