The Raging Grannies

Last Winter, I went to a rally to support a strong health care reform bill that was going through Congress. While I was there, I encountered three oddly dressed older women who were holding signs and singing songs for single-payer health care reform and against the power of insurance companies. This was my first encounter with the Raging Grannies, an activist group that fights for progressive causes like the ecology, economic justice, and civil rights. They use humor and music to protest for just causes.

The Raging Grannies began in 1987 in Victoria, British Columbia when a group of white, middle-class, educated women between the age of 52 and 67 began to protest the visit of US Navy warships and submarines in the harbors of Victoria. Many of these women had experience in activism, but were getting tired of being relegated to making coffee in the peace groups that were then in existence. Due to their marginalization in these other groups, these women decided to form the Raging Grannies to implement their own ideas of social protest, and on February 14, 1987 they staged their first protest. The Raging Grannies sent to Pat Crofton, then Chairman of the Defence Committee, a broken heart to signify his lack of commitment and action on nuclear issues. They sang a few satiric songs under an umbrella full of holes, symbolizing the absurdity of sheltering under a nuclear umbrella. Canadians loved the Raging Grannies, and a movement was started.

From the beginning, the Raging Grannies were committed to nonviolent and creative protest that often interlaces humor and imagination. In their website is a description of their protest philosophy:

From then on, they wore disarming smiles, increasingly colourful clothing as a parody of stereotypes of older women, wrote witty satirical songs, brought a good dose of irreverence and a dynamic imagination for creative protests in their challenges to authorities. Divesting themselves of an “artificial notion of decorum and dignity” (Walker, 1998) they “reversed cultural expectations by empowering themselves in a society which belittles their experience and point of view” (Burns, 1992, p. 21). The Granny figure allowed older women to claim a public space. They often confounded authorities with their unpredictability and imagination. They once rode to the base in a horse-drawn carriage and carried flowers when a nuclear submarine was in. An article found in a granny’s file, which had no date or publication name or author, said: “Officials at the base had to confer for quite a time about the request. . . . Finally the word came that the flowers couldn’t be taken onto the base” (”Grannies Ride in Style”). Their actions often created ambiguity: why would inoffensive flowers delivered in an inoffensive horse-drawn carriage be refused when submarines containing nuclear arms were allowed in? Their unpredictability disturbed complacency, challenged routines, roles, and assumptions.

In the San Jose Raging Grannies website it is written”

1987: The Raging Grannies were founded in Victoria, British Columbia by a group of peace activists who wanted to increase their effectiveness and impact.

Prominent among their stated aims were these:

* to be non-violent in all activities

* to court the press

* to shock with their unladylike antics to get attention for their issues
* to be independent of any other organization

* to use street theater, humor, satire and props to get their message across.

A big part of a Raging Grannies’ protest are the songs that they sing during their protests. The subjects of these songs range from corporate personhood, global warming, single payer health care, to the war in Iraq and Afganistan. They have a Raging Grannies website for their songs, listing over 345 protest songs written by various Raging Grannies from across the nation. Here are some sample Raging Granny songs.

Where Have All the Fishes Gone?

Author: Marcy Matasick, Albuquerque Raging Grannies
Tune: Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Where have all the fishes gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the fishes gone?
Long time ago?
Where have all the fishes gone?
Killed by oil spills everyone
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?

Where have all the oceans gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the oceans gone?
Long time ago?
Where have all the oceans gone?
Turned to toxic crude oil dumps
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?

Where are all the living things?
Long time passing
Where are all the living things?
Long time ago?
Where are all the living things?
Cooked by global warming
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?

How will planet earth survive
This destruction?
How will planet earth survive
Such callous greed?
How will planet earth survive?
Profits matter more than lives
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?

Single Payer Teachers
Author: Casey Garhart
Tune: Nothing Like a Dame

We’ve got single payer teachers
We’ve got single payer cops
We’ve got single payer heroes
who fight fires without stop
We’ve got fancy cars and houses
and wealth without compare
What ain’t we got?
Single Payer Care!

Canadians get good health care
the British get it too
the French, the Dutch the Germans
just to name a few
But we get health for profit
and there’s an awful smell
What don’t we get?
We don’t get well!

