In Loving Memory of Lynne Stewart

October 8, 1939-March 7, 2017

Remarks by Ralph Schoenman Read at Memorial

Sisters and Brothers,

All of us here are in pain that catches our breath and presses on our hearts. We feared we would lose her and yet her lock on life was so encompassing that it drew us daily into her embrace and allowed us to hope the dying would not come.

Yet the cancer was relentless in its advance, invading her organs ad seriatim.

 Lynne looked upon each new day as a gift—a blessed opportunity to sustain her cri de coeur, the summons to struggle—Lynne’s evocative voice ever raised on behalf of that army of the disadvantaged—who inhabit the American Gulag—6,977,700 acknowledged by the oxymoronic “U.S. Bureau of Justice,” supplemented by a vast system of “Super-Max” prisons secreted across the length and breadth of the United States—prisoners held in 24 hour solitary confinement with sensory deprivation—people buried alive, people without funds, adequate defense, advocates, human contact or the prospect of relief.

As long as Lynne drew breath she summoned the better angels of our nature. 

When she arrived in prison, deprived of medical attention and continuously denied medical procedures, she could barely walk. She was shackled, her wrists to her ankles, and made to shamble great distances to reach a lavatory or secure what passed for a meal. 

Always in the Gulag, Lynne looked after the women around her—ailing women denied access to lavatories, deprived of medical care. Risking solitary herself, Lynne half carried a collapsing cellmate to a distant lavatory. The woman died in her arms on the floor. Lynne was warned by the authorities that if she breathed a word about it, she would be placed in solitary, incommunicado. Lynne responded by putting out a call to her fellow inmates: “Raise your voices for our fallen comrade.” For hours the prison rang with a torrent of cries and banged plates as the name of the martyred prisoner echoed from cell to cell.

Faced with surgery in that prison hell hole, her wrist was shackled to the left upper bed post, her ankles spread eagled and shackled to the bed posts below. This was how Lynne endured what passed for surgery and the chimera of recovery.

Oh, Lynne. Nothing could impair your spirit, tame your heart or break your indomitable will.

How do I tally the ways I mourn your passing, grieve for your pain, smile with your memory and sustain the will to struggle blessed by your loving heart.

For articles by and about Lynne Stewart, covering her persecution and imprisonment by the U.S. government, go to Socialist Viewpoint at