Donna Reed was a beautiful American actress who was probably best known for her role as Mary Bailey, the long suffering wife of George in It’s a Wonderful Life. During World War II, she became a very popular pin-up for soldiers overseas – she visited army bases overseas a number of times and corresponded regularly with soldiers on active duty. Although her daughter said she never spoke of the letters she received, when she passed away of cancer in 1986 at age 64, her family found hundreds of these letters stored in her attic:
All told, Ms. Reed held on to 341 letters, some typed but many written in the kind of elegant … method cursive script rarely seen today. Taken as a whole, the correspondence offers a candid glimpse of a vanished era, a time when six hard-bitten Marine sergeants could write that “we think you’re swell” and mean it in something other than an ironic sense … Gauging the impact that the letters had on Ms. Reed is difficult. “I knew she had feelings about her country and participating as a concerned citizen,” Ms. Owen said. But, she added, her mother did not talk about the letters. Ms. Reed lamented to a female pen pal in 1942 that “my effort to win the war hasn’t amounted to much” and “I wish I could find more to do.” (source)
Later in life, and perhaps because of the impact the war and these soldiers in particular had on her, Reed became active in the anti-war movement as a prominent member of the group Another Mother for Peace (AMP). The group is still very active active and shares information such as the recent United Nations report Silence is Violence, End the Abuse of Women in Afghanistan (PDF), encouraging members to act speak, write and act out to encourage peace.
AMP’s Pax Mantra has been a cornerstone for women protesting against war in the United States for decades, including when Reed was a member. This simple, but powerful statement ends, “they shall not send my son to fight another mother’s son. For now, forever, there is no mother who is enemy to another mother.”