Lifetime of activism is rewarded

Photo by Daniel Jackovino
For her community advocacies, Bloomfield resident Jane Califf was
recognized by the Women’s Federation for World Peace USA with a
Herstory Award recognizing her ‘trailblazing social activism, impactful work as an educator and critical environmental advocacy.’

Bloomfield resident and activist, Jane Califf, was the recipient of a Herstory Award given by the Women’s Federation for World Peace USA, on Jan. 13, during a Zoom conference ceremony.

Headquartered in NYC, the WFWP is a nongovernmental organization in general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. The purpose of the award is to recognize women making a difference in their communities.

In her acceptance speech, Califf said she has been an activist since the late 1950s.

“I was lucky to have supportive and loving parents,” she said. “So when I learned about the important choices they made to support social, political and economic choices, I decided that was the path I would choose, too. My activism has included risking arrest in nonviolent civil disobedience, as a last resort, when all others have failed.”

A familiar face in assemblies for Bloomfield progressive causes, the soft-spoken Califf, as a teenager, attended “Ban the Bomb” rallies, marched in Washington, D.C. for integrated schools, and later, as an adult and teacher, was active with the Teachers Committee for Peace in Vietnam.

“I am now an active member of NJ Peace Action and our causes include calling for an immediate ceasefire in the catastrophic war on Gaza which we publicize in weekly vigils,” she said.

An educator for more than 40 years, she taught English literacy to elementary school students, alternative high school students and prisoners.

“I ended as a professor in the Department of Urban Education, at Rutgers University, in Newark, where I ran the student teachers program.” she said.

Her years of teaching experience culminated in a book: “How to Teach Without Screaming: Inspiring Stories, Insights and Strategies to Help You and Your Student Thrive.” Califf said the book is meant to help create cooperative classroom environments and took 20 years to finish.

She had been nominated for the Herstory Award by Irmgard Baynes, also a Bloomfield resident, and the treasurer for the WFWP.

In an interview, Baynes said the WFWP was founded to empower women.

“The power of women is the missing piece in our society to create peace,” she said. “The special feminine perspective of a motherly heart could make this world much more harmonious and peaceful.”

Baynes first encountered Califf at the Brookdale Reformed Church where Califf and her husband were giving a perspective on raising monarch butterflies to “stave off their extinction.”

“I thought, wow!” Baynes said.

Baynes subsequently met Califf at an Earth Day activity and together attended several Bloomfield Township Council meetings.

“I was amazed by her tenacity,” Baynes said,

Baynes also learned of Califf’s leadership in the Bloomfield Citizens Solar Campaign which advocated installing solar panels on Bloomfield school and municipal

“She and her civic organization kept speaking up, doing research, gathering data from other towns and public schools which had already installed solar panels,” Baynes said. “All this was done to present a stronger reason at the next town council or school board meeting. One of the reasons she gave, which touched me, was that solar panels were an example of hope for the future of our children. And that children could feel pride in participating in research.”

The effort by the solar campaign appears to have yielded results. In December, the Bloomfield Township Council voted affirmatively to hire a vendor to write the public request for a solar panel installation. It is proposed they would be installed atop the downtown parking deck on Glenwood Avenue.

“Irmgard was really impressed that we never gave up and had some success,” Califf said.

She added that, among her many causes, what stands out for her is her book to aid teachers and working with the citizens solar committee.

“I’m very grateful to Irmgard for this award and the WFWP’s mission to empower women to work together for peace,” she said.

Califf’s book can be found online:

Photo Courtesy of Irmgard Baynes
Bloomfield resident Irmgard Baynes, pictured, nominated Jane Califf for the award.