Levine, June (1931–2008), feminist, journalist and author, was born Stephanie June Levine in the Rotunda hospital, Dublin, on 31 December 1931, eldest child of Charles Solomon ('Solly') Levine, a cabinet maker, the son of Jewish parents who fled from Latvia, and his wife Muriel Ruth (née McMahon) from Co. Clare; she had one sister and three brothers. Her family lived at various addresses off the South Circular Road in Dublin in an area known locally as 'Little Jerusalem'. Although baptised into the catholic faith, Levine was educated at Zion national school on Bloomfield Avenue, South Circular Road, established in 1934 to provide children with an education in the Jewish faith. The Levine family converted to Judaism in 1947.
Levine did not pursue further education, opting to work as a cub in the reporters' room of the Irish Times from the age of 15. In 1951 she married Kenneth ('Kiva') Hugh Mesbur, a Jewish medical student from Canada who attended the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin; they married in Dublin's Greenville Hall Synagogue. The couple had a son, Adam (1952), and a daughter, Dianne (1954). When Mesbur graduated in 1956 they moved to Canada; Levine initially worked as a journalist in Saskatchewan for the Regina Leader-Post, and gave birth to her last child, Michael (1958).
The family later settled in Ontario in the sparsely populated town of Arkona, which offered no independent employment for Levine; she was forced to adapt to the role of doctor's wife. Levine joined the National Council of Jewish Women working on human rights campaigns including the plight of Native Americans. She enrolled on a degree course at the University of Western Ontario, in London. As she had no post-primary education, the university allowed her to attend lectures and submit work without receiving credit; her final work was graded, with first-class honours.
Levine connected with Betty Friedan's book The feminine mystique (1963), which highlighted the suppression and isolation of married women in American suburbia; the book exacerbated Levine's sense of seclusion and she suffered from depression. In 1963 she first attended a psychiatrist, and was admitted to psychiatric units intermittently, receiving electric-shock treatment. In response, Levine's husband returned to college to study psychiatry, and the family moved to London, Ontario. Levine took up employment in Simpson's department store in the city; her depression worsened.
The marriage broke down, and Levine returned to Dublin with her three children in 1964. She initially lived with her parents in Churchtown, attending a psychiatrist in Dublin who diagnosed her as an endogenous depressive. She moved into a basement flat on Orwell Road with her children before renting part of a house on Lower Churchtown Road, owned by hotelier P. V. Doyle (qv). In 1965 she returned to work as a journalist and was appointed assistant editor of the Irish Woman's Journal. The magazine, established by Seán O'Sullivan (qv), carried the slogan: 'Ireland's new national monthly journal for the thinking woman.' Levine earned £7 a week; as well as editing, she wrote several columns, including the beauty and fashion columns, and managed the problem page; she was editor by 1968.
In 1970, concerned by the catholic church's control of Irish women's sexuality, she became a founder member of the Irish Women's Liberation Movement (IWLM), attending the first meeting at the home of Irish Times journalist Mary Maher. The group included an impressive mix of feminist women, a number of who were then journalists: Mary Kenny (woman's editor, Irish Press), Mary McCutchan (woman's editor, Irish Independent), Mary Anderson (woman's page, Irish Independent), Nell McCafferty (Irish Times), and Nuala Fennell (qv) (freelance journalist, later Fine Gael minister of state for women's affairs). Another member, Margaret Gaj, owned a restaurant on Baggot Street, where the IWLM held weekly meetings and fired up feminist campaigns in Ireland with their manifesto Chains or change?: the civil wrongs of Irish women (1971).
In March 1971, the IWLM were invited to voice their petitions in a special broadcast of RTÉ's Late late show, hosted by Gay Byrne. Levine contributed to the debate regarding women's equality in areas including education, employment, pay and social welfare conditions. Later that month, Senator Mary Robinson (latterly president of Ireland (1990–97) and United Nations high commissioner for human rights (1997–2002)) drafted a bill to repeal the ban on contraception. The IWLM demonstrated in her support outside Leinster House. Robinson was ultimately unsuccessful, leading the group to instigate their most infamous protest (commonly referred to as the contraceptive train), in May 1971. Levine and other IWLM members boarded a train at Connolly Station, Dublin, bound for Belfast, with the sole intention of returning with contraceptives, then an illegal import into the south of Ireland. The action drew international media attention. The IWLM disbanded later in 1971, but their activities inspired a new wave of feminist activism in Ireland.
The Irish Woman's Journal changed ownership in 1971. Levine began working as a freelance journalist based in an office at the publishers Kevin Clear Ltd, Waterloo Road, regularly publishing in the Irish Women's Review and the Irish Bystander, and writing a weekly column in the Sunday Independent. She wrote an annual, Irish Beauty, published in 1971; it was not a success. During this time Levine attended a group therapy session where she met Professor Ivor Browne, chief psychiatrist of the Eastern Health Board. After a relationship of nearly thirty years, they married in 1999 and lived in Ranelagh. In 1974 Levine became a researcher on the Late late show, a position she held until 1978.
She wrote two non-fiction books, both bestsellers. Sisters (1982) outlined a personal history of the Irish feminist movement, in which Levine admitted to having undergone an abortion in England in 1967. In 1983 Levine wrote an article for Magill magazine, then edited by Colm Tóibín. The article told the harrowing story of Lyn Madden, an ex-prostitute, who witnessed the murder of her friend Dolores Lynch, Lynch's mother Kathleen and her aunt Hannah Hearne, by a Dublin pimp, John Cullen; he set fire to the women's home on 16 January 1983. With Levine's support, Madden took the courageous step of testifying against Cullen, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison on Madden's testimony. Levine wrote a book-length version, Lyn: a story of prostitution (1987), detailing the shocking story of the victimisation of Madden and other women in Dublin's criminal underworld.
Levine became active in the women's movement in India in later life. She published one work of fiction, A season of weddings (1992), following the story of a Dublin woman who travelled to New Delhi for a Jewish wedding. Testament to the high esteem in which she was held within the Irish feminist movement, Levine edited the section 'The women's movement in the Republic of Ireland, 1968–80' in volume five of The Field Day anthology of Irish writing: Irish women's writing and traditions, published in 2002. Levine died on 14 October 2008 in Tallaght hospital after suffering a major stroke. She was survived by her husband Ivor Browne and her three children. The following year her book Sisters was republished by Attic Press with an introduction by Levine's friend Nell McCafferty, who described how Levine 'faced jail sentence and death threats, troubled the waters of state and church, then brought friends home for dinner, a bubble bath and breakfast in a bed of fresh linen' (p. xiii).