[Hpn] [Fwd: Yesterday's celebration of Ginny Muir Hirsch]

William Mandel wmmmandel@earthlink.net
Mon, 24 Feb 2003 20:58:55 -0800

William Mandel wrote:
> An exceptional man's description of his extraordinary wife, a great
> unsung American I knew for sixty years, actually six years long than he.
> He focuses on her public life. I will add that she was a greatgrandneice
> of naturalist John Muir, who the family thought of as that man who ran
> away from his wife and children to run around in the mountains. She had
> also been an Olympic-class sprinter despite having a heroic figure one
> does not associate with that sport. She loved dancing and we danced a
> lot. Someone described her as a gut feminist, although her conscious
> focus was elsewhere, yet she gave an inordinate amount of time to an
> elderly woman, not a relative, whose unspeakable husband forced sex upon
> her.
>                                                                 William Mandel
> Fred Hirsch wrote:
> > ------------------------------------
> >                     Fred Hirsch          2/23/03
> >
> > Dear Friends, Sisters and Brothers, Companeras y Companeros, Ginnyıs
> > Comrades all,
> >
> >  We are, as I knew we would be, humbled by the depth, breadth and warmth of
> > the love and respect for Ginny thatıs present in this room. Ginnyıs death
> > touches us all for a single reason, her life touched us all. She was not
> > only the darling of my heart, she was my heart - and my right hand, and the
> > smart part of my brain. Ginny gave me a sense of direction and purpose.  She
> > was the very rudder of my life.  And we hit some rocky shoals.  Ours was not
> > a quiet household.  But when any fight was over and done, and there were
> > many, we were one, facing the struggles of the times, up to Ginnyıs last
> > days, back to back.  No man has ever shared a life with a more intelligent,
> > more down to earth, stronger, warmer, more resilient, more lovingly
> > thoughtful lover and wife.
> >
> > Ginny was birthed by a midwife in her grandmotherıs attic in Altoona
> > Pennsylvania in 1925, eight years before I was born.  Her irreverence was
> > shaped by an incident she witnessed from her front door on a Sunday morning
> > when she was about six.  Her grandfather was nailing up a broken fence when
> > a minister came by and asked, ³Whatcha you doinı there, John? Ainıtcha
> > goin'ı to church?²  Her grandfather looked up and said, ³Can'tcha see, Iım
> > fixin'ı the fence to keep out the preachers and the goddam Republicans.²
> > Ginny never tired of telling the story.
> >
> > As a child Ginny and her parents lived through the Great Depression. They
> > were housed and nourished through the kindness of her grandparents and
> > government surplus cornmeal, margarine and grapefruit juice. The best
> > dinners she remembered made her sing, ³boiling meat, boiling meat, all we
> > eat is boiling meat.²  When her father finally got a job it was with Heinz
> > Foods.  They not only had an income, but all the ketchup they could ever
> > eat. It added new zest to the boiling meat.
> >
> > At sixteen Ginny simultaneously graduated Altoona High School and Altoona
> > School of Commerce then left to build a life of her own as a secretary in
> > New York City. Ginny worked for several companies and lived in a few rooming
> > houses before she found a basement studio apartment in Queens.  Her landlady
> > , Sabina Haber, left copies of the Daily Worker near the garbage can and
> > Ginny read them and discovered the novel notion that poverty and racism was
> > a organic by-product of capitalism and that something called socialism could
> > end exploitation and that the solution lay in organizing the victims - the
> > workers, for action. She formed a life long friendship with Sabina and an
> > undying conscious allegiance to the working class and its struggles.
> >
> > Ginny became involved in defending activist immigrants and naturalized
> > citizens who were being rounded up, put through rigged INS hearings and
> > deported.  Just like today! She went to work for the American Slav Congress
> > as the Cold War Red Scare gripped the nation and, before long, became editor
> > of their national magazine, the Slavic American.  She often dressed up in
> > sharp office attire posing as an official and bringing mail and sustenance
> > to her friends on Ellis Island who awaited deportation. From time to time,
> > dressed to the nines, she dodged security by jumping fences to do it.
