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Mikki Doyle was born as Miriam Levental on January 15, 1916 as part of a large and poor Jewish family of east European extraction on the lower East Side of Manhattan in the United States of America. By the age of 16, she had joined the Communist movement to which she remained loyal until her dying day.
She married an English Communist sailor named Marley and had two children by him before her 20th birthday. This, and a second marriage, failed amidst the depths of the despair of the Depression. Yet, Mikki never ceased campaigning throughout the 1930s, as she brought up her family single-handed.
In 1949, the audience of men, women and children turning up for the New York leg of a concert tour by Paul Robeson was violently attacked by fascist gangs as it turned up to the open-air Peekskill venue. Police guarding the event at best turned a blind eye to the assailants, at worst unduly and often violently arrested concert-goers seeking to defend their families from broken glass and rocks. Mikki was hit in the face with a rock and permanently blinded in one eye; she never recovered her sight.
Later that year, she met and married Charlie Doyle, with whom she happily remained until his death in 1983. Mikki had to marry Charlie by proxy, since Doyle was an expatriate Scot, long resident in the US, whose activities as a Communist leader of the Gas, Coke and Chemical Workers Union had put him in prison as part of the McCarthyite purges. He was finally deported as an “undesirable alien” back to Britain in 1953.
Mikki accompanied him on the ocean voyage but only when the ship passed into international waters was Charlie freed by FBI agents and finally, after four years of marriage without contact, allowed to join his wife in a theatrical performance on a windswept deck. In contrast, at Southampton, the couple received a celebrity welcome with hordes of journalists for Charlie’s case had been avidly attended to by British media, so outrageous was its breach of human rights.
Mikki, as she herself admitted, had no training or experience at anything in the world of work very much. With little but sheer chutzpah, after a period of manual working, she knocked ten years off her age and got a job as a copy-writer in advertising. Her experience of three decades of writing Communist pamphlets and leaflets, at which she had natural talent, gave her the facility to do the job. But no doubt, along with confidence, her pronounced New York accent, which – although more muted with the years, she never lost – gave her an edge of glamour. She worked for the Cuban embassy for a while before joining the Morning Star as a journalist in 1967, soon becoming the editor of its women’s page until she retired in 1985.
She was a founder member of Women in Media, a pressure group that was prominent in the 1970s in paving the way for the opening to many women of senior roles in the press and broadcast media. In this role, she became a firm and lasting friend of Jill Tweedie. Mikki Doyle became genuinely well-known, as word of her incredible personal tenacity, born out of intense adversity, elevated her even to many an accolade. She was the only Morning Star journalist ever to introduce the “What the Papers Say” programme on television and became a regular guest on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.
An extraordinary friendship blossomed between Mikki and the Marchioness of Lothian after Mikki was invited to address a Woman of the Year luncheon funded by the aristocrat to raise funds for the blind. It was perhaps not always accidental but always affectionately that many a letter to the Morning Star became addressed to Lady Doyle. When she retired in 1985, it was said of Mikki that she was not retiring – “just slowing down”! The image of her as a feisty campaigner fired many women in the 1970s and 80s to strike out for equity in their chosen field. A chain-smoking, small woman with a loud voice, Mikki Doyle won many firm friends across the world of the media and, in the process, always ensured that the Star shone forth; she died, aged 79, on December 8th 1995 after a very long battle against cancer.
Sources: Morning Star 9th December 1995; 11th December 1995; Guardian 18th December 1995