BOSTON — A memorial celebration will be held here Sept. 29 to honor longtime Boston area peace and justice activist Laura Ross, who died Aug. 6.
Ross was born in Pennsylvania in 1913 of Lithuanian immigrant parents. By age 20, she was working in New York City’s retail industry, where she became a leader and organizer in the Retail Clerks Union Local 65. On June 19, 1953, the night Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed, she led her entire shop to the mass protest at the Rosenberg home.
Active in Russian War Relief during World War II, Ross threw all of her energy into raising money and gathering material aid for the women and children who were the refugees from Hitler’s legions. She joined with others to demand that Roosevelt, Churchill and other allies of the Soviet Union open up a second military front against the Axis armies in Europe.
By the 1960s, she had moved to Boston, where she participated in virtually every local and national struggle for peace and justice, against racism and male supremacy.
In every electoral campaign where progressive Black candidates ran for public office, Laura Ross worked in the Allston-Brighton neighborhoods to raise funds and get out the vote. In the 1970s, she was a founder and leader of the Boston People’s Organization, which in 1982 became the Rainbow Coalition and supported the nearly-successful 1983 mayoral campaign of African American longtime youth advocate and community activist Mel King.
Ross was an active member of the Community Church of Boston.
She also tried her hand at running for office. Beginning in 1974, she ran three times for the 8th Congressional District seat occupied by Thomas “Tip” O’Neill. She raised issues around affordable housing, unemployment relief and the impeachment of Richard Nixon. After the 1974 election, her campaign office in Central Square, Cambridge, became the Center for Marxist Education.
Laura Ross was a proud member of the Communist Party USA and attributed nearly everything she knew to her experiences in that organization. She insisted that its newspapers, whether the Daily Worker, the Daily World or the People’s Weekly World, be distributed at every opportunity. After Sept. 11, 2001, Ross distributed over 800 copies of the People’s Weekly World at several Boston antiwar rallies.
Ross had two children by her first marriage: a daughter, the late Patricia Lee Geller of Lansing, Mich., and a son, Dr. Arthur Naddell of Florida. Her second husband, Max Ross, a public transport worker who later became a labor lawyer, died many years ago.
Her son, six grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren survive her. In keeping with Laura Ross’ international approach to life, her survivors and their spouses hail from the USA, Mexico, Israel, Yemen, China and Switzerland.
The memorial celebration will be held Sept. 29, at 2 p.m. at the Community Church of Boston, 565 Boylston Street in Copley Square.
In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the Center for Marxist Education, the People’s Weekly World Fund Drive, the Fund for Progress II, the Chelsea Fund for Education, and/or the Communist Party USA. Please mail contributions to: Laura Ross Memorial, 1534 Commonwealth Ave., Brighton MA 02135-5002.