Healey, Dorothy 1914-2006

views updated

Healey, Dorothy 1914-2006

(Dorothy Ray Healey)


See index for CA sketch: Born September 22, 1914, in Denver, CO; died of pneumonia and respiratory failure, August 6, 2006, in Rockville, MD. Activist, broadcaster, and author. Once the chair of the Southern California branch of the Communist Party USA, Healey later became disenchanted with Soviet-style communism but remained a socialist who expressed her views for many years on the radio program Dialogue. Her political beliefs were ingrained in her at a young age. Her father was a salesman, while her mother was an early member of the American Communist Party; both parents instilled in her working-class values, and she was yet a young girl when she started working in a factory processing peaches. By the age of fourteen she had joined the Young Communist League, and at eighteen she was a Communist Party member. For Healey, communism was about social values, helping the needy and those working for low wages. It was also about a hatred for the capitalist system, which she believed degraded human beings. Active in the labor movement, Healey was vice president of the United Cannery, Agricultural & Packing-House Workers' Union during the late 1930s and a representative of the Mine, Mill & Smelter Workers' Union in the mid- 1940s. From 1940 to 1943, she served as deputy labor commissioner for the State of California. By 1949, Healey had achieved the post of chair of the Com- munist Party of Southern California, a position she held for twenty years. The 1950s were a difficult time for American communists, and Healey found herself charged with conspiracy to overthrow the government, along with fourteen of her colleagues. The case went to the Supreme Court, where her conviction was finally overturned. Facing trial again in the mid-1960s, Healey was charged with failing to register as an agent of a foreign government. The accusation was based on a law called the McCarran Act, and the Supreme Court once again overturned the lower court decision to convict when the justices determined the act violated Fifth Amendment protections. None of these attempts to prosecute her subdued Healey; what finally curbed her advocacy of the Communist Party was world events, including news about Joseph Stalin's tyrannical reign in Soviet Russia in the 1950s and the 1968 uprising in Czechoslovakia that was crushed by the Soviets. Resigning as chair of her party in 1968, she remained with the American Communists until 1973. Though she came to believe that Communist governments were just as bad as capitalist ones and that the party had become distant from its original ideals, Healey still believed in communism. Her weekly radio show Dialogue, which she began in 1959, continued to serve as a means for expressing her views to the public. Her son has taken over the microphone since her death. Healey was the author of two memoirs written with historian Maurice Isserman: Dorothy Healey Remembers a Life in the American Communist Party (1990) and California Red: A Life in the American Communist Party (1993).



Healey, Dorothy, and Maurice Isserman, Dorothy Healey Remembers a Life in the American Communist Party, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1990.

Healey, Dorothy, and Maurice Isserman, California Red: A Life in the American Communist Party, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1993.


Los Angeles Times, August 8, 2006, p. B10.

Washington Post, August 11, 2006, p. B5.

About this article

Healey, Dorothy 1914-2006

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article


Healey, Dorothy 1914-2006