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Civil Rights and Labor History Consortium / University of Washington

Lillian Feist oral history

Click to view other segments of this interview

Lillian Feist has been a member of the Communist Party for nearly eighty years. Over her long life she lent her voice to numerous social and political causes.

Born on June 24, 1908 in North Dakota, her parents were Finnish immigrants and farmers. At the age of 17 Feist was selected to attend the Farmer Labor Party’s young workers’ educational program. There she learned about unions, socialism, and communism.

In the 1920s Feist moved to Seattle and joined the Communist Party’s organization for youths, the Young Communist League. She has been a party member ever since. In the 1930s she took part in numerous unemployed demonstrations and worked for official party publications.

After World War II Feist was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Like many in her position, she pleaded the Fifth Amendment and stood up to the committee. Undeterred by such persecution, Feist went on to help organize a pension union and a club for women on Aid to Dependent Children in Seattle. Later she joined the Vietnam antiwar movement and in 1999, took part in Seattle’s WTO protests. When George Bush invaded Iraq, Lillian Feist, age 95, was back in the streets.

In 2010 she celebrated her 102nd birthday at the annual Communist Party picnic.

Lillian Feist shared memories of her life and activism in a videotaped interview with James Gregory and Daren Salter at her home in Seattle on January 25, 2008. Here are streaming video excerpts of the interview.