Shirley Sapin


Shirley Sapin, 83, formerly of West Tisbury, died December 22, 2009, in Maryland. Before moving from Martha’s Vineyard to be near her daughters, she was a counselor at the Island Counseling Center and served on the boards of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Martha’s Vineyard and Habitat for Humanity.

Ms. Sapin was born in New York and grew up near the beaches of Far Rockaway, where her love of the ocean was fostered. A frequent visitor to the Island with her young family in the 1960s, settling in Martha’s Vineyard was a long-held dream.

Ms. Sapin’s professional career began at Cleveland State University where she was a guidance counselor for students financially and academically struggling to complete their education and launch their careers. She also worked as a psychologist in Cincinnati, Ohio, for several years. She earned her M.A. in Black Studies and Psychology from Case Western Reserve University and her doctorate in Psychology from the Union of Experimenting Colleges and Universities.

During WWII, Ms. Sapin lived with her family in Hawaii, where her father was stationed in the Merchant Marines. Witnessing racism against the native Hawaiian people, she vowed to commit herself to the cause of social justice. While living in Newton, Mass., in the 1960s, she was part of the grass roots organizing of the Voice of Women, and devoted herself to work with the peace and civil rights movements, for school integration and against nuclear testing from the 1960s on. In a 2001 interview by the Voice of Women Oral History Project, she recalled being deeply moved by the cultural and racial diversity of the women who collaborated together in those years: “All kinds of yarns on the loom weave together a masterpiece, a tapestry — we were a tapestry.”

Ms. Sapin was married for 30 years before divorcing, and leaves behind three children, four grandchildren, and many, many dear friends. In her honor, a bench will be placed at the East Chop lighthouse and a graduate fellowship set up with the Global Fairness Initiative.