The very last words SN&R received from anti-war, pro-labor activist Ruth Holbrook were these: “An injury to one is an injury to all.” They were appended to the end of a flyer on growing the labor movement in the 21st century. It arrived by e-mail November 14; Holbrook died of cancer on December 1. She was only 75 years old, and she was advocating for peace and justice until the very end of her life.
Holbrook’s life partner, George McAdow, said he met Holbrook as she counseled burgeoning conscientious objectors in 1970 during the Vietnam War, and then traveled the world with her. McAdow and Holbrook visited the U.S.S.R., the People’s Republic of China, Mexico, Canada and Japan—partly for the fun of it, said McAdow, and partly to check out their maligned political systems. In the United States, the pair worked on all their projects together. They owned a bookstore together in the 1980s, and their work in recent years helped convince the Sacramento City Council to pass a living-wage ordinance, to oppose the Patriot Act, and to support the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.
A labor organizer for nearly 20 years, Holbrook will be remembered as the president of the Sacramento Central Labor Council from 1995 to 2002 and as the president of the local chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women.
Even as she went through multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, said McAdow, Holbrook was focused and fearless, booking lectures and planning anti-war demonstrations to mark the upcoming fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
She will be missed. The loss of one progressive voice injures us all.