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Introduction

Religious Task Force on Central America

“Religious Task Force on Central America” Flyer, c. 1989. 

In 2009 Ursuline Sister Diane Therese Pinchot served 60 days in Alderson federal prison camp for trespassing at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC- formerly School of Americas) in Ft. Benning, Georgia.

What compels an Ursuline nun to participate in more than a dozen protest events and purposefully trespass on government property?

The answer lies with the story of four women caught between the global frameworks of the Catholic Church, human rights, and Cold War politics: Catholic missioners Dorothy Kazel O.S.U., Jean Donovan, Ita Ford M.M., and Maura Clarke M.M..(1) On December 2, 1980 these four churchwomen were raped and murdered by members of the National Guard in El Salvador - guard members who were supplied with equipment and training by the United States government. Sister Dorothy Kazel and lay missioner Jean Donovan were part of the larger Cleveland Latin America Mission Team (CLAM). Their murders shocked and galvanized the Catholic community in Cleveland. Even today, Cleveland’s Catholic left embraces a strong tradition of activism against human rights abuses and the United States’ involvement in Latin America, including WHINSEC.

Exhibit

This exhibit is curated by Fall 2019 "Introduction to Historical Studies" students at Cleveland State University and edited by the instructor, Dr. Shelley Rose. It demonstrates the powerful potential of historical thinking skills to tell a local story with national and transnational resonance. Further, this exhibit contextualizes the Cleveland Latin American Mission Team's history, the murder of the four churchwomen, Cold War policy, and activism on Cleveland's religious left.

Geographically, this means investigating protest events in Cleveland, El Salvador, and beyond. Furthermore, historians and audience alike must carefully consider the politics of identity in this case study: while protest is an inherently political act, many of the Ursuline sisters and family members of the churchwomen would not self-identify with the term "activists."

Caution:

This exhibit includes historical materials relating to kidnapping, murder, abuse of women, and sexual violence. 

Image: “Religious Task Force on Central America” Flyer, c. 1989. Folder 14, Laurie S. Wiseberg & Harry Scoble Human Rights Internet Collection, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

 1."Diane Therese Pinchot interview” 09 August 2016. Interview by Chris Morris. Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 750012. http://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/crohc000/773. See also Diane Therese Pinchot, “Art Advocacy - Social Justice,” Personal Website Diane Therese Pinchot, osu, mfa. Accessed September 1, 2017. URL: http://www.dianetheresepinchot.com/art-advocacy---social-justice.html.