Toshi Seeger, wife of Pete Seeger, Passes

Image635091230237041406Toshi Seeger, Film maker, Activist and wife of Folk music legend, Pete Seger has died on July 9, 2013. 

Pete Seeger once wrote of his wife: “Thanks to my wife Toshi, without whom the world would not turn nor the sun shine.”  The couple was just 9 days shy of celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary.

Toshi-Aline Seeger (nee Ohta) was born in Germany to an American mother and Japanese father, according to Mark Moss of Sing Out! magazine, which was co-founded by Pete. She moved to the United States at age six months, growing up in New York City. She met Pete in New York, marrying him in 1943 at age 21.

Toshi was an activist and filmmaker. Her 1966 film ‘Afro-American Work Songs In A Texas Prison’ was a movie about prisoners chopping trees and singing their traditional songs. It is now available through the Library of Congress archives.

“As much as Pete is a consummate dreamer and optimist, Toshi had a strength and brilliance that was at least his equal.” –Sing Out Magazine.

Toshi grew up in a family of progressives. She went to the High School of Music and Art.  After a few years of friendship, meeting Pete at square dances around NYC, Pete and Toshi were married in 1943 at the age of 21.

Pete wrote in his autobiography that they “found we had much in common. Her parents were extraordinary people. We were all very close. Her mother, descended from Old Virginny (slave owners), had declared her independence from that racist part of her tradition, moved to Greenwich Village, married a Japanese who was in political exile, as militarists were taking over his homeland. He did important and dangerous work for the U.S. Army in WWII.”

Over the last decades, Toshi became a key leader and artistic programmer for the Great Hudson River Revival, the annual fundraiser for the Clearwater organization, and a true mecca for those of us who adopted Pete, and Toshi’s, view that music could be a tool to help focus activism. She also played a pivotal role in Clearwater sloop voyages. Pete often sang her praises as an organizer: “after having to organize me for 66 years, no wonder.”

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