A Catholic Dominican nun well-known in Colorado for smearing her blood on Air Force fighter planes and nuclear missile silos in anti-war protests, and who inspired one of the characters in the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black,” has died.
Sister Ardeth Platte, 84, passed away in her sleep Tuesday night at her home, the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House, in Washington, D.C., said Bill Sulzman, founder of Colorado Springs-based Citizens for Peace in Space.
“It was very sudden,” he said. "She was such a leader."
Platte and two other nuns in the Dominican religious congregation, Sister Carol Gilbert and the late Sister Jackie Hudson, spent nearly half a century as peace activists, using civil disobedience to resist the buildup of nuclear weapons and call for disarmament.
“It’s a long career of activism that is admirable and inspiring,” Sulzman said. "I and the people of Colorado owe her a tremendous debt to the awareness she brought about the deployment of nuclear weapons in our state and our state's role, and why we should pay attention to that."
Platte’s presence in Colorado began with a demonstration at Peterson Air Force Base 20 years ago, when the trio of nuns made headlines after they were arrested for spraying their blood on a fighter plane. The charges were dropped.
They were arrested again in 2002 after cutting a chain-link fence to enter a nuclear missile site in northeastern Colorado, which at the time ranked as one of the top 10 nuclear powerhouses in the world because of the Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles that were buried underground.
The nuns prayed and poured their blood in the shape of a cross on a Minuteman III missile silo.
They served 41 months in a federal correctional facility in Danbury, Conn., at the same time as television personality Martha Stewart and Piper Kerman, who wrote “Orange is the New Black,” which became a Netflix series with Platte depicted as one of the characters.
“We did yoga together,” Platte said in March, when she was last in Colorado Springs, of her incarceration with the celebrities.
The nuns returned often to Colorado and Colorado Springs, with their appearances sponsored by Sulzman's organization and the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission.
Hudson died in 2011, and in recent years, Platte and Gilbert worked on garnering support for the United Nations' Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was passed in 2017 but must be ratified in order to ban everything from possession to transfer of nuclear weapons.
They traveled the nation to promote the treaty, including delivering a copy to Peterson Air Force Base in 2017. They also appeared at U.N. meetings multiple times. The treaty has yet to be ratified.
Platte and Gilbert talked to University of Colorado at Colorado Springs students and members of a local church when they were in here in March, before the cornavirus pandemic hit.
Platte wore a sweatshirt that said, "I'm Already Against the Next War," as she and Gilbert spoke about the importance of nuclear disarmament. They also were featured at events in Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins and Canon City.
Their message had broadened to encompass climate change and fossil-fuel divestment in their drive to “save the planet for future generations.”
Sulzman said Platte's unexpected death is "a reminder to keep working on nuclear disarmament" because the issue "has not gone away."