> > ³Hell,² she said, ³They canıt deport me to Altoona.²
> >
> > Ginny and I may seen each other in 1949 at a Paul Robeson concert which came
> > to be known as the Peekskill Riot. Her car was thrown over a cliff when
> > Crosses were burned. She was covered with blood for having nursed a fellow
> > organizer whose head was opened by a Klan rock.  The next day, without
> > opportunity to change clothes, Ginny held the line at a New York press
> > conference, stalling it until Robeson arrived to take center stage.
> >
> > Ginny and I met on the BMT subway and got to know each other with two chance
> > meetings on May Day marches. She lost one good job when she claimed sickness
> > for her absence on May Day and then turned up in a Daily News photo with a
> > red banner in the background.
> >
> > As we got to know each other better Iıd visit in her apartment, always
> > leaving something behind so as to have an excuse to return. It was a good
> > omen when Ginny gave me a key so I could use her typewriter in her absence.
> > As we got better acquainted, Iıd get dinner ready when she came home from
> > work. There were serious rivals for her affection.  Oshuk Komar Dutt, an
> > Indian communist who derailed British trains in Ghandhiıs ³non-violent³
> > revolution, Tommy Green, fresh up from a Deep South chain gang, and
> > author-playwrite Herb Tank.
> >
> > I was only 18 and warned by my father and a political fugitive hiding out in
> > my family apartment, to keep away from this beautiful ³Mata Hari,² eight
> > years my senior.  Their prohibition demanded resistance as did my pounding
> > pulse when she was near.
> >
> > Fearful that if I didnıt do the right thing Ginnyıd toss me out, I proposed
> > that we marry. Incredibly she said ³Yes² and filled me with unimaginable
> > exhilaration and strength. She transformed me in a single moment from the
> > 120 pound weakling getting sand kicked in his eyes, into a Charles Atlas
> > hero. She made me feel that the whole world was in my grip. I was so very
> > proud and so deeply in love. I rushed to make all the needed arrangements
> > before Ginny might change her mind.  I was too young for a civil ceremony so
> > we were married by a peace movement minister in an African-American Church
> > in Harlem.  That rush of love in those beautiful days has been a part of me
> > for fifty years - even through a most trying separation.
> >
> > Ginnyıs family accepted me as the first Jew in their ranks and my family had
> > no trouble taking in the first non-Jew among us.  At our first  family
> > seder, Ginny sealed her acceptance by singing a classic Yiddish radio
> > commercial with a perfect accent.  Sheıs regaled others with it through the
> > years. --- (Mark sings Joe & Paul.)
> >
> > Within weeks after our marriage Ginnyıs stepfather, Mickey Mikami died and
> > Ginny handled the details. We kept his cremated remains for ten years until
> > we could disperse them at sea here in Santa Cruz.  Mickeyıs name was the
> > first one pulled out of the lottery hat in the World War II draft. Because
> > he was a Filipino the army routinely gave him kitchen service.
> >
> > Ginnyıs life was filled with the peopleıs movement and rich adventure.  She
> > learned her trade unionism from Solly Silverman of the Furniture Workers.
> > He taught her how to break into the company offices for research and
> > disruption of union busting. In one demonstration at an unemployment office
> > in Brooklyn Solly taught her to use ketchup for media sympathy by covering
> > oneself with the red stuff after a police onslaught. It bloody well looked
> > real to the cameras!
> >
> > In 1953 I was called up for the draft and rated 1-A.  A few weeks later
> > Ginny was visited by the FBI.  She knew her own personal FBI guy by name,
> > Lem Brotherton. When she refused to name Communists at the American Slav
> > Congress,  he said heıd settle for any names even if she didnıt know if they
> > were Communists.  She refused.  He offered to keep me out of the army if
> > sheıd just give up some names.  She refused again and disgraced him in front
> > of others for his slimy offer. In short order Brothertonıs wife, Pepper,
> > told Ginny that poor Lem quit the FBI and was going home to Laredo, Texas to
> > become a justice of the peace.  He probably took my draft board file with
> > him. I never heard from the army folks again, but Ginny did get greetings
> > from Pepper each time she gave birth.
