Manassas Journal Messenger | Manassas peace activist dies at 97

Louise Elizabeth Franklin-Ramirez, a peace activist who traveled the globe to spread the word about the dangers of nuclear energy, died at 3:20 p.m. Wednesday at Prince William Hospital.

“She died very peacefully … like a light burning out. I held her hand and sang a lullaby to her as she always liked someone to sing to her,” said her husband John Steinbach.

The couple lived at “Earth Lodge,” 7615 Lake Drive in Manassas.

Ramirez, 97, is probably best known for her pioneering work organizing to commemorate the anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and for her work with radiation survivors worldwide.

For the past 22 years the “Hiroshima/Nagasaki Peace Committee of the National Capital Area,” which she founded, has hosted Hibakusha delegations from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Two were in Manassas this week and participated in a ceremony at her home Thursday evening after discovering that she had died the day before.

In August 1993, she represented Gray Panthers and Women Strike for Peace at the World Conference Against A & H Bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, and was one of only three international delegates to address the mass rally in Hiroshima on Hiroshima Day.

Since the 1960s, Ramirez has been arrested dozens of times for nonviolent acts of protest, including the Nevada Nuclear Test site at age 91. Her most recent arrest was at the Supreme Court in 2000 at age 94 while protesting the death penalty. Her most recent protest was in New York City on Feb. 15, 2003, where she braved the bitter cold to protest the invasion of Iraq.

Ramirez received many awards and honors during her lifetime. In 1988, she was the recipient of the “Lewis Mumford Peace Award” by “Architects, Planners and Designers for Social Responsibility” joining past Mumford Laureates Al Gore, Jimmy Carter and the Center for Defense Information. In 1999, she received the prestigious “Courage for Conscience Award” from the “Peace Abbey” in Sherborn, Mass.

Continuing to be active in peace and justice until her death, she is survived by her husband, 58, who is a longtime environmental and social justice organizer. Together they functioned as an intergenerational team, representing the Gray Panthers and stressing the importance of intergenerational solidarity.

She married Carl Frazier in 1932 and they divorced without any children. She married Gilberto Ramirez in 1937 and they had three children. Survivors include her sister Eleanor Salkind; three children from her second marriage, Dr. Lincoln Ramirez of Madison, Wisc.; Martha Ramirez Luehrmann of Berkeley, Calif., and Dr. Gilma Ramirez of Carmiel, Israel; six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A memorial service is planned around Sept. 28, near her birthday. She was the eldest of four children and was born in Washington, D.C., in 1905.

Ramirez attend D.C. Central High and graduated from Wilson Normal School in 1927 with a teaching degree. She received her Bachelor’s degree from D.C. Teachers College in 1936 and her Master’s degree from Columbia University in 1943. Ramirez taught for the D.C. school system until the mid-1940s when she moved with her family to Puerto Rico. After returning to the mainland United States in the mid-1950s, she taught special education for Fairfax public schools during the 1950s and early 1960s. She returned to the D.C. schools in 1964 as a special reading consultant and played a crucial role in making the schools’ reading program one of the nation’s best. She retired from active teaching in 1976.

Ramirez was an elected member of the Board of Directors of the University of D.C. Alumni Association and continued to be active at the school right up until the time of her death.

Ramirez was a longtime peace and justice activist and anti-nuclear researcher. In 1917, at the age of 12, she, with her mother’s help, organized a neighborhood “Strawberry Festival” to raise money for the victims of the Armenian Holocaust.

She was an early member of “Women Strike for Peace” and has been organizing for peace since the 1930s when she protested shipments of scrap iron to Japan and Germany.

She was a key organizer of the “Women Strike for Peace” protest against atmospheric nuclear testing in 1962, which, according to President John F. Kennedy, resulted in the “Limited Test Ban Treaty.” She is the author of the map and database “Deadly Radiation Hazards USA,” used by Dr. Helen Caldicott for the frontispiece of her anti-nuclear manifesto, “Nuclear Madness: What You Can Do About It.”

Ramirez and Steinbach, who met at a Coalition for a Non-Nuclear World protest in front of the Pentagon in 1980, have been the subject of several articles in The Manassas Journal Messenger and Potomac News through the years, as they made news with their protests and arrests.

Staff writer Bennie Scarton Jr. can be reached at (703) 369-6707.

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