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From the collection of the 



o Prejinger 


San Francisco, California 




By Al Richmond 

Copyright, 1942, by 

Published by 

170 Golden Gate Avenue San Francisco, California 



I The First Glimmer 11 

II Tender, Beautiful Years 17 

III "I Loved My People" 31 

IV From Suffrage to Socialism 47 
V War and Aftermath 66 

VI The Case of Anita Whitney 90 

VII Formative Years 141 

VIII The Great Crisis 151 

IX Best Known, Most Beloved 162 

X The Secret of Leadership 183 

On the occasion of Anita Whitney's 75th 
birthday, July 7, 1942, this biographical 
sketch is intended as a birthday gift to her 
thousands of friends, comrades and admir- 
ers. Her life, long and rich, has been de- 
voted to them and to those millions of 
others who still do not know her, but in 
time will come to love and revere her as 
those who know her do. For them this book 
is intended, and if it serves them even mi- 
nutely as well as Anita Whitney has served, 
it will have served them well. 



The little girl, she could not have been more than 
seven, was wide-eyed at the vibrant brilliance which filled 
the vast rotunda of the Capitol Building. The gas jet 
flames, the source of all this illumination, sparkled 
through the varicolored crystals of great chandeliers which 
descended from the tall ceiling that soared upward and 
upward in a majestic curve to form the Capitol dome. The 
crowd that moved through this spacious chamber was as 
brilliant as the light. How beautiful v/ere the ladies, 
their rich satins reflecting the glow of the lights! How 
imposing the gentlemen, stiff in their formal frock coats, 
elegant in their white gloves! 

The little girl was awed not only by the physical 
splendor of the scene, but by the vague knowledge that 
these handsome ladies and gentlemen were America's 
great, its statesmen and soldiers, lawmakers and jurists. 
She clutched more tightly at the hand of her aunt who 
swept through the crowd with aristocratic ease. At times 
she glanced at her uncle, Justice Field, bowing stiffly in 
recognition of respectful greetings on all sides. Justice 


Field looked like a Supreme Court justice should. He had 
a long, graying beard, its sparseness somewhat disguised 
by the sheer length of the hair which had remained. 
Similarly, he compensated for the barrenness of his smooth 
head, glistening amidst all this radiance, by the luxuriance 
of the remaining hair which rimmed his head, beginning 
at the chin and running up the jaws, then flowing from the 
rear incline of the skull over the nape of his neck. His 
strong face, built around a broad nose, was topped by thin- 
rimmed spectacles through which gazed alert and intelli- 
gent eyes. 

Justice Field enjoyed his niece's manifest excitement. It 
was his inspiration that brought the little visitor from far- 
off California to the Capitol party. He had insisted that 
the little girl see all the sights Washington had to offer. 
Yes, he said, the White House and the Capitol were im- 
pressive by day. But the Capitol rotunda illuminated at 
night for a social function! Ah, there was a sight to fire 
the imagination of a seven-year old girl. And he was 
right. The little girl was aglow. The scene before her 
had driven from her mind the many fleeting images she 
had retained from the trip cross-country through the ma- 
jestic Rockies, over Indian territory and immense unsettled 
plains which served only as grazing ground for buffalo, 
then past a series of ever larger railroad stations and towns 
as the train roared eastward. The little girl had known 
nothing but the Oakland of the 1870's, brightened by an 
occasional trip across the bay to San Francisco. For her 
the long journey to Washington had been an ever-mount- 
ing tide of excitement, now capped by the social elegance 
of the capital. 

The hour was late for her, and natural drowsiness, 


blended with the splendor of her surroundings, only 
heightened the feeling that this was some magnificent 
dream through which she floated on wings of soft exhil- 
aration. Her big eyes shone, too overwhelmed by the 
total effect to detect detail. . . . 

Of course, she was too little a girl to know that really 
the social season had not been up to par. Even had she 
been told, her mind could not comprehend why the failure 
of two leading Washington banks in the fall of 1873, at 
the height of the financial panic, should have dimmed 
Washington's social life. Nor could she have under- 
stood the peculiar nostalgia which permeated some sec- 
tions of Washington society, fed by a resentment at the 
changes in the wake of the Civil War. This was a time 
of great change in Washington and social change has a 
sad effect upon the molds of social amusement. 

The physical appearance and social habits of the capital 
could not help but reflect the deeper change in progress. 
The old taverns were replaced by hotels, and the sophis- 
ticated Washington correspondent of The New York 
Herald sighed, "Alas for those who love to take their 
ease in inns! The old taverns are badly replaced by the 
modern 'hotels,' so gaudy, so dear and so uncomfortable." 
With the proper touch of irony, The Herald correspond- 
ent suggested that a "college of heraldry" be endowed by 
the government to advise the new and ill-bred Congress- 
men on selection of a "crest, shield and motto" for their 
note paper, so as to "prevent some amusing mistakes that 
might occur, as others have occurred." 

The anecdote of the season was perhaps most expres- 
sive of the contempt with which the representatives of 
the rising and robust bourgeoisie were regarded by the 


old southern aristocrats and their snobbish northern 
friends. The story was told that a masquerade was to be 
given by Governor Shepherd at his mansion and the Con- 
gressional Library was crowded with those seeking de- 
signs and inspiration for costumes. 

"What, character can I take?" asked a new Congress- 
man of a Tennessee belle, said to be "as witty as she is 

"Go as a gentleman," she replied, "and none of your 
friends will recognize you." 

"Severe, but merited," was the curt comment of The 
Herald correspondent who could not resist publishing 
the witticism in his column. 

With the same scorn he wrote of "the wives of western 
Congressmen in their new cheap black silks; their hus- 
bands in frock coats, dirty, ill-fitting gloves and colored 
neckties" and of "the department people, with ravenous 

But the little girl could not distinguish the various per- 
sonages. She moved among them entranced, oblivious 
of the deep rivalries, the petty social jealousies, so much 
a part of Washington society. For her, Kentucky belles 
and the wives of Ohio Congressmen were but one swirling, 
unbelievably wonderful mass. The shabby Southern aris- 
tocrats who salved the wounds of defeat on the field of 
battle with pointed witticisms at the expense of the victors 
had no virtues in her eyes which distinguished them from 
Boss Tweed's boys of New York. In her innocence, it 
was all too wonderful. Her head swam, and she sank into 
a state which in older persons might have been engen- 
dered by the lassitude of slow intoxication. The bright 
lights began to blur and the once wide-open eyes began 


to narrow as her eyelids drooped under the increasing 
weight of sleep. The hubub of voices seemed far away, 
rising and falling as sound often did when she flapped 
her hands against her ears. She was relaxing into the soft 
down of contented sleep, wrapped in a fatigue brought on 
by sheer exhilaration and brimming joy. 

Suddenly she was startled out of her drowsiness. Her 
aunt had gently nudged her, "Dear, the party is not over. 
We are about to see a stage performance!" 

Before improvised footlights, there appeared a young 
woman, her face streaked with sorrow and drawn with 
hunger. She was clad in rags and a frayed shawl draped 
her shoulders. Her disshevled hair strayed over her fore- 
head. Two little children clutched at her skirts, their 
faces raised in supplication. In sorrowful tones, the 
ragged woman recited: 

Give me three grains of corn, Mother, 

Give me three grams of corn. 
It will keep the little life in me, Mother, 

Till the coming of the morn. . . 

- Our little girl now felt pained and burdened. She was 
filled with anguish and humiliation. Who is that woman? 
Why does she weep? Why does she lament? What is 
she, so wretched and ragged, doing amidst all the elegant 

"She is Ireland," the little girl was told. "She is hungry. 
The poor people in Ireland are hungry and this party was 
given so that food may be bought to feed them." 

Hunger? Poverty? The words were new to the little 
girl and the concepts incomprehensible, except that they 


conveyed that terrible sense of shame and pain she had 

The little girl was Anita Whitney. And in the 68 
years which have gone by, the stage-made image of 
poverty and hunger, symbolized in that figure of a woman 
with two children hanging on her skirts, has long eclipsed 
in her mind the brilliant elegance of that Capitol party. 

In a sense it was the pattern of her life. She could have 
lost herself in the elegance, but it was disturbed and 
dispelled by the shadow of something beyond. 

She was destined to witness poverty in all its sordid 
reality. The pain and shame were to be tempered by 
the resolve to remove their inspiration. The insistent 
question, "Why?", was to find an answer which went 
beyond the cause. 

But the image remained. For to Anita Whitney it was 
the first awareness of social injustice, the first glimmer 
of social consciousness. 




Charlotte Anita Whitney was born in San Francisco 
on July 7, 1867, two years after the termination of the 
Civil War, two years before the famous golden spike was 
driven into the ground at Ogden, Utah, symbolizing the 
unification of the country with thin bands of steel which 
stretched from New York to the Golden Gate. She was 
the second of seven children in the middle class family 
of George Edwin Whitney, an attorney who later served 
as state senator from Alameda County. 

In the Whitney household, the American tradition was 
a family heirloom. On her father's side, Anita could list 
among her ancestors five Mayflower pilgrims and a leader 
of the first Puritan settlement on Massachusetts Bay. Her 
mother, Mary Lewis Swearingen, was a descendant of a 
Dutch family, the Van Swearingens, who first settled on 
this continent in 1640 in Maryland. The most famous 
of her early American ancestors was Thomas Dudley who 
succeeded John Winthrop as governor of Massachusetts 
Colony in 1634. In Cotton Mather's chronicles of the 


Massachusetts Colony, Dudley is praised for those Puritan 
qualities of intolerance, dogmatism, austerity, devotion to 
religion and a keen sense of business. A devotee of the 
church, Dudley nevertheless believed that the autocracy, 
which he in common with his Puritan peers deemed the 
perfect form of human organization, would best be served 
by a strong state which superceded the church and which 
should, in the words of one biographer, "enforce con- 
formity as the superior, and not the handmaid of the 
Ecclesiastical organization." 

When Dudley died at Roxbury on July 31, 1653, the 
last 19 years of his 77 years of life having been devoted 
to public office in Massachusetts, a poem in his own hand 
was found in his pocket. Its title was "Hate Heresy" 
and its message: 

Let men of God in court and churches watch 
O'er such as do a toleration hatch. 

This severe, intolerant and autocratic Puritan strain was 
tempered somewhat in the conflict which later developed 
between the colonies and the English Crown, and by the 
time of the Revolutionary War, several of Anita's New 
England ancestors served with the revolutionary armies, 
most notably a William Cowen whose captain's commis- 
sion, issued in 1775, is still among Anita's prized posses- 
sions. On her mother's side, too, two Van Swearingens 
served as officers, one a major in the Maryland militia, 
the other a colonel in the Virginia militia. 

Anita's father had migrated to California in the early 
'60's from a small town in Maine. A man of poor health, 
he had come to California not only in search of a career, 
but to escape the rigors of New England climate. His 


physical frailty was matched by a gentleness in his man- 
ner and an extreme tolerance in dealing with others. 
Anita cannot remember his having uttered a cross word 
to anyone. He was a very placid and considerate person, 
and of her two parents, Anita chose him as the recipient 
of her confidences and the arbiter of her difficulties with 
the rest of the world. 

The elder Whitney was a man of culture, and he sought 
to instill in his children a feeling for culture, although 
his own was limited by the conventionalities of a New 
England upbringing. He read to them constantly from 
such works as Sir Walter Scott's Waverly novels and 
early New England poetry. On one occasion, he sought 
to read Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin," 
but this created a minor storm, as mother walked out of 
the room in protest. 

The mother had come from a Virginia family. Although 
her grandparents were genteel slave owners, her mother 
was a woman of some spirit and pioneer courage. Left 
widowed while still young, Anita's grandmother picked 
up her four daughters and went to California when the 
opportunity presented itself. But Anita's mother and 
three aunts seemed to lack this pioneer enterprise, and 
were marked by a strong attachment to southern traditions 
and conventions. Some of the Whitney children were 
strongly influenced by their mother's nostalgic attachment 
to her magnolia scented past. But not Anita; even as a 
child she was not attracted by the sentimental haze in 
which the old South was enveloped by its human rem- 
nants. She was her father's daughter, and in later life 
she valued most conspicuously one inheritance from him, 


a passion for honesty and the courage to profess the truth 
and defend it. 


Another influence in Anita's childhood was Supreme 
Court Justice Stephen J. Field, an uncle through marriage 
to one of the Swearingen girls. The Fields, having no 
children of their own, developed an extremely strong 
interest in Anita and her sisters. Several of Anita's child- 
hood years were spent at the Field mansion in Washing- 
ton, and later when she attended school in the east, all 
her Christmas vacations were spent with the Fields. 

Justice Field was a conservative jurist, whose conserva- 
tism hardened with age and continued service on the 
Supreme Court, that pillar of encrusted conservatism. 
Although a Democrat, he was appointed to the bench by 
President Lincoln in 1863, at the height of the Civil War. 
Despite his affiliation to the party of rebellion, Justice 
Field opposed secession and sided with the North at least 
to the point of preserving the Union. His appointment 
seems to have been an attempt on Lincoln's part to 
cement California to the union (there was a strong rebel 
partisan faction in the state), avoid the aggravation of 
factional strife which the appointment of an easterner 
would necessarily have done, and to win wavering ele- 
ments in the North who might have been alienated by a 
more radical choice. 

Field joined the Supreme Court when Roger B. Taney, 
author of the notorious Dred Scott decision, was still Chief 
Justice. He served 34 years, until 1897, when age and 
poor health compelled retirement. His early years on 


the bench coincided with the Reconstruction Period and 
he sided with his colleagues in emasculating the revolu- 
tionary content of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, 
the juridical fruits of the Civil War. 

He was an able letter-of-the-law jurist, a firm believer 
in the blinders which blanket the eyes of the traditional 
figure of justice. Within this self-imposed limitation on 
his vision, he was a man of high principle, great devotion 
to his work. 

In keeping with the California pioneer legend, Field 
was supposed to have arrived in San Francisco a poverty 
stricken youth whose last dollar was spent for the first 
meal ashore. In later years, he was fond of telling anec- 
dotes about early California life, and these tales reveal 
him as a daring young man possessed of great persuasive 
charms. One of these tales concerned an early campaign 
for the legislature when nominees stumped the country 
on horseback, riding from camp to camp, speaking to the 
people. This tale, worthy both as a commentary on 
Field's character and early California life, was recorded 
in his own words as follows: 

"As I approached Grass Valley, then a beautiful spot 
among the hills, occupied principally by Mr. Walsh, a 
name since become familiar to Californians, I came to a 
building by the wayside, a small lodging house and drink- 
ing saloon, opposite to which a lynching jury were sitting, 
trying a man on a charge of stealing gold dust. I stopped 
and watched for awhile the progress of the trial. On an 
occasion of some delay in the proceedings I mentioned 
to those present, the jury included, that I was a candidate 
for the Legislature and that I would be glad if they would 
join me in a glass in the saloon, an invitation seldom de- 


clined in those days. It was at once accepted and leaving 
the accused in the hands of an improvised constable, the 
jury entered the house, and partook of the drinks. I had 
discovered, or imagined from the appearance of the pris- 
oner, that he had been familiar in other days with a very 
different life from that in California and my sympathies 
were moved toward him. So, after the jurors had taken 
their drinks and were talking pleasantly together, I slipped 
out of the building and approaching the man, said to 
him, 'What is the case against you? Can I help you?' 
The poor fellow looked up at me and his eyes filled with 
great globules of tears as he replied: 'I am innocent of all 
I am charged with. I have never stolen anything nor 
cheated anyone; but I have no one here to befriend me/ 

"That was enough for me. Those eyes, filled, as they 
were, touched my heart. I hurried back to the saloon and 
as the jurors were standing about chatting with each 
other, I exclaimed, 'How is this? You have not had your 
cigars? Mr. Barkeeper, please give the gentlemen the 
best you have; and besides/ I added, 'let us have another 
"smile" it is not often you have a candidate for the 
Legislature among you/ A laugh followed, and a ready 
acceptance was given to the invitation. In the meantime 
my eyes rested upon a benevolent-looking man among the 
jury, and I singled him out for conversation. I managed 
to draw him aside, and inquired what state he came from. 
He replied from Connecticut. I then asked if his parents 
lived there. He answered with a faltering voice, 'My 
father is dead ; my mother and sister are there/ 

"I then said, 'Your thoughts, I dare say, go out con- 
stantly to them, and you often write to them, of course/ 

"His eyes glistened, and I saw pearl-like dew drops 


gathering on them his thoughts were carried over the 
mountains to his old home. 'Ah, my good friend,' I added, 
'how their hearts must rejoice to hear from you.' Then 
after a short pause, I remarked, 'What is the case against 
your prisoner? He, too, perhaps may have a Mother and 
a sister in the East, thinking of him as your Mother and 
sister do of you, and wondering when he will come back. 
For God's sake, remember this!' The heart of the good 
man responded in a voice which even to this day now 
nearly thirty years past, sounds like a delicious melody 
in my ears, 'I will do so/ 

"Passing from him, I went to the other jurors, and 
finding they were about to go back to the trial, I ex- 
claimed, 'Don't be in a hurry, gentlemen; let us take 
another glass.' Then they again acceded to my request 
and seeing that they were a little mellowed by their in- 
dulgence, I ventured to speak about the trial. I told them 
that the courts of the state were organized, and there was 
no necessity or justification now for lynch juries; that the 
prisoner appeared to be without friends; and I appealed 
to them as men of large hearts, to think how they would 
feel if they were accused of crime where they had no 
counsel, and no friends. 'Better send him, Gentlemen, to 
Marysville for trial, and keep your own hands free from 
stain.' A pause ensued; their hearts were softened; and 
fortunately a man going to Marysville with a wagon com- 
ing up at this moment, I prevailed upon them to put the 
prisoner in his charge to be taken there. The owner of 
the wagon consenting, they swore him to take the prisoner 
to that place and deliver him over to the Sheriff, and to 
make sure that he would keep the oath, I handed him a 
'slug,' a local coin of octagonal form, of the value of fifty 


dollars, issued at that time by assayers in San Francisco. 
We soon afterwards separated; as I moved away on my 
horse, my head swam a little, but my heart was joyous. 
Of all things which I can recall of the past, this is one 
of the most pleasant. I believe I saved the prisoner's 
life, for in those days, there was seldom any escape for a 
person tried by a lynch jury." 

Such anecdotes were more common than unique and 
these tales, the folk lore of the California pioneer tradi- 
tion, played their part in shaping Anita's early attitudes. 


The sum total of her childhood environment was a 
compound of such diverse strains as her father's mild New 
England liberalism, a still water backwash of the more 
turbulent abolitionism of the pre-Civil War days; her 
mother's southern gentility; the pioneer tradition; the 
more immediate circumstance of comfortable middle class 
economic security, and the intangible of a family heritage 
which dated back to the Puritans and the Revolutionary 
War and was intertwined with southern aristocracy. 

Anita herself was shy and reserved as a child. One of 
her earliest memories, impressed upon her mind by the 
pain of its initial experience, is that of having to recite 
before a public school class. "I felt," she recalls, "as if 
the 40-odd pairs of eyes of my classmates were piercing 
my body, and the effort I had to make to control my 
voice would leave me faint and weak." In addition to 
this shy reserve, she also possessed honesty and integrity, 
traits encouraged by the tolerance of her father and his 
kind understanding. 


Her early education was obtained in private and public 
elementary schools and San Jose State Normal School. 
The formal requirements of middle class standards for 
the young women of those days had been fulfilled by this 
scholastic career, but her father insisted that she attend 
an eastern college. He had a deep feeling for New Eng- 
land, and believed that an experience of the change in 
seasons was necessary for a true appreciation of American 
literature, and that somehow mere physical presence in 
New England, in the proximity of Boston and Faneuil 
Hall and the Cambridge elm would enhance one's under- 
standing of American history. 

Anita shied away from this trip cross-country to a life 
away from her family, amidst strange surroundings and 
strange people, but to gratify her father's whim she agreed 
to go to Wellesley for a year. She went with many mis- 
givings. For her, books and study had no special attrac- 
tion, and she had no particular ambition for the future 
beyond the narrow orbit of her home and the limited 
social life around it. But she went to Wellesley. She 
went for a year and remained for four. 


Historical records at Wellesley offer but a slight clue 
to her life and activities during four years at the college. 
There is no record of her holding office in any of the 
many student organizations; nor did she take part in 
dramatics, debate, or school athletics. Her academic 
interest seems to have been centered on the sciences. She 
took courses in botany, zoology, physics, chemistry, math- 
ematics, but never joined the Microscopical Society, the 


Zoological Society or the other enthusiasts' clubs. Asso- 
ciate editorship of the senior class magazine, The Leg- 
enda, seems to have been her sole participation in the 
public life of the school. 

The senior class book of 1889 offers an amusing if 
skimpy commentary. It lists her as follows: Politics 
Republican; Religion Episcopalian; Literary production 
statistics; Opinion of the opposite sex "God bless 

But as often happens, her failure to participate in the 
extravert manifestations of campus life was a reverse 
measure of the profound effects which Wellesley had 
upon her. She entered the college in 1885, a shy, self 
conscious and very handsome girl of 18, in that late stage 
of adolescence which, in a person as sensitive as she, is 
so receptive to influences we choose to call spiritual. And 
Wellesley was nothing if not spiritual. Her own recol- 
lections are the best gauge of what transpired within her. 

"The autumn of my freshman year," she wrote many 
years later, "was one of unusual intensity of autumnal 
coloring. Even in that great land of outdoors from which 
I came I had never experienced the sheer loveliness of the 
outside world as I did now. Winter came upon us soon 
and the first snow storm came early in the evening, filling 
the air with flaky softness and covering everything with 
folds of whiteness and it thrilled me through and through. 
It was not that I had never seen snow before, but I had 
never seen it in the country where it lay unsullied and it 
appealed to my sense of mysticism as well as beauty. . . . 

"Then on the heels of rather a severe winter, came 
spring, when almost like magic the fields were covered 
with green, the trees burst into bud and leaf, the birds 


sang with sheer ecstasy. Here indeed was resurrection. 
The resurrection of nature which did find an echo in my 
soul, for I was, for the first time in my life, surrounded 
by a distinctly religious atmosphere and I had my first 
realization of a spiritual life within." 

This poignant and poetic response to the first spring 
at Wellesley was in reality an outgrowth of the affinity 
between the awakening of life, the flowering of maturity 
within Anita and the similar phenomena, the "resurrec- 
tion of nature," she observed in the world around her. 
And so it was with all the four years at Wellesley. They 
were tender and beautiful years which marked the slow 
blossoming and unfolding of a sensitive human being 
who became aware of her own existence in a deeper 
sense; they were years of enchanting self-discovery, of 
thrilling recognition that life within one's self was one 
with life in the natural world and all its phenomena. In 
Anita this process was not turbulent and disturbing; it 
flowed slowly, deep and placid, like some meditation. 
Her childhood had been sheltered. It had been spent in 
a family of girls, and neither economic nor other pressures 
had intervened to hasten maturity. The transition from 
girlhood to young womanhood was in its beginnings 
when she entered Wellesley and everything at Wellesley 
was designed to maintain the slow, even, almost majestic 
tempo of her growth and development. 

She eagerly breathed in the beauty of the campus and 
its surroundings, the cloistered buildings, almost uniform 
in their religious motif, the gentle loveliness of the 
wooden New England countryside, the winding, even- 
tempered Charles River. She was deeply moved and 
molded by the religious atmosphere at the school. 


Wellesley itself was in its youth then. It had been 
founded fifteen years before by Henry Durant, a Boston 
lawyer, who, upon the death of his only child, decided 
to consecrate his life and fortune to the service of God. 
He and his wife after seriously considering how their 
fortune would best serve God finally agreed upon en- 
dowing an educational institution for young women of 
modest means. So rare was the humility in which the 
project was conceived that it was willed that the institu- 
tion would not bear the name of Durant nor hold any 
picture of him. "This is God's college," said Durant, 
and the phrase was oft repeated. 

