Marianne Hamilton traveled to some of the world's hot spots, including Hanoi during the Vietnam War, to advocate for peace. She pressed her case at home, too, co-founding Women Against Military Madness (WAMM), the state's most enduring antiwar organization that last month celebrated its 35th year.
"She was fearless," Erica Bouza, herself a longtime peace activist and the wife of former Minneapolis Police Chief Tony Bouza. Hamilton, she said, was an energetic and persistent critic of U.S. foreign policy.
Hamilton died Aug. 6 at her apartment in Minneapolis. She was 97.
"I often think of myself as a Vietnam vet," an amused Hamilton said in 1988. She had just returned from Vietnam, where she met with friends and visited the site of the former U.S. Embassy, the spot where she and three others were arrested after chaining themselves to a fence in Saigon in an antiwar protest in 1972.
Born in Minneapolis on March 25, 1920, she was the daughter of Harry and Sally DeVay. (Sally DeVay was a prominent Minneapolis social activist.)
She became a nightclub singer in Chicago, where she met and married Norman Hamilton, an artist. Her husband was drafted into World War II and wrote back about the horrors of war. Hamilton, living in Minneapolis, started a support group for wives of GIs. At the first meeting, 1,000 women showed up, and they elected her president of the group. "I was stunned," she later said.
During the 1950s, she became involved in DFL politics and hosted major figures like Eugene McCarthy, Hubert Humphrey and Don and Arvonne Fraser at her house, said her daughter, Normandy Hamilton of St. Louis Park. Later the house became a hub for antiwar visitors, her daughter said. It was not unusual to walk in and see pacifist priest Daniel Berrigan or antiwar movie star Jane Fonda sitting at the kitchen table.
"She was nobody's fool," said Harry Bury, a retired priest now living in St. Paul. "She was very determined, with a heart of gold."
In 1971, during the Vietnam War, Hamilton flew to Hanoi with Bury and several antiwar leaders to secure the release of three prisoners of war, two of whom had become critics of the war. The activists had hoped the POWs could speak to the media, but they were met by U.S. authorities and silenced, Bury said.
Bury and Hamilton, acting as decoys, flew from Hanoi to Laos so the U.S. military would think the POWs were headed there. Instead, the prisoners flew to Germany after their release — but the military figured it out and met them there, he said.
In 1982, Hamilton and Polly Mann came up with the idea of WAMM. They sent an appeal for funds to their Christmas card list and raised money to open an office. "We decided we had to have an organization and it had to have full-time staff," Mann said.
Over the decades, Hamilton traveled the world with antiwar colleagues, said Sarah Martin, WAMM co-chairwoman. She went to Nicaragua when the U.S. military was trying to overthrow the Sandinista regime, to the Philippines to protest toxic waste being left behind at U.S. military bases, and to Cambodia and Burma.
In addition to daughter Normandy, Hamilton is survived by a son, Gregory of Burnsville, and daughters Antonia of Richfield, Mary of Tampa, Fla., and Jean of Titusville, Fla. Her husband, Norman, and three other children, Stephen, Christopher and Anne, preceded her in death.
A service will be held at 3 p.m. Aug. 19 at the Cremation Society of Minnesota, 7110 France Av. S. in Edina. Visitation will begin at 2:30 p.m.
Randy Furst • 612-673-4224