Cynthia Cockburn

Cynthia Cockburn was a feminist sociologist, writer, academic, photographer and peace activist.

She explored the gendered aspects of violence and conflict and made significant contributions to the peace movement through her exploration of the themes of masculinity and violence as well as her local and international activism.

Cynthia brought a feminist power analysis to militarisation and war, and was among the academics whose writings and analysis clearly demonstrated how gender-based violence played a key part in perpetuating war. Working closely with peace activists in countries experiencing conflict, her findings covered diverse contexts including Northern Ireland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Israel/Palestine, South Korea, Japan, Spain and the UK. She helped bring in her research and academic writings, an understanding that violence was experienced as a continuum of time and scale and perceived very differently when seen from a gendered lens.

In her words, “Gender helps us to see the continuity, the connection between instances of violence.” 

Cynthia bridged her research with the activism she did locally and internationally with movements for demilitarisation, disarmament and peace. She helped start the Greenham Common women’s peace camp, which advocated for universal nuclear disarmament in Britain and was part of establishing the London chapter of Women in Black.

Over the decades, Cynthia organized and participated in local weekly vigils and the political choir Raised Voices, singing in the choir, and writing several of the lyrics to the songs that have made up its repertoire. She was also active in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the European Forum of Socialist Feminists as well as in Women Against Fundamentalism.

“Cynthia shed feminist light, wove together feminist communities, sang songs of peace, listened, listened, listened, watched the birds – and stopped traffic. I’ll be forever and gratefully in her debt, the other ‘Cynthia’” – Cynthia Enloe

Cynthia was born in July 1934 and passed away in September 2019 at the age of 85.