Daily attendance at chapel was, of course, obligatory. 
The 500 students filed in, and were seated according to 
classes, facing the rostrum and the large stained glass 
windows behind, through which streaked the rays of an 
early morning sun. On one side of the rostrum was en- 
graved the Biblical inscription: "Also I heard the voice 
of the Lord saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go 
for us? Then said I: send me." 

These words were engraved on Anita's mind. 

Generally, the most clearly retained memories of her 
school years have a haunting quality. She saw life through 
those stained glass windows behind the chapel rostrum. 
Not that the campus did not reflect some of the social 
realities of the day. The woman's suffrage movement, 
the presidential campaign of 1888 injected themselves 
into campus life. Some of the students engaged in social 
work in nearby communities; others helped in missions. 
About fifty notables and foreign personages visited the 
school each year and delivered lectures, among them such 
unique characters as Queen Liliuokalani, last of the 


Hawaiian queens who had been deposed in a putsch of 
American settlers and who came to the United States to 
plead her case, and Coquelin, the exotic French actor. 
Neither these activities nor personages evoked any deep 
or lasting response in Anita. 

She read a great deal, Emerson and Lowell and Tho- 
reau, whom she had known before, and George Eliot and 
Leo Tolstoy whom she discovered for the first time, 
Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" made the greatest impression 
upon her; its sensitive and beautifully told story, its wist- 
ful pathos and, above all, its typically Tolstoyan moral 
lesson were all designed to impress her. 

Holidays were spent in excursions to the many historic 
landmarks in the vicinity of Boston. Concord and Lex- 
ington, Wayside Inn and Walden Pond, Faneuil Hall 
and Bunker Hill. They were all hallowed symbols to 
her. She was thrilled at the sight of them, and the events 
they connoted. Unconsciously as yet, there evolved within 
her a social attitude toward life, a fusion of Christian 
ethics and morality, in the finest sense of those concepts, 
and the American democratic ideal. 

After leaving school, having received her degree as 
Bachelor of Science, Anita floundered for four years. She 
took a routine and desultory trip to Europe, six months 
of museums and landmarks. She tried teaching Sunday 
School in Oakland, but gave up when the rector evinced 
a greater interest in church dogma than in the recorded 
life and teachings of Christ. Activity in Collegiate 


Alumnae organizations also failed to satisfy her still 
inarticulate quest for a life's work. 

"I made an attempt to have the same pleasures and 
pastimes as the young people around me," she later wrote, 
"but I was always more or less conscious of a feeling of 
boredom, coupled with a dread of being thought dif- 

Then something happened which changed her entire 
life, set the course along which she traveled with inexor- 
able logic toward her own fulfillment. . . . 




In- 1893 Anita attended a class reunion at Wellesley. 
On the homeward trip, she decided to stop off at the 
College Settlement in New York. It was a decision 
prompted by no special interest, but simply by a natural 
curiousity to see what college women, some of her class- 
mates among them, were doing. She saw much more 
than she had anticipated, and the idle curiosity turned 
into avid interest. 

The College Settlement house was situated then, as it 
is now, on Rivington street, the heart of the East Side 
in its heyday. The house itself was an old mansion, 
renovated and altered for its community purpose, and 
some half dozen college women lived there, keeping 
open house for the neighborhood, organizing and con- 
ducting varied activities for boys and girls, and venturing 
forth into the homes of the neighbors on missions of 
charity and social welfare. 

The '90's of the past century and the first decade of 
this century are the score of years which provided the 
background for the epics of East Side literature. But the 


authors of these books, Mike Gold's "J ews Without 
Money" and Samuel Ornitz's "Haunch, Paunch and 
Jowl," had been bred and raised on the East Side, under- 
stood it and rebelled against it, and then evaluated it 
in mature retrospect. For Anita, the sensitive young wom- 
an of 26 who had known middle class comfort and seclu- 
sion in Oakland, cloistered dignity in Wellesley and quiet 
elegance at the Field mansion in Washington, the East 
Side was a terrible revelation. 

Its debasing poverty and squalor, its teeming tenements, 
its bed bugs and cockroaches, its babel and noise, its pro- 
fusion of odors, its tragedy of maladjustment were so far 
outside the range of her past experience that she felt as 
if she had been transplanted into another world. And this 
was in 1893, the year of the great panic! Rivington Street 
needed no panic. It Was the abyss where measurements of 
depth had lost their distinction. The great migration from 
Eastern Europe was at high tide. Human cargoes were 
dumped on New York's wharves and the East Side tene- 
ments became overstuffed warehouses, jammed with that 
precious commodity, labor power. The immigrants, 
"greenhorns," came to the promised land, hopeful but 
frightened, fair prey for any tenement shark, any sweat- 
shop operator, swindler or charlatan. Acclimatization to 
the new world, the breaking with old traditions and, at 
times, an ancient culture limited by the feudal idiocy of 
life in Eastern Europe, particularly in the ghetto villages 
from which the Jews came, was a terrible ordeal, rendered 
more difficult by the struggle for economic survival. 

Anita could have escaped, back to Oakland and com- 
fort, to recount with the aloof interest of a tourist the 


things she had observed on the East Side. But she re- 
mained. The settlement house needed workers, and after 
her week's residence as a visitor was up, she was invited 
to join the staff. She gladly accepted. It was the first time 
she had observed poverty at first hand, and it violated 
her Christian and democratic precepts. 

"Here," she said later, "certainly some cog in our social 
system had slipped. I wanted to know about it, I wanted 
to help change it. Here at last was something vital to 
be done and I wanted to have a part in it." 

Her resolve required courage. At first, every step in 
her new life was a painful one, running headon into her 
shy reserve and aversion to sordidness. 

"The first time I went into a rear tenement," she later 
recalled, "I stood at the door and peered into the darkness 
till I could see the rickety staircase ahead of me, the whole 
place sickeningly odorous from dampness, from lack of 
ventilation, from the fumes of the accumulated life of so 
many people. As I stood there I felt that I was on the 
brink of a perilous adventure. Could I go up to that room 
on the third floor to which I had been sent and get out 
alive? I was sure that I could not, but a thousand deaths 
were better than the ignominy of going back and con- 
fessing fear." 

This initial trial was followed by many others, some of 
them humorous in the retelling, but terrifying in their 
experience. On one occasion, she remembers visiting an 
old woman to whom she took soup. At the woman's re- 
quest, Anita read from the Bible, "In my Father's house 
are many mansions. ..." And while she read this com- 
forting promise of the hereafter, out of one corner of her 
eye she glanced apprehensively at the cockroaches, which 


did not crawl but calmly walked up and down the walls 
and bed, terrified lest they come in her direction. Even 
then she could not help but think that the long vista of 
years before her would be dreary indeed if she had to 
endure them in the knowledge that a mansion without 
cockroaches was but the promise of a life hereafter. 

One of her most terrifying memories is of being 
awakened in the middle of the night by the heart-chilling 
clang and the clatter of hooves of a horse-drawn fire 
wagon. On the East Side all the terrible forebodings 
stirred by the sound of a fire bell were generally ful- 
filled. Fire was a terror, an enemy who lurked in the dark 
and crowded tenements, and claimed his toll of victims 
each year. Anita and her colleagues dashed into the street, 
into the galvanized horror which gripped the entire neigh- 
borhood, pierced by shrieks and the wailing of women 
and the chantlike prayers of elderly Jews. It was not until 
morning that they learned a whole family had perished 
in the flames. . . 

She remained at the settlement house for three months, 
participating in the varied life of a settlement worker, and 
then she was called home because of the illness and death 
of her father. 


Rivington Street became her conscience, a disturbing 
and persistent conscience, one that would not be denied. 
After her father's death, she taught in private schools 
for a while, but always her mind reverted to Rivington 
Street and the questions and doubts it had instilled in her. 
She sought the answer in books, but they only posed other 


questions, deeper and even more arrogant in their de- 
mand for an answer. She read Jacob Riis, whom she had 
heard speak in New York, and she learned about the 
Long Block in New York, Tuberculosis Row, as it was 
sometimes called, lined with tuberculosis-infested tene- 
ments which were coffins claiming their victims before 
they died. The tenants who inhabited these tenements 
knew of the hazards, the city knew them, the owners 
knew them, and still the tenements remained, and people 
moved in and lived and, more frequently, died; and every 
tenant paid rent, and each rental fee increased the divi- 
dends yielded by the property. She learned that some of 
the worst slum tenements on the East Side were owned 
by the Trinity Church Corporation. 

"If everyone knows about these things, why do they 
go on? Is human life then so cheap?" Such were the 
recurring questions which gave her no peace. Not given 
to precipitate action, Anita began slowly to ascertain at 
first hand the answer to those questions. She helped open 
a club for boys and girls in the slum district of West 
Oakland, operated along settlement lines. She accepted 
a place on the council of the Associated Charities of 
Alameda County, and in 1901, when the secretary re- 
signed, she took that position, giving up teaching. For 
seven years she retained that post, working with the con- 
viction that this, at last, was her life's work only to wind 
up with the disillusioning conclusion that, no, this was 
not it either. 


Anita assumed the secretaryship of the Alameda Char- 
ities a mature woman of 34, possessed of poise and a 


quiet dignity, evolved and deepened during the eight 
years since she first saw Rivington Street, years of earnest 
if clumsy grappling with social problems and her own 
relation to them. Her sole training for the job consisted 
of the brief period on Rivington Street and the few years 
of association with the county charities council, but she 
brought to the work a tremendous energy and zeal. In 
the fulfillment of her duties, she discovered and developed 
a talent as an executive. More important, she learned 
how to fight; her quiet persistence and the heat of con- 
trolled anger were directed at red tape and apathy, at 
political corruption and particularly inhumane practices 
born of bureaucratic routine in the city and county gov- 

A fellow social worker associated with her during those 
years, later wrote of her, "She worked long hours at $85 
a month, dyed her suits, economized on her luncheons, 
and gave more generously than she could afford from her 
own funds to alleviate distress that could not always be 
cared for through regular official channels. She was 
keen, intelligent, impatient of sham, fraud, deceit, or de- 
lay in action of public officials. ..." 

Anita, in comment on those years, has said, "I loved 
my people. I entered into human relationships I had 
not known before." 

This comment is most revealing of her chief virtue as 
a charity worker. So genuine was her love for the people 
who came to her for help that she was able to enter into 
human relationships with them, not the mutually degrad- 
ing relationship of the charity dispenser, condescending 
in her soul-saving piety, and the shamefaced, distressed 
recipient of the handout, so typical of such institutions. 


Much of Anita's attention was devoted to juvenile 
delinquency; as a social worker, she was most interested 
in rehabilitation, and children, it seemed to her, were 
much more easily reclaimed than broken down adults, 
beaten by life and robbed of hope. In 1903, when juvenile 
courts were created by law in California, Anita became 
the first juvenile probation officer in Alameda County, 
serving without pay. Later, when a salary was attached 
to the job, it became a political plum and was given to 
someone more worthy of the gratitude of the political 

During her comparatively brief service as a probation- 
ary officer, Anita was instrumental in effecting some 
elementary reforms in the treatment of juvenile delin- 
quents. The nature of her work in this respect is best 
illustrated by a single incident. 

One day (1905 was the approximate year) she re- 
ceived a hurried call from the presiding judge of the 
juvenile court. The subject of the call was Isabel, 11- 
year old wayward child of an Emeryville race track 
employe, who for days wandered away from her home 
in the rear of a saloon on the edge of the race track. The 
mother, unable to cope with her spirited daughter, re- 
quested the judge to assume responsibility for Isabel's 
future, and the judge, in turn, wished to share the respon- 
sibility with Anita. 

Given only 24 hours to investigate the case and arrive 
at a decision, Anita hurriedly went to work. She inter- 
viewed the parents and their neighbors, and then went 
to see Isabel. It was her first visit to the Alameda County 
jail, and she found it spotless, with the women inmates 
seated in a large comfortable living room (done away 


with in the more modern jail constructed later). There 
was Isabel. 

"Not so bad thought I, this group of quiet women, 
while little Isabel, anxious to talk, told me of her life at 
home, of her friends, the jockeys, of the zest of starting 
out not knowing whither, of the fun of sleeping in empty 
doorways, of begging dinner or breakfast," Anita- recalled 

Then Isabel, whose zest for life had seemingly not 
been dimmed by imprisonment, told her of the jail, 
and proudly pointed out her cell and her cell mate. The 
cell mate, with whom Isabel was locked up for 12 hours, 
was none other than a famous Emeryville prostitute 
whose pictures had filled the papers for days, illustrating 
the detailed stories of how she killed her paramour. In 
those days there were no special facilities for juvenile 
delinquents. They were tossed into jail with their elders, 
with prostitutes, drug addicts, with women suffering from 
sexual aberrations or social diseases. Anita was as indig- 
nant as she was shocked. Attempts to remedy the situa- 
tion were blocked on all sides by red tape. Anita went 
to the Board of Supervisors and the District Attorney, 
demanding that the girl be removed from the jail and 
put in the county hospital for detention. Finally, her 
persistence, backed by threats to give the scandal the 
widest publicity, won from the chairman of the Board 
of Supervisors an agreement to place a room at the county 
hospital at the disposal of young Isabel. This room sub- 
sequently became the detention home for all juvenile 
delinquents until county funds were appropriated for a 
separate home with necessary attendants. 

An equally scandalous situation arose in relation to 


delinquent boys. For a while, Oakland police insisted 
on putting boys in jail, for there was a feud in progress 
between county and city officials, and the police said they 
could not take boys to the county hospital. Anita pro- 
tested, but to no avail. Then one day, into her office 
stomped the Chief of Police, decked out in full regalia, 
gold braid and all, accompanied by an aide and a young, 
sullen boy arrested for some crime. The chief officiously 
explained that he would not take the boy to the county 
hospital, and hence was placing him in Anita's custody 
for transfer there. His formal speech concluded, the 
chief turned on his heels and, followed by his aide, 
stomped out of the office. The boy sat there stiffly, 
silent and sullen. He was a big overgrown chap and 
Anita, physically no match for him, was at a loss. Sup- 
pose he decided to walk out, what could she do? Anita 
glanced at him rather apprehensively, but there was no 
response; he just sat there immobile, his eyes fixed in a 
downward stare. Certainly his demeanor was not such 
as invited warmth, but Anita, obeying an impulse, sat 
beside him and placed her hand gently upon his. This 
slight gesture of affection had startling results. 

The boy just crumpled down on the floor and let loose 
a stream of tears he could neither halt nor control. Anita 
let him cry, then placed a pillow under his head and gave 
him a handkerchief to dry his tears and wipe his nose. 
She washed his face with a damp cloth, and the boy who 
had seemed so sullen before was now docile and gentle. 
His ominous and rigid demeanor had been an attempt 
to conceal the fact that he was half scared to death by the 
stern pomp and gold braid of the police chief. A little 


kindness, and this protective shell was broken, and our 
flooded all his pent up fear and emotion. . . . 


Not all of Anita's activity as a social worker was con- 
cerned with individual cases and isolated reforms. Toward 
the end of her tenure with the department a great natural 
cataclysm intervened, the San Francisco fire and earth- 
quake of 1906. Case X and Case Y, careful entries in 
the ledger of social work, were brushed aside by the force 
of an elemental tragedy which had erupted from the very 
bowels of the earth and had swept thousands of people 
into its vortex. The magnitude and drama of the event 
have been recorded in virtually every art form and from 
almost every viewpoint. But Anita had no time to con- 
template the event, to engage in those ponderous and 
empty moralisms which later depicted it as a retributive 
climax to San Francisco's sinful era. She had a more 
practical mission, to help provide for the homeless and 
the hungry. 

The earthquake occurred on April 18, 1906. The fol- 
lowing day, as the great fire reduced most of San Fran- 
cisco to ashes, some 200,000 refugees streamed out of the 
hapless city in all directions. Some found a haven in 
Marin County, others treked down the peninsula or into 
Alameda County. The mass exodus even overwhelmed 
the statisticians, and the available figures are conflicting, 
but the best guess is that there were 50,000 refugees in 
Oakland, of whom 36,000 were given daily rations by 
the organized relief forces. 


Hinckle and McCann, in their history of Oakland 
(1852-1938) record that "sixty-three churches, as well as 
civic, fraternal and other organizations opened their doors 
to the people of San Francisco without discrimination 
as to class, condition, or creed. ..." 

Anita, however, served in the front lines. Immediately 
after the quake, she was called to San Francisco to organ- 
ize the relief camp which pitched its tents in Golden Gate 
Park. For the first week after die fire, she remained at 
the camp, directing the feeding and housing of refugees. 
So immersed was she in these initial phases of the relief 
work that her memory retained no coherent picture of 
those days, and unfortunately, there is no historic data 
to throw into sharp relief her role in that work. She 
worked day and night, indefatigable, and in the face of 
the crisis, she found, as people frequently do, stores of 
latent energy and ability she had never known she pos- 

In her work, she was greatly aided by the labor unions, 
particularly in the later phases, when the first problems 
of food and shelter were superceded by those of rehabili- 
tation and employment. Her liaison agent with the unions 
was a volunteer assistant, Christopher Ruess, who later 
became adult probation officer of Alameda County and 
now serves as senior probation officer in Los Angeles. 
She speaks highly of his devotion and energy at that time. 
The unions were very cooperative, particularly in the 
placement of the unemployed. Through the carmen's 
union, she found jobs for many refugees in the street rail- 
way system of Oakland which had to expand its service 
because of the sudden influx of population. Anita, then 


a prohibitionist, was particularly delighted to find other 
places of employment for jobless bartenders. 

For a brief period, the United States Army directed 
relief work. When the Army left, in Oakland, as else- 
where, a businessmen's committee was established to take 
over. This committee offered to double her salary of $75 
a month, but Anita refused, as she was at odds with the 
committee and felt that acceptance of the salary raise 
would place her under obligation to it, and give the busi- 
nessmen a greater voice in formulation of relief policies. 
These businessmen, as is the wont of businessmen, ap- 
proached the problems of relief in a businesslike manner. 
"Cut costs!" That was their motto, and they haggled 
with Anita over every case she presented to them. If she 
submitted an estimate of $250 as the sum necessary for 
the rehabilitation of a certain individual and his family, 
they countered with an offer of $125 and an implicit 
invitation to haggle. Anita refused to haggle. Instead, 
she threatened to turn the case over to Edward Devine, 
director of the Associated Charities in New York, who 
had been dispatched to San Francisco to direct the relief 
work, and this threat generally brought acquiesence, for 
the businessmen did not want Oakland stigmatized na- 
tionally as a community which could not take care of its 

. Her relations with the businessmen reached a crisis 
when one of the committeemen suggested that his 
daughter, a woman with no social service experience or 
training, be placed in charge of the relief work, with 
Anita as her subordinate. Anita indignantly handed in 
her resignation, but the chairman of the committee tore 
it up. By that time, he had become impressed with her 


ability and sincerity, and her relief requisitions were 
granted without haggling over cut rates. 

When the businessmen finally abdicated, they turned 
over the considerable amount of money and materials at 
their disposal to the Associated Charities, and in a final 
gracious gesture stipulated that Anita's salary be increased. 
Under those conditions she accepted. 

Even before the earthquake and fire, Anita was beset 
by doubts as to whether what she was doing was of any 
fundamental value. She had begun to sense the futility 
of organized charity as a social institution. She had 
observed with her own eyes that with Biblical fertility 
two cases of delinquency grew where she had disposed 
of one. As a social worker in the early 1900's she had 
been primarily occupied with the declassed layer of 
society, trying to pull individuals out of the lower depths 
and perch them precariously again on the upper ledge 
from which they had slipped. But some other force, 
omnipotent and unseen, pushed people into the abyss at 
a much faster rate than she could pull them out with the 
social means at her command. She was trying to patch a 
decaying fabric. At first she was so concerned with each 
individual patch that she could not see the entire cloth. 
But then she became increasingly conscious that a dif- 
ferent social fabric was needed, and not patches for the 
old one. 

This mental process was interrupted by the fire and 
the duties it imposed upon her. For a year, she was too 
busy to think, but when the pressure of work eased, the 


doubts returned. They were complex doubts, for she 
questioned herself as well as the nature of her work. 
Perhaps, she thought, the fault is with me. Perhaps, my 
own social vision is limited. Perhaps, sheer fatigue and 
slavishness to daily routine have dispirited me. She 
decided to ascertain where the fault lay, resigned her 
position and went east to work with more experienced 
social workers, people whom she had admired, like Devine 
of New York and Mary Richmond of Boston. 

Her resignation occasioned deep regrets. A local paper 

"Miss Whitney's resignation has been accepted with 
regret, in view of the comprehensive way she has filled a 
position .at once so trying and important to society in all 
its elements. . . . She has maintained a high conduct of 
this clearing house for nearly all the philanthropic insti- 
tutions of Oakland, and her resignation and withdrawal 
from this work, even at this ripe period of her useful 
career, causes those associated with her to realize to what 
a great extent they have come to depend upon her to act 
as mediator and adviser between the needy and the 
pillars of support of the community." 

B. H. Pendleton, president of the Associated Charities, 

"The directors of the organization cannot say too much 
in commendation of Miss Whitney's splendid services to 
this community in the difficult and important work she 
has carried unceasingly with so much success during the 
last six years. She has virtually been the head and soul 
of the Associated Charities. , 



The New York charities proved a disappointment. The 
contrast between the immensity of the problems posed by 
poverty and the puny forces at the disposal of the charity 
institutions appalled her, as did political corruption, red 
tape and apathy. The very sight of New York's slums 
again impressed upon her the futility of coping with 
tuberculosis and other social diseases while the East Side 
remained as a huge incubus for these ailments. 

She went on to Boston, which in those years had a 
reputation for a modern charities department. Lucy 
Stebbins who had been charities director for South Boston 
was leaving for a trip to Europe, and Anita was given 
the job. 

Anita's last residence in New England had been at 
Wellesley. What a contrast! Beautiful Wellesley and 
South Boston, the slum rim of the Hub City, inhabited 
by immigrant Irish, where alcoholism and tuberculosis 
vied in a grim race of death, and sometimes joined for 
the final kill. While at school, she had visited Boston, 
its historic landmarks, Faneuil Hall and Bunker Hill, 
but never South Boston, that landmark of contemporary 
history. The beautiful Charles River which wound its 
way past Wellesley did not pass through South Boston; 
it graced the opposite end of town, widened to form the 
Back Bay and to provide a maritime view for Boston's 
Back Bay aristocracy. New England, which had con- 
noted so much of the poetic joy of her youth, now crowned 
her growing disillusionment. South Boston finished her. 
Its squalor was more demonstrative, for alcoholism was 
more prevalent here than on New York's East Side or 


Oakland's West Side. It was a raucous, profane slum; 
the shrieks of women, beaten by drunken husbands, were 
more frequent. The social sores and excrescence of pover- 
ty were more obvious. These phenomena were impressed 
upon her with greater strength for she had already begun 
to doubt her ability to cope with them through the instru- 
mentality of social work. 

"And so," she said later, "I became convinced that no 
real solution lay along the route of organized charities, 
and I definitely abandoned the profession that I had 
hoped was to be my life work, and I was left adrift again, 
with more questions to be answered. ..." 




The years 1911 to 1914, following her exit from social 
work, were for Anita a period of a transition. She was 
socially active in those years, but she did not link herself 
with anything fundamental, anything that had the con- 
tinuity of the life's work she had abandoned when she 
quit organized charity. For a while she remained in com- 
parative seclusion, sick at heart, disconsolate, then she 
became actively associated with the growing prohibition 
movement, a primitive reaction to the drunkenness of 
South Boston. But her energies and sense of social re- 
sponsibility were fully aroused finally by the women's 
suffrage movement. 

