Conversations with Irene

     Irene Donnelly, long-time activist and friend of many
Bay Area CrossRoads readers, died on April 2, surrounded by
friends and family.
     I've been thinking a lot about Irene since I heard the
news that she passed away. For many of us, Irene's kitchen
was a spontaneous gathering place where we met to talk
politics, read the latest issue of CrossRoads or the Nation,
trade jokes and gossip, have some warm Campbells soup or a
cup of tea, or just to "get a dose of Irene." Irene had a
great sense of humor, and a special knack for making you
laugh at yourself just when you thought the world was too
insane, or you thought you might cry.
     Irene's wide circle of friends knew her in many
different lights -- as a designer, oil painter, muralist,
dancer, voracious reader, cat lover, mentor, surrogate
mother, humanitarian, dedicated political activist. Her
political experiences read like a history book of twentieth-
century progressive movements. She was born in 1908, and
early memories included sitting on Eugene Deb's knee as he
talked with her father, a railroad organizer, late into the
night. Immediately after World War II, gathering signatures
on a "Ban the Bomb" petition initiated by Albert Einstein,
Eleanor Roosevelt and Albert Schweitzer landed her in jail.
The FBI hounded her family during the McCarthy witchhunts,
and cost her husband his job. She worked with the American
Friends Service Committee and participated in their Civil
Rights bus trips to the South. One of her most cherished
moments was meeting C‚sar Ch vez early in his career.
     Irene was a natural, holding roundtable political
discussions especially for women long before the official
women's movement hit the scene. She marched for peace in
Vietnam and wheelchaired down Market Street to stop the war
in the Persian Gulf, bedecked with antiwar signs her family
had made for her. She hated to miss anything.
     But I think I will remember her most sitting in her
kitchen, with a cup of Nescafe and a pack of Pall Malls,
graciously listening to all us young'uns carrying on,
offering encouragement and a kind word. --Eileen Raphael