American songwriter (1900-1978) of such folks songs as "Little Boxes," "Magic Penny," and "What Have They Done to the Rain?". Her songs have been covered by Pete Seeger, Harry Belafonte, Joan Baez, the Limeliters, Judy Collins, Marianne Faithfull, and others.

Born Malvina Milder to Jewish socialist immigrant parents in San Francisco. She was refused her diploma by Lowell High School because her parents were opposed to US participation in World War I. She entered UC Berkeley anyway, and received a doctorate in 1936. She married William Reynolds, a carpenter and organizer, in 1934 and had one child, Nancy, in 1935. Being Jewish, socialist, and a woman in the Great Depression, she could not find a job teaching at the college level. She became a social worker and a columnist for the People's World and, during World War II, an assembly-line worker at a bomb factory. Later she and her husband took over her parents' naval tailor shop in Long Beach, California. There in the late 1940s she met Earl Robinson, Pete Seeger and other folk singers and songwriters and began writing songs:

When folk music came to the front, I knew that was where I belonged. Here was my head full of poetry and music and everything I thought came together in song. And because my thinking was political and social, many of my songs had that character.
Like many folk singers of the 1960s, she took her inspiration from the headlines of the time, writing songs about women's rights, workers' rights, social justice, and the environmental crisis. She recorded songs on her own label, Cassandra records, as well as Folkways and Columbia Records. As a musician, she toured Scandinavia, England, and Japan. When she wasn't singing, she published her own zine, the Sporadic Times. Works available on CD:
  • Ear to the Ground, Topical Songs 1960-1978, Smithsonian Folkways 40124.
  • Another Country Heard From (1960) Folkways 2524.
Three of her children's tapes and two of her LPs are available from her daughter, Nancy Schimmel, at