Freya Dinshah, Dr. Catherine Nimmo, H. Jay Dinshah in 1961.

Catherine Nimmo was the first paid member of the American Vegan Society, but she was much more, a doctor, a writer, and an organizer with a firm and longstanding commitment to vegan advocacy.

Dr. Nimmo recalled a day in 1931 when she came across a cow and a calf on opposite sides of a road, separated by fencing. The two animals were in obvious anguish. Upon asking the farmer she learned that they were separated so that people like her could have the mother’s milk from the cow. Already a longtime vegetarian at that point, she decided that she could do without cow’s milk better than the calf could, so she eliminated it from her diet and became a vegan.

She was a pioneer in both her vegan outlook and in putting it into action: In 1948 she and Rubin Abramowitz started an informally organized vegan society in Oceano, California. Their main activism consisted of ordering and distributing copies of The (UK) Vegan Society’s magazine, and in corresponding with people about the vegan message. She corresponded with Jay and Freya Dinshah before they embarked on a Coast-to-Coast tour, and they met with her around Christmas of 1961, when this photo was taken.

Freya remembered that Dr. Nimmo made beautiful chopped salads, and can still picture her riding her bicycle around Oceana to visit her chiropractic patients. When the Dinshahs stayed with her, Freya said that “she would tuck us into bed and remark how she was looking forward to the next generation of vegans.”

That generation has arrived, and one can only speculate about how Dr. Nimmo would react to the increasingly vegan-friendly world of 2020. She wrote frequently for American Vegan magazine, at that time called Ahimsa, and in the May 1962 issue, she exhorted readers: “IF we would have our hearts in the right place for humans of all races and for animals alike, and if we would learn COOPERATION with nature, we would see a great improvement in world affairs.” She concluded, “Let us begin NOW with new zeal and vigor to help usher in the New and Better age by compassion for ALL Life and cooperation with ALL Nature.”