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Vegetarian Journal Nov/Dec 2001

How Many People Do You Know Who Have Been Vegetarian for Over 65 Years?

Marion Friedman does not know many either. Now 77, she has been an ethical vegetarian since the 1930's (from the age of 11), and vegan the last 15 years or so after attending an American Vegan Society seminar. "The only eggs or dairy I really had to give up was butter pecan ice cream, but I now enjoy Tofutti, Rice Dream, and so forth. I gave up wearing wool and my dress coat is a beautiful cotton velvet swing coat. . ."

For several hours in her home, we interviewed Ms. Friedman. Or should we say that she fed us and stuffed us with vegan goodies for the entire afternoon? She kept stopping the interview to give us doughnuts from Pangea, prepared foods from local natural foods companies, t-shirts from an artist, and more. "I am happy that these vegan companies exist, making things easier for people like me, and I give them as much business as I can."

Marion's whole life is about caring for people and animals. She is always finding ways to support vegetarian and vegan companies and trying to help individuals. Though this wasn't the purpose of the interview, we decided she was the embodiment of the Ruth E Caring Award, and would like her to have this honor. (See end of story.)

She remembers a time when she was three years old she was served some oatmeal that happened to look like it was in the shape of a turkey. She refused it since she thought it was an animal. Then, during the Depression, one of her caregivers discussed the humane treatment of animals with her, and thus Marion became vegetarian.

Marion didn't know another vegetarian until the 1980's! She corresponded with Paul Obis, who started Vegetarian Times. She says that reading VT "made me feel not alone." She does recall going to a vegetarian restaurant in Chicago in 1946 and reading about a vegetarian who was running for President*. In Los Angeles she believes she saw a vegetarian newspaper in the 1950's. Around then she also discovered health food stores.

However, neither Marion's husband nor any of her friends were vegetarian. And although she was the sole vegetarian in her world, she would make sure she didn't make others feel uncomfortable. "My husband loved our cat, but didn't see the connection in eating other animals, and never became vegetarian. I do not make a production of my being a vegetarian, or make others feel uncomfortable about it." Neither her vegetarianism nor love of animals was ever an issue to her husband.

It's important to Marion that people realize that those who care about animals also care about people. "People who have compassion for animals also have a lot of feelings for their fellow humans. If one has compassion, it extends to all living creatures." Marion was a Big Sister for ten years and volunteered through Jewish Family and Children's Services to make nightly phone calls to an infirm individual with physical limitations. Currently, she helps at a local school. Marion states, "Something as simple as a nightly phone call can make such a difference in someone's life."

Though Marion works hard not to make people uncomfortable, she says, "Sometimes as vegetarians among a meat-eating majority, we are felt to be the 'odd' ones, when in reality I think it odd that most people eat animals. When I look at the menu in an average restaurant, I feel as though it is a list of cruelty to animals."

Marion is constantly promoting vegetarianism in a kind way. She gives veggie-friendly books to children and continually writes positive letters to newspapers concerning treatment of animals and vegetarianism.

"My animal rights activism consists in mostly contributing to some animal rights organizations, writing letters about animal issues and legislation to my elected officials, and giving out literature. "I say I hope you don't mind my giving this to you. You may find it interesting. I don't push."

"I have purchased over forty copies of Diet for a New America and given them to various people, and I have given other vegetarian and animal rights books and cookbooks out to libraries, friends, and relatives (telling them I am not trying to convert them, but that they might find the literature interesting).

"I have been a volunteer teacher's aide two full school days a week at my local elementary school since 1995, assisting a second-grade teacher and an art teacher. One day I gave an issue of Animals' Agenda to the school's science teacher, who said she had never seen this magazine before. I later asked her if she wanted additional copies, and she said yes, so I am giving her my Animals' Agenda each time I finish a copy. This is one of my ways of giving out literature and I hope something will 'rub off.' I also pass out Vegetarian Journal and Vegetarian Times to people I think might show interest."

Marion remembers her mother teaching her moral values, such as, "Treat everyone alike, whether they are janitors or teachers; they're all human beings." Her mother was poor, but an intellectual, who, as a young woman, joined the women's suffrage movement and spent five days in jail for the cause. When Marion was a baby, her mother divorced and a few years later became sick. Thus Marion spent most of her childhood growing up in an orphanage. However, in spite of obstacles in her life, Marion Friedman is a great example of an activist treating people in a nice way.


The Vegetarian Resource Group has set up this prize for a person who promotes vegetarianism while thoughtfully displaying empathy and support for others. The nominee should be able to work under less-than-ideal conditions, and make do with the resources he or she has. The selected individual strives to give encouragement to those who try. He or she is able to see several sides of an issue and look at the full picture. This year's winner is Marion Friedman.

Thank you also to Hans and Coby Siegenthaler for nominating Sam Gerard, who not only promotes a cruelty-free lifestyle, but helps needy people with housing and food, performs a million other good deeds, and is always ready to help others.

To nominate someone for the Ruth E Caring Vegetarian Award, send your nomination to The Vegetarian Resource Group, PO Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203. You can also e-mail to Nominations become property of The Vegetarian Resource Group. The deadline is April 30th of each year. At this time we will award a $100 savings bond.

Excerpts from the Nov/Dec 2001 Issue

The Vegetarian Journal published here is not the complete issue, but these are excerpts from the published magazine. Anyone who wishes to see everything should subscribe to the magazine.

Thanks to volunteer Stephanie Schueler for converting this article to HTML.

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