by Elizabeth Farians, Ph.D

There was Mary Ann, in her wheel chair, picketing at the Federal Building.  That was almost ten years ago and that was when I first met Mary Ann Lederer The war was going on and on and it was quite cold that day as we paraded up and down Main Street.  I remember wondering how she managed to keep warm - or even get herself there.

Social protest was nothing new for Mary Ann.  As a younger woman she had been very active in many causes like peace, civil rights and welfare rights. Hoping to be an influence in improving conditions especially for low income people, Mary Ann got a Master's Degree in Community Planning. A few years later a terrible thing happened: she was shot in the back and left a paraplegic.  After a year in various hospitals she began to work for the disabled and was the first disabled person to work for the disabled at U.C. She set up many innovative programs such as the still existing, 504 Club. Then her health began to deteriorate and she became seriously ill.  Mary Ann credits the nutritional theory of Dr. Irene Barbasch with saving her life at that time. 

Now everyone in the peace and justice community knows Mary Ann.  She has been active in so many projects and she has organized many events.  Even though most of the time she can no longer attend meetings or protests, her influence is in evidence.  As an accomplished artist, she generously donates her art work and talent as fund raisers, for posters and program covers.  And everyone comes to her to make protest signs for the social justice movement.  She has made hundreds, many for Mac. And she has called hundreds of members of various organizations of the peace and justice community about meetings or events and has held many meetings in her tiny apartment.  Now she is bed ridden much of the time but she continues to try to exert her influence in every way possible.  She certainly has exemplified leadership and inspiration.

One of the things about Mary Ann  which is very noticeable when one meets her is her empathy for the poor and down trodden.  She herself lives in low income housing and she tries to help her neighbors, especially the children, as much as she can.  For example, every year she collects hundreds of books to give to the children.  She is a pen pal to several prisoners, some on death row.  She has been active in such groups as Justice Watch, Contact Center, Nuke Watch, Peace Works, Inter-Community Peace and Justice Center and Earth Save.

Amid all this activity and illness Mary Ann has not been content just to foster the ideas of others in the peace and justice community.  She has read and studied and meditated and she has come to some firm conclusions of her own.  One of her main thesis is about nutrition.  She is firmly convinced that what we eat affects not only physical health but also psychological health, notably tendencies toward violence, depression and stress. She tries to get this message taught and understood, especially among the poor.  To exemplify her concern about nutrition she feeds anyone who comes to her house and she offers nutritional counseling and vegetarian cooking classes to anyone interested.  She also seeks solutions to the difficulty of everyone having a good diet.

Another thesis which Mary Ann teaches is about the community of all beings.  She is actively aware of the community of life in which we all share and she sees that we humans are just a part of a wider community with none higher or none lower.  She cherishes the diversity of life and has a meaningful appreciation of it. This leads her a deep compassion for all beings. 

Mary Ann Lederer is an outstanding example of the legacy of the Rev. Maurice McCrackin.  Every one who has come to know her has been influenced and inspired by her.  I am proud and honored to nominate Mary Ann Lederer for the 1999 McCrackin Peace and Justice Award.