Dorothy Ray Healey

 

California Red

A Biography of Dorothy Healey

California Red

A Biography of Dorothy Healey

Dorothy Ray Healey, Activist

Legendary Communist and, later, legendary ex-Communist Dorothy Healey died at age 91. At barely five feet tall, with piercing blue-grey eyes, a razor sharp-intellect, often a pipe or a panatela in her hand, Dorothy was a power-house orator, a relentless organizer, and a fireball of political energy and optimism.

The most notorious figure in the Southern California Communist Party, she had already make her mark as an agitator while in her teens: Steinbeck fashioned one of his farm labor organizer characters of his In Dubious Battle directly from Dorothy’s real-life persona.

No one, at least no one I knew, could conduct any ideological debate with half the gravitas and wit that Dorothy could conjure. She knew her stuff and was always ready to patiently prove it. She never recruited me or any of my close friends into the Party. But we, nevertheless, considered Dorothy to be our den mother – we were all proud to be known around L.A. as one of “Dorothy’s kids.”

Obituary by Journalist Marc Cooper in 2006

I actually was Dorothy’s kid, her only one, though I am happy to claim kinship with Marc Cooper. Marc’s description of Dorothy is on point. From when I first asked her “Mommy, what is communism,” at the age of five, to the day before she died, she and I talked about Marxism and politics and whatever was going on in the world that we found interesting. For several years we did a radio show together on WPFW, a show she started in 1959 in Los Angeles. We agreed politically more often than not, and in any case I always learned in talking with her. We worked together in the New American Movement in the 1970s, which was particularly satisfying.

She was always, for me, a wonderful, loving mother and, I think, for my two sons, a wonderful grandmother. And if you are wondering about her answer to my question about communism at the age of five, it was that “Communism is about loving people, all people.”

Richard Healey