BY SARAH MARTIN
Lee Ross, a lifelong activist and longtime Women Against Military Madness (WAMM), member died at the age of 94 on Monday, Nov. 16.
Lee was the youngest of three children born to parents from Tsarist Russia. Her parents moved first to Paris and the French Riviera before relocating to the United States during the World War I era. She was born, raised, and spent her young adult years on the Lower East Side of New York City, which was also home to many progressive activists and organizations. Elizabeth Hurley Flynn, a labor activist and a feminist who played a leading role in the Industrial Workers of the World and the Communist Party USA, lived on the same street.
Lee attended Seward Park High School, the same school that Ethel Rosenberg had attended a decade earlier. (Ethel Rosenberg was executed for treason with her husband, Julius. She is believed to have been innocent and her children are attempting to have her posthumously exonerated.) Seward Park High had the largest number of union teachers in the city at a time when union membership was illegal. Seward teachers also demanded that the school open enrollment to students from Harlem, thus integrating the school.
Her first visit to Washington, D.C., was to picket at the White House in support of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. The group was given a sheet with the names of restaurants in Washington that would serve Black people. They were asked to eat only at those restaurants. She was outraged that there was segregation in the nation’s capital.
Lee worked as a registered nurse at Belleville Hospital in New York and also worked as a public health nurse. She and her husband, Sam, lived in the New York area until they moved to Minnesota in the early 1980s where their daughter Nina was living. They continued their activism and contributed immeasurably to the movements in Minneapolis. For many years, Lee was a contributing member of WAMM committees on the newsletter and on the Middle East. She was deeply committed to justice and liberation for Palestine. “She was passionate about providing her perspective as a Jewish person who had long become aware of the inhumanity and injustice done to Palestinians, contrary to what she believed were true Jewish values.”
Lee was a storyteller extraordinaire. By relating her experiences, she passed on the history of the resistance of the times she lived in, particularly in the 1940s and during the horribly repressive McCarthy era. Lee told interviewer Linda Hoover: “We know this kind of system is going to happen again and again because those in power have an interest in retaining power. It means that people have to be ready to struggle, to be alert.”
We will deeply miss her warmth, generosity, intellect and love. Lee Ross, Presente!
(This piece is based partially on an interview of Lee with Linda Hoover for the Women Against Military Madness Newsletter, vol. 35, no. 1, 2017.)