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Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2008

Activist Julie Enslow Earns a Lifetime Peacemaker Award

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Twenty-five years ago, back in the heyday of antinuclear power and weapons activism, I spent several years as director of a Madison-based organization called Nukewatch. My primary Milwaukee contact was Julie Byrnes Enslow, with an organization called Mobilization for Survival.

I went off and worked in politics for almost 25 years, then came back to antiwar work after my retirement a year ago—and found Julie Enslow still at the center of the action in Milwaukee, now with Peace Action-Wisconsin, the successor to Mobilization for Survival.

She says her current focus is on nuclear weapons nonproliferation, stopping weapons in space, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and ending the U.S. war and occupation in Iraq. But the list is really much longer.

Now, Enslow is about to get some well-deserved recognition for her lifetime of work for peace and social justice.

Enslow will receive a Lifetime Peacemaker Award on Oct. 4 from the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice (WNPJ), a statewide network of 159 organizations working for social change.

Enslow’s activism began in the 1960s with an open-housing campaign and civil-rights actions, working with United Farm Workers and against the Vietnam War.

With an art degree from Cardinal Stritch University, she taught art in inner-city Catholic schools and community centers, and also taught high-school religious doctrine classes from 1963-1971 at St. Roberts Catholic Church, bringing in draft counselors and community activists to speak to the students. “I was not asked back after 1971,” she says. “I guess they disapproved when several of my students became conscientious objectors to war.”

She was a founding member of Mobilization for Survival, now Peace Action-Wisconsin, in 1977. As a volunteer organizer and staff member of Peace Action, Enslow helped initiate the Milwaukee Organizing Committee Against the Gulf War, and worked with the Nuclear Weapons Freeze and Jobs with Peace referendum campaigns.

She has traveled to the former Soviet Union and to Israel and Palestine as part of national peace delegations, and served as a national board member of Peace Action and co-chair of the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice.

Enslow, an energetic 68, works quietly but determinedly. She’s humble, not flamboyant, but she’s persistent and gets results. No task is beneath her. She might wince at the military reference, but she is in the trenches, not back at the command post.

Her hands-on work includes cooking for St. Benedict’s Community Meal Program since it was founded more than 30 years ago. She and her husband of 46 years, Jim, have four children, including one “adopted through the heart,” she says.

The WNPJ Lifetime Awards presentation will be held at 4 p.m. on Oct. 4 at the WNPJ Fall Assembly at Marquette University’s Alumni Memorial Union, #227, 1442 W. Wisconsin Ave. Everyone’s welcome to attend that event, as well as a party to honor Enslow and the other WNPJ award recipient, John Kinsman, an 82-year-old dairy farmer activist, at the Irish Cultural & Heritage Center, 2133 W. Wisconsin Ave., with speakers, food, music and more from 5-9 p.m., for a $10 donation.

(Bill Christofferson is a member of the steering committee of the national Iraq Moratorium, and has been nominated for election on Oct. 4 as cochair of the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice.)

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