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Baring Witness

In 2002, 98 West Marin women exposed their bodies to oppose invading Iraq.



IF YOU LIVED in West Marin between the 1980s and now, chances are you knew the late Donna Sheehan. She’s the one who in 1983 parked her Volvo in the path of a Caltrans truck that was spraying herbicide on roadside blackberry bushes. After years of protesting — through MOW, for Mow Our Weeds, and then via MOW&SOW, to encourage the planting of roadside native grasses — Sheehan claimed a “moral victory” in 1996. Next came a period of relative tranquility: writing and traveling with partner Paul Reffell, then returning to live in Marshall. But in 2002, as President George W. Bush was gearing up to invade Iraq, Sheehan felt another call to action. So she staged “Baring Witness,” in which 98 West Marin women posed for a photograph on Drakes Beach using their naked bodies to spell out P-E-A-C-E. “It was a sunny but cold and windy December day,” recalls Reffell. “Then the tide came in, causing a few ladies to get really chilled, so everyone jumped up and ran into the surf.” The photo, taken from a nearby cliff by Jan Watson, appeared in the weekly Point Reyes Light and was picked up by the wire services. As a result, 200 similar protests were staged on all seven of the world’s continents. “There were nude women’s bodies on snow, in the desert, in meadows and on mountainsides,” Reffell says, “spelling out not only PEACE, but VOTE, LOVE, HOPE, NO WAR and NO BUSH.” (To see more “Barings,” go to baringwitness.org.) Donna Sheehan passed away on April 16. Her spirit lives on.

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