Just in front of Catt Hall, on the University of Iowa campus, lies a patio dubbed the “Plaza of Heroines.” Each brick in that plaza is engraved with the name of a great woman, and in section F, row 8, there is June Wing’s brick.
Long one of Baltimore’s most dedicated workers for peace and against nuclear proliferation, June Wing was educated at Oberlin College (to start) and respected by politicians and activists alike across the country.
She was a lifelong fighter for women’s rights, social and economic equality, a single-payer national health service, and peace. Toward those ends she involved herself in politics, including demonstrations, campaigns for office, and, once, allegedly, the purchase of real estate.
A commanding presence as an adult, Wing was “a noticeable person” from an “early age,” according to an obituary that ran in the The Bridgton News in Maine. This was due to her “intelligence and curiosity, her academic achievements, her leadership in many settings, her storytelling abilities, her recall of poetry and prose and her sense of justice.”
That sense of justice drove her, according to her son, Daniel, who told The Sun that Wing’s Depression-era upbringing “contributed to her evolution as a lifelong activist for peace, civil rights and liberties, for professional and experimental ethics . . . gender and financial equality, nuclear disarmament, a national system for single-payer health care and for increased caution in the uses of ionizing radiation.”
Born in Chicago, the daughter of a salesman named John Stockfisch and his wife, a concert vocalist named Elsa, she married Dr. Wilson Wing in 1940. The couple moved to Baltimore in 1949 when Dr. Wing took a faculty position at Johns Hopkins.
By 1951 June Wing was president of the Baltimore City League of Women Voters, a position she held until 1953. She was a member of the National Executive Committee of the United World Federalists, an organization which thought the United Nations was too weak to prevent war. From 1961-1963 Wing chaired the Maryland Committee for a Nuclear Test Ban.
“She was one of the first persons I met when I came to Baltimore in ’67 to work with Phil Berrigan and the Baltimore Interfaith Peace Mission,” says Brendan Walsh, who with his wife, Willa, operates Viva House in West Baltimore. Walsh says he flew to St. Louis with Wing a month later for a conference on draft resistance. “A lot of the things we learned there about the shoddy way draft records were kept . . . led to the blood being poured on draft records in Catonsville,” he says. The Catonsville 9, Berrigan brothers included, stole and destroyed draft records in May of 1968, touching off a series of similar actions across the country.
The military draft ended in 1973, after years of civil disobedience and high-level study.
Walsh remembers Wing’s role in the epic fight to keep a highway from running over Fells Point in the late 1960s. “She went and bought houses in Fells Point,” Walsh says, “so it would be another obstacle.”
In 1968 Wing was chair of Maryland Citizens for McCarthy—Eugene McCarthy, the Democratic Minnesota congressman who ran for president to the left of incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson on an anti-Vietnam War platform, leading to Johnson’s unprecedented withdrawal from the race.
Wing went to the ’68 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and tried to stop the violence Mayor Richard J. Daley’s police visited upon protesters. Wing tried to get the presidential nominee, Hubert Humphrey, to call Daley, but was not able to get in to see the candidate. Larry Kamanitz, who was at the convention with Wing, recalled for The Sun: “She wanted to get him to stop the rioting, but he was asleep at the time, so we never saw him.”
Wing herself lost a race in 1970 for Maryland’s 5th District House of Delegates seat. She went to the Democratic National Convention as a delegate in 1972.
She earned a master’s degree from the Institute of Science Technology and Policy at George Washington University in 1976, and taught in high schools and colleges.
She was a co-founder of Nuclear-Free America, a nonprofit that sought to ban nuclear weapons. Max Obuszewski met Wing when he moved to Baltimore in 1983 to work on that issue.
“That was her issue for the rest of her life,” he says.
In 1992 the group managed to get the City Council to pass an ordinance declaring Baltimore a “nuclear free zone.”
“There was a big sign on Charles Street as you entered the city,” says Obuszewski. “Then O’Malley comes in and more or less gets rid of it.”
He says Wing retired from activism around 2005. But she stayed sharp, even as her eyesight failed in her last two years. “She kept up with current events, she listened to the radio,” Obuszewski says. Walsh says friends read the New York Times to Wing.
Straddling the gap between street activism and party politics, Wing gracefully filled a role seen less often today as the Democratic Party lurches rightward and issues such as nuclear proliferation—and the threat of world annihilation—fade from the agenda.
“Yeah, those were glory days,” Obuszewski says of the early ’90s. “I didn’t realize it at the time.”
Wing’s biography printed in a database accompanying her brick on the plaza in Iowa points to why. Its last line, in all caps, declares: “JUNE WING ALSO HAS A GREAT SENSE OF HUMOR.”