Stories of Hope-Barbara Reynolds

1958-1960: Sailing in Restricted Water

Picketers in favor of the
Golden Rule                                    Protestors opposing the pacifists

In the spring of 1958, nearing the end of its round-the-world voyage, the Phoenix docked in Hawaii. In Honolulu at the same time was the ketch the Golden Rule, crewed by Albert Bigelow and his group of Quaker activists. They were on trial for violating Atomic Energy Commission regulations by sailing into the restricted zone at Eniwetok as a protest against continued nuclear testing by the United States.

Barbara and Earle became very interested in the case; they had the chance to talk with the crew personally and attended their trial. Earle performed additional research on the activists’ claims. Due to his interest in sailing and scientific background, and due to the family’s eye-opening experiences on their voyage around the world, Barbara and Earle were inclined to give the Golden Rule case serious attention. By the time the men of the Golden Rule were sentenced to two months in jail, the Reynolds had concluded that the activists were not just “crackpots.”
After thorough consideration, Barbara and Earle decided that they agreed with the cause of the Golden Rule. The Reynolds family considered the possibility of continuing the protest voyage by sailing through the testing zone, which was on the natural route back to Japan. In addition to the threat of arrest, they faced the possibility of being exposed to dangerous radiation. The family decided as a group that they would continue the voyage through the restricted zone.

The Reynolds family cited freedom of the seas and the immorality of continuing nuclear weapons testing as their causes. Barbara was more preoccupied with the latter cause, as she had developed a deep concern for the welfare of humanity in the face of nuclear weapons. The couple entered the testing zone not as members of any organized activist group or out of any particular religious convictions, but out of their own alarm over the actions of their country.

The Coast Guard met the Phoenix on the border of the testing zone and ordered the vessel to turn back. Instead, the Phoenix stayed its course, and Earle was arrested sixty-five miles into the restricted area. His trials lasted for two years before he was finally acquitted of treason. During this period, Barbara and Earle became convinced Quakers.
Barbara Reynolds was welcomed in Honolulu as she leaves the Phoenix, while Earle was escorted back to dock under guard and charges of treason.

The Reynolds family moved back to Japan, where they lived on board the Phoenix, and Earle turned to teaching at Hiroshima Jogakuin. Now that they had become involved in the peace movement, there was no turning back. They made friends with many Japanese, who appreciated their effort at bringing the plight of nuclear weapons to the world's conscience. The hibakusha told them their stories of the blasts, destroyed families, keloid scars, radiation sickness, and discrimination. They entrusted Barbara and Earle with these personal experiences in the hope that they would bring their stories and hope for peace to America and the world.

“I began to feel that God was speaking to us, too. We had thought we were sailing around the world for our own pleasure but now it seemed that God had been preparing us for action.”

-Barbara Reynolds, The Phoenix and the Dove

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