In Honor of a Little-Known Heroine

This week I am most grateful to a staunch RFC supporter, not only because she gave a most generous year-end contribution, but also because she gave it in honor of someone who embodies the RFC’s spirit. The contribution was given “in memory of Justina Ruiz de Conde,” someone, we at the RFC office had never heard of.

The donor offered the following information about the person this donation honors:

“[I]n case the name Justina Ruiz de Conde is not recognized these days. She was a young lawyer in Spain in the 1930s who had a huge role in securing the safe evacuation of children of Spanish Republican soldiers fighting Franco during La Guerra Civil in Spain. Justina Ruiz de Conde had a price on her own head after the fascists took over. At some point someone at Wellesley College in Massachusetts arranged for her to teach Spanish literature at the college which she did for years. I was her student in the late 1950s. Needless to say the story of her heroism during the Civil War was not widely known or discussed on the uptight Wellesley campus …. She is the reason I became a lawyer. In the past 20 years as part of the Recuperacion de la Memoria Historica (Recovery of Historic Memory) the Spanish government formally recognized her for her work on behalf of children in Spain whose lives were in danger because of their parents’ anti-fascist resistance.”

I have frequently said at RFC events that while our primary purpose is to help individual children whose parents have been targeted in the course of their progressive activity, we also seek whenever possible to channel our funds through providers whose mission is to transmit progressive values from one generation to the next. This is essential because it is going to take generations to transform our society into one that is more equitable and just. So we look to the future by supporting child-oriented progressive infrastructure, but learning from past generations is just as essential to our project.

For me this is not merely an intellectual exercise. One of the little know facts of my parents’ case is that the ONLY piece of physical evidence seized from my parents’ apartment and used at their trial to show their communist propensities was a tin can labeled: “Save a Spanish Republican Child.” Yes, my parents were collecting money for the same children who Justina Ruiz de Conde helped evacuate from Spain. That makes a contribution in her honor to the Rosenberg Fund for Children particularly fitting.

Not surprisingly, our donor has carried on the struggle as well. She has been a pioneering attorney in toxic chemical litigation for over 40 years. She is a tireless advocate for health-protective standards for workers exposed to toxics. And she is passing her expertise on to future generations by teaching environmental justice and toxic tort courses at several law schools.

I close the year realizing once again how privileged I am to be at the center of the RFC community.

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Comments

Dear Mr. Meeropol,

It has been a fascinating day! First I heard you on Democracy NOW! and then viewed your segment later on TV, today Dec. 30th, 2010. Thank you so much for sharing your story and doing this work with such honor and grace.

Your DN segment was incredible. You did an outstanding job of informing the viewers by sharing a historical perspective and legal considerations.

In addition, I am pleased to learn of your organization. I am very impressed with the website and the stories.

I was born in 1959 and always curious about your parent's story as I soaked up U.S. history. As a foreign policy lover, their story was both fascinating and puzzling to me. Thus, the DN show disturbed me but very telling about our nation's approach. Similar to now, the language describing why your parents must be executed was full of ego and face policy reasoning.

Mr. Meeropol, I shall share information of this encounter.

Sending blessings of peace to you,
Sincerely,
Dawn Legg

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