Esther Leah Medalie was born in Buhl, Minnesota. She was a student at the University of Minnesota from 1936 to 1940, and was the first woman invited to join the editorial board of the Minnesota Daily. She specialized in writing editorials on international relations and race issues and attended interracial political organizing camps, unusual for that period. She was the president of the campus chapter of the American Student Union, and organized to fight against fascism. Dean Edward Nicholson gave her name to the FBI, labeling her political activism subversive.
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