Now that women have had the vote in California for 
thirty years and throughout the nation for twenty, it is 
difficult to revive and again sense the missionary zeal with 
which the fight for women's suffrage was waged. As in 
many elementary democratic reform movements, argu- 
ments went to extremes; on the one hand, women's suf- 
frage was painted as the ultimate in sin and chaos; on the 


other, as the panacea for all the world's ills. The oppo- 
nents of equal suffrage declaimed about the sanctity of the 
home and the beauty of motherhood, both of which they 
insisted would be forthwith destroyed if women mixed 
in politics and neglected the duties for which God and 
nature had designed them. Ironically enough, much of 
the money to finance the propaganda about the home and 
motherhood came from the saloon operators and the 
larger liquor interests who feared women's suffrage be- 
cause it had been linked with the prohibition movement. 
The movement for enfranchisement of women was of 
a mixed class character, based primarily upon the middle 
and working classes, with a sprinkling of upper class 
women. Such a mixed class composition naturally gave 
rise to a strange confusion of slogans, aptly illustrated 
in a manifesto issued by the Equal Suffrage Amendment 
League which urged the vote for women because: 

1. "Women will advance in self-respect when no longer 
branded with the stigma of disenfranchisement. They 
will no longer hold themselves so cheap in marriage or 
out of it. 

2. "Women, by payment of direct taxes on their prop- 
erty and indirect taxes on what they eat and wear, con- 
tribute to governmental revenues and should, because of 
their financial interest, be represented in every govern- 

3. "Woman increase the nation's wealth by their in- 
dustry, three-fourths of the married women doing their 
own house work, sewing, nursing, etc., and over 7,000,000 
working outside their homes in remunerative pursuits. 

4. "Women's ballots will hasten the golden era of 
equal pay for equal work. 


5. "Women's ballots may bring greater attention to the 
sanitary needs of home, factory and street. . . . 

6. "Women with the ballot could prevent destructive 
wars, injurious to the state and their own best beloved. 

7. "Women are so generally chaste that even fraud, 
force, money, pretended love and the allurements of an 
idle, elegant life cannot tempt from virtue's path enough 
women to supply the demand. . . . 

8. "Women who are slave mothers bring forth slave 
children. An enfranchised motherhood will bring forth 
a race which has never been equalled for nobility, hero- 
ism and true greatness. 

9. "Women in California are as intelligent and vir- 
tuous and public spirited as are the women of Australia, 
New Zealand, Tasmania, Finland, Norway, Isle of Man, 
Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Washington, where wom- 
en vote for all officers elected by the people. 

10. "Women in California deserve the ballot as much 
as do the women of Kansas, England, Iceland, Scotland, 
Wales, Canada, Sweden, Denmark and Natal South 
Africa where women enjoy municipal suffrage." 


When Anita actively entered the women's suffrage 
movement in 1911, it had developed a mass character 
and tremendous vitality. The peculiar sectarianism, which 
had plagued the earlier suffragettes, manifested either in 
a distorted portrayal of the Emancipated woman or a be- 
haviour pattern based on the assumption that to attain 
equality with men one must imitate them, had largely 


disappeared. This sectarianism, magnified and carica- 
tured in hostile journals, was swept aside by the influx of 
masses of women, some of them with trade union experi- 
ence, and by the growing political maturity of the move- 
ment, evolved in decades of political struggle. 

Women's suffrage advocates were also helped by a 
progressive political atmosphere, then prevalent in Cali- 
fornia and developing throughout the country. America 
was on the threshold of the era of Wilsonian liberalism. 
In California, this era was ushered in by the state adminis- 
tration of Hiram Johnson who was elected governor in 
1910. Typical of the times was the fact that the same 
ballot which submitted the women's suffrage issue to the 
electorate on October 10, 1911, also contained such pro- 
gressive reform propositions as the initiative and refer- 
endum, the recall, authorization of a workmen's compen- 
sation law, subjection of judges of District Courts of 
Appeal to impeachment. Typical of the popular spirit 
was the fact that all these measures, among twenty-three 
on the ballot, were passed. 

During the five months preceding the election, Anita 
served as state president of the College Equal Suffrage 
League, one of the most important of the many groups 
engaged in the campaign. The league, as is implied by 
its title, had originally been limited to college and pro- 
fessional women, but during the 1911 campaign it threw 
open its rolls to all women, regardless of education and 
social status, so long as they were willing to work for 
suffrage. This policy reflected the league's vigorous atti- 
tude toward the campaign, and, in turn, it helped add 
vigor to the organization. The league opened offices in 


a downtown San Francisco building, established a pub- 
licity apparatus and speakers' bureau, streamlined its oper- 
ations along modern political lines. In this respect, it 
was far ahead of other suffrage groups which clung to 
old leaders and old methods. 

Among other organizations in the campaign were two 
of a decidedly working class character, the Women's 
Trades Union Label League, inspired by San Francisco 
labor leaders, and the Wage Earners League, an old or- 
ganization which had been moribund and was revived to 
secure the "labor vote." It held its meetings at the San 
Francisco Labor Temple. There was also the Votes for 
Women Club, an organization of "self supporting wom- 
en," including office employes and others not directly 
linked to the labor movement. 

Despite the divergent organizations and classes repre- 
sented, the campaign was marked by a high spirit of 
enthusiasm and unity. They had a realizable goal, and 
they were definitely united in their desire to achieve it. 
All other issues or points of possible difference were 
brushed aside. Only one thing mattered immediately 
"Votes for Women." For Anita, working in such an_ 
atmosphere was a source of great joy. Like the others, 
she was simply swept away by the crusading zeal of the 
movement into an exaggerated appraisal of the prize to 
be won. She worked, as did others, day and night, and 
they did a tremendous job of propaganda. 

According to Selina Solomons who later wrote the story 
of the campaign under the title, "How We Won the Vote 
in California," three million pages of printed matter was 
distributed in advocacy of suffrage. There were special 
leaflets by each of the organizations involved, appealing 


to diverse sections of the population. A large number of 
John Stuart Mills' " Subjection of Women," one of the 
traditional propaganda tracts favoring women's suffrage, 
were gotten out. One of the most effective leaflets was 
titled "Opinions of Eminent Local Catholic Clergy." 
Father Gleason and other Catholic priests participated in 
suffrage rallies, and all the thirty-six Catholic congrega- 
tions in San Francisco were canvassed several times by a 
large committee from the College Suffrage League. From 
the early morning mass at 6 a. m., until the later church 
gatherings, the suffragettes stood at the door, handing 
out their leaflets, and at the end of the campaign they 
boasted that they had reached every Catholic in the city. 

The suffragettes enlisted the active support of such 
famous Californians as Luther Burbank, Frank Norris, 
Jack London, Joaquin Miller, David Starr Jordan and 
George Sterling, and such men as Henry George and 
Mark Twain, associated with California history. 

"We challenge the 'amis' to mention one distinguished 
name that has come out of California who has not been 
a friend of equal rights," said one suffrage tract. 

The "amis" did not accept that challenge, yet while 
their following may not have been "distinguished," it was 
both large and wealthy. The Los Angeles Times, tradi- 
tional pillar of California toryism, was most hostile to 
equal suffrage, while The Oakland Tribune conducted a 
more subtle campaign of opposition. Incidentally, the 
ownership of The Tribune had that year passed into the 
hands of a woman, Mrs. Herminia Peralta Dargie. 

An interesting and instructive tactic of the opposition 
played on the divergent class groupings in the suffrage 
movement in an attempt to set them at loggerheads. 


Selina Solomons reported, for example, that a ' 'Committee 
of 50," a dummy organization set up in Los Angeles, can- 
vassed merchants and told them that "only the laboring 
women would vote" and hence "business would be hurt." 
"The working men, on the other hand," she added, "had 
been told that none but 'club women' would go to the 
polls, and, therefore, capitalistic interests would be pro- 
moted, to the disadvantage of the working man." 

One of the most widely distributed opposition pam- 
phlets quoted extensively from speeches by Senator San- 
ford and reached its graphic finale in a caricatured draw- 
ing of a suffragette atop a world in ruins, crying, "Didn't 
I raise hell!" 

The campaign reached a hectic climax. There were 
six to seven meetings every night in San Francisco, as well 
as impromptu street rallies to catch the commuters at the 
Ferry Building. In Sacramento, a giant suffrage rally was 
held during the State Fair. In Los Angeles, at a July 4 
celebration, when political speeches were banned in the 
parks, women chanted "Beloved California," with the re- 
frain: "Hurrah! Hurrah! The vote will make us free!" 
Automobile tours to take the gospel of equal suffrage to 
the countryside were organized. Noon-day meetings were 
held at factory gates. On election eve, a windup rally at 
San Francisco's Dreamland Rink drew 8000 persons who 
jammed the huge arena. 

On election day, the suffragettes, their hopes high, 
turned out in full organized force for there had been 
painstaking preparations for committees of watchers, 
tabulators and agitators who paced outside the 100-foot 
limit from the polling booths and buttonholed prospective 
voters. Even automobile transportation was provided for 


friendly voters who otherwise might have found it diffi- 
cult to get to the polls. The effectiveness of the suffrage 
election organization found two testimonials in the news- 
papers on the day after the elections. There was a photo- 
graph of laughing suffragettes, Anita Whitney among 
them, holding up a male voter at the corner of Grant 
avenue and Bush street. There was also a typically super- 
cillious story which related that District Attorney Fickert 
voted early "but the political Dianas were on the job and 
popped away at him with their verbal darts of argument 
and persuasion enthusiastically and impartially, one ask- 
ing him if he were sure he understood how to mark the 
ballot properly." If Fickert were as ignorant of election 
procedure as he was of the law, the question was not at 
all amiss. 

Some of the suffragettes who were not too wearied by 
their arduous campaign stayed up for the election results. 
As the night wore on, their spirits sagged. Some wept. 
Precinct after precinct, reporting from Oakland and San 
Francisco, registered a negative vote, and past midnight 
the antis had such a formidable and ever-growing margin 
that suffrage seemed doomed. 

"SUFFRAGE DEFEATED BY 5000." That was the 
headline in The Oakland Post which greeted Anita's 
weary eyes on the morning after election. It was a ter- 
rific letdown, and the suffragettes, their hearts laden with 
the bitterness of disappointment, their minds tortured by 
"might-have-beens," hoped against hope that somehow 
the later returns would turn the tide. But they did not 
have much confidence. One of their leaders issued a 
statement tantamount to an admission of defeat: "While 
the issue is still in doubt, the chances seem to be against 


us at this hour. If we lose by less than 3000 votes on 
the face of the returns, it will mean that we really carried 
the election, as fully 3000 votes were illegally counted. 
This charge is based on reports made to us by precinct 
watchers who in many cases saw this done." Other suf- 
frage leaders discussed plans for the next campaign. . . . 

The early returns, coming mostly from the large cities, 
showed 82,296 votes against equal suffrage, 73,583 for, 
giving the antis a comfortable margin of 8,713 votes, with 
some 70 per cent of the vote counted. On October 12, 
two days after the election, things looked blacker yet, and 
The San Francisco Examiner carried a patronizing con- 
solation editorial. On October 13, the unexpected hap- 
pened and it was recorded in Examiner headlines: "SUF- 
llth hour tide of votes turns defeat into victory." 

The vote now stood at 119,830 for, 117,779 against, 
giving the amendment a majority of 2,051 votes, a narrow 
margin of victory which approximated the final count. 
The rural vote in the outlying counties had turned the 
tide, offsetting the edge given the antis by the large cities. 
In San Francisco, suffrage lost by 14,000 votes, failed to 
carry a single district although it made its best showing 
in the working class neighborhoods. 

California thus became in suffragette parlance the sixth 
"free state," and the rejoicing of the suffrage leaders, 
some of whom had come from all parts of the United 
States and countries as distant as Australia and England 
to help in the campaign, their exhilaration after the sorrow 
of reconciliation to seemingly certain defeat, found crude 
expression in the triumphal note on which Selina Solo- 
mons concluded her account of the campaign: "Well 


might the band have played 'Hail the Conquering Hero- 
ines Come' as they marched, a living proof of the poet's 
prophecy of the woman's soul that leads on and up- 


Anita had every right to feel most deeply the joys of 
victory, for she had done much to bring it about. The 
organization which she headed was in some respects the 
most effective of those espousing votes for women, and 
she was one of its most effective leaders. Her singleness 
of purpose, her graciousness, her selfless zeal not only 
won admiration, but inspired others with that enthusiasm 
which was necessary for victory. 

Selina Solomons described her as among the "ablest 
and most indefatigable workers" in the College Equal 
Suffrage League, "a young woman of the finest femi- 
ninity, much personal magnetism and great executive 

Mrs. Genevieve Allen, a co-worker, later said: "As 
executive secretary of the California Equal Suffrage 
League, when Anita Whitney was president, I spent prac- 
tically a year in close daily association with her. To my 
mind, she has been the kind of a person who would never 
sacrifice principle for expediency. She is a noble and 
wonderful woman, and I feel the feebleness of words 
when I try to express my admiration for her heart and 
mind and character." 

Anita's personality and talent attracted nationwide 
attention and at the annual convention of the American 
Equal Suffrage Association, held in Louisville, Ky., shortly 


after the California election, she was chosen second vice 
president of the organization, serving with such noted 
American women as Anna Howard Shaw, president, and 
Jane Addams, first vice president. She was delegated to 
organize suffrage work in Oregon, and in January, 1912, 
helped form the Oregon College Suffrage League, pat- 
terned after the California model. Her work here, too, 
was crowned with success, for after an active summer 
campaign, Oregon adopted women's suffrage in the 
November elections. Still later, she played a leading and 
active role in the campaign that brought Nevada into the 
fold of "free" states. To this day she cannot pass through 
Nevada without recalling that campaign, the trips to the 
mining camps and other outlying districts, the arduous 
journeys in a horse-drawn buggy to reach otherwise in- 
accessible camps. Everywhere she was greeted with 
friendly courtesy and the utmost chivalry by the miners. 


Suffrage won, the College Equal Suffrage League de- 
cided to reorganize itself on a permanent basis, and make 
the beneficent influence of women voters felt in California 
politics. The California Civic League was formed, with 
branches in many localities, and Anita served as president 
for the first two years and on the executive committee for 
several years thereafter. The league was a school in poli- 
tics for hundreds and thousands of women, and Anita, 
through her leadership in the organization, helped make 
California's women a potent, conscious influence in the 
political life of the state. The league waged a successful 
fight for the inclusion of women on juries. It concerned 


itself with restriction of red light districts, and the social 
welfare features of state governments. As president of 
the league, Anita engaged in extensive lobbying in Sac- 
ramento, and in one statewide political campaign to de- 
feat the proposition on the 1914 ballot for repeal of the 
red light abatement law. 

But Anita soon outgrew the comparatively limited scope 
of such activity. Imperceptibly at first she found herself 
drawn to the working class movement. The great and 
dramatic textile strikes at Lawrence and Paterson stirred 
her as the massacre of striking miners, their women and 
children, by Rockefeller-hired gunmen at Ludlow both 
shocked and angered her. She heard the first-hand stories 
of some of these momentous struggles from their organ- 
izers and leaders. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Arturo Giov- 
anitti, Jim Larkin and other famous labor orators of the 
day came to California, and Anita heard them speak, and 
she was attracted by their vigor and fire and an assurance 
which came from close identification with the masses and 
their struggles. During her sojourn in Portland on behalf 
of the American Equal Suffrage Association she had heard 
Eugene V. Debs, then campaigning for the presidency, 
and she was most impressed by the natural ease with 
which he exchanged greetings with the crowd of admirers 
who flocked around him as he was leaving the meeting. 
Here again was a leader who did not speak solely for 
himself, did not just express inbred and incubated inner 
convictions, but on the contrary gained strength and 
stature because he expressed the hopes and inarticulate 
desires of millions. 

The vitality of the working class movement evoked a 
deep and spontaneous response within her long before 


she became even remotely conscious of the role of the 
working class in modern society. Her deep sense of 
justice, based on the literal acceptance of the Declaration 
of Independence and the Bill of Rights as a code of life 
instead of as a text for flamboyant July Fourth orations, 
hastened her identification with the working class. She 
resented almost as a personal affront, as a transgression 
on the Americanism which she regarded as a personal 
heritage, the persecution of the working class movement, 
particularly its most militant wing on the industrial front 
at that time, the Industrial Workers of the World. 

She heard of the courageous "free speech" fight waged 
by the Wobblies in San Diego. In January, 1912, the San 
Diego authorities launched a series of attacks on Wobbly 
meetings, culminating in an ordinance outlawing free 
speech. The IWW fought back, and the ringing call for 
all "footloose Wobs" to converge on San Diego was car- 
ried up and down the coast via the freights and ships. 
Judging by the hysteria of the Merchants Association and 
the Chamber of Commerce, one might have thought that 
an army of thousands swarmed into San Diego, but 
actually only some 150 responded to the call. 

Then occurred one of the most disgraceful episodes in 
California history. Hundreds of vigilantes, armed with 
guns, clubs and knives, staged a huge roundup of all per- 
sons suspected of Wobbly affiliation. The victims were 
marched to a suburb where they went through the ritual 
of kissing the American flag and singing The Star 
Spangled Banner to the accompaniment of the howls of 
the armed mob. Then they were herded into a cattle 
pen, slugged and beaten, and on their exit from the pen, 
one at a time, they were forced to run a gauntlet of clubs 


and whips. One of the Wobblies subsequently died in 
jail while scores of others suffered serious injuries. 

Anita could not remain complacent. Such incidents 
aroused in her an indignation which by its very force 
sought an outlet in action. Her chance for action came 
during the aftermath of the Wheatland Hop Riot which 
stirred all of California in 1913. Anita's influence on 
events set in motion by the Wheatland outbreak may 
have been minute, but the influence of those events upon 
her own development was of the first magnitude. It was 
her first direct contact with the class struggle, and it was 
an enlightening contact, for the Wheatland episode, like 
a flare dropped in pitch darkness, suddenly illuminated 
the elemental forces and motivations in the class struggle. 
The character of the spontaneous revolt of the hop pickers 
on the Durst ranch, near Wheatland, Calif., on August 
3, 1913, was as primitive as Anita's understanding of the 
fundamental conflict which erupted in this explosive in- 

In Wheatland there was no middle ground. In Wheat- 
land, class was pitched against class in naked combat 
with no rules of warfare except those that arose from 
the inexorable logic of the brief and savage conflict itself. 
In Wheatland, exploitation was undisguised. The 2800 
men, women and children who had been lured to the hop 
ranch by Durst, the owner who later admitted he needed 
only 1500 workers, lived as best they could, some sleeping 
in the open fields, some on piles of straw, and some, the 
aristocrats, renting a tent from Durst at 75 cents a week. 
There were only nine outdoor toilets for 2800 people, and 
many of the 1500 women and children at the camp 


vomited from the nauseating stench. Dysentery and 
diarrhea were rife; cases of malarial fever and typhoid 
were reported. 

The workers entered the fields at 4 a. m., and by noon 
the mercury was at 106 and 110 degrees in the shade. 
Despite the insufferable heat, no water was brought to 
the workers. The reason: Jim Durst, a cousin of the 
ranch owner, peddled lemonade at a nickel a glass. From 
200 to 300 children worked in the fields, for the miser- 
able wage of 90 cents per hundred pounds could not pro- 
vide for a family unless everyone pitched in. 

Into such conditions were thrust workers of thirty 
nationalities, Puerto Ricans, Americans, Hindus, Japanese, 
Englishmen, unorganized except for a nucleus of 30 
Wobblies. The Wobblies, some experienced organizers 
like Blackie Ford, went to work with great energy and 
considerable skill to weld this diversified group of back- 
ward workers into a solid body to fight for improved 
living conditions. Their preliminary efforts met with 
great success and within two days they were ready to 
break into the open and called a camp mass meeting. 
Some 2000 workers were in attendance. The meeting 
was drawing to a close when a posse, headed by the 
sheriff and the district attorney, who was also Durst' s 
private lawyer, arrived on the scene. The sheriff and a 
few deputies started elbowing their way through the 
crowd to get at Ford who had been the speaker. The 
crowd was angry and one of the deputies on the fringe of 
the assembly fired a shot into the air "to sober the mob." 
That shot was like the retort of a starter's pistol in a race. 


The fight was on. And in the general melee which en- 
sued, the district attorney, a deputy sheriff, and two work- 
ers, a Puerto Rican and an Englishman, were killed, while 
scores were injured. 

The posse fled from the scene. The hysteria was on. 
Governor Hiram Johnson dispatched four companies of 
the National Guard to Wheatland. Throughout the 
agricultural regions, a reign of unbridled vigilante terror 
was instituted against all those suspected of Wobbly sym- 
pathies. Gunmen furnished by the notorious Burns 
Detective Agency were deputized by county authorities. 
Arrests were made in every part of the state, and no one 
has ever been able to determine the actual number of 
persons jailed. Some were held incommunicado for weeks 
and months without trial and systematically tortured for 

Eight months after the Wheatland outbreak, Blackie 
Ford and Herman Suhr, another Wobbly who was not 
even at the scene of the riot, were convicted of second 
degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. The 
authorities did not claim that the two had fired the fatal 
shots, or were in any way physically responsible for the 
deaths. Their guilt lay in attempting to organize the 
workers, and using allegedly violent language which, the 
authorities charged, was responsible for the killings. 

The Ford-Suhr case was the first of California's cele- 
brated labor cases, and Anita threw herself into the fight 
for their release. That was early in 1914 and there has 
not been an important case of labor persecution in Cali- 
fornia since in which Anita did not actively participate to 
defend labor's rights and those of the individuals victim- 
ized because of their adherence to the cause of labor. 


Anita joined delegations of prominent liberals and labor 
leaders, including Paul Scharrenberg, then secretary of the 
California State Federation of Labor, and Mrs. Fremont 
Older in pleading with the governor for executive clem- 
ency. She spoke in behalf of the defense of Ford and 
Suhr. So high was the feeling engendered throughout 
the state by the expose of conditions on the Durst ranch, 
that Mrs. Durst, who had been a member of the Califor- 
nia Civic League, Anita's organization, felt compelled to 
resign. But Ford and Suhr remained behind the bars. 
California justice had set its pattern. 

It was during this period, early in 1914, that Anita 
joined the Socialist Party. It was a logical development, 
so logical that the exact date and manner of joining have 
long since faded from her memory. "... Imperceptibly 
and unconsciously," she later wrote, "I passed over the 
line, the invisible line, which divides mankind into two 
different groups, the group which stands for human 
exploitation and the group which stands for the fullness 
of life here and now, for human welfare. I was not sure 
how it was to come about, and I probably did a great deal 
of false sentimentalizing about it, but I had taken the road 
from which there is no returning and with whatever 
hesitations and stumblings I have tried ever since to 

For her there was no sudden conversion, no single 
dramatic incident which made her "see the light," no one 
brilliant argument or book. She evolved into Socialism, 
and while there must have been a revolutionary, "sudden," 


dialectic transition from bourgeois democratic liberalism 
to Socialism, the conditions for such a transition had 
reached such a ripe maturity within her that it was accom- 
plished without any cataclysmic effects. 

For her, there is an inner logic to her own evolution 
from childhood when she was pained and humiliated at 
the sight of stage-made poverty at the Capitol party for 
Irish famine relief to the time when as a mature woman 
of 47 she embraced socialism as the solution to poverty, 
as the answer to the inarticulate questions which had agi- 
tated her childhood. "I have trod a path," she is wont 
to say, and there is a path discernible, but few people are 
given to tread so straight a path, with such erect dignity. 
The two elements which shaped her social attitude toward 
life even in the Wellesley days, Christian ethics and the 
American democratic tradition, had not become diffused 
into the flabbiness of middle class comfort, nor smothered 
by the rationalizations which protectively envelop such 
comfort, just as some parasitic fungus sheathes a tree 
trunk. They remained hard and pure, and like a flint, 
when rubbed against the rock of reality Rivington street, 
the Wheatland affair, the Alameda charities, the facts of 
politics as she saw them during her lobbying days they 
generated the sparks which burst into that all-consuming, 
purifying flame of socialism. 