(solo)
insurance companies and pharmaceuticals govern our policies
(solo)
totally oblivious to our own health care . . .realities

(all)
There is nothing like health care!
Nothing in the world!
All we need is Single Payer
to have re-eally good health care
to have re-eally good health care

Rainbow

Author: Catherine Verrall Regina, Sask grans
Tune: Somewhere, Over The Rainbow

In our land there’s a rainbow
People all
Colours lighter and darker
Gay, straight, short & tall
Muslim, Jew & Christian
Buddhist, Hindu, Baha’i
First People’s & Newcomers
Rainbows in our sky
It matters not how families form
For Love is Love and that’s the norm
Faith’s leading
It matters not what words we say
Creator, Allah, God
Life’s spirit, heeding
In our land there’s a rainbow
No room for strife
Each one respected & valued
Each a gift of life

Recently Pam Walton of Pam Walton Productions created a 30 minute documentary called Raging Grannies about the San Francisco Bay Area Raging Grannies chapter. Walton focuses on the individual Grannies to get to know them better and to see what motivates them to be a Raging Granny. Dana Sawchuk, Associate Professor of Sociology of Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, CANADA wrote of the documentary:

This thought-provoking look at the Raging Grannies is funny, inspiring, and surprisingly moving. Viewers can gain valuable insight on the workings of one of the movement’s most active chapters, observe a sample of unique Granny protests, and are treated to an incredible series of interviews with individual Grannies. I highly recommend this fascinating documentary for activists and for students at all levels in Sociology, Women’s Studies, Community Organizing, and Gerontology.

Since I last saw the Raging Grannies during the health care reform rally, the local Bay Area Raging Grannies have been busy protesting the privacy issues surrounding Facebook, picketed at various Valero gas stations to voice their opposition to the company’s support of Proposition 23, protested a Google proposal to set up a two tier internet access, and protested to save the beavers of Martines, California. There are 60 Raging Grannies gaggles all over the U.S. and Canada, including British Columbia, the San Francisco Bay Area, Tucscon, Arizona, South Florida, Seattle, Washington, Metro Detroit, Michigan, Madison Wisconsin, Ottawa, and Indiana, with many more.

I’m glad that there are women like the Raging Grannies fighting the good fight for our nation. I end this blog with youtube videos of some of the causes that the Raging Grannies have fought for. Thank you Raging Grannies and keep singing.

THE RAGING GRANNIES PROTEST THE BP OIL SPILL

THE RAGING GRANNIES SING FOR GAY MARRIAGE

THE RAGING GRANNIES SING FOR IMMIGRATION RIGHTS

THE RAGING GRANNIES SING FOR HEALTH CARE REFORM

THE RAGING GRANNIES SING AGAINST WAR AND OCCUPATION

THE RAGING GRANNIES FIGHT GOOGLE FOR NET NEUTRALITY

THE RAGING GRANNIES PROTEST PROROGUING THE CANADIAN PARLIAMENT

THE RAGING GRANNIES 20TH ANNIVERSARY

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About angelolopez

I’ve wanted to be an artist all my life. Since I was a child I’ve drawn on any scrap of paper I could get a hold of. When I went to San Jose State University, I became more exposed to the works of the great fine artists and illustrators. My college paintings were heavily influenced by the humorous illustrations of Peter De Seve, an illustrator for the New Yorker magazine. I also fell under the spell of the great muralists of the 1930s, especially Thomas Hart Benton and Diego Rivera. I graduated with a degree in Illustration. Since my time in college, my goal has been to be a successful children’s book illustrator. I’ve illustrated 3 books: Two Moms the Zark and Me by Johnny Valentine in 1993; Night Travelers by Sue Hill in 1994; and Cherubic Children’s New Classic Story Book Volume 2 for Cherubic Press in 1998. I’ve painted murals for Lester Shields Elementary School in San Jose, the Berryessa branch of the San Jose Public Library, and Grace Community Church in Los Altos. I’ve had a few illustrations published in South Bay Accent Magazine and I will have an illustration published in the January/February issue of Tikkun magazine.
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One Response to The Raging Grannies

  1. Pam Walton says:

    RAGING GRANNIES: THE ACTION LEAGUE, a new 30-minute DVD for progressive activists, is AVAILABLE NOW. Be the first on your block to own a copy! These women do not go quietly into old age! They inspire us with their dedication to social justice. Winner 2009 National Mature Media Merit Award and a prize winner at Big Muddy Film Festival. You can purchase the DVD and watch a preview clip at http://www.pamwaltonproductions.com

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