Dottie Stevens, Presente
The anti-poverty movement lost one of its great warriors last week when Dottie Stevens of Mattapan passed away after a tough fight with cancer. So I thought I'd say a few words in her memory.
I had the honor of working with Dottie in the late 1990s and early 2000s during the desperate struggle to stop the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from joining the Clinton administration in destroying the remnant of the welfare system for impoverished women and their children. We lost. Through the labor-community coalition Working Massachusetts, we kept up the struggle for years after the destruction of the bedrock of the American social safety net was a done deal. But we lost all the same.
People always learn something from such defeats, and here's what I learned: if I wasn't crystal clear on the rapacious nature of capitalism before the loss, I was afterwards. I saw a multiracial movement of working class women and children try with all their might to create enough political pressure to prevail over the powerful forces arrayed against them, and I saw them laid low. By Democrats that talk left and break right, and by part of the very non-profit sector that had been created decades previous to help people in need. I cannot and will not sugar coat those facts.
Furthermore, I saw that movement champions like Dottie break through the ruling class dominated discourse on state and federal policy for only very brief periods in history, and they generally win a little or lose a lot before getting shoved away from the precincts of the good and the great - figuratively and sometimes physically. In rough arrests during political actions. And in the thousand cuts delivered by a heartless bureaucracy deployed by politicians working in the service of corporations against the interests of their constituency ... to rob from the poor and give to the rich.
Not that such treatment ever deterred Dottie. She never gave up. And that's why I respected her. A working class hero is something to be, as the old song goes. And Dottie Stevens was such a one.
My best to her friends and family.
Requiescant in pace.
Jason Pramas is Editor/Publisher of Open Media Boston
Editor's Note: To give Open Media Boston viewers an idea of Dottie's life and works, here's the obituary that her close friends and family wrote the day after her passing. Give it a read. Think about what she did ... and try to live your life like she lived hers.
Dorothy “Dottie” Kech - Stevens
October 21, 1941 – March 27, 2014
Former Massachusetts Gubernatorial Candidate, Mattapan Woman of the Year, Community Organizer, Editor, Human Rights Cities Leader, Beloved Friend and Mother
Dottie Stevens has passed away at the Coolidge House Nursing Facility in Brookline, MA on Thursday, March 27, 2014, ending her long battle with cancer. She was a valiant fighter and advocate for women and those less fortunate. She was a fierce advocate for justice and was unwavering in her struggle for human rights for all. In her last months and days, organizing from her hospital bed “office”, she directed her projects of Survivors, Inc., Survival News, and Human Rights Cities, making and receiving calls, working on grants and budgets, and directing bedside meetings. Throughout her long illness, her friends and family formed a circle of care called “TEAM DOTTIE: Sharing the Caring” to advocate for her to make sure this fierce advocate for others had round-the-clock care and advocacy for herself.
She founded, with others, Survival News and Survivors, Inc. in 1987, as an outgrowth of the group, Advocacy for Resources for Modern Survival, (ARMS), the organization she started when she was a student and received her Master’s Degree at the College for Public and Community Service of U Mass/Boston. Survival News and Survivors, Inc. became the longest, continually published, original, women’s anti-poverty journal, providing a voice by, for, and about the experience and effects of poverty on women and children in the U.S., for the past 27 years. Dottie and the journal and organization received many awards and honors during these years, culminating in having their historical records included in the Collection of the Sophia Smith Women’s History Archives of Smith College, the oldest and largest women’s history archive in the U.S. Her leadership, her expertise, her compassion, her wisdom, her staunch support, her local and nationwide impassioned public speaking, her loyal friendship and inclusiveness inspired many to reach higher than they ever believed they could.
Dottie was sought out and spoke before countless diverse audiences, with an authority, dignity and respect that moved every audience, whether it was huge or small demonstrations before the Statehouse, testifying at hearings, in small classrooms, or at national conventions, her message of hope and calls to action were clear, authentic and effective. With Dottie’s encouragement and belief in our abilities, we who worked with her were able to write, speak out, organize, educate and raise ourselves out of obscurity and poverty. Her sweet spirit, her strong voice, her all-encompassing love, her tireless battle against poverty, and her amazing wisdom will be greatly missed by all who knew, loved, respected and admired her. May she rest in peace having left the world a better place than she found it by changing the lives and chances of literally hundreds of women and children specifically, and of all those she met who were fortunate enough to share the sphere of her enduring and living legacy.
She leaves her three sons, Joseph (and wife Lynnette) Goodrich of Danvers MA, Corey Kech of Santa Cruz CA, and Steven Stevens of Mattapan MA; her sisters Patricia and Barbara; brothers, Robert and Paul, six grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren. A joint memorial service for Dottie and her recently deceased daughter, Teresa, will be held in early June, 2014 at Holy Redeemer Church of East Boston followed by their interment at Holy Cross Cemetery in Malden, MA.
A Memorial Issue of Survival News dedicated to Dottie’s memory and containing all of the tributes that have been sent will be available at the website: survivorsinc.org, on May 1, 2014.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Survivors, Inc./Survival News, c/o Eric Mello, 42 Todd Lane, South Weymouth, MA