Music and light part of activist’s life

October 20, 2015

While I worked at the Driftwood, I was given an ongoing assignment (which means whenever I had the time to do it) to write profiles on the women who were “honoured for making our community strong by Salt Spring Women Opposed to Violence and Abuse (SWOVA)”.

Maggie Schubart was among them and I still remember meeting her in the beautifully designed open concept house that her architect husband had designed and what a pleasure it was to find out about her radical life as an American journalist and activist. She reminded me of the type of U.S. citizen who inspires and supports the Public Broadcasting Society (PBS) and Public Radio, which I love very much.

Gulf Islands Driftwood

April 19, 2000

Music and light part of activist’s life

by Tanya Lester

The Old Scott Road house that Maggie and Henry Schubart designed, and lived together in until reknowned architect Henry Schubart died two years ago, is wonderfully open and filled with light filtering through its floor to ceiling length windows.

The light and openness of her living space seem to reflect the progressive nature of Schubart’s personality.

It has always been in her nature for Schubart, who was recently among the 20 women honoured for making our community strong by Salt Spring Women Opposed to Violence and Abuse (SWOVA), to act in the name of social progress and for peace.

“It’s been my life’s work,” she said. “I think violence and war are just so unnatural.”

When growing up in Rochester, New York, Schubart said her parents taught her to believe in justice but were not social activists themselves. They were too busy making a living, she said.

Still, her father was on the cutting edge, working as an electrical contractor when electricity was first being introduced into society.

Schubart’s mother was classical singer Pearl Keenan which meant that she would sit, as a 5 year old, and watch her mother don her elaborate concert dresses. During this time, Schubart attended Eastman Music School.

It was this influence that eventually led Schubart to work as a CBS Radio music editor in New York City. From there, she went on to NBC Radio where she found herself working 70 hours a week.

Schubart had been active in college student affairs and had already developed an awareness of how the world worked as opposed to how it should. “The glamour of being in the field is supposed to make up for not getting a decent wage,” she said.

Schubart began union organizing among the writers and stenographers at NBC. (Musicians working in radio were already unionized.) The result was that they joined the Union of Office and Professional Workers of America (UOPWA).

Shortly after that, Maggie married Hank and the young couple moved to San Francisco. Eventually they raised six children and two step-children (a term Maggie does not like).

It was in San Francisco that the Schubarts became active in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war movements.

Schubart remembers that the couple spent some time persuading black people that it was important to vote and be counted in the political process.

On Salt Spring Island, Schubart was behind the start-up of Crossroads store (now privately owned) in order to provide a market for artisans in developing countries attempting to overcome impoverishment.

Schubart has also been active for a long time in the Voice of Women (VOW), a national organization concerned with issues such as disarmament and anti-poverty. She is excited about a VOW project through which women on low incomes are provided with interest free loans to start enterprises. Part of the project also provides mentors for these new business women.

Being and avid reader and thinker as well as having grown up in the depression, Schubart has insightful things to say about society’s economic value system.

“How much does someone need to live?”, is a question that Schubart asks rhetorically. She points out that the gambling debts of Texada Land Corporation director Derek Trethewey could provide an anuual income for three families.

Schubart has, however, drawn a lot of inspiration from Ghandi who did not believe in animosity towards people who stood on the other side of a social issue.

Perhaps Schubart’s personality as a social activist can be best summed up in the story she told about hiring someone to help her with housework.

One day, the woman had the task to dust Schubart’s many books.

This gave her the chance to peruse the book titles and led to the two realizing they had many progressive interests in common. The woman has since moved off Salt Spring Island yet the two continue to keep in touch by letter.

— END–

Tanya Lester is the author of four books: Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader (that can be purchased from her or from, Women Rights/Writes, Dreams & Tricksters and Friends I Never Knew. All four books can be found in libraires and the last three are in the Legislative Library of Manitoba.

Tanya is also a reiki master, a house sitter; does tea leaf readings, tarot, psychic channeling and mediumship as well as intuitive counseling. For more information go to her website at  Facebook. LinkedIn. Twitter.

To read earlier posts on this blog go to


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