Sarah Lovell, 1922-1994

Against the Current, No. 52, September/October 1994

Randal L. Hepner

SARAH LOVELL, socialist, unionist, movement activist and a member of Solidarity, died June 14 after a nineteen-month struggle with cancer.

Born in Brooklyn, Sarah was radicalized while still in high school and joined the Young Peoples Socialist League (YPSL-Fourth International) in 1938 at age sixteen. Two years later she became a member of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and remained active in that organization — serving for a period on its national committee, in its printing and editorial offices, and as dedicated activist and organizer both in Detroit and New York City — until 1984.

Expelled from the SWP along with many others as supporters of a party minority tendency, from 1984 to 1992 Sarah was a member of the Fourth Internationalist Tendency (FIT) and on the editorial board of its publication Bulletin in Defense of Marxism (BIDOM). An ardent supporter of socialist unity, she worked with the majority of FIT members who joined Solidarity in 1992.

Her career as a labor and movement activist spanned five decades and many unions and movement organizations. After attending Brooklyn College in the 1940s, Sarah worked in the garment industry and needles trades in New York, San Francisco and Seattle.

In 1950 she joined the International Typographical Union (ITU) and honed her skills as an excellent copy editor. She would later put these skills to good use, in her work with George Breitman on the collected writings of Leon Trotsky and in her editorial work on BIDOM.

She was a strong advocate of independent political action and belonged to Labor Party Advocates. Sarah retired from the ITU in 1984 but continued her literary pursuits, writing numerous articles and supervising a variety of publishing projects including A Tribute to George Breitman: Writer, Organizer, Revolutionary (1987).

Sarah was a committed socialist-feminist and joined the National Organization for Women soon after its founding convention. She remained active in its exploratory commissions around independent political action until her death. She was also a longtime member of the Coalition of Labor Union Women and an antiwar activist during the Vietnam, Central America and Persian Gulf wars.

Her lifelong commitment to socialist struggle and her love of life, enthusiasm and generosity endeared her to several generations of activists. For those of us who came to radical politics long after Sarah, she along with her close friends and companions Frank Lovell, George and Dorothy Breitman, James Kutcher, George Weissman, and many others embodied the virtues of an older strain in American radicalism — an inspiring and living link with generations gone before.

Sarah is survived by her husband, labor activist and writer Frank Lovell, their daughter Joan Lovell, and sisters Anne Gordon and Mollie Kerchner. For all those who knew and witnessed her dedication to the struggle for a more just and sane world, Sarah will be sorely missed but never forgotten.

ATC 52, September-October 1994