Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary passed away from leukemia yesterday at the age of 72 and I teared up several times last night and this morning just thinking about her.
When I was 14 years old, my Girl Scout leader, who also happened to be the editor of our dinky local newspaper, asked if I wanted to become an intern. One of the very first stories she asked me to write was covering a talk at our town’s university by the folk singer and activist Mary Travers. I knew vaguely about Travers’ folk trio—everyone sang “Puff The Magic Dragon” in kindergarten, right?—but I was well past the age of listening to Peter, Paul and Mary. They just sang kids’ music, right? I thought she was like Raffi.
But when Mary Travers spoke and performed that night at Fairfield University—wow! Travers wasn’t a kids’ music singer; she was one of the icons of America of the 1960s. Her music and her activism literally helped change the way we are in America today. Travers was an ally in the Civil Rights Movement, was arrested for protesting apartheid in South Africa, and sang songs about social justice, like “Blowin’ In The Wind,” whose lyrics, I’m sorry to see, are timeless. Here was a woman who was intellectual, creative, passionate, and compassionate who bravely stood up for what she thought was right regardless of its personal consequences to her — and yet still seemed like a happy person!
It truly was a life-changing experience for me, one of the first times I had a template for what kind of person I truly admired. Mary Travers was the first adult woman I looked to and thought, “I want to be you when I grow up.” Keep reading »