Peggy Lipschutz was born on December 11, 1918 in Wincanton, England. She began taking cello lessons and started drawing regularly at the young age of 10. Peggy grew up in a socially aware household, which had a deep impact on what were to become lifelong values. Her father, a wool merchant, put out “a little anti fascist paper.” His 18 year old daughter began her political life raising money and organizing activities around the Spanish Civil War. Two years later though, the family immigrated to the United States, as her father decided that he could do more in the U.S. He came to fight fascism, anticipating the rise of Hitler long before most people.

The family settled in New York in 1938. She started attending Pratt Institute in Brooklyn the same year and graduated with a degree in fine arts a few years later. During World War II when many jobs opened to women for the first time, she edited and laid out training books for the Navy. Since she had to explain simple machinery to men who only had high school math, it started her on a lifetime path of using simple line drawings to deliver a message.

Friends invited her to come to Chicago to work with the Abraham Lincoln School for Social Science. This was a progressive school aimed at workers, especially the thousands of Black workers who had come up from the South, many with little formal schooling. Her first cartooning project was a textbook, Why Work For Nothing? — a “beautiful simple explanation of Marx’s theory of value for people who could barely read.” But when the House Un American Activities Committee came to Chicago, people who had supported the school withdrew their support and the school had to close its doors.

In 1948, at a rally for Henry Wallace’s Progressive Party presidential campaign, Peggy was to illustrate Wallace’s 10 point program. “Somebody else can do the talking, I’ll do the drawing,” Peggy told the organizers. However the speaker never showed up, so Peggy wound up doing her first chalk talk, drawing to songs.

In the years that followed, she took her drawings with a message to union halls, PTAs, progressive political groups and other organizations. Along the way she married and raised three children.

In 1960, she began working with various musicians, drawing to songs, with themes of conflict resolution, equality and justice – always with a social content. Over the years, Peggy traveled the country, performing with musicians and personalities such as Pete Seeger, Ella Jenkins, Studs Terkel, Win Stracke, Arlo Guthrie, Fred Holstein, Holly Near and many others.

Peggy and her “Songs You Can See” were part of the struggles of many of Chicago’s labor unions; anti-war campaigns; the civil rights movements of the 60’s; Harold Washington’s Mayoral campaign, and many others. Her illustrations became, for a generation of labor activists, synonymous with the message of labor unity, democracy and struggle. Several people often referred to Peggy as “a Chicago institution in the labor movement and the people’s movement.”