As the Socialist Party was then constituted, it attracted 
many casual reformers, too many for the party's own good. 
But Anita's subsequent life demonstrates that the purely 
formal act of signing a party application was accompanied 
by deep inner conviction. She joined a party of Socialism, 
formally at least pledged to the teachings of Karl Marx, 
and affiliated to an international which still included 


Lenin and Stalin, Liebknecht and Luxembourg. The proc- 
ess of differentiation then going on within the Socialist 
movement, heading for the inevitable split between the 
revolutionary elements and the social reformists, was to 
accelerate her own growth into a conscious revolutionary. 
History was still further to hasten that growth. She joined, 
remember, at the beginning of 1914. A few months later 
the World War was to break out. The stream of history 
was to become increasingly more turbulent. And Anita 
Whitney was plunged into that stream, now possessed 
of a Socialist consciousness to guide her. 



The Socialist Party which Anita joined was not a very 
vital organization. It did spring to life during election 
campaigns a.nd exhibited a growing power of attraction 
at the polls, but between elections it confined itself to 
vague and sporadic general agitation for Socialism. Every- 
day mass work, leadership of the struggles of the working 
class, be .they in the form of strikes or extra-parliamentary 
political actions, were outside the scope of the party's 
life. It was content with the steady growth of its voting 
strength from a scattered 7,500 for a Social Democratic 
ticket in the 1900 state elections to 72,005 for Norman 
W. Pendleton, Socialist candidate for lieutenant governor 
in November, 1914. (Noble A. Richardson, gubernatorial 
candidate had trailed with 50,716 votes.) Reformist 
elements in the party envisioned such a continued and 
gradual growth of the Socialist vote until capitalism was 
submerged by the sheer weight of ballots. Those who 
were mathematically inclined might have reckoned that 
if from 1900 to 1914 the Socialist vote multiplied tenfold, 
then if it continued to grow in the same proportion, by 


1928 a sun-kissed ballot box Socialism would have been 
won in California. 

The dominant party leadership seemingly was undis- 
mayed by some very visible signs of the dangers inherent 
in the ballot box Socialism. In 1911, J. Stitt Wilson had 
been elected mayor of Berkeley on a Socialist ticket, but 
upon election he ignored the party and its counsels. Else- 
where, too, Socialists had been elected to local posts, but 
beyond effecting some minor reforms, they achieved little, 
because the policy of using their public office to rally the 
masses in an effective struggle for their demands was 
unknown to them. 

The most potent single Socialist institution was The 
World, a weekly paper published by the central Oakland 
Local, but circulated throughout the state. The paper 
was edited by J. E. Snyder, a Nebraskan with many years 
of experience on the labor press and a progressive militant 
outlook. The World had struggled along since 1905, 
but it was destined to play its most important role in the 
war and post-war years when its independent policy in 
relation to such major events as the Mooney case and the 
Russian revolution was to influence in large measure the 
course of the Socialist movement in California. 

Anita has the most desultory recollections of her first 
years in the party, some distribution of campaign litera- 
ture and attendance at meetings. "I can never remember 
that we had any real work to do," she says. "Being a 
Socialist didn't amount to much in those days." For the 
first year in the party, she was a member of the San 
Francisco local. Then she transferred to Oakland where 
her activities were to be centered for more than a decade. 

The outbreak of the World War and the increasing 


American preparations for entrance into the conflict shat- 
tered the idyllic from-election-to-election existence of the 
Socialist Party. The impact of the war and the issues it 
posed before the Socialist movement accelerated the con- 
flicting currents within the party, delineated more sharply 
the division between the moderate reformists and those 
with militant revolutionary tendencies. An initial crisis 
arose around the Mooney case. 

When Mooney and his associates were arrested after 
the Preparedness Day bombing in 1916, the official So- 
cialist Party state leadership refused to intercede in their 
behalf. The World, however, defying the pressure of the 
party's state leaders, actively entered the campaign, and 
became the initial rallying center for the Mooney defense 
movement. It was The World which first exposed the 
frameup character of the case against Mooney, Warren 
K. Billings and the others. Snyder made the Mooney 
case the central campaign of the paper, and his judgment 
was validated by a doubling of circulation from some 
7,000 to 15,000. The World provided wide agitational 
support to the first Mooney defense committee organized 
by Robert Minor. 

Anita also was among the first to enlist in the fight for 
Mooney. She helped raise funds for the defense and 
during Billings' trial assisted in the issuance of a pamphlet 
exposing the corrupt jury system in San Francisco County 
whereby a class of professional jurors had come into 
existence, most of them with close ties to the district 
attorney's office. Under the prevailing jury system it was 
possible for the prosecutor to select jurors to his own 
taste for a major case, for the panel from which they were 
to be drawn was so stacked. 


The alignments in the Socialist Party around the 
Mooney case had their origin in the more fundamental 
division over the war. The militants took an anti-war 
position, fought against the preparedness propaganda, and 
regarded Mooney as a victim of the war hysteria, and the 
case against him as an attempt to intimidate the opposi- 
tion to American involvement in the imperialist conflict. 
The reformists, on the other hand, either gave their tacit 
approval to the pro-war campaign or remained passive in 
the face of it. They, therefore, were either complacent or 
actively hostile toward Mooney. 

Anita was identified with the militant wing for she was 
actively opposed to the war and American involvement. 
She was a militant pacifist, her attitude somewhat akin to 
that of Debs, but not quite as advanced. Since there was 
very little clarity in the party on the nature of the struggle 
against imperialist war, militant pacifism at that time 
represented a comparatively advanced, and certainly a 
courageous position, even though in general pacifism is at 
best but an ineffectual weapon in opposing a reactionary 
war, and as a principle becomes pernicious and reactionary 
in a period when men fight and die for the advancement 
of human liberty and progress. To the best of her own 
recollection, on the very day of the fateful Preparedness 
Parade in San Francisco, Anita was attending a peace 
rally in Oakland, held to counter the jingoistic pro-war 

Her efforts in behalf of peace were largely registered 
through non-party channels. The anti-Preparedness Day 
rally she attended, for example, was organized by the 
Union Against Militarism, a pacifist organization which 
mushroomed into existence in 1916 and faded from the 


scene almost as quickly as it arose. The union was an 
energetic organization with a flare for publicity. It trailed 
President Wilson on his preparedness tour through the 
middle west and everywhere its meetings attracted larger 
crowds than did the President. But it did not have the 
substance to keep its head above the rising tide of war 
hysteria and it went under. During the period of its 
brief and brilliant existence, Anita served on its California 

After American entrance into war, the People's Council 
sprang into existence with branches throughout the coun- 
try and headquarters in Chicago. Anita helped form a 
branch of the council in San Francisco and served as treas- 
urer as long as the branch survived. The council fought 
for repeal of the conscription law and conducted general 
propaganda against the war, with the heaviest emphasis 
on a pacifist expose of the horror of it all, and a secondary 
theme dwelling on the imperialist character of the Strug- 


During the war and after, Anita developed close asso- 
ciations with other mass movements, two of which were 
indicative of what was to become a lifelong concern with 
the rights of minority peoples. It was certainly a tribute 
to her reputation as a champion of the oppressed that 
both the Negro and Irish movements sought her out and 
invited her to join them as a leader although she was 
neither Negro nor Irish. When a National Association 
for the Advancement of Colored People's branch was 
formed in the Bay Area before the war, she accepted an 
invitation to join its executive committee and maintained 


that membership for more than fifteen years, long after 
other whites had been dropped. 

In the spring of 1919, Kathleen O'Brennan, a brilliant 
Irish woman who has since returned to Ireland, organized 
a group of Irish women in San Francisco into the American 
Irish Educational League. Anita was invited to become 
chairman of the organization and she accepted, expecting, 
as she later wrote, "to keep the chairmanship only a 
limited time until some woman in whose veins flowed 
Irish blood could be found who had time to carry it on." 
The league's avowed purpose was "to tell the truth about 
Ireland" and its membership was open to all women who 
believed that President Wilson's promise of "self-deter- 
mination for small nations" also included Ireland. 

"The league," Anita wrote later, "seemed to have 
sprung into existence at just the right moment, and the 
fact that it was quite independent of any of the older Irish 
organizations that flourished in San Francisco, and that 
its sole aim was the movement for national freedom, quite 
distinct from any religious or political affiliations, brought 
us phenomenal success. We began our meetings in the 
parlors of the St. Francis Hotel, then moved into the 
Italian room, then into the ballroom, and finally staged 
some meetings that crowded Dreamland Rink." 


While Anita was preoccupied with these movements, 
within the Socialist Party the schism grew ever deeper 
as history itself posed problem after problem demanding 
a definite attitude and the sum total of these attitudes 
became crystallized into two increasingly hostile view- 
points, that of the left and right wings. Coincident with 


American entrance into the war in April, 1917, an emer- 
gency convention of the Socialist Party was held at St. 
Louis. This convention adopted a resolution formally 
opposing American entrance into the war, but it was so 
confused, vague and contradictory that it failed to give 
any lead to the masses or any guidance to the Socialist 
Party itself. Rudderless, the Socialist Party drifted, and 
the contradictory trends which the St. Louis resolution 
attempted to reconcile or gloss over waged a bitter strug- 
gle over the Socialist attitude toward the war. 

Essentially, their differences divided those who, despite 
vacillation and confusion, desired to conduct a revolution- 
ary struggle against imperialism and its war, and those 
who shrank from such a struggle and hence buttressed the 
system of imperialism regardless of their protestations. 
The combatants themselves, however, could not assay their 
own roles, could not clearly define these differences which 
had divided them. 

It required the Russian Revolution of November, 1917, 
to throw into sharp focus the nature of the different 
trends within the American Socialist movement, to pro- 
vide a mirror in which the exponents of these trends could 
finally recognize their own features. Prior to the Bol- 
shevik advent to power, California Socialists, with few 
exceptions, and those consisting almost entirely of immi- 
grant workmen, had never heard of Lenin, let alone any of 
his writings. After the revolution, they received frag- 
mentary snatches of Leninist ideas. Such concepts as 
"dictatorship of the proletariat" and "revolutionary mass 
action" became the touchstones of ideological clashes be- 
tween left and right. 

Anita personally responded to the revolution with the 


greatest enthusiasm. Here, at last, were Socialists who 
did things, who had the courage and boldness to take 
power, to cut through the timidity of reformism and use 
that power to construct the Socialist order. That was her 
instantaneous response, and it was spontaneous, almost 
instinctive. She has since said wryly, "Sometimes I won- 
der how I could have been so enthusiastic I knew so 
little." But the knowledge which she avidly sought 
served to confirm and heighten her initial enthusiasm. 
The sheer sweep and magnitude of the event, reported 
in the Socialist press by John Reed, Albert Rhys Williams 
and others, fired her imagination. The bold, firm, concise 
logic of Lenin's pronouncements, as contrasted with the 
mawkish flounderings of his opponents, shook her with 
their strength. 

She became, ideologically, an adherent of the left wing, 
a partisan of the Russian Revolution. Like Eugene V. 
Debs she might have exclaimed: "I am a Bolshevik from 
the crown of my head to the tip of my toes." 

Anita was no longer a reformist. Her first break with 
reformism was marked by her renunciation of charity 
work, that most primitive expression of reformism. Her 
second break was marked by entrance into the Socialist 
Party. Unlike others with a reformist past, who entered 
the party to foist their reformist ideas upon it, Anita 
joined the party because she wanted to break with that 
past, because she had become conscious of the need for a 
revolutionary transformation of society. Her final and 
irrevocable break with reformism came with the Russian 
Revolution and her adherence to the Left Wing. 

In California, the Left Wing enjoyed a decisive majority 
following among Socialist Party members. This was dem- 


onstrated in the election of delegates to the national party 
convention, summoned to meet in Chicago at the end of 
August, 1919, after insistent demands from the rank and 
file that a convention be held. The election was a land- 
slide victory for the Left Wing. Even more important, the 
votes seemed to have been cast in direct proportion to the 
clarity and lack of equivocation by the nominees in sup- 
port of the Left Wing program. Max Bedacht, then a 
leader in the German Socialist Federation, a member of 
the AFL Barbers Union in San Francisco, and an ardent 
spokesman for the Left Wing, led the ticket with 685 
votes, while Cameron King, the most prominent Right 
Winger, mustered a bare 208 votes. 


The delegates returned from Chicago with strange tales 
and a new affiliation, the Communist Labor Party, which 
they urged upon the Socialists of California. 

John C. Taylor, the inveterate story teller of the delega- 
tion, related that when he arrived at the Socialist conven- 
tion building in Chicago he was mildly surprised by the 
large contingent of police and the Black Maria at the 
entrance. Pushing his way through, he headed up the 
stairs, but at the landing on which the convention hall was 
located several policemen blocked the way. 

"Where is your pass?" a policeman demanded. 

"Here are my credentials," Taylor replied, holding out 
the duly certified credentials from the California organ- 

"Naw, dat's no good," the policeman shook his head. 
"You gotta have a pass to git in here. Gwan, go to your 
office and git yourself a white pass." 


Angered both at the sight of uniformed policemen act- 
ing as sergeants-at-arms for what was supposed to be a 
Socialist convention and at his exclusion, Taylor went to 
the national office. He demanded an explanation of 
Adolph Germer, then the national secretary. Germer re- 
plied, "The California delegation is challenged." It turned 
out that Cameron King had written a letter contesting the 
election and this provided the formal pretext for excluding 
the California delegates. That this was only a formal 
pretext was proven by the fact that most of the Left Wing 
delegates were excluded. 

Taylor returned to the convention building and while 
wandering around stumbled by accident upon an entrance 
through a back alley which led into the convention hall. 
Excited at his discovery, he rounded up sixteen Left Wing 
delegates and guided them into the convention hall. The 
sessions had not yet begun, and the Left Wingers seated 
themselves in the empty chairs. Suddenly, Germer en- 
tered. He was a big man, towering above six feet in 
height and well over 200 pounds in weight. At first he 
was amazed. Then with that domineering and impres- 
sive air, bolstered by his physical massiveness, which was 
typical of him he turned on the seated Left Wingers. 

"I'll ask you to leave this hall," he boomed. 

There was silence. 

"I'll ask you in a comradely way to clear the hall," he 
persisted, his voice getting louder. 

"In the same comradely way, I'll tell you to go to hell," 
Taylor finally replied. 

"Officers! Clear the hall!" Germer screamed. 

From the wings and backstage, from side doors and 
back doors, policemen came swarming in. The delegates 


spontaneously decided on passive resistance and refused 
to budge. The policemen lifted them bodily, sometimes 
with their chairs, and tossed them out of the hall. 

Excluded in this manner from the Socialist convention, 
the California delegates joined with other Left Wingers 
in a convention which founded the Communist Labor 
Party, one of the halves which was later to be joined in 
what is known today as the Communist Party of the 
United States. 

Returning to California, the delegates met with great 
success in winning the Socialist membership for the newly 
formed Communist Labor Party. By overwhelming votes, 
local after local changed its affiliation. The last and most 
important to act was Local Oakland, largest in the party 
and the most influential, much of its influence derived 
from its control of The World. Historic documents of 
action have a cryptic ring and the minutes of that eventful 
meeting of the Oakland local, still preserved in the orig- 
inal pencilled scrawl of J. G. Reed, the organizer, read: 

"Minutes of Local Oakland, Oct. 20, 1919. 

"Meeting called to order by Org. Com. Reed. Comrade 
Tobey elected chairman. Minutes read and accepted. 
Order of day called for. Motion made and seconded that 
we postpone admission of members till next week, carried. 

"Moved and seconded: That Local Oakland sever its 
connections with the Socialist Party of America and that 
the charter be returned, carried. 

"Motion made and seconded: That we join the Com- 
munist Labor Party. Carried. 

"Motion made and seconded: That we appropriate 15 
dollars for telegrams stating the action of Local Oakland 
tonight, carried. 


"Moved and seconded: That the present party officers 
be retained. Carried. 

"Adjourned 12:15. 

"J. G. Reed, secretary." 

The only hint of the travail of transition is the late hour 
of adjournment, past midnight. Actually there was a 
stormy session in which a small but vocal minority bitterly 
opposed the change in affiliation. The vote was about 
eight to one for adherence to the Communist Labor Party, 
and Anita's was among the votes cast for this transfer. 
The World went with the local and thereafter became the 
organ of Local Oakland, Communist Labor Party. 

On the initiative of the San Francisco local, a call was 
issued for the first Communist Labor Party state conven- 
tion to meet at Loring Hall, Oakland, on the morning of 
Sunday, November 9, 1919. Each local was entitled to 
one delegate, with one additional delegate for every 
twenty-five members or major fraction thereof. 

When the convention was called to order by John C. 
Taylor, there were some 145 delegates in attendance, 
representing every local throughout the state which had 
affiliated to the newborn party. C. A. Tobey, for many 
years a member of the AFL Sign Painters Union in Oak- 
land, was elected chairman, while Taylor was chosen sec- 
retary. Among the active participants in the convention 
were Max Bedacht who had been elected to the national 
executive committee of the Communist Labor Party at 
Chicago and reported on the differences which had led to 
the split in the Socialist movement, Kaspar Bauer who 
reported for the resolutions committee, James H. Dolsen 
who headed the committee which framed the constitution. 
Anita also took an active part, serving on both the creden- 


tials and resolutions committee. The delegates labored 
from ten in the morning until ten at night, and, according 
to Taylor's boast in the official report, "that which was 
accomplished takes the usual convention three days to put 
down on paper." Most of the time was consumed in 
ratification of the constitution and a heated debate over 
one resolution submitted by the resolutions committee on 
political action. The controversial resolution, it was feared 
by some of the delegates, represented a throwback to the 
pure parliamentarism of the Socialist Party, and they 
succeeded in substituting for it the more comprehensive 
statement on political action which had been adopted at 
the national Communist Labor Party convention. Other 
resolutions denounced the "undeclared war against Soviet 
Russia" then waged by the Wilson Administration, de- 
manded withdrawal of American troops from Russia, 
Mexico, Haiti and Santo Domingo, endorsed industrial 
unionism, urged agitation and work for the release of 
"political and class war prisoners," and complimented the 
workers for their support of the Plumb plan for govern- 
ment ownership and operation of the railroads, but 
pointed out that ultimate solution of "the labor problem" 
lay in collective ownership of all the means of production. 
The convention also proclaimed The World as the 
party's official statewide organ, and elected a state execu- 
tive committee on which Anita Whitney was chosen to 
serve as alternate. 

The birth of the new party was attended by great social 
convulsions. It was 1919, one of those years that some- 
how remains imprinted on man's memory, long after its 


specific significance is forgotten, leaving that paradoxical 
feeling of foreboding after the event. It was 1919. Year 
of the Versailles Treaty. Year of the murder of Karl 
Liebknecht and Rosa Luxembourg, year of the Hungarian 
revolution, of great social upheavals in Germany and 
Austria. Terrible year of civil war in Soviet Russia when 
on half a dozen occasions the defeat of the young Soviet 
regime was heralded throughout the world. Year of the 
Black Sea revolt in the French fleet, of the glorious sym- 
pathy strikes by British and American longshoremen who 
refused to load the munitions destined against the Red 
Army. It was an angry, tempestuous, gloomy year when 
despair and bitterness mingled with high and exhilarating, 
short-lived hopes. 

In America, this year of post war upheaval was marked 
by a great strike wave, meeting head-on a savage open 
shop assault of the employers waged under the banner of 
the "American Plan." The year was ushered in by the 
Seattle General Strike of February 6, the first effective 
general strike in the country's history. It was ushered out 
by bitterly contested strikes at the opposite end of the 
country in the men's clothing industry of New York and 
the textile mills of New England. In between, 365,000 
men walked out of the steel mills, under the leadership of 
William Z. Foster; a half -million miners left the coal pits 
in November; thousands struck in scores of other indus- 
tries. In one issue of The World, the headline shouted: 


The workers of the Bay Region were caught up by 
this strike wave. Forty thousand metal trades workers 


tied up the shipyards and the uptown shops. Longshore- 
men, tailors, traction workers in Oakland, even the tele- 
phone girls walked out that year. At one time, 60,000 
workers were on strike in the Bay Area. 

It was into such a world that the foundling Communist 
Labor Party, inexperienced and terribly naive in many 
respects, was thrust. History pays no deference to youth, 
and it did not spare the party. With the discernment of 
class intuition, the employers recognized in the seemingly 
weak infant their potentially most formidable foe and with 
all the violence at their command, legal and extra-legal, 
they attempted to crush it. 


In California, as elsewhere throughout the country, the 
press and other propaganda agencies of the employers 
had worked up a pitch of anti-red hysteria which provided 
the atmosphere for acts of violence. 

In January, the newly-elected legislature had convened. 
William D. Stephens, a Hiram Johnson progressive, was 
governor. Having served out Johnson's last two years as 
governor, he was elected in his own right in November, 
1918. One of his opponents in the election was Charles 
M. Fickert, district attorney who helped engineer the 
Mooney frameup. The campaign reached its peak during 
the last months of the World War, and Fickert stumped 
the state, working himself into a frenzy over the red 
menace, and presenting himself in hysterical tones as the 
sacrificial hero who was ready to lay down his life to save 
the women of California from revolution. Not only was 
Fickert trounced in the gubernatorial elections of 1918, 


but when he stood for reelection as San Francisco district 
attorney the following year, he was defeated by Matthew 

Despite this twice-expressed mandate against the red 
hysteria, Governor Stephens, in keeping with the Johnson 
progressive tradition, coyly yielded to it. As the legisla- 
ture convened, the atmosphere in Sacramento was colored 
by a trial then in progress of a group of 1WW members, 
rounded up by Federal agents and accused of violating 
the Espionage Act. Lurid tales of sabotage and violence, 
told at the trial by paid informers, were plastered over the 
front pages of the newspapers and provided favorite 
topics of conversation among the legislators who were 
puffed up with their own importance as guardians of the 
home, motherhood, religion and other cliches of the pro- 
fessional politician. 

The legislature saw red, all right. With the roar of a 
bull, Assemblyman W. A. Doran, a rancher from San 
Diego county, offered a bill to outlaw the color red, to 
make it a crime to display a red flag in any manner or 
form. The lawmakers pondered this proposed statute 
with proper legislative dignity and decided against it. 
What would the auctioneers do if deprived of the tradi- 
tional colors of their craft? What would the railroads do? 
You just can't outlaw a color which has become part of 
the customs and habits of a people. 

While Doran's folly was thrown out, the smart money 
in the state was behind a bill which passed. This bill was 
hatched in a conference between Raymond Benjamin, 
chairman of the State Republican Central Committee and 
commonly regarded as the power behind the governor. 


and Max Kuhl, a shrewd San Francisco lawyer who repre- 
sented the Industrial Association. Benjamin who was 
also Assistant Attorney General drafted the criminal syn- 
dicalism law and handed it, ready made, to Senator Wil- 
liam Kehoe of Eureka to drop into the legislative hopper. 
Kehoe went through the motions like an automaton. He 
was in the uncomfortable position of having to pretend 
to be the father of a child which was not really his. Finally, 
when pressed, he frankly confessed he could not explain 
the vague provisions of the bill, and bore no responsibil- 
ity for them. All he knew, said Kehoe, was that the ad- 
ministration wanted it passed. Then it was commonly 
supposed that Attorney General U. S. Webb had written 
the bill, but when he was questioned, he professed even 
greater ignorance than did Kehoe. It was one of those 
strange spectacles so common to legislative bodies. No 
one knew exactly where the bill came from. Yet everyone 
was given the understanding that it came with a must- 
pass tag. Chamber of Commerce lobbyists buttonholed 
legislators, whispered the magic words in their ears. The 
newspapers blossomed forth with fervent editorials urging 
passage of the bill. It was presented as an emergency 
measure, with the immediate preservation of public peace 
and safety dependent upon its passage. So great was the 
pressure that only eight votes were cast against the bill in 
the assembly and none at all in the senate. 

