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Pat Schulz, 1934-1983

Socialist Voice, February 13, 1984

by Monica Jones

Pat Schulz, longtime socialist and feminist fighter, died in Toronto December 12, 1983. She was 49 and had battled cancer for twelve years.

From 1954 to 1974, she was a member and leader first of the Socialist Education League and later the League for Socialist Action-Ligue Socialiste Ouvriere (LSA-LSO). The LSA-LSO was one of the predecessor organizations of the Revolutionary Workers League (RWL). One of her first projects was the 1955 launching of Workers Vanguard, a newspaper to which she was a regular contributor.

I spoke to several of her former comrades in the socialist movement. John Riddell, a leader of the RWL today, remembers Pat as an outstanding branch organizer. In the 1960s she was, at various times, organizer of LSA-LSO branches in Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa.

Through her work, the LSA-LSO took a step forward in broadening leadership responsibilities. "She was an example for all of us," John says, "of how to work with others and develop a team."

Pat was an outspoken person who did bold things long before the rise of the women’s liberation movement toward the end of the 1960s. She helped the LSA-LSO respond positively to the feminist movement and build its involvement in women’s rights struggles. And the young women who joined the LSA-LSO found in Pat the best possible teacher. Karen Kopperud, a writer for the Militant, an American socialist weekly, said, "Pat was there at the beginning. She was always there ahead of me. I always thought if Pat can do it then I can get through it too."

In 1964 Pat ran for the position of controller in the Toronto city council for the LSA-LSO. That same year, Karen remembers being part of an all-women team with Pat that traveled throughout Ontario in a half-ton truck selling subscriptions to Workers Vanguard. They were called "The Trailblazers" and they went to plant and factory gates and door-to-door, selling the newspaper.

Karen remembers: "It’s amazing, now that you think about it, but we didn’t think it was odd. We went to Stelco in Hamilton, Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. Marie, auto plants in Windsor, company towns, all the major plant gates. After that tour we never doubted the power of the Canadian working class. We had seen it."

Of their travels, Pat wrote in Workers Vanguard: "Selling subscriptions door-to-door is quite an experience. The most devastating reply ... is one from so many housewives—‘you’ll have to ask my husband’ I wish I could believe this is just a buck-passing device ... but I’m sure it really is the situation for many women."

Inspired by the Cuban revolution of 1959, she served on the executive of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. Vern Olson, chairman of the committee at the time, recalls Pat as "one of the heroic band who defended the Cuban revolution as it deepened, while others ran for cover." Knowing she had only months to live, Pat visited Cuba in 1983, taking her daughter so she could experience the Cuban revolution today.

In 1966, Pat testified at a public enquiry into the conduct of Montreal police. The Montreal headquarters of the LSO had been raided earlier that year by four plain-clothes cops. Pat told the enquiry: "This raid occurs as the Ligue prepares for participation in the Student Days of Protest.... It is an obvious attempt to intimidate those who oppose both the presence of American troops in Vietnam and the role of the Canadian government in supporting American actions." This was before the anti-Vietnam war movement grew to include millions in the late 1960s.

In 1970, her companion and comrade, Peter Schulz, was killed in a car accident.

Pat left the LSA-LSO in 1974. Throughout the 1970s she played an important role in the struggle for childcare facilities in Toronto. She was one of those who founded Action Day Care. Her clear political sense and her action orientation helped put that group at the center of the fight for women’s rights in Ontario.

The last decade of her life was marked by her battle against cancer. Outraged by inadequate hospital treatment, she wrote about it in the Toronto Star. The front page article on June 28, 1980 was a cry of rage at the inhumanity of capitalist medical care.

Pat was an inspiration to all those who met and worked with her. This was shown by the 200 people who met in Toronto January 7 to pay tribute to her life.

As Karen put it, "Pat was thoroughly a working class person, from her origins throughout her life. She had a commitment to ordinary people and their needs."

We join with her daughter Kathy Schulz and all those who knew her in paying tribute to the life of Pat Schulz.

A fund has been set up to further the development of a resource center for children to be named in her honor.

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