Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

Back in New York she supported herself with traditional jobs, which were limited for women in those days. But her real work, for which she received no pay, came after hours, in volunteer roles at labor and civil-rights organizations. In 1947 she moved to Denver, where she served as executive secretary of the Civil Rights Congress based there. She also was an idealistic member of the American Communist Party. As anti-communist sentiment mounted in America, and a long era of witch-hunts ensued, Nancy was called before a Federal grand jury and ordered to give names of other people involved in progressive activities. She refused, citing her Fifth Amendment rights, a defense virtually unheard-of at that time. Because of her refusal, she served three months in prison. But her use of the Fifth Amendment helped stir new legal interest in it.

In 1950 she married in Colorado, but a rising tide of anti-communist hysteria caused her and her husband to move to Michigan and live under assumed names. Eventually she moved to Connecticut and resumed the name Nancy Kleinbord. She worked for a local Girls Scout council, and then for an advertising agency, at which she became one of the first female computer programmers in the young field. All along, she remained a human-rights activist, a worker in the growing civil-rights movement, and a peace activist, protesting the Vietnam War. She also helped start a women’s center.

In 1973 she moved to Santa Fe. Soon a principal focus for her was establishing and supporting a rural medical clinic and agricultural co-op in Tierra Amarilla in northern New Mexico. Other interests included U.S. policy in Central and South America, nuclear waste disposal, rights of immigrants and refugees, prison and death-penalty reform, women’s rights, union struggles, the workers’ movement, and the needs of the elderly and disabled. In protest of U.S. governmental policies in Vietnam, Cuba and other countries, she frequently picketed outside the post office. Single again, she paid her bills and supported her causes by working as a bookkeeper for numerous local companies.

In the late 1970s Nancy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and began a 20-year struggle with the illness, while still keeping up her activist efforts. In 1995 she was named a Santa Fe Living Treasure. Deteriorating health and a desire to be near her daughter, son-in-law and grandson led her to move to Boulder, Colorado, late in 1995, and there she died in 1999 at the age of 83. To the end, her spirit did not falter.

Even in death Nancy Kleinbord continued her good work. In lieu of flowers, she asked mourners to make donations to the National Parkinson’s Foundation, the Brain Research Fund, La Clinica del Pueblo de Rio Arriba, or other worthy organizations.