Leslie Brown, psychoanalyst and social activist, dies

Leslie Brown, a psychoanalyst who was active in progressive social causes, died Thursday after being struck by an automobile in Roland Park. Her death was confirmed at Sinai Hospital.

The North Baltimore resident was 75.


Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Glens Falls, New York, she was the daughter of Robert Davis, an advertising executive and Carolyn Davis, a schoolteacher.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in art at the University of Delaware.


“It was there, while attending a class called Socialism, Fascism and Democracy that she met a graduate student named Chris Brown. They married soon thereafter,” said her son, C. Justin Brown, a Baltimore attorney.

She and her husband lived in the Capitol Hill section of Washington in the 1960s. She was a Southeast Washington elementary schoolteacher and later was a field worker for the Office of Economic Opportunity.

“One of her assignments at OEO was in Harlan County, Kentucky, where she was responsible for distributing resources to impoverished communities," her son said. "Much of her political activism centered on the women’s liberation movement.”

She and her husband moved in 1971 to Baltimore, where he worked for Legal Aid and was counsel to the Maryland chapter of American Civil Liberties Union.

“I met her in 1970 and we all were idealistic and thought we could make a difference,” said a friend, Susan Leviton. “From her work in Appalachia, Leslie saw people who literally had nothing. As a person she was was engaging and exciting and would try anything. She could make decisions so quick. She loved talking to people and was intensely focused on what you had to say.”

Ms. Brown was recalled for her willingness to hop on a plane.

“She was adventurous," said her son. “She would never say no to a trip or a new experience. She was really smart and within our family was the brains of the operation. She read constantly. She liked good literature. Her four grandchildren were important to her.”

Ms. Brown was politically active and would travel to other states to campaign," her son also said. “She was a diehard progressive Democratic. She was banging on doors in Pennsylvania in the last midterm election.”


“She was direct but kind,” said a friend, Nanny Warren. “She was passionately serious about her work but she was fun-loving. She never took herself too seriously in a social situation but was humble. She was without artifice. That was what made her appealing to so many people.”

After working for a few years in local politics, Ms. Brown earned a degree in social work from the University of Maryland and worked as a therapist at Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital.

“My mother’s career took a dramatic turn when she became interested in Freudian psychoanalysis,” her son said. “She trained at the Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis and became one of the first graduates of the institute who was not a medical doctor.”

Ms. Brown established a practice with many long-term patients.

“She was serious about her work and was in there with her patients,” said Judith Felton, a professional colleague who lives in New York City. “She worked hard to understand those she helped. Nothing would put her off. She was patient and down to earth and was easy to make laugh.”

Said a friend, Marsha Ramsay: “She had a love for great love for art and good literature. She was stimulating as company. She was articulate and was always open to another point of view. She was never close-minded. Her appetite in terms of the arts was voracious. She was also fun to have a glass of wine with."

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Ms. Brown was an active member of the China American Psychoanalytic Alliance and assisted psychoanalysis in China.

“She trained many of China’s first generation of psychoanalysts, and continued this work with Chinese students until her death,” her son said.

Said Ms. Leviton: “She was a great cook and knew how to feed a lot of people and make it look easy."

Ms. Brown enjoyed hiking trips to England and Utah. She was a 40-year member of the Baltimore Book Club. A dog fancier, she owed a Bergamasco shepherd named Lily. She walked her dog throughout the Guilford and Tuscany-Canterbury neighborhoods.

She was an active member of the Baltimore Women’s Giving Circle, the Art Seminar Group and the Hamilton Street Club. She had summer homes in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and later in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

A memorial will be held at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 30 at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Art Museum Drive and Charles Street.


In addition to her son, survivors include her husband of 50 years, C. Christopher Brown, an attorney and the founding partner of Brown, Goldstein & Levy; a daughter, Adrian Brown, a psychologist, who lives in West Hartford, Connecticut; a brother, Neil Davis of Malvern, Pennsylvania; and four grandchildren.