Zelda Curtis was born in December 1923 to Ada and Manny Brown, eastern European Jewish immigrants. She was raised in Islington, north London, joined the Communist Party during the second world war and served with the WAAF. She married Gerry Curtis in 1944 and they settled in Finchley, becoming involved with Unity Theatre.
As managing editor of Labour Monthly under Rajani Palme Dutt, she introduced a culture section and encouraged young writers. She was involved in the National Assembly of Women during its early years and worked on both the Daily Worker and Morning Star.
On the outbreak of war she was evacuated to Somerset, where she came in contact with the Workers’ Education Association; she joined the Communist Party, and later served in the WAAF.
Through the 1970s she worked at fund-raising for the Morning Star, with a daily printed declaration warning that the failure to raise a few thousand pounds would lead to the paper’s demise.
Late in life, Zelda became active in CND, Anti-Apartheid and the NUJ, the Women’s Liberation Movement, War on Want, and subsequently in the pensioners’ movement, in which she was known as “Zelda the Elder”.
Her husband died in 1983 and she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. By now she was working with Pensioners Link and she went on to form the Association of Greater London Older Women. She was co-opted to the Greater London Council Women’s Committee and served on Islington Women’s Committee.
This all reinforced a growing tendency in her to avoid militant Marxism and she became strongly supportive of the revisionist EC during the internal battles of the CPGB in the 1980s.
At the age of 71, she made a Channel 4 documentary about the Gray Panthers movement in the US, produced extensive writings on Feminism and Sex, admitting in the Guardian in September 2001 to still having an active sex life at 78! Her late life partner was fellow ex-Communist and supporter of Democratic Left, former electrician, Stan Davison. Zelda died aged 89 on31st January 2012.
Sources: Various including The Guardian February 5th 2012; The Independent 11th February 2012