In the fall of 1981, 10 women gathered at Loretta's Tea Room in south Minneapolis to discuss the formation of a new antiwar organization, Women Against Military Madness (WAMM). One of them was Mary S. White.
The group met monthly for the next year to hash out plans. Some of the meetings took place at White's home, recalled Polly Mann, another WAMM founder. "She was very capable and thoughtful," Mann said.
Over the next four decades, White would march and rally, attend vigils, coordinate meetings of peace groups and, from time to time, get arrested in peaceful actions of civil disobedience.
"We used to get arrested week after week," recalled Erica Bouza, a peace activist and friend of White's.
White died Nov. 6 at York Gardens Senior Living facility in Edina from complications of dementia, said her son Thomas White. She was 87.
White was a founder and president of the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers, an umbrella organization of 60 Twin Cities antiwar groups.
"She did such a wonderful job of bringing people together in running those meetings," said Marie Braun, a WAMM leader. "She was one of my heroes in WAMM."
White was born in Minneapolis in 1933, the daughter of Leonard and Genevieve Simonet. Her father was a longtime partner in the Minneapolis law firm Best & Flanagan. She grew up near Lake of the Isles and attended the Academy of Holy Angels high school, Trinity College in Washington, D.C., and the University of Minnesota, where she graduated. She married Dr. James G. White in 1955 and raised five children.
She returned to the U and received a master's degree in social work in 1978 and began working in the Social Work Department at the university. She helped achieve passage of legislation involved in the licensing of social workers and therapists in Minnesota.
White worshiped at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, where she was a friend of the late Marianne Hamilton, who invited her to participate in the creation of WAMM.
White started recruiting others to the group.
"I remember she called me and said this was going to be new and 'I want you involved,' " said Mary Lou Ott, a Holy Angels classmate and longtime friend. "We were both very passionate about anti-nuclear and antiwar [positions]. We believed we weren't going to raise our children to kill somebody else's kids."
Karen Hanson recalled the first WAMM meeting she attended at White's home. "She was so gracious," Hanson said. "I had never been in a room with so many wonderful women. Everyone had their own strengths."
Sarah Martin said the first time she and Mary got arrested, Mary's husband, Jim, had dropped them off at Honeywell Corp. in Minneapolis, where there was a large sit-in demonstration to protest the company's manufacture of military weaponry, including cluster bombs.
Martin also recalled how in later years, White was one of 10 women, mostly in their 70s, who went to a military recruiting station near the U and tried to enlist, arguing that the Army should sign them up rather than young people. "We were told we were too old," Braun said. When White and others refused to leave, they were arrested. A jury found them not guilty.
White was preceded in death by her husband and two sons, Gregory and Michael. She is survived by two sons, Thomas of Edina and James of Minneapolis, and a daughter, Catherine Tsarouhas of Boston; a sister, Judith Rich of Natick, Mass.; a brother, Tom Simonet of Ryder, Pa., and six grandchildren. A private burial will take place with a public memorial meeting next spring or summer.
Randy Furst • 612-673-4224