The eight dissenters waged a courageous fight. Assem- 
blywoman Grace Dorris of Bakersfield said on the as- 
sembly floor: "In 1638 my ancestors came to America 
in order that they might have the right to believe as they 
chose. After three centuries there still lives in me that 
same belief in freedom of speech and thought. ... I do 


not believe in destruction or violence of any kind. But 
neither do I believe that we can rid ourselves of the 
menace of sabotage by a return to the methods that drove 
our ancestors from their homes into the wilderness of an 
unknown land. I believe the only cure for IWWism is a 
removal of the cause of IWWism. When we have done 
away with oppression there will be no need of suppres- 
sion. When we have industrial democracy as well as 
political democracy, IWWism will vanish as the dew 
before the morning sun." 

Assemblyman Edgar Hurley of Oakland said: "Inas- 
much as I have been unable to find out just who actually 
drew up the bill, I am extremely skeptical about it. I 
consider that the language of the bill is ambiguous and 
indefinite, and that the terms of the bill are not sufficiently 

The IWW was the chief bogey used to secure passage 
of the bill, and at first its provisions were used almost 
exclusively against the IWW. Emanuel Levin, then 
director of the People's Institute, a working class cultural 
center in San Francisco, was the first arrested under the 
law, but he was not convicted. James McHugo, IWW 
secretary in Oakland, was tried and convicted. Dozens 
of IWW members were railroaded to jail under terms of 
the law. 


The Loring Hall convention of the Communist Labor 
Party had been held on Sunday, November 9. On the 
following day, an ominous note crept into the story of the 
convention which appeared in The Oakland Enquirer 


"The American flag," said the story, "hung in one 
corner of the room in an antique cabinet and over it was 
a naval service flag with one star. But, during the noon 
hour, a huge red cloth was hung over the case so that the 
American flag was no longer visible while the radicals 
prepared to adopt their un-American constitution." 

Tuesday, November 11, was the first anniversary of 
the Armistice. After midnight, a mob, said to have con- 
sisted of American Legionnaires, raided Loring Hall 
which served as party headquarters, wrecked it, threw 
books into the street and set fire to them. In all, the 
damage amounted to $2000, mostly in books and furnish- 

The Enquirer of November 12 reported the raid with 
hardly restrained glee: 

"In retaliation for alleged anarchistic and Bolshevistic 
remarks at a recent meeting, coupled with a display of the 
red flag and anti-American sentiments, 400 members of 
the American Legion and loyal sympathizers raided the 
headquarters of the Communist Labor Party at Loring 
Hall, Eleventh and Clay streets, shortly after midnight this 
morning and completely demolished the place. 

"A police riot call was turned in and several carloads 
of officers rushed to the scene, but so well had the raid 
been planned, with almost military precision, that not a 
single one of the raiders was in sight five minutes after 
the fire was started. 

"The raid was planned, former service men state, be- 
cause they had confirmed reports that the Communists 
had shrouded the American colors in red flags and had 
made speeches in favor of transforming the American gov- 
ernment into a soviet. 


"Last evening it was decided that the alleged Bolshevists 
must be taught a lesson, and the word was passed at the 
Auditorium where a dance was in progress, that a raid 
was impending. Leaving their girl partners, and gather- 
ing comrades from all sides, the men collected by twos 
and threes in front of the hall, and just after midnight, 
with a shout, broke down the doors. 

"Furniture, banners, charters of German lodges, in- 
signia of fraternal rank, pictures of Russian leaders, and 
other junk was hurled from the windows into the street, 
and while wondering householders nearby gazed on with 
astonishment, the torch was applied." 

The Enquirer, in its zeal, even referred to the insignia 
of the German fraternal lodges as "Hun emblems." 

Actually, leaders of the party, as well as striking metal 
trades workers had been tipped off that a plan was afoot 
not only to wreck Loring Hall, but the Labor Temple as 
well. At 8:30 p.m., November 11, two party representa- 
tives went to the police, told them of the warnings they 
had received, and asked police protection for the hall. 
At 10:30 p.m., a committee of metal trades strikers, 
chosen at a strike meeting then in progress, also visited 
police headquarters with a similar plea. Police protection 
was promised. None came. 

An account by Anita, published seven years later, picks 
up the story from there as follows: "As the police did not 
respond, members of the Metal Trades and the Boiler- 
makers offered to serve as guard. These sturdy sons of 
toil looked entirely too sturdy to the members of the 
American Legion when they first came to Loring Hall 
so they disappeared to return later when our guardians 
had left. The ex-servicemen then proceeded to wreck 


the hall and they did the job thoroughly. The janitor, was 
locked in an upper room, desks were smashed open; books 
and pamphlets piled in the streets, topped by our type- 
writers, and fire set to the pile. And the police, who had 
promised protection, remained in their headquarters three 
blocks away and did not get to the scene until it was too 
late to identify anyone." 

Luckily, the Legionnaires were sufficiently discreet to 
wait until the hall's guardians had departed or some 
serious bloodshed might have resulted. On the very same 
day, armed Legionnaires attempted to raid the IWW hall 
at Centralia, Wash. The IWW members in the hall de- 
fended themselves with gun in hand and four Legion- 
naires were shot dead. Wesley Everest, an IWW and 
ex-serviceman, was seized by the Legion mob and brutally 
lynched. Eight other IWW members were subsequently 
arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to life terms in 
the penitentiary. A similar tragedy could have very easily 
ensued in Oakland. 

But the newspapers blithely and approvingly reported 
on November 12 that "members of the American Legion 
have taken up the cudgels against any complacency on 
the part of the city government toward radical strong- 
holds alleged to exist here." On November 13, Police 
Commissioner J. F. Morse, grieved at the intimation of 
complacency, blustered: "The time has come for Oakland 
to realize that it must prepare to meet radicalism face to 
face." Morse announced the immediate formation of a 
"police loyalty bureau" under the direction of Detective 
Fenton Thompson, a former U. S. Deputy Marshal in 
Texas and a Department of Justice agent during the war 


years in San Diego and Los Angeles, who had been acting 
as a one-man red squad. 

This did not satisfy the newspapers. They wanted 
blood. They demanded to know how it was possible for 
such a meeting as the Communist Labor Party convention 
to be held in Oakland without any interference by the 
authorities. Thompson explained apologetically that he 
had taken his regular day off on Sunday, but had notified 
Police Chief J. Frank Lynch and District Attorney Ezra 
Decoto of the meeting and, according to The Oakland 
Tribune, he even asked Decoto whether he should arrest 
all the delegates. "Go carefully, I don't want to clog the 
calendar," was Decoto's reply according to The Tribune 
story. Now, Decoto denied any .such statement, explain 
ing: "I gave no instructions to Fenton Thompson thai 
he was or was not to raid the meetings of the Communists. 
It is not my business to police the city." 

All this flurry occurred on Wednesday, November 13. 
On the same day, a delegation of "citizens" called on 
Morse, demanded to know what he was going to do about 
the radical menace. On the next day, newspapers an- 
nounced that "Oakland vigilantes will curb Reds if police 

On November 15, the Oakland city council rose to the 
occasion and ordered the police to "exterminate anarchy" 
in Oakland. The American Legion offered to recruit 
1000 men to help in the extermination. The council 
passed a stringent ordinance, prohibiting any sort of public 
meeting without a police permit. Demands were voiced 
in the council for suppression of The World on the 
grounds it had criticized President Wilson and had pub- 
lished "a lot of Russian news." While the council stopped 


short of such action, publishers of The World had re- 
ceived threats for two successive weeks, warning them to 
cease publication or have their premises and print shop 
smashed. They continued publication. "Then came 
threats of tar and feathers and the police came and 'kindly' 
informed the editor that he was being arrested to protect 
him from the mob. P. B. Cowdery (the business man- 
ager) was lured by a phone call to the jail to 'see Snyder' 
and was arrested, both being charged with issuing The 
World, etc.," The World reported in its December 19 

Arrests came in quick succession, and within two weeks 
after the Loring Hall convention, those arrested and 
charged with criminal syndicalism included James H. Dol- 
sen, J. G. Weiler, J. C. Taylor, Edric B. Smith, C. A. 
Tobey, Max Bedacht, J. E. Snyder, P. B. Cowdery, J. G. 
Reed, J. A. Ragsdale and Alanson Sessions. Of all those 
jailed, only Sessions, who later was to become a leader of 
the Progressive Party, cracked. He, reportedly through 
intervention of his family, pleaded guilty and was let off 
with probation. The others were released on $5000 bail 
each, pending trial. 

The newspaper hysteria was now directed against them. 
The so-called ' r red flag" incident at the convention, in- 
volving the alleged draping of the show case which con- 
tained an American flag with a red cloth, was used to 
inflame the public sentiment. 

Almost simultaneously, Attorney General A. Mitchell 
Palmer ordered his notorious nation-wide red raids. The 
extent of the terror can be gauged from Palmer's own 
boastful testimony before a House Appropriations Com- 
mittee that "in the latter part of January, 1920, our field 


reports indicate that 52 per cent of our work (the work 
of the Department of Justice A.R.) in the country was 
in connection with the so-called radical movement." From 
July, 1919, to January 1, 1921, according to Palmer's own 
figures, 4138 alleged aliens were arrested. On November 
14, 1919, Palmer announced he had the records of a list 
of 60,000 persons, both citizens and aliens, who were 
under investigation by the Department of Justice. 

Such was the initiation of the organized Communist 
movement into the political life of the country. No 
political party in American history has ever faced such 
terror and repression at its birth, and it is doubtful 
whether any other party could have survived such a bap- 
tism. But what the Communist movement lacked in 
experience and maturity, it made up in tenacity and 
courage, and its elementary grasp of the scientific social 
theory on which it was founded. Despite the terror, the 
Communist movement took root, it survived and ulti- 
mately grew. . . . 



Against the background of 1919, its tumult and panic, 
Anita Whitney stepped forward as the central character 
in a drama that was to drag on for seven years, from cli- 
max to climax, a stubborn reminder of the things that 
were in the post-war period. If she were given to fore- 
bodings of danger, there were certainly enough portents 
to put her on guard; the passage of the criminal syndi- 
calism law, the raid on Loring Hall, the arrest of her com- 
rades. She, as a member of the Communist Labor Party 
state committee and as an active and effective foe of the 
terror regime, was a logical target for the vengeance of 
the authorities. But she went about her work, speaking 
to diverse groups, maintaining the mass contact she had 
established in 20 years of public life. Then the authori- 
ties struck. 


On the day after Thanksgiving, on Friday afternoon, 
November 28, 1919, some 150 women gathered in the 
Hotel Oakland in a state of great excitement. They were 


"middle" women, of middle class and middle age, re- 
spectable wives of attorneys, doctors, public officials and 
university professors. Some were teachers or social work- 
ers or followers of some other career open to the inde- 
pendent daughters of the middle class. They all came 
under that generalized and comfortable designation of 
"club women," and they had come together as members 
of their club, the Oakland Center of the California Civic 
League, recognized as the largest and most solid of the 
women's clubs in Oakland. Under ordinary circum- 
stances the buzz of conversation on such a day would 
have centered on the Thanksgiving dinners of the day 
before, on uninspired comments about overeating and 
methods of relief from its effects ; those who could forget 
the day-old past and fix their minds on the future might 
have talked of the coming Christmas holidays, the ter- 
ribly high prices and hard times. But no ordinary cir- 
cumstances attended this gathering. 

Some of the women had recognized in the hotel lobby 
the figures of Police Inspector Thompson and Frank 
Goslin, chief Department of Justice operative in Oakland, 
flanked by two burly deputies. It was not customary for 
meetings of the Oakland Center to come under surveil- 
lance of the law's most jaundiced eyes. But this was no 
customary meeting. Anita Whitney was scheduled to 

For two weeks now, Anita's scheduled appearance 
had been a public issue, a source of agitation and dissen- 
sion among the club members. She had been the first 
target of the police authorities when the city council 
granted them the power to censor all public meetings. 
Immediately after the passage of the anti-free speech or- 


dinance Police Chief J. F. Lynch compelled an Oakland 
Mother's Club to cancel a lecture by Anita on "Women 
in Legislation." On the heels of that ban, the Oakland 
Center dared invite Anita Whitney to speak! The "League 
of Americans," a bogus patriotic organization which had 
mushroomed into existence, issued an inflammatory state- 
ment to the press, pleading in the name of Americanism 
and the war dead that Anita be silenced. All the pas- 
sions of the day now swirled about the Oakland Center, 
and the club women, most of whom had known Anita 
for many years and admired her, resisted all this pressure 
and despite formal notice from the police that Miss Whit- 
ney must not speak stood by their invitation. In the face 
of all the hysterical tirades leveled against them, the 
club leaders would not budge; they insisted that Anita 
had the right to speak, and they had the right to listen to 
her. So firm were they in their insistence that three days 
before the meeting, Police Commissioner J. F. Morse 
yielded and wrote to Mrs. Frank G. Law, Oakland Cen- 
ter president: 

"Inasmuch as Miss Anita Whitney has been extremely 
active of late in giving personal support to exponents of 
radicalism in this city, I have hesitated to permit her to 
speak. However, after fuller consideration, I have de- 
cided to withhold any objection for the present and to 
merely advise you that my department will hold her 
strictly to account for any unlawful or seditious statement 
that she may make. 

"Accordingly I have to advise you that I am hereby 
granting the permission requested by your communication 
subject to the qualification stated." 

The very wording of this formal permit, its ill-graced 


reference to unlawful or seditious statements, signified 
that the police commissioner's letter did not close the 
matter. And when Anita arrived at the hotel, she was 
stopped by Inspector Thompson who asked her to turn 
back. She replied that the choice no longer rested with 
her, but would have to be resolved by the women who 
had invited her. Thompson then entered the meeting 
room and attempted to stampede the club into rescinding 
its invitation. 

"I have direct proof that Miss Whitney has carried 
food and radical literature to prisoners on Alcatraz 
Island," shouted Thompson. "Can any of you say that 
she is not an IWW?" 

This latter question was typical of Thompson's appeal. 
He knew she was not an IWW, and did not dare affirm 
it directly, yet he employed every devious trick to play 
on the middle class prejudices of the time against the 
IWW. He cited Anita's membership on the "IWW De- 
fense Committee" which had collected funds for the de- 
fense of James McHugo, arrested under the criminal syn- 
dicalism law, and "other radicals on trial/" 

Anita's presence at the Loring Hall convention and 
the highly publicized "red flag incident" were both in- 
jected into the discussion. But Anita had previously taken 
the edge off the accusation implied in the incident, for 
when she had been questioned about it by club leaders, 
she replied: 

"I love the United States, I love the American flag, I 
am a loyal American citizen and I want an American flag 
on the platform upon which I am to stand." 

After Thompson concluded his appeal, the women 
debated the issue "amid scenes verging closely on a riot," 


according to The San Francisco Chronicle account. The 
heat of the discussion and the caliber of the opposition 
were both indicated by the action of Mrs. E. C. Robinson, 
wife of an Oakland Superior Judge, who had been se- 
lected to preside at the meeting but sent word "that inas- 
much as she felt herself to be 100 per cent American she 
did not care to preside at a meeting where Miss Whitney 
was to be one of the speakers." Anita's friends, headed 
by Mrs. Law, strongly defended her right to speak, told 
of her service to the organization which she had helped 
found, and of her services to the community. Finally, 
the vote was 94 to 48 to hear Anita. 

Anita mounted the platform possessed of that high 
emotional pitch which is the prerequisite for great ora- 
tory, and her audience had been aroused to the point 
where the intimate contact between speaker and listener 
on a high plane of emotion was readily established. Her 
subject was "The Negro Problem in the United States." 
She had always felt deeply about the suffering and op- 
pression of the Negro people, and spoke on the theme 
with the passion of deep conviction, but the intrinsic 
passion she felt for the subject of her talk now was 
blended with the passions aroused over the circumstances 
under which it was to be delivered. 

She spoke of the historical origin of the Negro prob- 
lem in this country, of the shame that perpetuated human 
chattel slavery for the first four score and seven years of 
this nation's existence as a democratic republic, of the 
rationalizations which have been developed to justify this 
bondage, of the theory that the Negro people are an infe- 
rior race. 

She told her listeners that while the Negro people 


were not inferior as a race, they were subject to inferior 
opportunities and economic standards. She cited the sta- 
tistics on the expenditures for the education of Negroes 
and whites in the southern states; she cited the facts 'on 
economic discrimination and political disfranchisement, 
but the speech reached its climax when she dwelt on 
lynching, which to her was the most abhorrent individual 
social phenomenon in the United States. 

"Since 1890, when our statistics have their beginning, 
there have occurred in these United States 3,288 lynch- 
ings, 2,580 of colored men and 50 of colored women. I 
would that I could leave the subject with these bare facts 
recording numbers, but I feel that we must face all of the 
barbarity of the situation in order to do our part in blot- 
ting this disgrace from our country's record." 

Her audience knew Anita well enough to realize that 
to face "all of the barbarity of the situation," as she put 
it, that is, to envision all the physical horror of the act of 
lynching, its bestial sadism, its torment of the victim and 
degradation of the perpetrator, required almost super- 
human effort and sheer courage for one as sensitive and 
filled with revulsion for violence as she was. But she faced 
it, and she shared a picture of the full barbarity of lynch- 
ing with her listeners. She recited an eyewitness account 
of a lynching that spared none of the senses in its realism. 

"Do you wonder," she went on, "that a colored sol- 
dier from Georgia, which state had a record of 17 lynch- 
ings in 1919, back from overseas said 'that a Negro soldier 
from Georgia felt safer in No Man's Land than he ever 
felt before in his life,' or that a colored man once said that 
if he owned Hell and Texas he would prefer to rent out 
Texas and live in Hell, for he had these supporting facts 


that in Texas the first burning of life took place and that 
since 1890 Texas had lynched 338 human beings, stand- 
ing second only to Georgia and Mississippi in this hor- 
rible eminence?" 

Anita then invited her audience to join in the nation- 
wide movement to halt lynching which had been launched 
at a national conference in New York in May of that year. 

She concluded: 

"It is not alone for the Negro man and woman that 
I plead, but for the fair name of America that this terrible 
blot on our national escutcheon may be wiped away. Not 
our country right or wrong, but our country, may she be 
right, because we, her children, will her so. Let us then 
both work and fight to make and keep her right so that 
the flag that we love may truly wave 

"O'er the land of the free 

"And the home of the brave." 


The early shadows of a late November evening had 
flattened the giant silhouettes of downtown Oakland's 
buildings along the street when Anita left the Hotel 
Oakland in the company of Mrs. Herman Kower, wife of 
a University of California professor. She felt tired, but 
exhilarated and the refrain from the national anthem with 
which she concluded her speech still was ringing in her 
mind. The two women had walked only a few steps when 
out of the shadows emerged Inspectors Thompson and 
William Kyle. 

"You'll have to come with me to the City Hall," said 
Thompson. "You are under arrest," 


"On what charges?" 

"Criminal syndicalism." 

Anita was visibly taken aback, but she regained her 
composure quickly, and asked Mrs. Kower to return to the 
hotel and fetch Miss Gail Laughlin, an attorney who was 
president of the California Civic League. Mrs. Kower 
soon returned with Miss Laughlin and the three women, 
flanked by the two officers, walked to the City Hall. It 
was about 5 p. m. The banks were closed, the police 
judges had gone home, and the arrangement for Anita's 
release on bail encountered some difficulties. At the City 
Hall, Anita's companions asked Inspector Thompson to 
remain in the police office with the prisoner until they 
returned with an order from a judge setting bail and the 
money necessary to meet the bail set. They were gone 
only a half hour, but when they returned, the police office 
was empty. Anita had been rushed to the llth floor 
where the city jail was located, had been "frisked" by an 
attendant and had been thrown into a cell. 

Thus began the case of Anita Whitney. This original 
treatment she received at the hands of the police aroused 
wide indignation, an indignation that was to grow during 
the subsequent stages of the case. 

She was released on bail. After a hearing before a 
police judge, she was held over for the grand jury which 
issued an indictment accusing her of violating the crim- 
inal syndicalism law on five counts. 

Four of the counts the teaching of violence, advo- 
cacy of violence, justification of violence and committing 
acts of violence were virtually dropped by the prosecu- 
tion although they formally remained part of the indict- 


ment which the jury was to consider. Actually, the pros- 
ecution dwelt on the charge which said: 

"The said Anita Whitney prior to the time of the fil- 
ing of this information and on or about the 28th day of 
November, A. D. 1919, at the said county of Alameda, 
State of California, did then and there unlawfully, wil- 
fully, wrongfully, deliberately and feloniously organize 
and assist in organizing and was, is and knowingly became 
a member of an organization, society, group and assem- 
blage of persons organized to advocate, teach, aid and 
abet criminal syndicalism." 

The trial was set for January 27, 1920. 

Thus, in the young state of California, the daughter 
of an old and distinguished American family was caught 
up by the swirl of events and singled out for vengeance by 
the reigning reaction. But a jew months later, at the 
opposite end of the continent, in the ancient state of Mas- 
sachusetts, two Italian immigrants, Nicola Sacco and 
Bartolomeo Vanzetti, a shoe maker and jish peddler, were 
caught by the same swirl of events and they, too, were 
singled out for vengeance. It was a strange parallel. . . . 
And for seven years, from 1920 to 1927, both cases were 
to drag on, the case of this daughter of distinguished 
American lineage and the case of the two immigrant 
Italian workmen. ... 


When the trial opened before Superior Judge James 
G. Quinn on Tuesday, January 27, 1920, Anita was rep- 
resented by Thomas H. O'Connor, a brilliant criminal 


lawyer, young for the eminence he had attained in the 
profession. O'Connor was one of those attorneys who had 
the reputation of never having lost a case. It was he who 
successfully defended Israel Weinberg and Rena Mooney 
in the Preparedness Day bombing case after Tom Mooney 
and Warren Billings had been convicted. His services 
were secured for Anita through the intervention of Fre- 
mont Older, then editor of The Call, and an admirer of 
Anita's who had been associated with her in many a social 
reform movement, and who took a direct and active inter- 
est in her defense. 

O'Connor possessed the virtues which are regarded as 
typically Irish. He was a warm and passionate and 
friendly human being, of great wit and charm, a magnifi- 
cent courtroom orator whose eloquence, coupled with a 
keen understanding of people, rendered him the master 
of juries. He was a stocky man inclined to stoutness 
which did not convey a sense of flabbiness, but rather 
made him look like a larger man than he was, possessed 
of great and intense energy. 

Nominally, his associate counsel was J. E. Pemberton, 
an old friend of Anita's who had entered the case during 
its preliminary stages, but was conscious of his own limita- 
tions in trying it before a jury. Pemberton was an old 
Socialist, a country judge who looked like one, his gray 
hair and sparse white moustache contrasting with O'Con- 
nor's luxuriant black mane. 

District Attorney Ezra Decoto had chosen John U. 
Calkins and Myron Harris as the prosecution trial law- 

Anita had known Judge Quinn during her tenure as 
charities director, and also had some strange sidelights 


on the prosecution. Decoto was the man who succeeded 
her as probation officer in Alameda County. She had 
served voluntarily, without pay. Decoto stepped in when 
a salary was provided for the job. 

