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More Than Friends

SHAPED BY FLOWER POWER

Women's Stories from Brotherhood of the Spirit

WOMEN IN THE SPIRIT

Marcia Gagliardi

It’s hard to remember how earnest we were and devoted to the words “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”  Wherever we were and whatever we did, the words and sentiment resonated.

Not even a decade earlier, Russian Sputnik had set us on a course to prove the United States capable.  We would go to the moon.  We would excel at math and science.  We would soak up culture and the arts.  We would save the world.  The Kennedy presidency mandated that, as individuals, we do something meaningful for our country and our world. In our 1960s adolescence, we soared on hope and the potential goodness of a future crafted by us in the spirit of unity and mutual understanding.

Vatican II, the 1962 Roman Catholic council generated toward embracing all cultures and religions, opened spiritual doors for everyone American, Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish. We didn’t much consider Buddhists, Sikhs, Muslims, Atheists, and others among us then (at least I didn’t), but they were there, too.

Music percolated as backdrop from the late 1950s. Rock ‘n’ roll, folk music, Elvis, Dylan, Joan Baez, and of course, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits, and The Mamas and the Papas. Most of us remembered when our families didn’t have television even though, by the time we were 12, most of us watched it for hours every day. We lost President Kennedy to the assassin (whom many of us imagined was the government) in 1963. In the same way, in 1968, we lost other 1960s heroes, the civil rights leaders Martin Luther King, Jr., and the president’s brother Robert. Cities exploded, the summer of love evolved into the wide-ranging culture the mainstream called “hip,” and heinous war raged in Vietnam.

Time magazine told us that God was dead in April 1966, and by 1969, Life magazine told us that the psychedelic art of Peter Max had taken us over.

We had grown up in a Leave-It-To-Beaver world where Dad went to work out of the home from nine to five every day, possibly commuting into a city, and Mom kept house in a chic dress and apron. We sort of lived something alluded to as the American Dream. Birth control and abortion were underground, Dad was the boss, and Beatniks smoked dope, separated as they were from anyone interested in the American Dream. Blacks suffered the Jim Crow laws, and women did not wear slacks (as they were called) except at home or to play golf.

After college in 1969, I went to work almost immediately for my hometown newspaper, the Athol Daily News. Athol is a singular mill town, home to the L S Starrett Company, source of the world’s precision tools; although in the early twenty-first century most are made in Japan or China. My first summer, I covered lots of stories, including the local Little League teams, contentions with the school superintendent, the local historical society, and the Brotherhood of the Spirit commune in Warwick. Since hundreds of people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two gravitated to Warwick from all over the world to live with the Brotherhood, we journalists at the paper could not really ignore the phenomena occurring only seven miles away from us.