Margot Smith

Community Organizer, long-time advocate Single Payer Health Care

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Margot Smith is a retired social scientist who lives in Berkeley, California where she actively advocates for universal health care and economic justice.  She produced award winning independent videos on political and social justice issues, and is a member of Bay Area Women in Film and Media.

Margot is receiving the Single Payer Activists Award for her years of community activism and dedication to accessible healthcare.  She joined Vote Health in the 1970’s when Keith Carson was the chair.  At that time they were working on ensuring that poor people had access to Highland Hospital.  While working as a social scientist for California’s Department of Environmental Health, Margot traveled to McFarland, CA because of a cancer cluster, a trip which resulted in her writing,  “How Economic Demand Influences Access to Medical Care for Rural Latino Children.” published in the journal, Medical Care. She earned her doctorate in Public Health from Cal in 1977.

In 1985 Margot and her husband, the late Bob Purdy, started making videos, then a new technology. Bob had been a B24 bomber pilot shot down during WWII.  When Castro took power, he decided to move to Cuba to help with the revolution.  They met after he returned to the U.S. and became a formidable team, creating award winning independent videos on political and social justice issues.   In 1989 they shot  75 Years of Progress: Towards Health Care Reform, a lecture by Dr. Rashi Fein.

In 1994 they took their film making on the road to Canada where they shot Canada’s Single Payer Health Care System: A Model for Reform. See the documentary here. The introduction is by the late Senator Paul Wellstone and it was shown on 65 PBS stations across the country. This and two other videos advocating universal health care on the Canadian model were shown by universities and grass roots organizations throughout the U.S.

Margot worked on proposition 186 in 1994 and never missed a beat when it failed.  She went on working with Vote Health and then moved over to work with Dan Hodges at Healthcare for All.  When she became convener of the Berkeley Gray Panthers she made sure that Single Payer healthcare was a priority on their agenda.

Margot is an amazing organizer who has made a much greater impact on the world than she will ever know.  We are proud to honor her with the Single Payer Activist Award for Community Activism. You can watch her videos at, search for Margot Smith Videomaker.  Her website is