Ursula Franklin RIP: "Peace is not the absence of war but the absence of fear"

July 23, 2016 | Bill V.

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Ursula Franklin, Quaker, feminist, pacifist, anit-war, Holocaust survivor, ground breaking scientist and writer has just died. I know Ursula and her husband Fred from the Quakers Toronto Monthly Meeting (The Religious Society of Friends). Hearing Ursula's ministry in Meeting was a great gift. Although a renowned scientist and academic (the first woman hired by University of Toronto's Faculty of Engineering in 1967 as a professor of metallurgy and materials science) her ministry was more often about Christian faith and social justice. She spoke in a slow, emphatic, slightly accented and moving manner. She was both rational and spiritual. Her husband Fred spoke less often, but his work with both jails and refugees was also inspirational and grounded in Quaker witness and his ministry. It was a privilege to know them both.

The Ursula Franklin reader: pacifism as a map Feminist, educator, Quaker, and physicist, Ursula Franklin has long been considered one of Canada's foremost advocates and practitioners of pacifism. The Ursula Franklin Reader: Pacifism as a Map is a comprehensive collection of her work, and demonstrates subtle, yet critical, linkages across a range of subjects: the pursuit of peace and social justice, theology, feminism, environmental protection, education, government, and citizen activism. This thoughtful collection, drawn from more than four decades of research and teaching, brings readers into an intimate discussion with Franklin, and makes a passionate case for how to build a society centered around peace.

The Ursula Franklin Reader


Ursula was part of the vibrant Canadian feminist movement of the late 1960s and 1970s. She was active in the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace. Toronto District School Board has even named one of its most successful focus schools specializing in liberal arts and science after her, the Ursula Franklin Academy.  You can read about the many facets of Ursula's life through her rich legacy of writings:                

Ursula Franklin speaks  thoughts and afterthoughts 1986 - 2012  As a distinguished scientist, pacifist, and feminist, Ursula Franklin has been regularly invited by diverse groups to share her insights into the social and political impacts of science and technology. This collection contains twenty-two of Franklin's speeches and five interviews from 1986 to 2012 that have been retrieved and restored from audio and visual recordings with the help of her collaborator, Jane Freeman. These speeches and interviews, available here in print for the first time, stress the increased need for discernment and principled dialogue among Canadians. Although civic life for many Canadians has changed drastically in the past five decades, the basic principles of building and maintaining peaceful communities remain unchanged. Addressing practices of education, research, and civic life, Franklin looks to the past as well as the future to suggest collective ways of cultivating discernment and of advancing human betterment. As a whole, the collection reveals the evolution of Franklin's perspective: a perspective that is further elaborated in her afterthoughts that form the book's introduction and conclusion. Although her speeches and interviews are often critical of the status quo, Ursula Franklin Speaks is a fundamentally optimistic book, grounded in the conviction of the human capacity for compassion and understanding.

    Ursula Franklin Speaks: thoughts and afterthoughts 1986-2012                



The real world of technology Ursula Franklin Massey Lecture In this expanded edition of her bestselling 1989 CBC Massey Lectures, renowned Canadian scientist and humanitarian Ursula M. Franklin examines the impact of technology upon our lives and addresses the extraordinary changes in the bit sphere since The Real World of Technology was first published. In four new chapters, Franklin tackles contentious issues, such as the dilution of privacy and intellectual property rights, the impact of the current technology on government and governance, the shift from consumer capitalism to investment capitalism, and the influence of the Internet upon the craft of writing.

 Her Massey lecture, The Real World of Technology, touched more on her scientific and technology interests.





You may also enjoy this lengthy interview from the Atlantic Monthly.

From Ursula Franklin's obituary there is this quotation:

In Ursula's honour, consider small acts that will make the world and our society a better place. Ursula was a proponent of "the earthworm theory"- it is the little acts that prepare the soil and nurture the seedlings so that bigger actions can follow and flourish.