Women for a Meaningful Summit
“Before 1985, summits were limited to heads of state and their entourages. However, beginning with the 1985 summit in Geneva, citizens have been present, not as participants but as observers and, yes, demonstrators.”
-Sissy Farenthold, in her speech “Women’s Search for Peace”
The WMS coalition protesting at the Reykjavik Summit. Photographer unknown.
Mikhail Gorbachev's rise to power in the mid-80s marked a turning point for U.S.-Soviet relations and the nuclear arms race. He and President Ronald Reagan officially met four times between 1985 and 1988; these meetings are referred to as the Reagan-Gorbachev Summit Meetings (Wittner, 2003).
Women for a Meaningful Summit (WMS), an ad hoc group of women’s organizations and individuals, worked to ensure that women’s voices were represented at the Reagan-Gorbachev summit meetings and that women had a greater influence in the decision-making process surrounding nuclear weapons. Sissy Farenthold and Genevieve Vaughan were involved with WMS from its inception in 1985, and they were members of WMS delegations sent to summit meetings in Geneva, Switzerland and Reykjavik, Iceland.
WMS held a conference in Athens, Greece in 1986, and many of its leaders, including Farenthold and Vaughan, attended the World Congress of Women in Moscow in 1987.
If you would like to know more about the Reagan-Gorbachev summit meetings, please see our selected reading list.