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Mildred Rackley

Biography

Rackley, Mildred


Rackley, Mildred. b. October 13, 1906 Carlsbad, New Mexico, AMB, Texas University 1924-25 and Highland University 1925-27, Artist, CP 1935, received passport# 360731 on January 9, 1937 which listed her address as Taos, New Mexico and NYC; 1st AMB group.  Lived in Malorca, Spain 1 & 1/2 years 1932-33.  Sailed January 16, 1937, Arrived in Spain in January 1937; Served with the Medical Services as an interpreter and administrator, Returned to the US on July 12, 1938 aboard the Aquitania, WWII worked in a California shipyard, d. November 1992; 

Sources: Sail, SACB, RA, ALBA 097 Mildred Rackley Simon Papers; (obituary) The Volunteer, Volume 15, No. 2.

Photograph: Mildred Rackley, Photograph from the Spartacus Educational.

 

Biography

Mildred Rackley Simon (1906-1992) was born in Carlsbad, New Mexico into a ranching family. After attending for one year at the University of Texas in Austin, Rackley received a teaching degree from the Las Vegas Normal School. In 1927, Rackley moved to Taos where she taught high school. She also began painting and drawing with the encouragement of Walter Ufer, prominent German painter and member of the Taos Society of Artists. Rackley became involved in the artists' colony, and the community sparked international awareness and political consciousness in Rackley that influenced her in later years.

After marrying the German painter Hans Paap, Rackley traveled throughout Europe with her husband to study art history. She eventually settled in 1931 on the Spanish island of Malorca, and she witnessed the jubilation of the Spaniards following the overthrow of the monarchy and creation of the Spanish Republic. Settlement in Malorca also placed Rackley in contact with German refugees, for whom she did translation work as a supplementary job. Rackley's marriage soon ended, and she returned to Taos to continue her studies in drawing and painting.

Longing for a broader artistic and cultural community, Rackley moved to New York City in 1935. She found work at Fight Magazine, a publication of the League against War and Fascism. When her job ended at the magazine, she began work for the Artists' Union, a group that pressured the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to support unemployed artists. She became the head of the unemployment section of the union and later the vice-president. It was during this time that Rackley became acquainted with Dr. Edward Barsky, the doctor who led the first American medical units into Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Dr. Barsky asked Rackley, who spoke fluent Spanish, German, and French, if she would serve as secretary/interpreter for the American Medical Bureau to Aid Spanish Democracy in Spain. Rackley agreed to go, and in January 1937 she sailed to Spain on the  S.S. Paris.

Rackley helped to set up hospitals in Valdeganga, Hueta, Romeral, and Villa Paz. Her duties included fulfilling administrative tasks, communicating with the Medical Bureau to Aid Spanish Democracy in New York, and locating food and supplies for hospital staff and patients. She also aided in the hospital evacuations to Barcelona in the spring of 1938. Rackley generally served as Dr. Barsky's confidential administrative assistant. In the summer of 1938, Rackley and the rest of the American medical unit discontinued service, and Rackley returned to the United States aboard the S.S. Aquinata in June 1938.

During World War II, Rackley worked for Moore Drydock shipyards in Oakland, California, where she did drafting and designing. She also helped organize the shipyards for union recognition. After the company refused to hire one of her friends on the basis of race, Rackley quit Moore Drydock and began working for Kaiser Shipyards. In 1944 Rackley married Rawlings Simon with whom she eventually adopted two sons, Phillip and John. After the war, the Simons settled in Northern California where she was an active member of the Bay Area VALB Post. By 1960, she had returned to teaching. Mildred Rackley Simon died in California in 1992.

-Biography courtesy Tamiment Library, NYU. 

 

 

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Last Name Rackley
First/Middle Name Mildred
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Additional Notes Post Spain worked as a teacher. Married Rawlings Smith-White Simon June 3, 1944. Children Philip Radely Simon b. September 15, 1948. Adopted John Rawlings Simon who died of muscular dystrophy. Mildred Rackley was born in New Mexico in 1906. After graduating from the University of Texas in 1930 she travelled to Europe to study painting. She settled for a time in Germany but when Adolf Hitler took power she moved to the Spanish island of Mallorca. In 1935 Rackley returned to America where she joined the American Communist Party. In 1936 she was recruited by the American Medical Bureau and later that year she travelled to Spain as assistant to Dr. Edward Barsky. In January 1937 Barsky and Rackley organized the first American hospital for the volunteers fighting in the Spanish Civil War. On her return to the United States she became editor of Flight, the magazine of the League Against War and Fascism. During the Second World War Rackley worked in a Californian shipyard where she was an active union organiser. Mildred Rackley died in 1992. - Biography courtesy of Spartacus Educational