Ardeth Platte
Dominican Sister, Peacemaker (1936–2020)

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Ardeth Platte
Photo courtesy of the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids

In October 2002, Sr. Ardeth Platte, along with fellow Dominicans Carol Gilbert and Jackie Hudson, stole onto a Minuteman III missile silo in Colorado. Dressed in hazmat suits inscribed with the words “Disarmament Specialists” and “Citizens’ Weapons Inspectors Team,” they prayed, “Oh God, help us to be peacemakers in a hostile world,” before pouring their own blood in the shape of the cross. Convicted of sabotage, the three were sentenced to prison, with Sr. Ardeth, who had the most extensive “criminal” record, receiving 41 months. In this case she served two years in Danbury Federal Correctional Institution, where she became popular with the other prisoners and inspired a character in the television series Orange Is the New Black.

But this was only one stop on a journey of faith that began at the age of 18 when Platte first joined the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids. She taught school and engaged in various social services in Saginaw, where she became such a highly respected local figure that she was elected to serve on the city council. But by the 1980s, her attention turned full-time to the threat of nuclear war. With Sr. Carol she moved to Jonah House in Baltimore, a community dedicated to direct action against nuclear war, including “Plowshares Actions” against nuclear facilities. She was arrested numerous times, while also lobbying on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (which won the Nobel Prize in 2017). In 2018 she moved to the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House in Washington, DC, where she died in her sleep on September 30, 2020.

“I will continue doing direct action for the rest of my life. If I can walk, you’ll find me out there.”

—Sr. Ardeth Platte

Robert Ellsberg

Robert Ellsberg is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Orbis Books and the author of several award-winning books, including All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time; Blessed Among All Women; and The Saints' Guide to Happiness.