History of the Ribbon

In 1975, Justine Merritt, a woman from Denver, Colorado, and a teacher turned activist, traveled to Japan.  She was given the opportunity to tour the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. As Justine walked through the rooms of the museum, she got a glimpse of how the United States’ nuclear assault brought unthinkable suffering on the Japanese people and their land. That experience remained with her until the very end of her life and moved her to work for peace and to protect all life.

In 1982, at the height of the Cold War there were an estimated 65,000 nuclear weapons and rising tensions with the Soviet Union, Justine started the project, The Ribbon, which became a nationwide grassroots symbol of peace and nonviolence. She imagined wrapping a continuous ribbon around the Pentagon with messages and artwork illustrating that life is precious and nuclear war is unthinkable. The Ribbon would be made of cloth panels tied together, with the theme “What I cannot bear to think of as lost forever in a nuclear war,” and would serve as a symbol of peace surrounding a symbol of war.

One woman’s vision inspired tens of thousands and included people of all ages, faith traditions and backgrounds across all 50 states and several countries to craft their own 36” by 18” cloth panels. On August 4, 1985, Justine’s vision became a reality as 30,000 panels held by an estimated 15,000 people were joined together to wrap around the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol and the White House, stretching about 15 miles. That same day, ribbons were wrapped around the Atomic Bomb Dome, the epicenter of the nuclear explosion. This nonviolent, women-led action was the first of its kind.

The Vision Continues:  In 1991, The Ribbon International became a United Nations NGO. Over the years Ribbon events have been held in many locations around the world to call attention to nuclear weapons, peace, environmental and social justice issues. Justine Merritt died in 2009, but her vision continues to inspire others to work for a nuclear-free world.

Click here to find out about The Ribbon International’s Zoom gathering on August 1st.

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