April 26, 1937 – May 14, 2017
Judith (Judy) Brady, a well known feminist and activist, passed away in San Francisco on May 14th, 2017 at the age of 80, after a brief hospital stay for pneumonia and complications of COPD. She was born in San Francisco in 1937 to parents Mildred Edie and Robert Alexander Brady. She grew up in Berkeley and graduated from Anna Heads high school in 1955. She attended Cooper’s Union in New York and the University of Iowa. She graduated from the University of Iowa with a B.F.A. in 1962. It was in Iowa she met her husband, James Syfers, and they moved to San Francisco in 1963.
As a full time housewife and mother of two young daughters, Judy became a prominent figure in the West Coast Women’s Liberation Movement. She wrote the iconic piece “Why I Want A Wife”, which was published in the first edition of MS magazine in 1972 and has been republished countless times in books and textbooks across the country. She was also active in the movement to legalize abortion.
In the early seventies she went to Cuba with the Venceremos Brigade, a deeply meaningful experience for her and she returned to Cuba in later years. In the early 80s she was one of thousands of Americans who traveled to Nicaragua to see its revolution in process. What she experienced in both countries expanded her vision of the possible and deepened her commitment to social and economic justice.
Judy eventually divorced and took full time work as a secretary to support her family. She developed breast cancer in her forties and subsequently expanded her activism to the political context and environmental causes of cancer. Her book “1 in 3: Women Confront An Epidemic”, published in 1991, emphasized the root environmental causes of cancer in modern industrial capitalism, rather than blaming the victim as an individual. She was a powerful articulate public speaker and writer and gave many speeches and interviews. She also published many articles, including a regular column “Cashing in on Cancer” for the Woman’s Cancer Resource Center newsletter in Berkeley. Judy was a co founder on the board of Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice. She worked with Breast Cancer Action and the Toxics Links Coalition. Judy was a fierce critic of the “cancer industry” and was featured in the film Pink Ribbons, Inc. in 2011, which exposes the hypocrisy and manipulative nature of corporate PR campaigns by polluting industries.
Judy had purchased a three flat Victorian in the Mission District in the 1980s along with her close friends Nancy and Judith, and eventually moved to her ground floor flat in 2004. There she became involved in the local community and the fight to resist gentrification. She was a “regular” at water aerobics classes at the Garfield community pool for years and developed treasured friendships.
Affectionately known as Ji by her two daughters, Judy was a woman of fierce conviction and strong intellect, as well as great passion for the good fight in all its forms. She well understood the interconnections between all issues of injustice and was involved in many different struggles during her life. Her homes were always open to friends and activists needing a place to stay and her answering machine always included the phrase to leave a message for herself or “anyone who may be staying here”. She loved flowers and gardening, and was also a talented quilter, sewing each quilt entirely by hand and gifting many to friends and family. Judy loved and was loved by her daughters very much, and was a generous and loyal friend to many.
Judy is survived by her sister, Joan Brady, her daughters Tanya and Maia Syfers, her grandchildren Alex and Becca Moore, and Lily Syfers, and her nephew Toby Masters. Judy took her place in history and in our hearts and will be greatly missed.
A memorial will be held at the Woman’s Building in SF, located at 3543 18th St, on August 27th at 11:30am. In lieu of flowers or gifts, donations can be made to Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice, or Breast Cancer Action, in San Francisco.