Madeline Taylor Duckles was born in Loomis, California to Allie Adella Fleisher and Porter Lee Taylor. After graduating from Esparto Union High School in 1933, Madeline enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in English Literature. It was at UC Berkeley that Madeline met the love of her life, Vincent Harris Duckles. Madeline and Vin were married on June 10, 1937 in Forest Hills, Long Island. In 1951, Madeline and Vin settled into their home in the Berkeley Hills, where they raised their family and where Madeline lived until her 96th birthday. Madeline's house was full of family, visitors and animals. She loved to entertain and receive visitors from around the world.
Madeline committed her life to peaceful activism and social justice. Madeline joined the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in the 1940s and was an active member of WILPF into her nineties. She attended meetings with the World Council of Peace in Europe and Asia, and gave speeches regarding the anti-war movement in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy, and was one of the first American women to visit North Vietnam. As a leader in the Committee of Responsibility during the Vietnam War, she brought Vietnamese children injured in the war to San Francisco for treatment. Her peaceful activism made her the subject of government surveillance, and years later, Freedom of Information Act requests revealed a dossier assembled by the FBI, CIA and military intelligence services about her work. Madeline's decades-long work was acknowledged on the floor of the United States Congress by Rep. Ronald Dellums in 1996 and Rep. Barbara Lee in 2005.
Music was an important part of Madeline's life. Her husband was a renowned musicologist and all her sons had musical training. Three of her children continued their musical endeavors in a professional capacity, as well as three of her grandchildren. Madeline supported classical music and loved the opera and symphony. She continued to attend concerts even at 97 years of age.
She counts close friends all over the world, many of whom stayed in her home and were the beneficiaries of her wonderful hospitality.
Madeline Duckles died in Santa Rosa, California on November 23, 2013 at age 97. She is survived by five sons: Lawrence, Christopher, Lee, Peter and Jeremy; her foster daughter, Thuy; seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be held in the spring. Donations may be made in her name to the Jane Adams Peace Association.
[Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Dec. 8, 2013]