From Jim Brash at The North Star, February 20th:
1. Tell us about yourself and your personal history as an activist and socialist.
I come from a conservative, Catholic working class family. My father was an electrician. I am the 4th of 19 children and spent most of my youth caring for siblings since my mother was always pregnant. To this day, children remain my primary inspiration in politics.
I had no options in 1962 for going to college. My grades had suffered from doing childcare, and as a working class girl, college was unaffordable and wasn’t considered my destiny. I had always been interested in children with learning disabilities and worked throughout high school summers at a boarding school run by nuns for learning disabled girls. High school graduation looked like a 600-foot cliff so I applied to the order and joined in 1962.
I remained in the novitiate for just over 2-1/2 years but left for several reasons: they removed me from childcare because I refused to use physical violence on the girls and made me an apprentice cook instead; the Vietnam War had started and one of my older brothers was sent but the convent would not allow me to read about the war; they would not allow me to go to college because they said I lacked sufficient intelligence; and lastly, I was deeply offended by the unequal relationships between men and women in the church.
I worked after the convent as a bank teller and then applied to the University of Minnesota since student aid was now available to working class students. I began in 1966 and my first mission on the campus was to head for the antiwar movement. I also became involved in Palestinian solidarity in 1967.
I had become a feminist in the convent and when the women’s movement began in NYC, I took a suitcase on a bus to a Cleveland antiwar conference in 1970 and hitchhiked on a bus from the conference to NYC. I became involved in building the August 26th 1970 Women’s March for Equality and am a part of its history.
I joined the Young Socialist Alliance in 1970 and SWP in 1971. My tenure was always troubled because I found it profoundly elitist and undemocratic in its internal functioning. But I am forever grateful for the theoretical education I received—from the literature I was introduced to, especially James P. Cannon and Trotsky; through the political debates and disputes; and from activism in several movements.
I might also say there is a negative kind of education one receives from rebelling against lack of democracy in an organization. I had sharp disputes with the SWP leadership for many years and resigned after eleven years because I found the leadership dishonesty, arrogance, and lack of democracy intolerable and recognized it had no chance in hell of leading social transformation anywhere. The experience has made me hyper-sensitive to lack of democracy within organizations.
2. Why are you running in 2016?
I knew it would be an uphill battle but there was no one running who represented the political perspectives of socialists—the uncompromising opposition to wars; absolute commitment to the struggle of the Black community against discrimination and the war on Black youth; ardent support for refugees and immigrant rights; and commitment to women’s rights, LGBT rights, and other social struggles.