Her indirect acquaintance with Myron Harris, the 
prosecution's orator and flag waver, was even more 
piquant. In December, she had spent a brief time in 
Alameda County Jail while awaiting release on a writ 
of habeas corpus after she had been held over to face 
criminal syndicalism charges. There, as she later related, 
she met "a young and pretty woman" who told her "a 
sordid tale of how, though a wife and mother she had 
grown to love a man, himself a husband and a father 
a deputy in the District Attorney's office, how she had 
lived with him, and lavished upon him all the means at 
her command, bought for him the car in which he drove 
about the city." This woman told Anita that she had been 
arrested for passing a bad check which she had signed 
to pay for a picture to adorn her lover's office. 

While Anita omitted names in recounting this tale 
of great love and petty crime, a local paper said she was 
"undoubtedly referring to Hazel Vallejo King and Myron 
Harris, son of Judge T. W. Harris." 

O'Connor entered the courtroom showing signs of 
great strain, lacking his usual virile self-assurance. An 
influenza epidemic was raging and his little daughter had 
been stricken with the disease and was even then fighting 
for her life. All his passionate warmth fed the great af- 
fection he had for the child, her suffering and the im- 


minent peril to her life allowed him no peace. He had 
been retained only a short time before the trial date, and 
his distraction over the little girl's illness precluded any 
thorough preparation. 

He pleaded for a one-week postponement to give him 
time to prepare, but Judge Quinn brusquely denied the 
plea. On the second day of the trial, O'Connor himself 
was stricken with the flu. Again he pleaded for a con- 
tinuance. Again the plea was denied. On the third day, 
O'Connor's temperature had risen to 103 degrees, but 
the judge insisted: the trial must go on, and the selection 
of a jury having been completed, the prosecution placed 
on the stand its first witness, Ed Condon, a newspaper- 
man who had reported the Loring Hall convention for 
the Oakland Enquirer, and whose testimony at the police 
court hearing was largely responsible for the indictment 
drawn against Anita. 

On direct examination, Condon told of what he had 
observed at the convention, verified that Anita was 
present and had taken an active part (serving on the reso- 
lutions committee). He told again the story of the "red 
flag" incident, relating that during the convention's morn- 
ing session, he had noticed in the hall a glass bookcase 
or antique cabinet which contained an American flag. In 
the afternoon, he said, "there was a large piece of red 
cloth hung entirely across the bookcase so that the Amer- 
ican flag was no longer visible." 

At one point during Condon's examination, a messen- 
ger entered the courtroom, informed O'Connor there was 
a telephone call for him. O'Connor asked to be excused, 
and after receiving the court's permission, left hurriedly. 


He returned greatly agitated, and Anita sensed the tele- 
phone message was of great moment. 

When the prosecution turned the witness over to him, 
O'Connor sparred for a while, asked Condon routine ques- 
tions, settling him into the groove of yes-or-no answers. 
Casually, O'Connor swung the interrogation around to the 
subject of the telephone message. 

"All right," he said, "we will come to the draping of 
the American flag." 

Q. Do you know a man by the name of Fenton Thomp- 

A. I do, yes. 

Q. Did Fenton Thompson ever tell you that a plant 
that he had at the meeting draped that flag? 

A. He did, yes. 

Q. He did? 

A. Yes. 

The courtroom was in commotion. This confession 
by the chief prosecution witness that the prosecution's 
trump card was actually a police frameup startled judge, 
jury, the prosecution counsel and the spectators. O'Con- 
nor, having cornered the quarry, pressed on. 

Q. In other words, then, the red flag that you talked 
about this morning as having been thrown over the Amer- 
ican flag was placed there by a dupe that Fenton Thomp- 
son had in that convention. Is that the fact? 

A. That is what he told me. 

Q. Yes. What else did Fenton Thompson tell you? 

A. When? 

Q. At any time about that convention, or any other 
scheme or trick, or dastardly outrage that he had perpe- 


O'Connor's voice had risen, the words came quick and 
fast, stinging in their impact. The witness floundered. 
He stammered: "He told me that he, that is, as far as I 
know of anything that he told me " 

O'Connor cut in: "Relate the whole conversation that 
you had with him about planting the American flag 
under the red table cloth." 

A. Well, that was two weeks following; I believe about 
two weeks following the incident, there was a vast roar 
in the papers and we were discussing this, and he asked 
me if this American flag had been draped some of the 
newspapers had said it had, and some said it had not, 
and I was the one who knew, so he asked me if it had 
and I said yes, it had with this banner, not a flag; that 
is, I would say a piece of cloth; in this case it happened 
to be red. It was more or less of a table cloth, I would 
say. And he said, "Do you want to know who did that?" 
I said, "Do you know?" and he said, "One of my men." 

Q. That was what Fenton Thompson said? 

A. Yes. 

O'Connor believed that the full scope of Thompson's 
infamous act had been impressed upon the jury, and he 
staged the great dramatic moment of the session. 

"Where is Fenton Thompson?" he shouted. 

"He is not here just now, is he?" answered the be- 
wildered Condon, searching the courtroom with his eyes. 

"There he is." And all eyes turned in the direction 
of Condon's pointing finger, toward the cringing figure 
of Fenton Thompson. 

But Thompson was not to be allowed to cringe in his 
seat in the rear of the courtroom. Later, after O'Connor 
had continued to shake the witness with the tenacity of 


a terrier, exacting from Condon the confession that al- 
though he knew that the "red flag" was a plant he had not 
revealed that fact to the preliminary inquiry, but rather 
allowed the original impression, created in the news- 
papers, to remain; after Condon had offered the weak 
alibi that he was silent only because no one had previously 
asked him whether the "red flag" was a plant, O'Connor 
again turned all attention to Thompson. 

"Mr. Condon," he said, "as late as this morning, 
Fenton Thompson told you that he had placed the red 
flag or that one of his men had placed the red flag over 
the American flag, isn't that a fact? 

A. Yes. 

Q. In this courtroom? 

A. In this courtroom. Yes. 

O'Connor turned to the red squad chief, "Thompson, 
will you stand over here, so that the jury may see you?" 

Thompson stepped forward. 

O'Connor to Condon, "Is this the man who told you 
that one of his men draped the American flag with a red 

"It is." 

Having exposed the ramifications of this "red flag" 
incident, O'Connor addressed himself to the prosecution: 
"I take it, gentlemen, that the red banner goes out of this 
case now, altogether." 

"There is no question about it, Mr. O'Connor," Harris 
replied. "The red banner does go out of this case at this 
time as far as we are concerned." 

At the end of this day's exciting session, O'Connor's 
fever was running high and he once more requested the 
court to postpone the case, but to no avail. 



The next morning O'Connor was back in court, a very 
sick man. Thompson was placed on the stand by the 
prosecution and he categorically denied Condon's story. 
O'Connor heatedly protested that the prosecution could 
not thus impeach its own witness. Calkins angrily replied 
for the prosection that they merely wanted to put their 
cards on the table. 

"The cards should have been on the table yesterday," 
snapped O'Connor, "before the gentlemen left, which 
gave Mr. Thompson 36 or 24 hours to think over his tes- 
timony. It was Mr. Thompson's cue to come forth yester- 
day and say 'That is a lie,' and he stood there silent with 
not a word from him." 

When time for cross-examination came, O'Connor, his 
voice so hoarse he could not speak above a whisper, asked 
that he be given an opportunity to cross-examine at some 
later date when his voice and health would be more equal 
to the important task at hand. Over the prosecution's 
strenuous objections, the request was granted but O'Con- 
nor was never to cross-examine Thompson who had now 
emerged as the arch villain of the case. 

Thompson, even in his appearance, was the perfect 
villain, the prototype of hundreds of "bad guys" in the 
days when the films were silent and made no pretense of 
sophistication. Just short of six feet in height, he was a 
thin, swarthy man, his mouth twisted into an almost per- 
petual sneering grin. He was a bad man with a bad 
record. Some years before he was accused of attempting 
rape on a 14-year-old girl and left town while the scandal 
was hushed up. During his enforced vacation, he was in 


San Diego and was mixed up in another scrape wherein 
one of the many Spreckels' accused him of blackmail. 
Thompson's character was not improved by his activities 
during the war when he first served as a U. S. Deputy 
Marshal in Texas and later as a Department of Justice 
agent in Los Angeles and San Diego, indulging in the 
highhanded and illegal practices of the department during 
the war years. He was a vulnerable and ambitious man 
who even then was engaged in intrigue to become police 
chief and was reputedly linked to a series of shady real 
estate deals in behalf of one of the police commissioners. 
O'Connor's first and eminently successful thrust at 
Thompson reflected his intention to wage an aggressive 
defense and indicated his. line of attack. In private con- 
versation with Anita he had boasted he "had the goods" 
on Thompson and his connections with the reigning po- 
litical machine in Alameda County. Thompson was the 
man to get, and O'Connor was the man to get him. 


When court reconvened on Monday, February 2, 
O'Connor was home in bed in a semi-delirious state. The 
exertion of the trial while he was running a high fever, the 
long ferry trip across the bay both morning and night in 
the late January cold, to and from his home in San Fran- 
cisco, had wrecked his flu-ridden body. A jurywoman, 
Mrs. Lucille Stegeman, was also confined by the flu, but 
Judge Quinn insisted on rushing the trial through and 
only the most strenuous objections by Pemberton won a 
continuance until Wednesday. 

On Wednesday, Pemberton reported the defense as 


"not ready"; not only was O'Connor still absent, but 
Anita, although she had come to court, was suffering 
from a mild case of flu. Hard-bitten Judge Quinn swore 
in an alternate juror to replace the still ailing Mrs. Stege- 
man and ordered the case to proceed. 

Inquiries as to O'Connor's condition brought from 
Prosecutor Harris the admission that he had telephoned 
Mrs. O'Connor that morning and was informed her hus- 
band had been delirious during the night. 

"What if anything did she say as to his mental condi- 
tion?" Pemberton asked. 

"She said that he was very much worried over the out- 
come of this case, and that she thought a continuance of 
this case .might relieve him mentally at least," Harris 

Pemberton interjected: "From my information I think 
that it is dangerous to Mr. O'Connor to be unable to tell 
him that the case is postponed. Miss Whitney tells me 
that she tried to get another counsel and did not succeed. 
It is not to be wondered at, for I doubt if any counsel un- 
less it was one who had a very good opinion of his own 
ability, would think himself able to come in at this stage 
of the case and do justice to the defendant." 

Pemberton explained that Anita had never considered 
him as her trial attorney, and that he had planned to step 
out of the case entirely and leave the full burden to 
O'Connor. He asked for a postponement either to permit 
O'Connor's return or allow Anita to secure adequate 
counsel, but the judge was averse to any delay. 

As he was explaining his reasons for opposing delay, 
Anita interrupted. 

"Your honor " she said. 


JUDGE QUIN: Just a minute you have to be repre- 
sented by your counsel. 

ANITA: I am not represented by my counsel, your honor. 

PEMBERTON: I withdraw from the case if the court 

JUDGE QUIN: The court will not permit you to with- 
draw at this time. 

PEMBERTON: I decline to go on with the case. 

JUDGE QUIN: Then we will proceed and go on with 
the case; you must go on, Mr. Pemberton. 

Judge Quinn threatened Pemberton with contempt of 
court proceedings if he persisted in his refusal to try the 

"Your honor may be all powerful here," Pemberton 
flashed, "but you are not the keeper of my conscience, 
and I cannot conscientiously represent this defendant. I 
am following out your order with the feeling that it will 
cost O'Connor his life and will result in a miscarriage of 
justice for Miss Whitney. ..." 

Through a long and dreary day, the trial dragged on 
in a desultory manner. The following two days, Thurs- 
day and Friday, court was adjourned due to the illness of 
H. A. Thompson, an 83-year-old juror who had been 
distinguished by earnest but seemingly futile efforts to 
follow the proceedings. 

On Saturday, Anita rose early. She had an important 
appointment with O'Connor. During his illness she had 
visited him at his home and they discussed the case at 
length. At first, he seemed confident that he would re- 
turn to the trial and vehemently insisted on one point, 
that the cross-examination of Thompson be left to him. 
As his illness became more serious and the judge showed 


no inclination to postpone the case, O'Connor sensed he 
would never return to that courtroom, and he requested 
Anita to come to his home that Saturday when he would 
dictate the line of questioning to be followed in the ex- 
amination of Thompson. Anita had been greatly worried 
by the dispirited progress of her case since O'Connor's 
enforced absence, and now she looked forward to this 
meeting with great anticipation, hoping that it would 
mark a turn in the tide. Preoccupied with such thoughts, 
she arrived at the ferry landing in Oakland, ferried across 
to San Francisco, and it was not until she stepped into the 
Ferry Building that her eyes were struck by a headline in 
the San Francisco Examiner: "O'CONNOR, WHITNEY 
LAWYER, DEAD." She peered anxiously beneath the 
headline and read: 

"Thomas M. O'Connor, one of the best known and 
most brilliant members of the San Francisco Bar, died at 
his home, 1360 Fourth Avenue, from an attack of in- 
fluenza, shortly after one o'clock this morning. ..." 

O'Connor had died after hours of delirious struggle 
with his wife and a nurse to get out of bed. In his fevered 
delirium, he kept muttering, "Let me go, let me go, 1 
must return to that trial. . . ." 

O'Connor's tragic exit from the case sealed its out- 
come. He had insisted before his death that Nathan C. 
Coghlan succeed him. Anita, lacking confidence in 
Coghlan, objected, but O'Connor persisted and out of 
deference to the wishes of a sick man who faced death, 
she agreed. 

With O'Connor out of the way, the prosecution took 
the offense and injected the issue of the IWW into the 
trial. Anita was admittedly not a member of the IWW, 


but the Communist Labor Party platform, in its section 
on industrial unionism, contained a clause which said: 

"In any mention of revolutionary industrial unionism 
in this country, there must be recognized the immense 
effect upon the American labor movement of the propa- 
ganda and example of the Industrial Workers of the 
World, whose long and valiant struggle and heroic sac- 
rifices in the class war have earned the affection and 
respect of all workers everywhere." 

This tribute to the militancy of the IWW and its effect 
upon the labor movement was interpreted by the prose- 
cution to mean that the Communist Labor Party approved 
of the IWW and all its acts, at least to the point of abet- 
ting them. . Stretching this tenuous reasoning a_.hit far^ 
ther, the prosecution maintained that it was privileged 
to introduce evidence as to the alleged criminal syndi- 
calist acts perpetrated by the IWW, and that Anita, as 
a member of the Communist Labor Party, belonged to ar 
organization which approved these acts. 

As its experts on the IWW the prosecution introduced 
John Dymond and Ernest Coutts, a pair of professional 
informers who had been arrested a year before in a round- 
up of Wobblies, and had bought their freedom by turning 
state's evidence. After this initial performance, they 
toured the country from case to case, and admitted that 
on at least one occasion they had been paid $250 for a 
single performance. By the time they testified in the 
Whitney case, they performed with the ease of troopers 
at the end of a successful run of a Broadway stage show. 
The lines were cut and dried although lurid, and the 
prosecutor simply acted as a stooge to pace the mono- 
logue and give the appearance of examination. 


Typical of the routine was the following dialogue: 

HARRIS: Mr. Coutts, you have testified concerning 
meetings at Sacramento of the IWW organization. Was 
anything said concerning hop fields? 

(Coghlan objected and was duly overruled.) 

COUTTS: Yes, there was a great deal said about hop 

HARRIS: What please? 

COUTTS: That it would be a good idea to destroy them, 
to make the hop growers see the error of their ways for 
sending Ford and Suhr to jail. They claimed they were 
responsible for sending them to jail. 

HARRIS: What in the meetings was suggested? 

COUTTS: Well, at the meetings there was nothing sug- 
gested. It was an understanding through the members 
outside of the meetings as to what was to be done. 

Coutts was then encouraged to tell what sort of under- 
standing existed "outside of the meetings" and he obliged: 

"Well, they were to do everything, use sabotage on 
them, as was said, and do everything they could to de- 
stroy profits in the wheat fields, or rather, hop fields, 
even to burn down the hop kilns, or anything of that 

Even more melodramatic was Coutts' tale of traveling 
through the Stockton area in a houseboat, along with two 
men named "Rubio" and "Anderson," placing phosphor 
bombs in haystacks and barns and then, at a distance, 
glorying in the flames which leaped toward the sky. 

These tales of sabotage and incendiarism which were 
told in quick succession for several days strongly influ- 
enced the middle class jury and the passivity of the de- 
fense permitted the prosecution to leave the impression 


that Anita was somehow associated with these alleged 
acts of violence. 

The "red flag" bobbed up again. Despite the prose- 
cution's solemn pledge that the incident was out of the 
case, Harris in his summation exhorted the jurors as fol- 

"Let me comment on that (the red flag incident), 
ladies and gentlemen of the jury. I say to you that if the 
police department were instrumental in placing that flag 
there, there is no censure too severe for them. That is 
the position taken by the District Attorney's office of this 
county. We do not approve of those tactics and never 

"But then, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, let me say 
to you just one more word about that flag and I am 
through as to the flag incident. If you were there, or if 
I were there, and our 'Old Glory' as she stands was 
covered by that dirty red rag, what would you have done, 
or what would I have done? I would have yanked it off 
from the face of that American flag and thrown it into 
the street, and I haven't been forty years in California 
yet, either. 

"And what would you have done? You would have 
torn it down, and you would have gone home never to 
think of the Communist Labor Party again except with 
disrespect. But did Anita Whitney do that? I ask you 
as men and women and lovers of the flag, did Anita 
Whitney do that? Not for a single minute, ladies and 
gentlemen of the jury, not for one minute did Anita 
Whitney do that which you and I have been brought up 
to do, namely, to revere and honor that flag that stands 
for us, and speaks for our freedom and love of country." 



At 4:55 on the afternoon of Friday, February 20, the 
jury of six men and six women, having heard the final 
pleas by rival counsel and the instructions of the judge, 
retired to deliberate. The women were on the jury large- 
ly thanks to the efforts of Anita Whitney for she, more 
than any other one person, was responsible for the pas- 
sage of the law permitting women to sit on juries. For 
almost six hours the jury deliberated, returning at 10:45 
p. m. A jury woman read the verdict, guilty on the first 
count, the other four counts dismissed. 

Normally, after rendering a verdict, a jury retires 
from the public scene. But not this one. It left Alameda 
County aghast with a bill of $3000 to cover its expenses. 
Popular superstition has it that it is the condemned man 
who eats a hearty breakfast. In this instance, those who 
did the condemning ate hearty breakfasts, dinners and 
suppers, smoked fine cigars, kept themselves well 
groomed, dipped into popular magazines at random. 
The jury lived hansomely during the 24 days it required 
to arrive at the conclusion that Anita Whitney should 
spend the next one to fourteen years of her life behind 
the bars of the women's prison at San Quentin. 

The itemized bill included the following: 
742 cigars at $ .12l/ 2 $92.75 

14 haircuts at 1.00 14.00 

47 shaves at .50 23.50 

toilet articles 50.00 

magazines, cigarettes, candy, chewing gum 50.00 

One paper commented: "Outside of that they had a 
tough time, but next time it is anticipated that a trip to 


Palm Beach or the Canadian Rockies may be thrown in 
as a sort of diversion." 

Another paper wondered: "Can four male addicts to 
the fragrant tobacco weed, serving on the Anita Whitney 
jury, consume 742 cigars at 12l/^ cents apiece in 24 days 
and nights of jury service?" 

Still another paper exclaimed: "And when the jury 
ate! well, the bill at the Hotel Oakland for board and 
lodging was $2238." 

Convicting Communists was not an unpleasant pastime 
in those days. Each of the four cigar smokers averaged 
better than seven cigars a day, while all the jurors ate 
and slept royally at $9 per day a head. 

Payment for all this? They demanded that Anita pay 
with one to fourteen years of her life. 

On Tuesday, February 24, it was standing room only 
in Judge Quinn's court. Sentence was to be passed on 
Anita Whitney. What transpired was described by Alma 
Reed, reporter for The Call, in a special story for The 
New York Times of September 17, 1922. Miss Reed 
wrote: "As she (Anita) entered the courtroom to re- 
ceive her sentence, I was present to witness the silent 
tribute of 300 men and women prominently identified 
with the leading social service and public welfare agen- 
cies of the state. They arose as she passed down the 
aisle to her seat, and they remained standing until sen- 
tence had been pronounced." 

The sentence, as prescribed by the law, was imprison- 
ment of from one to fourteen years. And of all the 


persons in that courtroom who heard that sentence read, 
Anita was the most composed, the most poised. Miss 
Reed testified: "Throughout the trial throughout the 
ordeals of her conviction and sentence this frail, quiet- 
mannered, soft-voiced woman maintained a stoic poise 
which was conceded to be remarkable." 

Anita was hustled off to the county jail, and there 
Alma Reed visited her and wrote: 

"Her attitude in its calmness, its poise and its perfect 
freedom from resentment or bitterness is worthy of the 
great philosophers of ancient times, or of the Christian 

"In fact, she seemed to hold a rightful place in that 
select company of the earth's noblest souls as she told 
me of her life, her traditions, her principles and ever so 
modestly her achievements. 

1 'Why should I not be calm and happy?' she asked 
with a smile when I expressed surprise at her cheerful- 
ness. 'I feel that I have done no wrong and I can feel 
no oppression. I have simply walked a path. 

' 'I never tried to uplift people, for I frankly deprecate 
the "holier-than-thou" attitude. But things have come 
to me and I have done them, and I would have been a 
coward if I had not.' ' 

Anita also stated her creed of Americanism in the 
following terms: 

"The first ten amendments to the Constitution is the 
American Bill of Rights, and the very first amendment 
provides that Congress shall not even make a law cur- 
tailing the freedom of speech, freedom of the press and 
liberty of conscience. 

"But it is from the Declaration of Independence, and 


not from the Constitution, that we date our birth as a 
Nation. Its fundamental principle is the inalienable 
right of every one to life, liberty and the pursuit of happi- 

"My father always taught me to stand up to things 
to judge for myself the difference between right and 
wrong. And after all, the greatest satisfaction in life comes 
from obeying your own conscience and helping in your 
own small way to make the world a little better for 
someone else because you have lived." 

Anita's indignation at the prison regime and her sym- 
pathy for the other five occupants of the women's sec- 
tion of the county jail were such as to permit of no pre- 
occupation with self. 

The plight of two occupants of an adjoining cell 
aroused her deepest compassion. One was a drug addict, 
and although still young, her body and will had been 
wrecked by the constant use of drugs. She was said to 
have sought imprisonment in the hope of a cure, and the 
prison doctor was applying a primitive cure, administer- 
ing an ever-lessening daily allowance of drugs, but with- 
out scientific treatment to cushion the shock to an organ- 
ism deprived of the stimulants to which it had become 
accustomed. As a result, the young woman suffered 
cruel torment, smoked constantly in the futile hope of 
relieving the nervous tension. 

"When the nervousness became unbearable, she would 
inject tobacco juice into her veins," Anita wrote in an 
article for The Survey, December 25, 1920. "This she 
did by tearing an opening in her leg and injecting the 
liquid obtained by heating tobacco and water in a spoon. 

"Sharing her cell was a quiet little woman convicted 


on a charge of obtaining goods under false pretenses, 
who has earned to my way of thinking a place among 
the saints rather than an indeterminate sentence in San 
Quentin where she now is. Such patience, such kindness 
without a word of complaint or disparagement to her 
trying cell mate! Because the 'dope fiend' suffered bit- 
terly from the cold, her ministering companion slept with 
the window closed while the cell filled from time to time 
with the smoke from the wretched tobacco that the prison 
provided and was wafted down the corridor to the other 
cells. She was called upon time after time during the 
night to assist in relieving the nervous suffering of the 
hopeless wretch, burning her fingers over and over as she 
held lighted matches under the spoon to heat the liquid 
which was to give some measure of relief to the tortured 
body. . . ." 

