For a Quaker, worship and action are two sides of the same coin. A concern that arises in worship is lived out in the world and returns to worship to be sustained.
Since it is fundamental to Quaker belief that something of God dwells in every man, woman and child, each person’s well-being is important. Suffering cannot be forgotten. For Scott the hungry child, the tortured prisoner and the victim of bombing all affect her viscerally. Although there is usually almost nothing she can do about the hurt, she tries to do what she can.
Through the years Scott’s most frequent action has been vigiling in nonviolent demonstrations. Early memories are protesting the launching of the first nuclear submarine and supporting the civil rights Freedom Riders. Most frequent vigiling, and a deep concern for Ann, has been protesting nuclear armament, first at the Nevada Test Site and later at a park in the middle of downtown Reno. Scott’s conviction has been so strong that she broke the law and was arrested for crossing the line into Test Site property. On two occasions Scott traveled by air, once to New York to join a million others in a march to support United Nations talks on disarmament, the other to the White House to protest with national peace leaders the continued bombing in the former Yugoslavia, and again to be arrested.
Scott’s concern for poverty also began early, first during high school days when she participated in a Quaker workshop in the slums of Philadelphia, then in her college years where she served on the volunteer staff of University Camp for Girls, the first interracial camp on the East Coast, perhaps in the nation. The camp experience was profoundly influential in Ann’s life. She recollects “We came to camp with the hope of providing ten wonderful days in the country for children from cramped areas of the city. We soon realized that the children’s needs were far beyond our resources. In response we stretched. The children expected the best of us and we expected the best of each other. Together we created a community of kindness and caring for the five hundred children who came to us each summer. It was the most growing experience of my life. I was moved to be chosen as head counselor and later asked to return as director.”
Later while she was at Yale, and for several years after, Scott served as coordinator and better still as acting director of Wider City Parish, the pioneering ecumenical group ministry in New Haven, Connecticut. At the Parish Ann coordinated the work of some hundred volunteers and developed a program called Link which paired small groups of three or four housing project children with Yale undergraduate and graduate students. At the time when Ann married and left the Parish, the Ford Foundation provided a grant to hire a full-time social worker for Link.
Racial equality was an urgent issue when Ann moved to Nevada. In some parts of the state travelers of color were refused a place to eat and a place to stay. Bill and Ann and a number of University colleagues started a Human Relations Council and worked with the NAACP to test the racial policies of Reno hotels. Ann recalls, “I had my first experience of lobbying, going to the Capitol building in Carson City and trying to overcome my shyness to buttonhole legislators and speak out for what I believe. On the national level we successfully strategized to influence one of our Nevada senators in a key vote on crucial civil rights legislation. It was gratifying to see the way in a small state that a few concerned citizens could influence votes on important national issues.”
Through the years the little Friends Meeting worked cooperatively with the dynamic San Francisco office of the American Friends Service Committee. Reno Friends worked in fund raising for a community organizer for the Pyramid Paiute Tribe, in draft counseling for conscientious objectors to the Vietnam War, and in work with inmates in the Nevada State Prison. When the great marches crossed the country – the American Indian march from Alcatraz, the Buddhist peace march for disarmament and the Poor People’s March – AFSC coordinated the stay in Reno and Ann took care of hospitality and the media.
When the AFSC closed its Reno office and there were no longer staff to carry on the work, many requests came to the Scotts. It became clear that a new organization was needed to work on issues of peace and justice. Ann gathered together Jewish, Muslim, and Paiute friends and Christians of many stripes and Sierra Interfaith Action for Peace was formed. This voluntary organization recently celebrated its twentieth birthday.
Rarely did Scott see the results of her peace activities but there were some surprising exceptions. Scott remembers “I had just returned from the Nevada Test Site when I attended a children’s book conference in Fresno, California. It occurred to me to ask to speak briefly of our urgent need for peace and to say that if each one of us did something for peace we could change the world. Years later I attended the annual Conference of the American Booksellers and was introduced to THE BIG BOOK FOR PEACE which had been organized by a group of writers and illustrators, some of whom had heard my talk many years before. The small seed of my suggestion had blossomed into this handsome volume.” Though Scott has seen few fruits of the concerned community’s diligent pursuit of peace and justice, she is pleased to see in her lifetime the giant and fundamental steps forward in the areas of civil rights and in the non-violent movement. Unfortunately there is still a slow and daunting way to go in the all-important struggle for peace and justice.
“Then why,” Ann asks “do I still keep writing letters to the President and making calls to my Congressional Representatives? In the familiar words of Quaker testimony ‘Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness,’ or to put it more simply, I do it because I must.”