The Rabble Rousers
Several times as filming progressed, Gbowee had occasion to return to Manhattan, and when she did, she stayed at Disney's apartment. She was there when one of Disney's sons was sick, and she saw that, despite the Disney money, here was a mother who worried the way all mothers do. The two women began to get to know each other. Slowly they started becoming friends.
I have been friends with Disney for nearly 30 years, and in August, when Gbowee was in town for another UN conference, I joined them for dinner. As Disney cooked, her husband, Pierre Hauser, a writer and another old friend, could be heard down the hall, cheering and watching the Olympics with their two young sons. One of their daughters stopped in the kitchen on her way out to see a movie. Gbowee checked her e-mail on the family computer. When Disney set out dinner—roast chicken, fried zucchini, and rice—she remembered to serve a hot-pepper sauce Gbowee likes.
Things are equally cozy and hospitable when Disney goes to Liberia. "A friend was like, 'How can you invite her to your house? You have so many children. That place is too humble,'" Gbowee told me over dinner. "And I said, 'Listen to me. I have five children. Abby has four children, three cats, two turtles, one dog, one bunny, one goldfish.'"
That both women are mothers is not a negligible coincidence but a first principle: Pray the Devil Back to Hell shows how motherhood can become an eloquent political force. But their children aren't the only thing that unites them; temperamentally, too, Gbowee and Disney are alike. "It's remarkable," says Mary McCormick, president of the Fund for the City of New York, a wide-ranging philanthropic organization that has set up a program so donors can contribute to the women's peace-building movement in Africa. "They're totally unsimilar in terms of the obvious: wealth, origin, nationality. But they're very similar in terms of their drive, and their vision, and their willingness to do what it takes to get the job done."
Disney grew up in Toluca Lake, California, just two miles from the Disney studio in Burbank. As a teenager she spent a lot of time playing basketball and volleyball, pastimes that irked her family for being unladylike; when I first met her, in 1979, irking her family was a preoccupation. Back then, it was clear to her friends that she regarded family wealth with pained ambivalence, a predicament that was greeted with scant sympathy.
She involved herself as little as possible with the studio and the family investment corporation. After graduating from Yale, she moved to New York; she wrote her PhD thesis at Columbia on American war novels; she and Hauser started the Daphne Foundation and began giving money to grassroots organizations that fight poverty.