February 3, 2020

Mildred Solem

Mildred Solem, a member of the Socialist Workers Party in the 1940s and ’50s, died this month in Minneapolis. She was 105 years old.

As a young woman Millie moved from Hallock, Minnesota, a small town near Canada, to Flint, Michigan, where autoworkers were fighting for a union, and then to Minneapolis where she got a job as an office worker downtown. Her first contact with the communist movement came when a protest by unemployed workers passed by her workplace and she came out to join them.

She soon met her husband, Chester Johnson, an electrician who was a founding member of the SWP and had helped lead a sympathy strike in the building trades for Teamsters during the historic 1934 strikes that made Minneapolis a union town.

Millie maintained her membership in the SWP until a stroke incapacitated Chester and left her to care for him and their three small children. Over the years Millie contributed money to the SWP and opened her house to party members who needed a place to stay.

In 2015 a plaque was placed in the old warehouse district of Minneapolis commemorating the 1934 Teamster strikes. A photo captures Millie, then 100 years old, at the event with her fist raised in the air.

Bill Scheer
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Marta de Leon

Marta de Leon, a supporter of the Socialist Workers Party and partisan and contributor to the Militant  for decades, died in San Diego in December. Marta, who was in her early 80s, had lived and collaborated with SWP branches in San Antonio, Texas; Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona; Oregon; Los Angeles; and San Diego. As a politically conscious artist, she did many paintings depicting the struggles of Native Americans, women, immigrants and protests against the U.S. rulers’ wars abroad. She also helped design leaflets, posters and banners for participants in those struggles.

In the 1990s Marta would set up tables with party member Betsy McDonald on the University of Arizona campus and circulate party books and the Militant, helping to win youth to the communist movement.

Though her health wasn’t the best as she got older, she stayed active until the end, joining in protests against Washington’s attacks on immigrant workers seeking refuge in the U.S.

Pedro Vasquez
Los Angeles, California