The physical comforts of prison life can be gathered 
from Anita's description of her own cell: 

"In it there were, as in all the cells, two bunks, the 
upper one folded up against the wall by day, the lower 
one stationary. The foundation of the bed was an iron 
gridiron, on which was placed a thin mattress. One 
wakened in the night stiff and sore of hip. To the placid 
prisoner there was always the thought that there was 
'another hip' to which one could turn for relief and per- 
haps more sleep. Though papers and magazines were not 
allowed, some had been slipped in surreptitiously, and 
with these the fortunate possessors lined the iron grating 
and so made sleep less illusory. A wash stand with run- 
ning cold water and an open toilet took up part of the 
small cell, one wooden chair, a stool, and a small table 
with a tiny drawer completed the furnishings. The floor 


was of cement, the walls and ceiling of iron, the window 
and door barred." 

Although two of the prisoners, to Anita's own knowl- 
edge, had social diseases, no precautions at all were taken 
against the spread of infection to the others. All the 
prisoners used the same small galvanized tub to wash 
clothes, and no boiling water was provided. Anita's own 
cell mate, a prostitute arrested for shop lifting, certainly 
had been exposed to infection, yet in their common cell, 
they were compelled to share the available facilities. 

The prison regime was as simple as it was monotonous, 
At eight in the morning the cell doors were unlocked 
and breakfast was served, mush, milk, bread and what 
was euphemistically termed coffee. At noon, dinner: 
meat and potatoes, rice and macaroni, beans, bread and 
tea. Not all these dishes were served at one meal, but 
they were the ingredients from which the menus were 
concocted. Supper was much the same. There was 
never any fruit or fresh vegetables. The cell doors were 
closed between six and eight in the evening. Lights went 
out at eight, sometimes at nine, but always without any 
warning. "After lights were out there was total darkness 
until daylight came again and ushered in its dreary monot- 
ony of waking hours." 

Anita's article for The Survey, detailing conditions in 
the jail, concluded with this challenge: "Thus does the 
state treat its erring citizens. The system is vengeful, 
merciless, and needlessly ignorant of the source of crime 
and human needs. Are we building up hate? Then, 
must we reap the whirlwind?" 

For eleven days, Anita remained in prison while the 
courts denied her release on bail or on a writ of habeas 


corpus pending an appeal. Only after three distinguished 
doctors testified that continued imprisonment would be 
permanently injurious to her health, she was then 52, was 
bail set at $10,000 and she was finally released. 


Anita was but one of scores of persons who by then 
had either been rushed through the California courts in 
perfunctory trials and convicted of criminal syndicalism, 
or were awaiting trial. However, her comrades as well 
as persons nationally interested in halting the wave of 
criminal syndicalism prosecutions and wiping the statute 
off the books either through a court decision or legislative 
action, decided to make hers the test case. The decision 
was understandable. Here was a woman with a long 
line of American ancestry, whose whole life had been 
devoted to the public good even by bourgeois liberal 
standards, whose very person was associated with all that 
is fine and humane, whose deeds and public pronounce- 
ments were in themselves a refutation of the charges on 
which she was convicted. The decision was wise. The 
movement in defense of Anita Whitney was unique for 
its sweep, its scope, its diversified social composition. It 
was a magnificent personal tribute to Anita Whitney, as 
well as a profound expression of the wide opposition to 
the post-war reaction and hysteria. 

In the very initial stages of the case those who inter- 
ceded in her behalf included the ranking leaders of re- 
ligious life in San Francisco: Archbishop Edward Hanna 
of the Catholic Church; Dean Gresham of Grace Cathe- 
dral, one of the most influential Protestant clergymen; 


Rabbi Martin A. Meyer of Temple Emanu-El, the most 
important Jewish congregation. Dr. Adelaide Brown of 
the Board of Health, Rudolph Spreckels, O. K. Gushing, 
William Denman, Dr. Jessica Peixotto of the University 
of California economics department, Miriam Michelson 
and others protested her conviction and sentence. Even 
State Senator William Kehoe, nominal sponsor of the 
criminal syndicalism law, and W. J. Locke, then city 
attorney of Alameda, who as assemblyman had been one 
of the most active proponents of the criminal syndicalism 
law in the lower house of the legislature, branded the 
conviction unjust. 

The people and movements with which Anita had been 
associated now rallied to her defense. The Irish nation- 
alist movement came to her aid, for had she not been an 
active organizer and leader in the struggle for Irish inde- 
pendence? The Irish World noted the fact that "Miss 
Whitney took up the cause of struggling Ireland, and did 
gallant service in organizing the Irish women of San 
Francisco," and termed her sentence "a sample of hideous 
injustice"; it took pride in that gallant Irishman, Tom 
O'Connor, and dissassociated itself from the Irish judge 
by a reference to the "despotism of the Black and Tan 
judge Jim Quinn." The typical narrow nationalism of The 
Irish World lent a humorous touch to its comment; it 
blamed the whole affair on the English Consul who "has 
ruled in San Francisco." 

The Women's Christian Temperance Union and the 
National Association for the Advancement of Colored 
People and the Friends of Irish Freedom, all of whom 
knew Anita Whitney, joined the protest movement. 
Among the most active people were the old suffragettes. 


Mrs. Frank G. Law, president of the Oakland Center, 
California Civic League, a prominent club woman and 
social worker, expressed their viewpoint when she said: 

"The women of California have not forgotten what 
Charlotte Anita Whitney has done for them in the past. 
She was a leader in California's fight for suffrage, and 
the best people of the state were proud to enlist under 
her leadership. She has deservedly won our lasting grati- 

The most amazing tribute to Anita came from The 
San Francisco Monitor, official organ of the San Fran- 
cisco Catholic Archdiocese. The Monitor, in an edi- 
torial titled "Another Miscarriage of Justice," cited sev- 
eral contemporary cases of women who had been tried for 
murder and acquitted by juries despite overwhelming 
evidence against them, and then went on: 

"... Suppose you are, for example, an American citi- 
zen, a woman, highly educated, a university graduate, of 
distinguished family, who has spent her life in doing good 
for others and acting as secretary for charity boards, be- 
friending the poor and oppressed, fighting for liberty of 
conscience and speech, the champion of downtrodden and 
enslaved races, visiting those in prison, one who would 
not harm the hair of a child's head wouldn't you expect 
at least to be allowed to remain unmolested in carrying 
out your noble mission of Christian charity in behalf of 
God's distressed and suffering children? 

"You have another guess coming because you do not 
appreciate the blessings of democracy as it is practised 
by the repressers of freedom in America today. Such an 
exquisite and charming friend of humanity as we have 
indicated above, a noble and beautiful character who 


would not crush the broken reed nor quench the burning 
flax, has been found guilty, not in a Turkish or even 
Bolshevist court of justice, but in an American court for 
being a horrible and blood-thirsty criminal syndicalist 
who would overthrow our government by force and vio- 
lence. If she had only taken a pistol and shot down some 
one in cold blood, she would probably have been declared 
not guilty. To this gentle woman of peace and charity, 
Miss Anita Whitney, who was sentenced to an indeter- 
minate term in prison last Tuesday in Oakland, only sym- 
pathy is extended as a martyr victim to the present wave 
of un-American hysteria and illiberalism which is sweep- 
ing the United States, encouraged by all the reactionaries 
and profiteers in the land. They are sowing dragons' teeth. 
As in the early Church which stood for the poor and 
lowly ones of earth, the blood of martyrs is the seed of a 
new and better order of things where true democracy 
and Christian justice shall reign." 

And if this Catholic organ had to revert to the early 
Christian martyrs to find a parallel for this "noble and 
beautiful character who would not crush the broken reed 
nor quench the burning flax," others, too, sought his- 
torical parallels. The Rev. Robert Whitaker, writing in 
The Western Worker (March 3, 1920), said that the 
conviction of Anita Whitney put Oakland "in the same 
category with the Athens which poisoned Socrates, the 
Jerusalem which crucified Jesus, the England which 
burned Latimer and Ridley." The San Francisco Call 
recalled the persecution of the Abolitionists and the 
tyranny of the Puritans, saying: "... There is nothing 
in the history of America to serve as a precedent for her 
imprisonment. The colonists were wrong when they 


burned witches, the people of Massachusetts and Con- 
necticut were wrong when they spat upon the Abolition- 
ists, and the people of California may be equally wrong 
when they send Anita Whitney to prison." The Rev. 
Dr. Charles N. Lathrop, in a talk at Grace Cathedral, 
said: "If there had been a criminal syndicalism law in 
the dawn of the Christian era, St. Peter and St. Paul would 
have been the first men incarcerated, for they were the 
first Communists." 

The labor movement, through the Labor Defense 
League, was the first to champion her cause. The defense 
league had been formed early in 1919 to campaign for 
repeal of the criminal syndicalism law and to defend those 
arrested under it. Anita immediately became associated 
with it, and served as treasurer. Upon her arrest, the 
league issued this statement: 

"This league, representing 40,000 organized workers 
in the bay district, emphatically protests the arrest of Miss 
Anita Whitney. We maintain that the real reason for 
her arrest lies in the fact that she is treasurer for the 
Labor Defense League. Our league was organized to 
bring about the repeal of the criminal syndicalism law 
and to provide defense for working men persecuted under 
it. Miss Whitney became a member and an official of 
this league upon the showing of labor's legislative agent 
that the syndicalism law was class legislation intended 
for the use of capital against labor. She is not alone in 
her opposition to this law. The California State Federa- 
tion of Labor is on record against it, as are many local 
unions and central councils in this state. 

"Miss Whitney is a member of one of the oldest 
families in California. She is a woman of wealth. She 


is a woman of broad mind, big heart, beautiful soul. Miss 
Whitney for years has been a champion and true friend 
of labor. Her arrest in the opinion of this league is 
merely an incident in a nationwide campaign to crush out 
all labor organizations whether conservative or radical. 
As Miss Whitney has never been found absent when 
labor was in jeopardy so will she now find the thousands 
of workers connected with the Labor Defense League at 
her side." 

The statement was signed by members of the league's 
executive committee, including L. J. Cole, Machinists 
Local 68; George Kidwell, Bakery Wagon Drivers Local 
484; L. Keller, Barbers Local 48; L. V. Prates, Carpen- 
ters Local 36; A. Fagama, Boilermakers Local 233. 

There is one ironic sidelight to the statement, its claim 
that Anita's association with the league was responsible 
for her arrest. There probably was some truth to that. 
But the Irish freedom movement believed that her espou- 
sal of its cause brought down the vengeance of the author- 
ities. Anita was inclined to believe that regardless of the 
later ramifications of the case, it had its origins among 
the Irish politicians whose enmity she incurred by chair- 
manship of the American Irish Educational League. Re- 
form elements felt that Anita's association with them in- 
directly contributed to her persecution, and even that 
theory contained some grains of truth, for the Alameda 
County vice interests and their political servants carried 
a grudge against Anita since her campaign for the red 
light abatement law and they were among the most per- 
sistent in pressing the case against her in Oakland. There 
was a variety of motives behind the prosecution but they 
were all tied together in the common hatred of the 


madames and white slavers, the machine politicians and 
open shoppers for Anita as a member of the state com- 
mittee of the Communist Labor Party. 

Some of her lesser champions, drawn from among 
political small fry primarily, were simply awed by her 
family and background. Alameda City Attorney W. J. 
Locke, for example, said: "I cannot bring myself to be- 
lieve that a woman of education and refinement, particu- 
larly one whose forefathers rendered such great service 
to our country, is an advocate of revolution and violence. 

"It seems incredible that the grandniece of the man 
who laid the first Atlantic cable is a disciple of destruc- 
tion. Another granduncle of this woman, David Dudley 
Field, was a famous lawyer who first codified the laws 
of this country, while still another was the late Supreme 
Court Justice Stephen J. Field, one of the ablest jurists 
this country ever produced. Is it possible that an educated 
woman of such ancestry would destroy the country her 
forebears did so much to build up? I cannot believe it." 

The opposition also harped on this theme of family 
and background, and insisted that precisely because she 
was a woman of education and independent means, she 
should be hanged for betraying her class. They hated 
her as an apostate. Most virulent were the McClatchy 
papers which have distinguished themselves as the self- 
appointed hangmen and jailers of California's labor 
martyrs, which vilified Tom Mooney and J. B. McNamara 
to the day of their death. With venomous sting, The 
Sacramento Bee generalized: "The urge of these wealthy, 
well read, but really ill-educated women is the urge of 
idle restlessness, the crave for adventure, the lust for 
power even if it be the leadership of the lawless in the 


assault upon the citadels of civilization." The Bee's in- 
dictment was: "Charlotte Anita Whitney, a woman of 
education and with all the advantages, possessed of wealth 
and with the opportunity of doing great good to her fel- 
low creatures, has prostituted her talents for years to the 
service of the lawless and disorderly." The Bee even 
drew the Kipling moral that "the female of the species 
is more deadly than the male." 

The tenor of the opposition was also exemplified in an 
anonymous letter Anita received from "An American and 
Proud To Be One." This American who was not suf- 
ficiently proud to sign his or her name, wrote: "... The 
people in general should deeply regret that the influenza 
didn't get you in place of some of our true Americans. 
America does not want such criminals as you, and I con- 
sider anyone who aids you is a pro-German, or radical, 
also." Among the epithets directed at Anita in this note 
were "pro-German radical ... traitor to Americanism 
. . . government over-thrower . . . low specimen of Amer- 
icanism . . . reptile . . . scum of the earth." 


"While there is a lower class 1 am in it; while 
there is a criminal element I am of it; while there 
is a soul in prison, I am not free." 

Eugene Victor Debs. 

For Anita Whitney, this lofty moral concept of Debs 
served as a guide during the seven years of her ordeal. 
She did not relish martyrdom or being the principal of a 
cause celebre. With the modesty so typical of her, she 


tried to shrink to the corner of the stage upon which she 
had been thrust unwittingly as the central figure. She 
was haunted by one fear, not the fear of prison, but the 
fear of somehow being set apart from others persecuted 
under the criminal syndicalism law, of being deemed, for 
one reason or another, more worthy than others who had 
been arrested. She had Debs' deep feeling of solidarity 
with those others, the 150 men imprisoned under the 
criminal syndicalism law, the 70 of them who were sail 
behind the prison bars in 1925, she identified herself with 
them, felt that while they were in prison, she could not 
be free. While many came to her aid from diverse mo- 
tives, mostly associated with her person and her past 
activities, she struggled valiantly to keep the principle 
involved uppermost, to make her case not only hers per- 
sonally, but the case of all those jailed on criminal syn- 
dicalism charges. 

Again and again, in private conversation and public 
statement, there recurred the theme expressed in a news- 
paper interview in 1922. 

". . . I want everyone who knows me to know this 
that I am not whimpering at my sentence. I am no 
better than many of the prisoners at San Quentin, nor is 
anyone who ever lived! 

"I am not one to put myself up above the unfortunate. 
If I go to the penitentiary, very well. That is my sen- 
tence, and I will serve it. It may be terrible for me, it 
has been worse for others. 

"I go without retrenching one bit upon the platform 
of my life. I tried to uphold the Constitution. Why 
can't everyone read the Declaration of Independence and 
believe in it? It is the finest rule of life we have. To all 


people an equal opportunity can anything be greater 
than that? 

"If believing in equality is a crime against my country, 
then I am guilty. 

"If belief in self expression that does not interfere with 
the lives of others is criminal, then I am criminal. 

"And if it is an offense to believe that men should 
struggle for decent hours and a decent wage, that children 
should be born with health and a chance for happiness, 
and that women should be granted the privilege of decent 
working hours and plenty of rest and decent pay, then I 
deserve San Quentin." 

Anita had no illusions about San Quentin. The eleven 
days in the county jail were but a foretaste. Yet, she said, 
"I am facing San Quentin with perfect peace. If I go, I 
go. I know what it means. I have been in the women's 
section there, and it is horrible. The women have no 
room for exercise, and no work; they sit about and relate 
obscenities. I know the shame of the place that never 
wears off. Yet I go willingly, knowing that I have 
never done anything but attempt to help." 

From the outset, she refused to plead for probation. 
When Alma Reed brought up the subject shortly after 
her conviction, Anita exclaimed, "Probation! Why of 
course not! That would be acknowledging that I have 
done wrong. I am here for a principle, and my acceptance 
of probation would cut the principle from under me. I 
am a free born American citizen. I will not and cannot 
tolerate the surveillance and the slavery that probation 
offers. Why, I should be ashamed to look those people 
whose opinion I value in the face again. I should be 
nothing but a living lie." 



In the court of public opinion, Anita Whitney had won 
an overwhelming verdict in her favor, but in the courts 
of law, she suffered one adverse decision after another. 
She had obtained competent legal counsel, John Francis 
Neylan who entered the case in 1920 on the insistence, 
he said, "of several of the foremost prelates of the Roman 
Catholic, Protestant and Jewish faiths. . . .", and served 
without fee. Neylan, who later was to gain notoriety 
as chief counsel for William Randolph Hearst, was then 
a prominent attorney, having served as the chairman of 
the State Board of Control, entrusted with supervision of 
the state's charitable institutions. On her lobbying visits 
to Sacramento, Anita had made the acquaintance of Ney- 
lan in his official capacity, and more often than not they 
clashed over the various reforms which Anita was pro- 
moting. However, he did take her case and saw it through 
for seven years. 

Having run the gamut of the state courts, in 1925 the 
case of Anita Whitney was argued before the United 
States Supreme Court. On October 18, 1925, the Supreme 
Court resorted to the same subterfuge it used in the 
Sacco-Vanzetti case; it dismissed the appeal for want of 

Anita was then in Carmel and a reporter for The Oak- 
land Tribune first brought her the news that her final 
appeal had been rejected. The reporter acknowledged 
that she received the news "calmly and with practically 
no trace of emotion." Questioned about a pardon, now 
seemingly the sole means of escaping from one to fourteen 


years in San Quentin, Anita replied, "I shall not ask for 
a pardon. How can I be pardoned for doing right?" 

Her comment on the court's ruling was: 

"Two years ago the state supreme court ruled in the 
case of Ben Bigelow. I do not see how the court could 
have ruled differently in my case. If Ben Bigelow, a poor 
man, is sent to prison, the court could not decide in my 
favor because I am a club woman and have influential 

"I do not believe in class. It is against my principles 
to receive any advantage that money or special privilege 
are supposed to give. If it is right for Ben Bigelow to 
go to prison for making speeches against the criminal 
syndicalism law, then it is right for Anita Whitney to go 
for the same offense. If Ben Bigelow has not the right 
of free speech in a supposedly free country, then Anita 
Whitney has not. These are the principles which have 
actuated my life. . . ." 

The next act was summarized in The New York World 
of October 22, 1925, with these headlines: 


Her Refusal To Sign Petition To 

Governor Sweeps Away Last 

Hope of Escaping Term 

Executive Will Not Act 
Until She Makes Appeal 


The story, a special dispatch, featured on page one, 

"SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 21. Charlotte Anita Whit- 
ney, woman of wealth and former social leader, today 
brushed aside her last hope of escaping a penitentiary 
sentence of one to fourteen years for violation of Cali- 
fornia's criminal syndicalism law. 

" Following an announcement by Gov. F. W. Richard- 
son that it would be impossible for him to act on a pardon 
for Miss Whitney until a formal petition signed by her- 
self had been presented to him, the convicted woman 
announced in her Oakland home that she would never 
ask for a pardon." 

Governor Friend W. Richardson's first alibi for not 
issuing a pardon was Anita's refusal to request one. But 
with an executive pardon the only visible means for sav- 
ing Anita from prison, a new movement, even broader in 
scope than the one which rallied to her side in 1920, came 
into being. An Anita Whitney Committee was formed in 
October, 1925, and its roster included Warren Olney, 
former state supreme court justice; Bishop Edward L. 
Parsons; William Kehoe, the former state senator who 
introduced the criminal syndicalism law; William Hum- 
phrey, president of the Olympic Club; Dr. Aurelia H. 
Reinhardt, Mills College president; O. K. McMurray, 
dean of the University of California Law College; Mrs. 
Parker S. Maddux, chairman, Republican Women's Com- 
mittee; Mrs. Gaillard Stoney, chairman, Democratic 
Women's Committee; Dr. Jessica Peixotto, economics 
professor, University of California; Mrs. Alfred Mc- 
Laughlin, director of the social and health agencies, San 


Francisco Community Chest; Mrs. S. G. Chapman, presi- 
dent, National League for Women's Services; former 
United States Senator James D. Phelan; Chester Rowell; 
John F. Neylan, publisher, San Francisco Call; Charles S. 
Stanton, publisher, San Francisco Bulletin; P. C. Edwards 
of San Diego, editor-in-chief, Scripps-Howard newspapers 
of California; Paul Scharrenberg, secretary, State Federa- 
tion of Labor, and Max L. Rosenberg, fruit packer. 

Leading representatives of the Catholic hierarchy stood 
by their support of Anita Whitney. The Very Rev. Mon- 
signor Rogers, rector of St. Patrick's Church, San Fran- 
cisco, in signing a pardon petition, said: "I deem the law 
under which Miss Whitney was convicted a monstrous 
violation of the personal liberties of a citizen. It was born 
in the insensate madness of the war days, and is calcu- 
lated, in my opinion, to rob the nation of the loyalty and 
devotion of its best citizens." On November 11, Arch- 
bishop Hanna, just returned to San Francisco from a pil- 
grimage to Rome, told the press in his first interview: 
"I feel very strongly that Miss Anita Whitney, who is 
facing a long jail sentence as a criminal syndicalist, should 
be given by Governor Richardson a prompt and uncon- 
ditional pardon." The Archbishop was all aglow with 
what he termed "a marvelous demonstration of the spir- 
itual impulse of mankind that I witnessed on this visit 
to Rome . . ." As a result, he added, "The case of Miss 
Whitney, as well as other important public issues, appear 
to me at this moment particularly in a spiritual and 
idealistic light." 

San Francisco's District Attorney Matthew Brady turned 
to scriptures, saying, "A Roman governor tortured and 
crucified under the criminal syndicalism laws of those 


days, the gentle, humanity-loving Jesus Christ of Naz- 

"It should be the prayer of every liberty-loving person 
that the governor of the enlightened commonwealth of 
California will not follow the example of Pontius Pilate 
by further torturing Miss Anita Whitney, convicted under 
the criminal syndicalism laws of today." 

George Sterling, San Francisco's romantic poet laureate, 
was moved to write three sonnets addressed to Governor 
Richardson, under the title, "Does Mercy Abide Within 
the Heart of Man?" The last two read: 

Mercy abides within the heart of man, 

And power to pardon has been given you, 

Lest wrong to wrong unalterably accrue, 

Injustice ending what the law began. 

Is it so deep and wide a gulf to span 

That we, with sight as clear as yours, should sue 

For clemency to one so brave and true, 

But find you Mammon's eager partisan? 

She is most innocent. She did no wrong 
But in her calm defiance of the strong, 
Whose hearts were set on war as hers on peace. 
Answer \ whose footsteps has she followed in 
Those of the Prince of Love or Lord of sin? 
Beyond what portals shall her footsteps cease? 


Say not the law has judged; you judge as well. 
Say not you save a people from the threat 
Of crime unpunished: mercy shall beget 
Mercy in turn, such is compassion's spell. 
What gain is there if bigotry impel 
The heart of Justice on injustice set? 
Of fen have tyrants seen, in late regret, 
How they have made a temple of a cell. 

The base and cruel hold alone in awe 
The words of California 's idiot law, 
And justice less than mercy now we ask. 
Under the blaze of future freedom's light, 
How shall you stand dishonored in man's sight 
Who set the jailer to his monstrous task! 

