Women's Action for New Directions, Arkansas Chapter

aka: Arkansas WAND

Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering women in politics, particularly through social justice, peace, and nonviolence initiatives; Arkansas created its own chapter in the mid-1990s.

The organization has its roots in the Women’s Party for Survival, founded by Helen Caldicott, and became known as the Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament around 1982, with a focus on denuclearization and reduction of U.S. spending on military and defense. Against the backdrop of the Cold War, the 1980s saw a number of women’s peace and anti-nuclear organizations forming in the United States, including Another Mother for Peace, Women Against Military Madness (WAMM), The Ribbon, Grandmothers for Peace, and Peace Links; the latter was formed by Arkansan Betty Bumpers. In 1991, WAND changed its name to reflect its expanded mission as the end of the Cold War lessened nuclear tensions.

The Arkansas chapter of WAND was founded in 1997 by Jean Gordon, who served as the organization’s first president; most chapter meetings over the years were hosted in her home. Many of the early Arkansas members of WAND were former members of Peace Links, whose Arkansas chapter had become inactive. Peace Links founder Bumpers sat on the Arkansas WAND chapter’s Advisory Board; Gordon was a former Arkansas Peace Links chairperson.

Arkansas WAND coalesced around the issue of opposition to the construction of a chemical weapons incinerator at the Pine Bluff Arsenal; in later years, the group gave its support to Occupy Arkansas, efforts to oppose the Iraq War, and a U.S.-Iran nuclear deal.

In 2009, the chapter produced a documentary, Woodruff: A Lesson of Non-Violence, which documented the collaborative efforts led by Woodruff Elementary School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to combat neighborhood gang violence and drug problems. The film was screened at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival and the Ozark Foothills FilmFest.

As a member of Arkansas Action for Peace and the Arkansas Coalition for Peace and Justice, Arkansas WAND frequently co-sponsors events with other state organizations. Although it is a statewide organization, the group has primarily hosted events in the Little Rock area. Arkansas WAND has led or co-sponsored demonstrations, vigils, film screenings, lectures, International Day of Peace events, the Pilgrimage for Peace, the Just Communities of Arkansas (JCA) Walk, and the Culture of Peace Conference. The group began holding an annual Mother’s Day Luncheon for Peace as well as July 4 events. Guided by member Caroline Stevenson, the chapter sponsored the 2011 construction of the Beacon of Peace and Hope sculpture and peace garden in North Shore Riverwalk Park in North Little Rock (Pulaski County).

For additional information:
Arkansas WAND. https://www.arkwand.com (accessed April 12, 2023).

Alonso, Harriet Hyman. Peace as a Women’s Issue: A History of the U.S. Movement for World Peace and Women’s Rights. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1993.

Harrison, Eric E. “Woman in 90s Still Works for Peace through Activism.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 3, 2019, pp. 1D, 5D.

Women’s Action for New Directions, Arkansas Chapter Records (MC 2013). Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Women’s Action for New Directions Records. Sophia Smith Collection. Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts.

Katrina Windon
University of Arkansas at Fayetteville


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