With the passing of Gail Blattenberger, Utah has lost one its most tireless advocates for peace. | News | Salt Lake City Weekly
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With the passing of Gail Blattenberger, Utah has lost one its most tireless advocates for peace.

Small Lake City



Some months ago, I attended a meeting for the Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (UCAN) in preparation for a Sept. 20 cover story in City Weekly, "Giving Peace a Chance." One of the rich rewards of journalism is the opportunity to meet fascinating people from varying backgrounds. It was with UCAN that I made the acquaintance of Gail Blattenberger.

Gail Blattenberger passed away recently, and while I did not have the pleasure of lengthy interactions with her, I would be remiss if I did not remark upon her life and example.

Born in 1947 and raised in New Jersey, Blattenberger received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and became an economist who joined the faculty of the University of Utah in the late 1980s after stints as a visiting professor. "A lot of problems are related to economics," she once told me.

But it was peace work that remained a guiding star throughout her life, thanks to her Quaker background. She reckoned she wouldn't have developed an interest in economics were it not for her lifelong interest in peace, for in her view, peace issues "don't go away."

Starting with efforts to "ban the bomb" in the 1950s, Blattenberger was involved with such activities as the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, protesting the Vietnam War and teaching at Black schools in the segregated South. A volunteer at the Guadalupe School and involved with environmental causes like the Utah Rivers Council, Blattenberger is an example of one who leaves a place better than they found it.

When I interviewed her, she observed that the landscape of our world today was indeed discouraging, with "many old prejudices" on the ascendency in the form of astonishing levels of violence, greed and hatred. Looking over her life, she wondered if she had made a difference.

"But it's the only way to be honest with yourself," Blattenberger said of her activities.

This tiny woman—whose mobility became complicated after she developed multiple sclerosis—has nevertheless remained engaged in the cause of peace and justice. She lived life on her own terms, and we are all the richer as a result.

My last sight of her, in fact, was of her wheeling over to the bus stop after a UCAN meeting. Her commitment touched me.

Goodnight, Professor Gail Blattenberger. Have a peaceful rest. Your students will have a lot to do in the years to come.

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