> >
> > We then started raising kids, three girls in a little more than a year.  I,
> > as an apprentice plumber, was never steadily employed, so Ginny managed with
> > the kids while continuing to work most of the time. Her job included keeping
> > house and tending to the kids while still getting to meetings, picket lines
> > and demonstrations. The Rosenbergsı execution was on the docket at the time
> > as was the defense of other political prisoners.
> >
> > After work one night Ginny took sixty frozen diapers off the clothesline.
> > ³Thatıs it - Weıre California bound!²  She said it and we did it. with three
> > kids in a two door Ford, Okie style, with everything we owned lashed on top
> > of the car and the cargo trailer we pulled.
> >
> > In Los Angeles Ginny campaigned against the Right to Work Law and typed and
> > edited the booklet ³Our Badge of Infamy: A Petition to the United Nations on
> > the Treatment of the Mexican Immigrant.²  It raised one hell of a stir and
> > was widely circulated by La Raza Unida Party years later.
> >
> > I was blackballed as a red in L.A. and hit more unemployment offices than
> > job sites. When Ginny found a secure job in San Jose we moved up here. Her
> > first action was to organize the people in her office into OPEIU Local 29.
> >
> > She did the Ginny Higgins work that put Bill Stanton, an anti-racist
> > activist, into the State Assembly. Then Ginny helped organize the Friends of
> > the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) which sent her off to
> > Mississippi  delivering a Checker Cab filled with office machinery and
> > supplies and faced off with some Klan folks before coming home.
> >
> > In 1963 or 4 she went out to buy a needed car and instead came home with a
> > used offset press.  Forrest Crumpley taught her how to use it. Ginny
> > upgraded movement leaflets in San Jose and made the mimeo machine obsolete
> > locally.  She was known by her signature: ³Labor Donated.²
> >
> > When SNCC was organizing an interracial union in, I think, Laurel,
> > Mississippi, Frank Cieciorka, whoıs here today, sent Ginny leaflet copy for
> > overnight return.  Ginny would stay up all night printing. Nine year old
> > Liza often fed her paper. When Liza graduated law school her first client
> > was a Black worker in Laurel who was discriminated against by that same
> > company.  Liza won the case and Ginny glowed with full circle pride.
> >
> > Ginny avoided the spotlight but always did the vital and unseen work
> > backstage of unfolding social dramas, such as weekly picketing of Woolworth
> > against Jim Crow policies, a civil rights march to San Francisco, building
> > the grape boycott, fundraising for the farm workers, helping and harboring
> > draft resisters, organizing for the demise of the House UnAmerican
> > Activities Committee, organizing the first San Jose demonstration against
> > war in Vietnam. (The main speaker in that rally, Bill Mandel is here today ,
> > as is Luis Valdez who added drama to the action by leading a group to take
> > over our Federal Building - then the Post Office. Working with Sofia Mendoza
> > and Joaquin Brito, Ginny did some of the basic work on school problems which
> > led to formation of United People Arriba, the first East San Jose
> > inter-ethnic action group. She provided the counseling and clerical work
> > that put the Community Alert Patrol on the streets to document and publicize
> > police brutality.  Ginny worked for six months, gratis, to help three young
> > radicals establish a law office.  Then, too, 1967 and 68  in Delano with the
> > Farm Workers.  Her work joined trade unionists and priests together for
> > international solidarity  against Pinochet with the Committee to Defend
> > Democracy in Chile.  When asked by the National Lawyersı Guild to head up
> > the jury investigation for the Angela Davis trial, Ginny swung into action,
> > Patty MacKay was one of her co-conspirators.  She organized an information
> > gathering network of hundreds and gave the lawyers the data necessary to cut
> > a list of 2000 potential jurors down to 12 actual jurors and alternates.
