I received the January 2013 issue of the Community Church of Boston’s newsletter this week. This venerable institution is known to this day for the key role it played in organizing against the executions of Sacco and Vanzetti in the 1920’s, and it has remained a progressive force in Boston ever since. The newsletter contained a testament to Sara Sue Koritz, an activist stalwart, who died in December at age 91. Sara Sue was a powerful presence at the Community Church from 1990 to 2006 when she moved out of the area to be closer to her family.
After founding the RFC in 1990 I sought out key contacts across the country to build a national base of support. In 1991 I called the Community Church to ask their advice about who would be the best person to help me gain backing for the RFC in Boston. They responded, “Sara Sue Koritz.” They pointed out that she was a terrific organizer, and also had led the Boston Rosenberg Defense Committee in the early 1950’s. Sara Sue was very energetic and had a knack for motivating others. She was the key to our very successful Boston-area reception in June 1992, which was attended by over 100 people and added dozens of supporters to the RFC project, many of whom remain with us to this day. She also played a vital role at another event we held in 1999, although she was beginning to slow down a bit by then.
We talked extensively about her heroic resistance during the McCarthy period. Her attempt, along with a friend and their children, to confront Massachusetts Governor Herter about the government’s blacklisting of their husbands - a situation which made it difficult to feed their families - resulted in a flurry of newspaper articles. The Governor, who ducked out a back door to avoid them, was ridiculed. We also swapped stories of our anti-war and civil rights involvement in the 1960’s. But I didn’t know about her history prior to the 1950’s. I’m thankful that her son Richard’s memorial statement, from which I quote below, filled this gap in my knowledge.
“[After graduating high school] she became an active member of the clerical workers union and eventually did secretarial and administrative work for a number of unions throughout the country.
[In the late 1940’s] when her husband was imprisoned in North Carolina for the ‘crime’ of being an honest and effective labor leader, she courageously led the campaign for his freedom. Upon [her husband’s] release, the family moved to Flat River, Missouri where the miners at the largest lead mine in the USA had already gone on strike. At the first mass meeting she attended, Sara Sue organized the miners’ wives into a Ladies’ Auxiliary, using the wonderful union song, ‘Union Maids,’ as inspiration. More than two hundred women joined that night and remained.”
I am very sorry to learn about Sara Sue’s passing, but I am honored to have worked with this powerful and effective woman whose life was infused with activism. Mainly because of my parents’ case, I have been privileged to have organized events in conjunction with dozens, even hundreds, of progressives who came of age in the 1930’s. I consider them the best of their generation. Most are no longer with us. They are missed and will not be forgotten.
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