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Tribute to activist Alice McGrath in the L.A. Times

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On Sunday, Dec. 6, 2009, the L.A.Times published an op-ed tribute by Carlos Valdez Lozano to longtime activist Alice McGrath, who died at the age of 92 on Nov. 27.  McGrath was involved in social justice movements going back decades in California.  In the ’40s she played a key role coordinating efforts to overturn the wrongful “Sleepy Lagoon” murder convictions of 12 Mexican American men.  (She was a close friend of Carey McWilliams and it was he who persuaded her to become the director of the Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee.)

From the article:

She helped organize a birthday celebration in Los Angeles in 1951 for the distinguished African American author W.E.B. Du Bois, who later became a dear friend; she taught martial arts to women (because she believed it would empower them) and wrote a book about it called “Self-Defense for Cowards”; though not a lawyer herself, she developed a legal aid program for the poor in Ventura County; and she led 85 humanitarian aid trips to war-scarred Nicaragua.

She was also an invincible conversationalist, an orthodox liberal (make that radical), a great teller of jokes and an awful lot of fun to be around. Her life’s work may have been about helping others, but she would be the first to tell you she was no saint.

“Never pass up the opportunity to have a good time” was one of her commandments. And she meant it

She was no pistol. She was a cannon. She had a serious mind and focused on serious things, but she also liked her vodka martinis and had a wit to match Dorothy Parker’s.

Her 1950s FBI file declared that the one-time communist sympathizer had “no known weaknesses.”

I once asked her if that was true. She replied, rather dismissively, “Oh, that’s just because they didn’t think women liked sex back then.”

For the complete article, click here.

Posted by Frank Gruber, Dec. 7, 2009


One thought on “Tribute to activist Alice McGrath in the L.A. Times

  1. A great hero of a lady with an awesome reputation in Los Angeles. I found out, only recently, just how many trips she made to Nicaragua, bringing medical supplies and delegations with her. Amazing! I was in Ventura on Thanksgiving Day, when she entered Community Memorial Hospital. Many have been giving thanks for her numerous sacrifices on behalf of others. Alice certainly influenced many others to carry on her work.

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