Emma Wong Mar, First Asian-American to Run for National Office in November, Dies

Emma Wong Mar

From Richard Winger at Ballot Access News:

On September 16, Emma Wong Mar died in Oakland, California. She was 89. She was the Peace & Freedom Party’s vice-presidential nominee in 1984, and was the first Asian-American to appear on a general election ballot for President or Vice-President.

Her running mate in 1984 was Sonia Johnson. Johnson’s vice-presidential nominee in other states was Richard Walton, but in California the ticket was comprised of Johnson and Mar. Thanks to Jed Ziggler for this news.

From Marsha Feinland at the Peace and Freedom Party website:

Emma Wong Mar passed away in her home in Oakland, California on September 16, shortly after her 89th birthday, after a brief illness. She was an outspoken political activist and socialist for most of her adult life. She remained interested and engaged in politics and current affairs up until the end of her life.

Emma was born to Chinese immigrant parents in New York City on September 7, 1926. Her parents worked hard and struggled to support Emma and her six sisters during the Great Depression. She graduated from Hunter College in New York and spent several years working as a medical technologist at Sutter Hospital in Sacramento and Planned Parenthood in Oakland. She married Henry Y. Mar in 1952 and had two children. She was an early opponent of the Vietnam War and could be seen carrying picket signs at countless protest demonstrations.

Emma was a dedicated member of the Peace and Freedom Party. She was elected State Chair of the party in 1982 and ran as its vice-presidential candidate in 1984 with feminist activist Sonia Johnson heading the ticket. She ran for State Assembly three times between 1982 and 1992 and for U.S. Congress once, in 1994. She served as co-chair of the Alameda County Peace and Freedom Party for many years. Emma continued her anti-war and pro-labor activism well into the late 90’s and early 2000’s. She was recognized by the Hotel and Restaurant Workers’ Union for her constant presence on picket lines and at support activities.

Emma was warm-hearted and generous in spirit and a very open and compassionate person. She was outgoing and made friends easily. She was beloved by her political comrades and by her immediate family and will be very much missed.

Long time PFP activist Casey Peters offers these memories of Emma:

I first became close to her at the 1982 UCLA convention of Peace and Freedom Party where I was able to convince Emma to step forward as a candidate for state chair. Emma proved to be an excellent party chair, and bridged many factions. That aspect of her persona was seen years later after the 1988 three-way split when Emma and I overcame some political differences and started a healing process which aided Peace & Freedom Party to become whole again.

One thing that helped was our jointly heading the Search Committee for a United Presidential Candidate (SCULPT) in the lead-up to the 1984 and 1988 elections. In that role, Emma helped to bring into discussion a wide range of organizations on the Left, creating a serious process unmatched to this date. We were solid enough by 1992 to work in unison for the nomination of Ron Daniels as our presidential candidate.

Emma and Henry hosted many meetings in their large Oakland home, and made room for overnight guests including myself. Emma had strong views on many political groups and activists, and was a regular in picketing a Round Table Pizza to support worker’s rights. Emma was exemplary, as a principled leader and as a true friend.

Emma’s daughter JoAnn co-hosts a weekly radio program, Folk Music and Beyond on KALW-FM in San Francisco. Here are two audio clips of excerpts from her tribute to her mother, broadcast on September 26. The first includes a few of JoAnn’s own memories. The second is a portion of a poem in Emma’s memory by songwriter and activist Si Kahn..

Emma Mar is survived by her husband Henry, their two children JoAnn and Craig, her three sisters Estelle, Mabel, and Gloria, and many nieces and nephews. Her spirit will continue to live on in the Peace and Freedom Party and the socialist movement.

Marsha Feinland is an officer at large of the State Central Committee from Alameda County and chair of the Communications Committee.

2 thoughts on “Emma Wong Mar, First Asian-American to Run for National Office in November, Dies

  1. Bob Richard

    Thank you for posting this. The post from peaceandfreedom.org refers to audio clips that are not included here but can be found at the original location. Also, after posting this tribute we decided that it should not have a byline so IPR’s version is slightly out of date. — Bob Richard, Webmaster, Peace and Freedom Party

  2. paulie

    Do you or anyone from P & F want to sign up to post articles to IPR directly? That way you will be able to edit them later.

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