> > When the jury was seated Ginny was able to inform Angelaıs mother that there
> > was no chance this open minded group would convict her daughter of a capital
> > crime.
> >
> > Ginny was an instinctive organizer.  In just a few minutes Ginny could meet
> > a person,learn about them, start a relationship and recruit them to the work
> > at hand.  She loved people and listened to them and they loved her in
> > return. One saying out of SNCC stayed with Ginny as a mantra of faith for
> > forty  years: ³The people is always right.²
> > Ginny despised the fact that the old AFL leadership collaborated with the
> > CIA to overthrow the democratic government in Guatemala. That betrayal meant
> > death for thousands of workers.  When asked to aid Guatemalan guerrillas,
> > she took it as a workingclass opportunity to help right past wrongs. It
> > meant a clandestine trip, crossing borders to deliver well over a ton of
> > ammunition to the Guatemalans fighting for justice. Ginny wouldnıt let me go
> > with her. She thought it was too risky and said, ³One of us has to be here
> > for Sam.²
> >
> > Ginny was a spectacular person in every way. For years we had a late night
> > ritual.  Lying in bed Iıd say ³I wonder whatıll ever become of us?²  Sheıd
> > respond, ³I donıt give a damn, it already has?²  Sheıd chuckle and drift off
> > to sleep.
> >
> > More than death, Ginny feared becoming dependent on others and losing choice
> > in her life. She decided years ago that if things got bad she didnıt want to
> > linger in misery.  When they did get irreversible she refused extraordinary
> > treatment - accepting only medication to lessen pain. A few days later she
> > died in my arms. In a larger sense, she chuckled and drifted off to sleep.
> >
> > As in most of the last 50 years, I hope to continue to measure what I do by
> > what I think Ginny would want.
> >
> > I am so lucky to have shared this life with her. She was a true daughter of
> > the working class, a wonderful wife, comrade and lover, mother to courage
> > and grandmother to children in whom she had undying hope and faith.
> >
> > Ginny knew that anything war can do, peace can do better and that action by
> > organized labor is a key to keeping this globe intact for our grand kids.
> > She supported U.S Labor Against the War 100%.  If you care to honor her
> > wishes with a donation to USLAW, the contribution box is over there.
> >
> >                     XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
> > Amazingly, ten minutes after this presentation a man and two women took me
> > by the arm.  We went outside and they gave me a plaque to Ginny for her work
> > bringing ammo to Guatemala - signed by the Commander in Chief of the
> > guerrilla organization.  Iıd never met them and it was years since they knew
> > Ginny.   I read the plaque to the audience.   --fred
> ========================================================
> My autobiography, SAYING NO TO POWER (Introduction by Howard Zinn), is
> a history of how the American people fought to defend and expand its
> rights since the 1920s (I'm 85) employing the form of the life of a 30s
> AND 60s activist, one who was involved in most serious movements:
> student, labor, 45 years of efforts to prevent war with the USSR, civil
> rights South and North, women's liberation, 37 years on Pacifica Radio
> [where I invented talk radio], civil liberties. You may hear/see my
> testimony before the three different McCarthy-Cold-War-Era witch-hunting
> committees [used in six films and a play]) on my website,
> http://www.billmandel.net
>  The book is available through all normal sources. For an autographed
> copy, send me $24 at 4466 View Pl.,#106, Oakland, CA. 94611
> ========================================================


My autobiography, SAYING NO TO POWER (Introduction by Howard Zinn), is 
a history of how the American people fought to defend and expand its
rights since the 1920s (I'm 85) employing the form of the life of a 30s
AND 60s activist, one who was involved in most serious movements:
student, labor, 45 years of efforts to prevent war with the USSR, civil
rights South and North, women's liberation, 37 years on Pacifica Radio
[where I invented talk radio], civil liberties. You may hear/see my
testimony before the three different McCarthy-Cold-War-Era witch-hunting
committees [used in six films and a play]) on my website,
 The book is available through all normal sources. For an autographed
copy, send me $24 at 4466 View Pl.,#106, Oakland, CA. 94611