Yearly Archives: 1967

1967: Six Months In Jail

In the summer of 1967, Sheila began her six-month jail term at the Washington Women’s House of Detention.

(We don’t know the details behind the year-long delay between the appeal and the start of her term, although this may have been intended to allow her to finish her college degree at Catholic University.)

Sheila was an uncooperative and troublesome prisoner. All of the other protestors who received six-month sentences were released in less time, but Sheila’s behavior earned her additional time:

  • She organized literacy classes in which the better-educated prisoners would teach the less-educated ones, in violation of jail rules prohibiting any prisoner organizations.
  • Sheila went on a hunger strike to protest the jail conditions, but nobody had told her that you were allowed to drink while on a hunger strike, so she became seriously dehydrated until the guards forced fluids into her by IV.
  • She stole a US flag from the front of the jail, and then set it on fire on the lawn during the arrival of a visiting delegation coming to review the jail.
  • She refused to do her jail job of washing dishes during the time that hundreds of people arrested during the October 21, 1967 “levitate the Pentagon” march were still being held.

She was released in January 1968.

1967: Tracing the Hidden Hand of the CIA

Cathy Wilkerson, one of the Weathermen who survived the March 6, 1970 explosion in Greenwich Village, had met Sheila when she first moved to Washington D.C. in 1967:

Sheila Ryan wrote about the connections between Democratic Party leaders and the Institute of International Labor Research, an organization that designed and set up “left” parties in seventeen Latin American countries, supporting them with funds from the CIA. The leaders of these parties then helped the United States to orchestrate the installation of politicians loyal to the United States, like Bosch in the Dominican Republic, without showing their hand too obviously. WFP writers also researched connections between local political people, including a few in the peace movement, and CIA-funded foundations and institutes. Through these articles, and others published in Ramparts magazine during the same period, I learned to search for the funding behind any foundation, organization, or institute and to stay suspicious of the hidden hand of the CIA, which in the name of democracy often sought to undermine local grass-roots forces.

… Peter Henig’s friend from Earlham, Marilyn McNabb… like Peter and Sheila, was drawn to the task of teasing apart the connections between the various circles of power in the country, and in so doing, showed how these circles knowingly served each other.

— From Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times As a Weatherman, By Cathy Wilkerson, Seven Stories Press 2007, p 136-137.

(At Google Books) (At Amazon)

1967: Writing for the Washington Free Press

During a delay after sentencing, while she was finishing her college degree, Sheila began writing articles for the Washington Free Press, an “underground” newspaper.

According to Wikipedia:

The Washington Free Press was a biweekly radical underground newspaper published in Washington, DC, beginning in 1966, when it was founded by representatives of the five colleges in Washington as a community paper for local Movement people. It was an early member of the Underground Press Syndicate. Starting in Dec. 1967 they shared a three-story house in northwest Washington with the Liberation News Service, the Washington Draft Resistance Union, and a local chapter of the anti-draft group Resistance.

Around this time, she also became involved in the Students for a Democratic Society.