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Penn In Technicolor: Cecil Hinshaw's Radical Pacifist-Perfectionist Experiment at William Penn College, 1944-1949 Bill R. Douglas* "With his mixture ofblack and white, yellow and brown, and 'friends of the Reds,' Hinshaw was producing Penn in technicolor, and many of us either closed our eyes or wanted the curtain pulled." —Donald A. Norberg, Monroe County News1 "The history ofUtopian communities is largely a history offailure... Yet it wrongs history to ignore failure, as ifnothing positive or humane comes out of it. Conversely, victory can testify to the configuration of force or power, rather than to truth or validity... To study only the victors keeps thought locked to a narrow reality. Out of defeat emerges ideas, changed people, and new movements" —Russell Jacoby,2 Picture Imperfect'.Utopian Thoughtfor an Anti-Utopian Age. On September 18, 1951, Carolyn Johnson Emery addressed an assembled crowd at an auction in Dexter, Iowa. A reporter described her delivery as sometimes more of a prayer than a speech. Emery was not a disinterested party; her family car, a 1948 Chevrolet, was being auctioned off by the Internal Revenue Service because of the war tax resistance of Carolyn and Art Emery.3 Art Emery was not in town for the auction. With Dave Dellinger, Ralph DiGia, and Bill Sutherland, he was biking across Europe, attempting to take the pacifist message from Paris to Moscow. While the quartet was stopped well short of the Soviet Union, the action and its attendant publicity, illustrating the consistency ofpacifists in calling for all nuclear powers to disarm, has been described by a historian oftwentieth century pacifism as one of the high points of a low period.4 Carolyn and Art Emery were both alumni of William Penn College of Oskaloosa, Iowa duringthe Cecil Hinshaw era, and Carolyn, who hadgrown up across the road from the college, had also been a faculty member, an * Bill R. Douglas is a delivery worker in Des Moines, Iowa. He has been an organizer for the Socialist Party USA and for Criminal Justice Ministries ofIowa, and has published several articles on objectors to war at Camp Dodge, Iowa, during WWI. He is currently at work on an article about insurgent religion in Iowa in the mid-nineteenth century. An earlier version ofthis article was presented at the Iowa History Forum in April 2000. Penn In Technicolor55 instructor in women's physical education. While the Emerys were aprominent example of decentralized, Peacemaker-style resistance to militarism, they were hardly alone in their commitment to the ideals ofradical pacifism among the William Penn College community of the time. As World War II ended, pacifists in Iowa and around the country retrenched, as eager to return to more normal pursuits as were military veterans. But the expected demilitarization ofthe country did not occur, and pockets ofresistanceremainedto counterthe old spectres ofwarandracism and the new menaces of atomic weapons and universal military training. During the war a new strain ofpacifism had developed, one that reacted both toNiebuhrianrealism andto an older"vocationalpacifism" that didnot challengetheroots ofmilitarism, andalso departedfromtheliberalpacifism dominant in the 1930's that saw mass action as critical to success. Many radicalpacifists sawpersonalismas awayarowndNiebuhrianrealism: asort ofMoralMan versusImmoralSociety. The U.S. atomic attacks on Japanese civilian targets and the Gandhian revolution in India bothprovided contemporary contexts for the radical pacifist argument that the militarist state was best confronted head-on, with small-scale nonviolent direct action in local settings from intentional communities.5 One ofthe most significant centers ofthis resistance was at William Penn College. Founded in Oskaloosa, Iowa in 1873 by evangelical Quakers, the small, financially strapped college had "A vision ofwholeness," one of its mostprominent alumni, Elton Trueblood, remembered ofan earlierperiod.6 Led by Friends pastor Cecil Hinshaw, the youngest college president in the nation,7 the inevitably named "holy experiment" sought to remake the college into a training ground for pacifist activists. The short-term success and abrupt collapse of the project drew national attention. Hinshaw shared much ofthe radical pacifist agenda, butwas grounded in a somewhat different tradition. The fiery Holiness tradition of his native Kansas Quakerism led to a doctoral thesis at Iliff School of Theology on "Perfectionism inEarly Quakerism;" the attempttoblendHoliness theology with earlier...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
pp. 54-68
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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