‘Make Love, Not War’

‘Make Love, Not War’ –it’s a popular phrase, and easily recognizable. I’d say most people with any sense of history or pop culture could trace its beginnings to the Vietnam War, the 60’s, a protest movement, or at least reference hippies. Oddly, though, nobody could say with one hundred percent certainty who first coined the phrase, because nobody knows.

The famous anti-war quip, ‘Make Love, Not War’ seems to have arisen on the slogan scene in the 1960’s as suddenly and without notice as the “Keep Calm and Carry On” phrase today.

The slogan 'Make Love, Not War' originated in 1965 during the midst of Vietnam War protest rallies and remains a popular and well-known anti-war phrase today. First printed on buttons, it has been reproduced on all forms of memorabilia.

Primarily used by those in protest of the Vietnam War, there are two alleged stories that detail the phrase’s beginnings, although all can agree that it first appeared in 1965.

A substantial claim to the phrase has been made by Diane Newell Meyer, who was in 1965 a student at the University of Oregon. Meyer claims to have written “Let’s make love, not war” on an envelope and pinned it to her sweater before attending a protest rally in 1965. In an August 2010 article in Oregon’s Mail Tribune newspaper, Meyer spoke of coining the term:

“It just popped into my head – I remember I started giggling when I wrote it,” Meyer said. “I know I hadn’t read it anywhere before. There is no way to prove it but I think I’m the person  who invented the phrase.”

Photographed at the rally wearing the phrase, the picture was distributed by the Associated Press and even made it into the New York Times, and presumably, the phrase gained momentum from a widespread readership.

The other claim of ownership is made by Franklin and Penelope Rosemont, an activist couple who founded the Chicago Surrealist Group and who were largely involved in Vietnam War protests. In 1965, the Rosemont’s owned a shop called the Solidarity Bookshop in Chicago, Illinois. In the United Kingdom’s Creative Review, a monthly publication covering communication arts worldwide, Penelope Rosemont tells her side of the story:

“In March 1965,” Rosemont says, “we wanted to do a button. The slogan we thought of first was the old…’Make Peace, Not War’ but it seemed too tame for the 60’s. Several of us together at Solidarity Bookshop – myself, Franklin, Bernard Marszalek and Tor Faegre – thought about this and what we came up with finally was ‘Make Love, Not War.’” http://www.creativereview.co.uk/cr-blog/2012/january/make-love-not-war

The famous 'Make Love, Not War' slogan first appeared in print on buttons like this one, allegedly an original made at the Solidarity Bookshop in Chicago, Illinois.

Whether or not the Rosemont’s actually coined the phrase, they are credited with being the first people to print the slogan on memorabilia. Thousands of ‘Make Love, Not War’ buttons printed at the Solidarity Bookshop were distributed at the Mother’s Day Peace March in 1965 and were instrumental in popularizing the phrase.

The 'Make Love, Not War' phrase continues to be reproduced in new ways and incorporated into modern graphics.

A few other popular Vietnam anti-war chants and phrases:

  • “Draft beer, not boys.”
  • “Hell no, we won’t go.”
  • “Eighteen today, dead tomorrow.”
  • “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”

Listen to John Lennon’s song, “Make Love, Not War,” inspired by the anti-war slogan.

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