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Monday, July 22, 2013

Remembering Toshi

Much has been said about Toshi Seeger and her legacy since she died at the age of 91 on Tuesday, July 9th: how her husband, Pete Seeger, wouldn't have gotten far without her support and pragmatism, how dedicated she was to the advancement of civil rights and environmental protection, her work directing Pete's show "The Rainbow Quest" and how indispensable she was to the Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival.

Toshi disliked the spotlight, and perhaps that's why when many of us remember her, we remember how important she was to Pete. In an undated letter she wrote from Australia to Moses Asch, she says, "I did my best for old Folkways and appeared with Peter on TV last night...Broke my promise to never get behind a mike--I go blank--but I lived and I guess the audience did too."

She might not have been the one behind the mike, but her influence could be felt amidst everything she touched. She was always there, even when people forgot to look. So today, I want to shine light on Toshi in the best way I know how--using her own words, in her own hand. This undated letter (below), sent to Moses Asch along with the photograph at left, is all Toshi--so much so that her advice is as much for herself as it is for Moe. The caption she offers for the photograph reads, "Tao and Cassie help Granmaw tile the bathroom." Captured here is one moment where Toshi was exactly where she needed to be--not tiling that bathroom, and embracing her grandchildren.

This is how I'd like to remember her--as a force of love and competence, empathy and strength. She will be missed.

Cecilia Peterson, Project Archivist
Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections

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