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Obituaries : Elaine Black Yoneda, 81; 'The Red Angel' of the 1930s

May 30, 1988|Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Elaine Black Yoneda, a Communist agitator who led labor revolts in the 1930s and was called "The Red Angel," has died in San Francisco. She was 81.

Mrs. Yoneda died Thursday, one day after she attended a union rally for presidential candidate Jesse Jackson. She had been ill for a month.

In 1931, she moved to Southern California from her home in New York City to become secretary of International Labor Defense, which provided legal aid to trade unionists. One of the first people she bailed out of jail was Communist Party member Karl Yoneda, a Japanese native who changed his first name in honor of Karl Marx.

They were married in 1935. Karl Yoneda ran unsuccessfully for the state Assembly in 1934, the same year Mrs. Yoneda served as the only woman member of the steering committee of San Francisco's general strike. The labor action began as a waterfront and maritime strike but then escalated into a citywide general strike after two demonstrators were killed by police.

Charge Dismissed

The same year, Mrs. Yoneda and several other activists were arrested during a protest and jailed for vagrancy, a charge that was dismissed after two trials and a hunger strike.

"They are not vagrants," an appellate court judge ruled. "They are Communists."

Mrs. Yoneda, who was dubbed "The Red Angel" by her union colleagues, had other run-ins with police, including arrests for disturbing the peace, inciting a riot, "seditious utterances" and unlawful assembly during labor and anti-war demonstrations.

In 1939, Mrs. Yoneda, using her maiden name of Black, ran unsuccessfully for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Detention Camp

She spent eight months in a Japanese detention camp during World War II with her husband and son. Despite his earlier detention, Karl Yoneda served as an intelligence officer in the Pacific theater.

After the war, the Yonedas operated a farm in Cotati. From the late 1950s until she retired in 1973, Mrs. Yoneda was a clerical worker for the International Longshoremen's & Warehousemen's Union-Pacific Maritime Assn. pension fund.

She is survived by her husband and a daughter and son.

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