Progressive Baltimore icon Margaret Baldridge honored on her 80th

People’s World previously reported on the 80th birthday celebration for Margaret Baldridge, an institution on Baltimore’s progressive scene and a supporter of this publication for decades. Below, we present remarks, first, by Tim Wheeler at the Dec. 10 event. Wheeler is the former editor of People’s World and was a longtime Washington correspondent for the paper based in Baltimore and the capital. Following his comments, we present remarks by Margaret Baldridge to the gathering. Her birthday celebration was dedicated to raising funds for People’s World. Friends and supporters can still donate here in honor of Margaret.

Remarks by Tim Wheeler

I traveled 3,000 miles to wish Margaret Harmon Baldridge a happy birthday. Many people are embarrassed about their age. I can attest that 80 is a magic number. You no longer need to keep it a secret, Margaret. You have earned bragging rights. 80 years and counting.

Life has surprising twists and turns. Margaret grew up in a sheltered world. She went to Tatnall School in Delaware. She went to Wooster College. She taught at a French school in Le Havre, France. Yet Margaret has always had a bold, inquisitive nature.

She hitchhiked to Paris and was picked up by a guy driving a “Deux Chevaux,” one of those two-cylinder French Citroens. It had no floor boards, so Margaret could look down and see the French highway zooming past right beneath her feet. She met a comrade in the French Communist Party who opened her eyes to the real world—Us versus them, the 1% billionaires versus the 99% who own nothing but our labor power.

She came back and got a job teaching French at a high school in Lexington Park, Maryland. She met a guy named Jim Baldridge, an airman at Patuxent Naval Air Station. They got married and moved to Baltimore.

Jim was mustered out of the Navy, and at Christmas time 1969, the two of them were arrested in downtown Baltimore for defacing Pentagon posters signing up young people to go to Vietnam to kill and be killed.

A people’s lawyer named Harold Buchman got them out of jail. About the same time, they visited the New Era Bookshop and met Bob Lee. Like that French comrade, Bob taught them a lot about the hard reality we all face—capitalist greed.

A year or so later, Margaret was leading the struggle to free Angela Davis, active in every progressive working class struggle in Baltimore and beyond, starting with the movement to end bloody foreign adventures like Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Jim got a job at the Key Highway Shipyard. When the shipyard shut down, Jim went to work at Johns Hopkins Hospital and joined Drug and Hospital Workers Local 1199 B. It was a live-wire union that was waking up good old Baltimore, and it still is.

Margaret was teaching French at Patterson High School and joined the Baltimore Teachers Union. She and my wife Joyce were union sisters in the month-long 1973 teachers strike.

They moved up near us in Govans and we became neighbors. We were all in a Baltimore Club of the Communist Party. George A. Meyers, too, was a neighbor. (I have just completed chapter 12 of a biography of George titled, The Man from Lonaconing: The Life & Times of George A. Meyers.  Jim and Margaret will be in that book.)

We had children, and some of them are here this evening—my daughter Susan whose birthday is Dec. 8—Happy Birthday, Susan! Tina, mother of three of my grandchildren is also here. And Margaret’s children, Mary Jean and Paul, have flown in from Nebraska. It is so great to see you here to join this celebration. And so many dear friends who love and admire Margaret.

Priscilla, Margaret’s beloved sister, is here with her family. In January 2008, Margaret, Priscilla, Rev. Pierre Williams, sister Nicole, and I, took the commuter train into Washington, D.C., for Barack Obama’s Inauguration. One million people kept us warm. Margaret has been in the struggle for race and gender equality for 60 years. She is today leading the struggle here to defend democracy from the fascist-like Trump Republicans.

A few days after I arrived here, I was down in McKeldin Square with Margaret and 30 others holding picket signs in solidarity with the railroad workers. Their most precious freedom, the right to strike, was stripped from them by Republican and Democratic politicians bowing down to the billionaires.

And who initiated this action? Cindy Farquhar. Margaret Baldridge was by her side. If you want to read about that action, check out the story posted in People’s World, the best source of news about the labor movement and people’s movements anywhere.

It is so typical of Margaret: She asked that instead of flowers or chocolates, we all give our dollars to help sustain People’s World. Happy Birthday, sister Margaret! We love you!


Remarks by Margaret Baldridge

I did a lot of second-guessing about having this celebration until a good friend, May, told me that 80th birthdays are big deal in China. That made me think it was okay to put my committee and friends and family to all the effort for this event. Thank you, all.

Celebrating this milestone made me reflect on the different aspects of my life: growing up in a loving family, raising two wonderful children with a devoted husband in a supportive Govans community, having a career in teaching and experiencing the rank-and-file caucus of the Baltimore Teachers Union, having a sprint as organist at Govans Boundary UMC, and also having a second career at the Glenwood Life Counseling Center, where I still work in large part because I enjoy my co-workers so much.

But I also want to say that in getting to 80 years in this country, it helps to have “A Star to Steer By,” to quote the title of a book I once read by Hugh Mulzac, a Communist seaman.

While there is a lot of good to be said about the United States, there are so many problems which we witness every day in Baltimore—people living on the street, hunger, racism, unfair labor practices, huge chunks of our tax dollars going to the military, police, and prisons—that having a collective of like-minded Baltimore comrades, and a national center, the Communist Party USA, has been essential to my life and sanity. And, of course, I’d love for everyone to join and experience the CPUSA.

In terms of having a partisan view of the American working class, I invite you to pay regular attention to the news and analysis in People’s World, the co-sponsor of the event tonight. As the PW likes to say, “We take sides—yours.” Reading People’s World is a way to stay informed, but more importantly, to go back to the metaphor of the Communist seaman, it’s a way to stay anchored as we fight injustice and envision an eventual socialist USA.

Finally, thank you so much to all the members of our hard-working committee—Ann, Brant, Cindy, Denise, Joshua, Shirley, and Susan. And to all the helpers today. Donna, Elizabeth, Mary, Theresa, and the Center Stage staff. And a special thank you to Tim Wheeler, who came east from Washington State to his daughter Susan’s for Thanksgiving but stayed on, contributing his time and effort to the success of tonight.


Special to People’s World
Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.