Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Lois Swenson

The Awesome Woman of the Day for Wednesday, June 20, 2012 is Lois Swenson, a U.S. peace activist and retired school teacher, who was born in 1936 and was found beaten to death in her home last Wednesday June 13, 2012 in North MPLS, MN.

Swenson was just one of those people who did things. She’d go to places like Central America and stay there for a year or so, learning about the people. She taught sixth grade for many years, and when she retired, she devoted her time to social justice and environmentalism. She had a lamb to mow her lawn, raised chickens, and advocated for community gardens.

She used to go to Laundromats to scavenge discarded clothing out of the wastebaskets, mend them, and give them to migrant workers. And she opened her home to just about anyone who needed help, which, unfortunately, may have led to her death.

Rest in peace, Lois.

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune article that reported her death:

“Johnson grew up on a farm near Arena, Wis., a small community 35 miles west of Madison. "I imagine that she came to the city, like a lot of people, where the money was better and there was a little more excitement," Johnson said.

“Swenson taught sixth grade in Robbinsdale and took leaves to travel the world, learning how people lived in Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Mexico and Central America.

"She didn't just travel there for three or four weeks. She often spent upwards to a year," Johnson said. "She went there to learn. She saw a lot of need and a lot of hunger. And it changed her from a suburban-type girl to someone who wanted to help all the needy people."

“Swenson immersed herself in social justice, peace and environmental issues. In an interview in Minnesota Women's Press, she said: "My college friends, they have to chuckle now, about when I had to have my purse and gloves and hat and shoes all matching, because that was the thing to do at the time. But now, after having lived in places where people don't have shoes, the color doesn't seem nearly as important."

She tried to help Americans understand they could live with less. "She believed in taking care of the environment. She believed in taking care of one another," Johnson said. "She didn't ever use much heat in her house. When you went there, you kept your jacket on. But she gave you hot tea and offered you a blanket."

"Swenson's latest push was for community gardens. When she wasn't digging in her own garden, she was working her neighborhood's garden and helping people raise chickens, Johnson said.”