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Sleuthing in the Donna Reed Archives

Sleuthing in the Donna Reed Archives

An article by Judy Miller

After The Donna Reed Show ended, Donna wrote to her pen pal, Violet Ramsey, on February 24, 1966, "Tony and I are at liberty for the first time in our married lives. I intend to stay so, at liberty and married, but I suspect he will be back in action soon, though I hope not in T.V. Once around (8 yrs. makes a big circle) is enough!"

Tony did shortly return to Columbia Pictures as a producer. Donna was content to appear on an occasional TV special, spend time helping her older children get established in college and careers, and involve herself with Mary's many activities.

She also donated her time and money to the Crippled Children's Association, and to The Parkinson’s Foundation in honor of her mother, Hazel Shives Mullenger, who suffered from the disease.

Dallas cast photo
Dallas cast photo and National Enquirer article (June 26, 1984) that Donna Reed found fitting to save.

She eventually returned to television, temporarily replacing Barbara Bel Geddes as Miss Ellie, the Ewing family matriarch, on Dallas for 24 episodes during the 1984-1985 season.

In the late 60s, Donna increased her political activism. She had become disenchanted with California's governor, Ronald Reagan, due to his stand on educational and mental health issues. She was equally displeased with the Vietnam War situation. Although this conflict had been simmering since 1959, anti-war sentiment peaked in the late 60s and early 70s. Donna was ideologically and personally opposed to the war, having two sons of military draft age.

In 1967, a group of women attended the first birthday party of the son of Donna's friend and former scriptwriter, Barbara Avedon. From that party, the idea of forming a grassroots nonprofit, nonpartisan anti-war advocacy group emerged. It resulted in the founding of Another Mother for Peace which was "dedicated to eliminating the use of war as the means of solving disputes between nations, people, and ideologies."

War Is Not Healthy poster
Lorriane Schneider's iconic poster

The first official action of the group was to send Mothers' Days cards to President Johnson and members of Congress expressing their yearning for peace. A card was designed by artist Lorraine Schneider and the rights were donated to the Foundation. It featured a yellow sunflower and the slogan, "War is not healthy for children and other living things." The card became recognized worldwide and was the featured wall decor of a good many of the rooms in my college dorm.

The first printing of 100 cards quickly sold out. By May of 1967 over 200,000 cards had been sold and members of Congress were flooded with them. The proceeds were used to promote public awareness and support the campaigns of anti-war congressional candidates.

Film and television celebrities, including Donna Reed, Debbie Reynolds, Paul Neumann, Joanne Woodward, and Dick Van Dyke appeared on national television to promote the anti-war agenda. As always, Donna showed the courage of her convictions.

Hughes Telegram image
Telegram from Iowa Senator Harold Hughes in referencee to her work for Another Mother for Peace.

In 1968, then-president Lyndon B. Johnson made his famous "I will not seek, and I will not accept the nomination of my party as your president" speech. Nixon ran on a campaign of ending U.S. involvement in the war. On March 29, 1973, two months after the signing of the Vietnam Peace Agreement under the Nixon administration, the last American troops were withdrawn from South Vietnam.

The organization, Another Mother for Peace, still operates as a nonprofit, nonpartisan group, having been revitalized by the children of Lorraine Schneider (Carol) and Barbara Avadon (Joshua). Their aim remains the promotion and pursuit of peace. Lorraine’s Another Mother for Peace Sunflower Logo continues to see use and exhibition around the world.


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