“You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.” – Jeannette Rankin
On September 11, 2001, once I realized what had occurred in New York, my first thought was of my son, who was in the Navy. I knew that he would be going to war. When the news footage of refugees trying to escape from Afghanistan began its relentless playing over and over on television, I found myself devastated and helpless. The mothers, the children, the grandparents, all fleeing my country’s retribution. They were innocent, but my government was unconcerned about their safety. We were out for blood.
In October of 2002, the USA had been bombing Afghanistan for a year. My son had joined the Navy in 2000, primarily in order to take advantage of the GI Bill after his time had been served. I knew he would be going to war as talk of an invasion of Iraq grew louder. As a peace activist, I was deeply outraged. As a mother, I was terrified.
I needed a project to help me process the cacophony of feelings I was experiencing. As if by magic, I discovered Jeannette Rankin on Carnegie Hall’s website. Within 10 minutes of finding her, I began writing my play, ‘A Single Woman.’ It was to be a solo work for me, but soon became a duet performance. Ray Tatar, founder and artistic director or the California Stage in Sacramento, commissioned the work after reading a first draft. He put me in touch with Rick Foster, a master playwright and dramaturg, and Rick challenged me every step of the way to make Jeannette’s story vibrant and immediate.
In February of 2004, the piece premiered at the Oats Park Arts Center in Fallon Nevada and subsequently played the California Stage. Following a 4-week run there, we embarked on a journey of 263 performances worldwide. I performed with a variety of actors playing the additional 57 roles (!). At the Culture Project in NYC’s East Village, we did the show’s Off-Broadway run in the summer of 2005, with Broadway veteran Neal Mayer as Everyman. We closed on November 5, 2006 at Tucson’s Invisible Theatre.
Since then, I have reworked the show as an ensemble piece, and it has a new name – Flight of the Dove – the title of the first biography written about Jeannette Rankin. Author Kevin S. Giles has become a friend and supporter. His encouragement has everything to do with this little film’s existence. Thank you, Allyson Adams, who toured with her own Jeannette Rankin solo show for a decade, a sister Jeannette-o-phile and activist for peace and justice. Thank you, my sister in feminist peace-action, CJ Minster, and to all of our CODEPINK comrades out there on the front lines.
I owe enormous thanks to Ellyn Stern and Richard Epcar, stellar world-class voice artists, and to George Chatalas, Jeff Simpson, Vicki Brown, Gene Hall and Monica Nicholas for contributing additional voices. My very deepest gratitude goes to my son, Donald Paul Stockton, of the US Naval Reserves, for the gift of his rich voice. He not only survived deployments to the Gulf and Afghanistan, but he has emerged an exceptional man and a critical and articulate analyst of US foreign policy. I feel at once humbled and proud to be his mother.
I hope, thanks to CODEPINK and the huge activist community around the globe, that Jeannette’s story will finally be told to billions of people, children will again know her name and will love her as did the sharecropper youth who lived with her on the land in Georgia.
“Miss Rankin, I did miss you. I love you. All of us love you. From Jennifer. Love you!” – letter from a child found among Jeannette’s papers.