National WAND was founded in 1982 as Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament by Helen Caldicott, a pediatrician and longtime anti-nuclear activist, who also founded Physicians for Social Responsibility.
Women launched WAND because they were outraged to learn that they were 40-60% more likely to develop cancer than adult men with the same radiation exposure levels, and that radiation can pass through the placenta, causing fetal anomalies and disrupting the natural growth of the fetus’s reproductive organs. Girls in the zero to five age group are twice as likely to develop cancer from the same dose radiation exposure as boys of the same age. Radiation exposure also reduces fertility, increases birth defects, and can be devastating to developing embryos, including causing spontaneous abortion or miscarriage.
In 1984, the only Southeast chapter of WAND was established as Atlanta WAND. With the end of the cold war, our name changed to Atlanta Women’s Action for New Directions. Many dedicated women dreamed of taking Atlanta WAND, which was all volunteer for decades, to the next level. We created a fund to hire an executive director. Our generous supporters and longtime donors rallied around this funding effort which resulted in hiring Bobbie Paul.
We went statewide and changed our name to Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions; and in 2006, we established our own 501c3, Georgia WAND Education Fund (“Georgia WAND”). With the help of strong board leadership, dedicated staff, and widespread community support, Bobbie guided Georgia WAND from a volunteer-led chapter into a quarter of a million-dollar organization. We educate the public about federal budget priorities, environmental justice, and the threat of nuclear proliferation and waste.
Georgia WAND staff and volunteers have traveled the state, educating Georgians about high levels of military spending and nuclear weapons and building a base of people to help educate the public and decision makers. We believe that nuclear production in the U.S. is an issue of environmental racism. In the early 2000’s, we began focusing our work we met Annie Laura Howard Stephens, a community leader in East Georgia who cultivated the relationship between Georgia WAND and the local community of Shell Bluff. Shell Bluff is a rural, farming-class community in Burke County whose population is 51% Black and living downwind and downstream from the Savannah River Site (SRS), a nuclear weapons plant across the Savannah river in South Carolina, and nuclear power Plant Vogtle, which is currently expanding from two to four working reactors. We began tracking activities at the sites and found that SRS and Vogtle were contaminating the community for decades. Tritium and plutonium production and radioactive waste dumped in unlined trenches at SRS, coupled with regular releases at Vogtle, contributed to the toxification of Shell Bluff. We approach our work using an intersectional analysis grounded in the experience of working class women of color working to address the toxicity of their local environment.