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Ronnie Gilbert

Ronnie Gilbert (born September 7, 1926) is an American folk-singer, one of the members of The Weavers with Pete Seeger, Lee Hays and Fred Hellerman.




The Weavers were an influential folk-singing group that was blacklisted in the early 1950s, during a period of widespread anti-communist feeling, because of the group's left-wing sympathies.

Following the dissolution of The Weavers in 1963 due to the blacklist,[1] Gilbert continued her activism on a personal level, traveling to Cuba in 1961 on a trip that brought her back to the United States on the same day that country announced a ban on travel to Cuba. She also participated in the Parisian protests of 1968 after traveling to that country to work with British theatrical director Peter Brook.[2] In the 1970s, Gilbert earned an M.A. in clinical psychology and worked as a therapist for a few years.

Various well-known younger singers honor Ms. Gilbert for the example she set for them, and the influence she had on their careers, particularly Holly Near, with whom Gilbert has released three duet albums: 1983's Lifelines, 1989's Singing With You, and 1997's The Train Still Runs. Near and Gilbert also joined Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger for the 1984 quartet album HARP (an acronym for "Holly, Arlo, Ronnie and Pete"). During that same period, Gilbert wrote and appeared in a one-woman show about Mary Harris "Mother" Jones, the American labor organizer, and in a second work based on author Studs Terkel's book Coming Of Age.[2][3] In 1992 she accompanied the Vancouver Men's Chorus on the song Music in My Mother's House from their album Signature.

In 1991, Gilbert recorded "Lincoln and Liberty" and "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" for the compilation album, Songs of the Civil War, joining artists such as Kathy Mattea, Judy Collins, John Hartford, Hoyt Axton, and the United States Military Academy Band of West Point.

Songs are dangerous, songs are subversive and can change your life.

—Ronnie Gilbert, On the effects of hearing Paul Robeson sing when she was 10[4]

Although now in her 80s, Gilbert continues to tour and appears in plays, folk festivals, and Jewish music festivals. She also continues her protest work, participating in groups such as Women in Black to protest "Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories."[4][5] In 2006, the Weavers received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys. Gilbert and Hellerman accepted the award alone, as Seeger was unable to attend the ceremony and Hays had died in 1981.

Personal life

Gilbert was born in New York City, daughter of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe.[6] Her mother, Sarah, was a dressmaker and trade unionist, and her father, Charles Gilbert, was a factory worker.[7][8]

Gilbert is bisexual.[1] She was married to Martin Weg from 1950 until 1959, and the couple have one daughter, Lisa, who was born in 1952.[2] In 2004, Gilbert married her partner of 19 years, Donna Korones, when Gavin Newsom temporarily legalized gay marriage in San Francisco.[9]


  1. ^ a b Leslie Kandell. "Together Again: Two Women With a Multiplicity of Messages" (Holly Near and Ronnie Gilbert concert tour), The New York Times, September 22, 1996
  2. ^ a b c Amy Bank and Melissa Howden. We're not the First and We're not the Last": An Informal History -- a timeline showing personal activism in relation to historical events, ©1983, 1986 Redwood Records.
  3. ^ Barbara McKenna. Folksinger-activist presents public lecture at UCSC,", UC Santa Cruz Currents Online, November 15, 1999
  4. ^ a b Michael Hochanadel. "Ronnie Gilbert tells and sings her story — and our history" Daily Gazette (Schenectady, NY), May 7, 2005
  5. ^ Ronnie Gilbert. A New Weaver’s Song (on the origins of her participation in Women in Black), The Progressive, February 2006
  6. ^ Time Line
  7. ^ Ronnie Gilbert Biography (1926-)
  8. ^ ronnie gilbert - "Ronnie Gilbert: A RADICAL LIFE WITH SONGS"
  9. ^ Rachel Gordon. "State lawmaker joins S.F.'s gay wedding waltz: Republicans demand Newsom halt same-sex marriages and focus on city's 'critical issues,'", San Francisco Chronicle, March 9, 2004, p. A-11.

External links

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