Object of the Month Blog – Wicker Basket

This month’s object of the month blog is dedicated to a traditional wicker wooden basket; it belonged to the late, long serving peace campaigner, Frances MacKeith. It is said that Frances purchased the basket at the age of twenty five. She bought it once Britain declared war on Germany which began World War Two. Frances wished to do something ‘normal’ that day, knowing life would soon change. The basket has its own history and holds Frances’ legacy. As an active peace campaigner, it was this very same basket that she took with her when attending protests and demonstrations in opposition to the Second World War. After the war she was a determined and outspoken advocate of peace and internationalism. Frances joined the Quakers in the 60s and became known as ‘The Peace Woman’. To the people who knew her, she was a very friendly individual; she was a friend to all, not least travellers and refugees.

Frances protested for many causes, including protesting against the Vietnam War, the Iraq War and nuclear weapons. In the 1950s, Frances was a part of the Aldermaston March, a demonstration in protest of the Vietnam War. In fact, she was imprisoned for a while after protesting the Iraq War. Whilst she was held captive, she used her time to explain Quakerism to her cell mate, who was rather young. Furthermore, she put Quaker stickers on the walls of her cell wall; including the well known saying, ‘Make love, not war’. In Faslane, Frances took part in non violent direct action against Trident, three times. A permanent peace camp was sited at Faslane where demonstrators engaged in blockades, further protests and occupied by campaigners, including Frances.

All the while, Frances carried her basket no matter where she was. Her 90th birthday party was at Aldermaston, a place that will forever remember Frances for her campaigning. All in all it would be impossible to talk about the basket, without associating it with Frances MacKeith and her fascinating and inspiring story. The basket will form part of the new Responses to Conflict exhibition at the Peace Museum and will be on display. The exhibition will also cover peaceful responses to many conflicts which Frances demonstrated against, such as the Vietnam War, the Cold War and the Iraq War. In addition, we have a permanent display which tells the story of those who campaigned at Aldermaston and Greenham Common. We would welcome all to come and view the basket which is in a remarkably good condition, despite its interesting history!

Written by Maryam Anser and Sarah Bartey.        

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