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Brookline PAX: An Early History

Except for last paragraph, taken from the papers of Ethel Machanic Alper (1908-1989), U. Mass., Boston

Ethel Machanic Alper, daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants, was born September 23, 1908, in Burlington, Vermont. An accomplished portrait artist, Ethel attended the school of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston on a scholarship. She married Benedict Solomon Alper in 1931 and they had a daughter, Fredrika Clara. After World War II they lived in New York City and moved to Brookline in the early 1950s.

Ethel’s involvement in progressive political causes began in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War when she supported the provision of medical relief to the Republic of Spain. Her political activities included working for Henry Wallace’s 1948 Progressive Party presidential campaign, for Voice of Women and SANE in Brookline, and against the Vietnam War. As secretary of Brookline Political Action for Peace (PAX) from 1962 to 1987, and as a member of other peace and social justice organizations, Ethel was involved in a myriad of local, state, and national social causes until a few years before her death on July 18, 1989. …

The Brookline Committee of the Massachusetts Hughes for Senate Committee formed in 1962 under Ruth Sidel’s leadership. Ethel was among the Brookline volunteers campaigning for Harvard professor Stuart Hughes whose platform included banning nuclear testing. In December 1962, the state-wide committee became Massachusetts Political Action for Peace and the Brookline committee became Brookline PAX. In 1972 Mass. PAX merged with Citizens for Participatory Politics (created to support Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 presidential campaign), forming Citizens for Participation in Political Action (CPPAX). Brookline PAX affiliated with CPPAX, but retained its original name.

In addition to promoting world peace in the 1970s and 1980s, Brookline PAX supported and worked for freedom of opinion and expression, adequate education, housing, health facilities and job opportunities for all citizens in the United States. Such goals led it to work with a variety of both local and national peace and social justice organizations on issues ranging from nuclear disarmament to regulating condominium conversions in Brookline. Brookline PAX devoted much of its energy to electoral politics. Based on each candidate’s stance on both peace and domestic issues, it evaluated, endorsed and supported campaigns for local, state, and national offices. It also lobbied local government and Brookline’s state and national congressional representatives, publicized officials’ voting records, sponsored lectures and other educational events, and helped organize marches and rallies.

Over the last 45 years, subsequent PAX leaders have included Bob McCain, Bill Schlesinger, Marty Rosenthal (early 1980’s), Frank Smizik, Julie Johnson, Karen Wenc, Jessie Mermell, Frank Farlow, and the current co-chairs, Marty Rosenthal (again) now with Neil Gordon.


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