The labor movement voiced its plea in the more pro- 
saic form of resolutions passed by the San Francisco and 
Los Angeles Central Labor Councils. The Negro people 
said it with petitions, and Wesley C. Peoples, secretary 
of the Negro Progressive Club, announced that 5000 sig- 
natures had been gathered among the Negro people, 
1600 in San Francisco alone. The Berkeley Society of 
Friends, Quakers, the denomination in which the gov- 
ernor had been reared, also appealed to him for a pardon. 

Late in November, the Young Ladies Institute, repre- 
senting 1200 young women, addressed this tender en- 
treaty: "We . . . pray that you will exercise your benign 


prerogative as governor in her behalf; thus in the holy 
season of peace and good will bring happiness not merely 
to one, but to a multitude of your devoted and loyal 

The case now became a national issue. The New York 
World editorialized: "Our liberties are at a low ebb 
indeed if such a thing can come to pass in an American 
state." The St. Louis Post Dispatch commented on "how 
ridiculous" California will appear "if Governor Richard- 
son permits Charlotte Anita Whitney to become a martyr 
for the sake of free speech and unshackled political opin- 
ion." In a much lighter vein, under the heading, "How 
To Keep Out of the Penitentiary," The Post Dispatch 

"To those who would avoid the fate of Charlotte A. 
Whitney, now on her way to a penitentiary for having 
political opinions contrary to the lawmakers of California, 
we would suggest the following simple rules: 

"1. Don't swear at Coolidge in public. 

"2. Don't read such revolutionary documents as the 
Declaration of Independence. 

"3. Be courteous to your Congressman, tip your hat 
to your Senator. 

"4. When you see a policeman coming, cross the street. 
You may be suspect. 

"5. Don't have any opinions about government affairs. 

"6. Keep off the grass." 

But neither scorn nor ridicule, nor the poetry of Sterl- 
ing, the supplications of prelates, the tender entreaties 
of young ladies, the resolutions of the labor movement, 
the petitions of the Negro people, nor the appeals of 
some of the state's most prominent citizens could move 


the tory heart of Friend W. Richardson. In an exchange 
of letters with Upton Sinclair, widely publicized through- 
out the state, the governor contemptuously dismissed this 
mass demand with the arrogant statement: "I will not 
issue pardons merely because of popular clamor." This 
autocratic arrogance aroused even greater indignation and 
on November 28, 1925, the governor felt it necessary to 
issue a laborious and tortured statement, covering thirteen 
printed pages, explaining his refusal to pardon. 

Seemingly, the end had been reached. Prison was in- 
evitable then, on December 14, the United States Su- 
preme Court agreed to a rehearing on an amended peti- 
tion by John Francis Neylan. The amended appeal chal- 
lenged the constitutionality of the criminal syndicalism 
law on the grounds that the state legislature had violated 
the prerogative of the Federal Congress in legislating on 
matters pertaining to the national security, and that the 
law was in violation of the 14th amendment to the con- 
stitution which provides that "no State shall make or 
enforce any laws which shall abridge the privileges or 
immunities of citizens of the United States." 

A year and a half later, on May 15, 1927, the Supreme 
Court upheld the constitutionality of the criminal syn- 
dicalism law in a unanimous opinion. Justices Brandeis 
and Holmes, while concurring in the opinion, added this 

"Whether in 1918, when Miss Whitney did the things 
complained of, there was in California such clear and 
present danger of serious evil might have been made the 
important issue in the case. . . . She claimed below that 
the statute as applied to her violated the Federal Con- 
stitution; but she did not claim it was void because there 


was no clear and present danger of serious evil, nor did 
she request that the existence of these conditions of a valid 
measure thus restricting the rights of free speech and 
assembly be passed upon by the court or a jury." 

This was a statement of the famous juridical theory that 
abridgment of constitutional guarantees, such as free 
speech and free assembly, is valid only if the existence 
of "clear and present danger" to the state and the public 
safety makes such abridgment necessary. In Anita's case, 
the qualification of Brandeis and Holmes was tantamount 
to saying that had her attorneys employed the correct 
arguments, she might have been freed, but since her 
attorneys miscued, she must forfeit one to fourteen years 
of her life. The issue of her specific guilt or innocence 
or the justice of her imprisonment somehow got lost in 
the twisted maze of legal ritual. 


Again all seemed lost. The nation's highest tribunal 
had ruled with the irrevocable finality given it. But a 
strange thing came to pass, something foreseen by Gene 
Debs, wise with the wisdom of class instinct. In 1925, 
when others had lost hope, Debs, then old and ailing, 
but still retaining the rhetoric of the old orator, thundered: 

"Anita Whitney will not go to prison. 

"The miserable cowards and poltroons who are respon- 
sible for her conviction dare not put her there. Not that 
there is any pity or mercy in their flint hearts or their 
bowels of brass, but because, blind, stupid and callous as 
they are, they realize that there is such a thing as going 
too far. . . ." 


If Debs added "if the impossible should come to 
pass ; if the Chambers of Commerce and their 'constituted 
authorities' should be so low and vile enough to allow 
such a crowning disgrace to come upon the state already 
so notoriously sodden in plutocratic misrule in the eyes 
of the world; and if the people of that state tamely, 
supinely, shamelessly see Anita Whitney, white-souled 
apostle of the dawn, flung into that rotten dungeon, that 
unspeakably vile, festering black hole of capitalism, reek- 
ing with leprosy and abomination at every pore, then 
should all the lightning of infinite wrath be let loose at 
once as upon ancient Sodom and Gomorrah ... for such 
a state is not morally fit to survive in even a half -civilized 

Debs'. first impulse was soundest. Now, the rulers of 
California, they who had remained silent for all the past 
seven years, stepped forward and in all their majesty 
requested a pardon for Anita Whitney. Now, a list of 
those supporting a pardon plea read like a collection of 
gilt edged plates taken from the doors of San Francisco's 
mightiest institutions of finance. There was William H. 
Crocker, the financier and national Republican commit- 
teeman; Herbert Fleishhacker, president of what was then 
called the Anglo and London Paris National Bank; H. 
M. Storey, vice president of Standard Oil of California; 
R. I. Bentley, president of the California Packing Cor- 
poration; .Philip Fay r president .of the San .Francisco 
Chamber of Commerce; George Cameron, publisher of 
The San Francisco Chronicle; Oscar Sutro, attorney for 
Standard Oil, and Louis Lurie, the politically influential 

When the Sutros and Crockers and Fleishhackers spoke, 


their political lackeys echoed in chorus. Now, Senator 
Hiram Johnson blustered, "Were I Governor, I would 
pardon her at once." State Controller Ray L. Riley, that 
old Republican hack who was described in the press as 
"a conservative government officer with the business 
man's viewpoint," ventured his predigested judgment 
that Anita should be pardoned. Congresswoman Florence 
Kahn, Mayor John L. Davie of Oakland, the entire San 
Francisco delegation to the state legislature, all, without 
exception, spoke up now that Standard Oil, Calpak, the 
Crocker and Fleishhacker banks had spoken. 

Now, Walter J. Peterson, an executive of the Ship- 
owners Association in San Francisco, who had been cap- 
tain of detectives in Oakland in 1919 and hence nominally 
in charge of the detail which arrested Anita, dared to say 
publicly what he had been saying in private all these 
years. He said that her arrest was a mistake. 

"I investigated Anita Whitney's record in 1919," he 
went on. "I found that she had always done an enormous 
amount of good in the community. I wasn't in sympathy 
with her pacifist ideas and a lot of her other notions. But 
I recognized that it wasn't in her nature to commit vio- 
lence or to encourage it. She was one of those idealists 
who want to make the world better for everyone. I ordered 
Fenton Thompson not to arrest her. But he was so 
zealous he went over my head to Commissioner J. F. 
Morse and the arrest was made. No constructive good 
can be done by making a martyr of Anita Whitney. She 
should never have been held to answer in the first place." 

On June 20, 1927, Governor C. C. Young issued a 
pardon to Anita Whitney. In his opinion, devoted mostly 
to Anita's character and the unusual circumstances which 


surrounded her trial, the governor also said it was his 
belief that "the criminal syndicalism act was primarily 
intended to apply to organizations actually known as 
advocates of violence, terrorism, or sabotage, rather than 
to such organizations as a Communist Labor Party." 

The governor's reference to organizations "known as 
advocates of violence" was an intended slap at the IWW, 
an attempt to justify failure to pardon IWW members 
still in prison at the time. 

On July 7, 1927, Anita celebrated her sixtieth birthday, 
the first birthday in seven when the threat of a peniten- 
tiary sentence did not hang over her head. 

In Massachusetts, the rulers with "jlint hearts and 
bowels of brass" insisted that Sacco and Vanzetti must 
die. Even as Anita was pardoned the date for the execu- 
tion of Sacco and Vanzetti had been set for July 10. It 
was to them her heart went out. A month earlier, when 
the Supreme Court had ruled against her, she dismissed 
that ruling, tr . . . in any event, I am of slight importance. 
Compared with the case of Sacco and Vanzetti, whose 
lives are at stake, my little trouble is of little importance." 
Without mercy and without pity, California's rulers had 
jlinched. Not those of Massachusetts. They burned to 
death the immigrant jish peddler and shoe maker. 



The years 1921-29, their illusions of permanent pros- 
perity based on the Ford myth in economic theory and 
sane Republicanism in political practice, have already 
taken on the semblance of a strange interlude in the con- 
tinuity of American history. The reigning reaction and 
cynicism, the chimera of Coolidge prosperity and the 
demoralization of the labor movement, brought on by the 
successful open shop drive in the postwar period and the 
passivity of the official labor leadership, all served to 
create an environment hardly receptive to Communist 
ideas, and for the Communist movement those were form- 
ative, painful years. 

The shock of the first wave of mass persecution in 1919 
and 1920 had left the party a small organization, largely 
divorced from the main streams of American life, its sec- 
tarianism heightened by the very severity of the struggle 
for survival. One of its initial difficulties, its twin birth, 
was overcome when the "Communist Party" and the 
"Communist Labor Party" merged to form what was 
called the Workers Party of America in 1921. 


In California, the arrest of the entire Oakland group 
of founding fathers disrupted the party organization at 
the very outset. Yet, as elsewhere throughout the country, 
it remained an organized force with amazing tenacity and 
persistence. The party organ, The World, was renamed 
The Western Worker in January, 1920, and managed to 
survive until September, 1921, under the continued editor- 
ship of J. E. Snyder. Party organizations were established 
and maintained in Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles 
and some of the rural communities. 

For a time, during that period, Anita was compelled 
virtually to sever active connections with the party. Her 
case was still dragging through the state courts, and she 
was a marked woman. Detectives shadowed her wherever 
she went, her mail was opened, and it was deemed advis- 
able that she not attend any party meeting lest the police 
trail her and raid the meeting. On one occasion a re- 
porter and an acquaintance both warned her that the 
police were plotting a frameup. According to their story, 
and she had every reason to believe it reliable, the police 
planned to lure her into an automobile driven by a pro- 
vocateur who would take her to a "disorderly house" 
which then would be raided. The acquaintance who 
warned her of this scheme said he had been offered the 
role of provocateur in payment for which an indictment 
against him would be dropped. 

In the middle twenties, the Communists established 
their first contacts among the agricultural workers, par- 
ticularly in the Salinas Valley among Filipino field hands. 
On one occasion, party headquarters received a call from 
a Spanish comrade who operated a gas station near San 
Jose. Five hundred pea pickers, mostly Mexican, had 


walked out in a spontaneous strike at Castroville in a dis- 
pute over wages and the foreman's practice of pressing 
the peas down into the basket with his foot when payment 
was on the basis of the number of baskets picked. The 
strike leader had been jailed and the workers needed help, 
the Spanish comrade said. A party organizer hurried 
down to the scene of the strike, and was admitted into the 
jail to see the strike leader, and was met with a warm 
handclasp that denoted familiarity. 

"I know you. You're a Communist organizer," said 
the strike leader. 

"How do you know?" 

"I hear you speak in San Jose, in the park." 

The party had been holding regular Sunday meetings 
in the park at San Jose, and that is how many of the field 
workers had come to know it. Through the party's efforts 
the strike was spread to include Filipinos, picket lines 
were established for a radius of fifty miles, and the work- 
ers won some of their demands. 

The party enjoyed considerable influence among the 
Filipinos. It held meetings with them in the valley, and 
its spokesmen were invited to address celebrations on 
Rizal Day, national patriotic holiday of the Filipinos. 

At about the turn of the decade, there were anti-Filipino 
riots, inspired by the growers, in the Salinas region. The 
situation was extremely tense. State police patrolled the 
highways, reinforcing the. vigilante rule. - The party de- 
cided to issue a leaflet to the workers of the valley, ex- 
plaining to them that racial strife was injurious to their 
interests, served to disunite them and make it easier for 
the growers to slash wages and worsen conditions. Dis- 
tribution of the leaflets was no simple matter for virtual 


martial law reigned in the affected areas. When asked, 
Anita readily volunteered to drive her car into the Salinas 
Valley with a group of comrades to get the leaflets to the 
workers. On one occasion, the car was stopped by a high- 
way patrolman, and it was a tense moment for the car's 
occupants for they all knew that if the leaflets were found, 
it meant trial before a kangaroo court and almost certain 
imprisonment at the very least. However, Anita's de- 
meanor and appearance were so disarming that the officer 
allowed the car to proceed without any search. The leaf- 
lets were distributed and many of the workers were so 
responsive that they volunteered their pennies and dimes 
to the distributors. 

Anita's activities, however, were centered chiefly in the 
Negro community of West Oakland during those years, 
and she was instrumental in obtaining Fraternity Hall, 
located on Seventh street, near the outskirts of the Negro 
district, as the first Oakland headquarters of the Workers 
Party after it had emerged from semi-legality. Almost 
solely through her own energies, she later opened a Work- 
ers Bookshop on Telegraph avenue in downtown Oak- 
land, the first -such bookshop in that city since the forma- 
tion of the Communist Party, and possibly the first such 
bookshop along the entire Pacific Coast. Despite the fact 
that her case was still dragging through the courts and 
had become a national issue, Anita, with characteristic 
modesty and patience and tireless energy, did Jimmy Hig- 
gins work in West Oakland. The small trim figure of 
this woman, now in her late fifties, trudging through the 
dreary streets, stopping at the wooden frame houses with 
their nondescript mouse-like grey color to leave a leaflet 


or deliver a personal message with simple and earnest 
eloquence, became a familiar sight in West Oakland. 

Her broader interests centered on strike relief and the 
defense of labor's men victimized because of their activi- 
ties in behalf of the working class. In pursuit of this latter 
interest, she went on frequent trips to San Quentin and 
there formed lifelong friendships with Tom Mooney and 
particularly J. B. McNamara. Of all the people outside 
the prison walls, Anita Whitney shared with William Z. 
Foster the rare honor of being regarded with the warmest 
affection, the strongest feeling of comradeship by J. B. 
McNamara. They were a strange trio, so different in 
background and life's experience, yet bound by the tie of 
comradeship and a common nobility of character. Foster, 
who had done more than any other one person, to keep 
alive the fight for McNamara's freedom, never came to 
California without visiting J. B., and, whenever possible, 
Anita accompanied him on those visits. Not long before 
McNamara's death in 1941, Foster and Anita visited him 
at Folsom. When they came out of the prison, Foster, 
fatigued by the hot Sacramento Valley sun, paused, and 
leaning against the wall, his hat off, and mopping his 
brow, softly exclaimed, "Anita, he is magnificent. He 
has a magnificent soul." 

"Yes, he is," Anita replied simply. "So are you. You 
have the same qualities." 

Anita regarded J. B. with deep reverence as did hun- 
dreds of others who had come to know him even slightly. 
In all the years of their friendship, McNamara never once 
asked for a personal favor, although he often asked favors 
for others. McNamara's steadfastness, his iron will, his 
uncompromising devotion to principle and deep faith in 


the working class which grew and deepened during thirty 
years of imprisonment were for Anita guiding stars, 
models to which she aspired, and with greater 5 access 
than she would concede. 

In 1928 Anita for the first time became the standard 
bearer of her party in a statewide election. She was 
nominated for United States Senator and although the 
party was not on the ballot, she went on the first of her 
election tours of the state, reaching into communities 
where hitherto Communists had never spoken from a pub- 
lic platform. One experience of that campaign impressed 
her most. While she was in Los Angeles, a Negro com- 
rade named Owens requested that she come to Blythe in 
the Palos Verdes Valley, a cotton growing region near 
the Arizona border, where a large Negro population was 
aroused by the segregation of Negro children in the 
schools. Anita gladly agreed for it was the sort of issue 
to which she responded rapidly, and she enjoyed going to 
outlying districts, far removed from the large cities where 
the Communists had their greatest strength. She arrived 
in Blythe on Sunday afternoon and attended a Negro com- 
munity meeting where a defeatist attitude was prevalent, 
and the dominant sentiment seemed to favor abandonment 
of the fight against segregation. Both Owens and Anita 
spoke, urging that the fight be revived and waged with 
greater vigor. A Baptist minister present was so impressed 
by Anita that he invited her to address his congregation 
that evening. She did, and helped inspire a renewed 
struggle which culminated in the defeat of segregation. 

That year, too, Anita was elected a delegate to the 
national nominating convention of the Communist Party 


in New York, the first of the many national Communist 
gatherings she was to attend. 


The Coolidge prosperity era attained its peak in 1927, 
a banal year whose measure of success was indicated by 
such phenomena as Babe Ruth's all time record of 61 
home runs during the baseball season, the only million 
dollar gates in boxing history when Gene Tunney and 
Jack Dempsey met in two matches, Ziegfeld's three shows 
on Broadway and Texas Guinan's night club eminence. 

In 1927, too, on August 22, Sacco and Vanzetti were 
executed. The tragedy in the death house at Boston was 
the reality which cast its shadow over the banality of the 
period. That shadow found its expression in newspaper 
headlines in August: 



MOB OF 4,000 LED 



A feeling of the world-wide scope of the protest move- 
ment may be gotten from the following items gathered 
at random: 

BUCHAREST Resolutions against the execution of 
Sacco and Vanzetti adopted at mass meetings in many 
Rumanian cities and sent to American Minister W. S. 

BUENOS AIRES Workmen back at work after a 
three-day general strike against the Sacco- Vanzetti execu- 

LONDON Thirty-five were injured as thousands in 
this city stormed the United States Embassy in protest 
against the Sacco-Vanzetti execution. It was the worst 
disorder in England since the General Strike. A mass 
meeting of 10,000 was held in Hyde Park. 

ROME The Italian capital was under guard. 

ATHENS U. S. buildings have been placed under 
special guard. 

STOCKHOLM Swedish workers engaged in protest 

OSLO A five-minute stoppage of work throughout 
the Norwegian capital was reported. 

HELSINGFORS A boycott of United States goods 
has been voted by Finnish labor unions. 

Warsaw, Hamburg, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Mexico City, 
Moscow, Lisbon, Johannesburg all these cities and others 
were astir. The world was angry. Two innocent men 
were going to their death, pushed inexorably by an in- 
human autocracy, by the prejudice and reaction of capital 
and its institutions bent on this monstrously conspicuous 
demonstration of their ruthless power. Here was injustice. 
This was no slip, no mistake, no miscarriage, as the 


phrase runs. It was willful, deliberate. And the world 
cried out in protest. In America, all the popular impulses, 
the democratic precepts which survived the corruption of 
the Coolidge era welled up against this terrible crime. 

With all her passionate hatred for injustice, Anita 
plunged into this movement for Sacco and Vanzetti. She 
spoke at mass meetings, organized the dispatch of protests 
to Governor Fuller of Massachusetts, she talked and 
worked and felt the terrible frustration of knowing that 
the efforts expended did not match in magnitude the 
monstrosity of the crime being contemplated by the rulers 
of Massachusetts. In the eyes of the labor movement, 
her very name and person became associated with the 
battle for liberation of Sacco and Vanzetti. In Alameda 
County, there had been formed an Anita Whitney Con- 
ference, representative of some 30 AFL unions, to take 
up the fight for her freedom when she faced prison in the 
criminal syndicalism case. After Governor Young granted 
her a pardon, the unions constituted themselves a Sacco- 
Vanzetti conference to campaign for their release. On 
the night of execution, she spoke to the women's auxiliary 
of the AFL Carpenters Union in Oakland and the men 
adjourned their own meeting early to join the women. To 
the very last they hoped against hope that somehow, by 
some miracle, the news would be flashed that the execu- 
tion had been put off. Finally, they stood in silent tribute 
to the two martyrs, those truly noble spirits whose names 
will long survive those of their jailers and hangmen. 

In San Francisco on August 22, a crowd of 15.000 per- 
sons gathered at a protest demonstration in Civic Center 
at the call of the Communist Party and the International 
Labor Defense. City Hall resembled an armed fortress. 


Machine guns were mounted on top of the building and 
at the windows. Police and plainclothes men were in 
evidence everywhere. When two husky demonstrators 
lifted a woman speaker on their shoulders, she had but 
the opportunity to shout, "Fellow workers ", when the 
police attacked and broke up the meeting. The crowd 
then surged to the rear of 1212 Market Street, which 
faced the Civic Center, and was addressed by orators who 
spoke from the windows of the Communist headquarters 
then located in that building. After a brief meeting, the 
throng was urged to proceed down Market Street, and 
some 2000 had joined the rapidly swelling columns by 
the time they reached Third and Market. Here, another 
meeting was held and then the crowd was called on to 
march to Garibaldi Hall on Broadway in North Beach. 
The columns formed and headed up Kearny street, but 
as they came abreast of the Hall of Justice, they ran into 
a cordon of motorcycle police stretched across the street. 
The head of the column was steered into Washington 
street, and then into the basement of the Hall of Justice, 
and 127 persons were thus corralled and jailed. The 
following day all those arrested were given suspended 
six-month sentences. 

The militant spirit and the size of the demonstration 
were unprecedented in San Francisco, and the leadership 
of some 75 Communists who managed to organize this 
expression of the profound protest movement evoked by 
the Sacco-Vanzetti case, marked a high point in the devel- 
opment of the Communist movement in California. 




In American history, 1929 will be remembered as the 
year of the Great Crash which ushered in the Great Crisis. 
The capitalists and their faithful spokesman, President 
Herbert Hoover, treated the economic crisis as if it were 
some foreign state; they refused to extend diplomatic 
recognition to it. With the logic of the ostrich, that rare 
bird whose strange behaviour is the practical summation 
of all idealistic philosophy, Hoover denied the existence 
of the crisis. He denied the existence of unemployment, 
of suffering. The press and other avenues of public 
information joined in a conspiracy of silence to ignore 
the hard facts of economic life. The government refused 
to meet the responsibilities of unemployment simply by 
denying its existence. 

It was then that the Communist Party made its mass 
debut in American political life. It organized and led 
the great nation-wide unemployment demonstration of 
March 6, 1930, when a million and a quarter workers 
answered the call of the Communists and demonstrated 
to all America the unpleasant fact that unemployment 


did exist, that untold hardships did warp the lives of 
millions of Americans. In New York, 110,000 persons 
demonstrated in Union Square. The police attacked the 
demonstrators, mounted officers and police riot wagons 
rode through the great mass of people jammed into the 
square, injuring hundreds. William Z. Foster, Robert 
Minor, Israel Amter and Harry Raymond were arrested 
after the demonstration and served a minimum of six 
months in jail. In Detroit, 100,000 demonstrated. In 
every large city of America, in hundreds of industrial 
towns, thousands responded. The authorities expressed 
their fear of this demonstrative upsurge among the work- 
ers in tremendous mobilizations of police and other armed 
forces, and in scores of cities these forces were used to 
attack the jobless. The demonstration achieved its pur- 
pose. It projected unemployment as the primary issue 
in American politics, and there it was to remain for the 
next five years. 

In San Francisco, there was no violence on March 6 
for the simple reason that the police did not attack the 
demonstration of 12,000 persons. The newspapers were 
very smug about it, as if somehow Mayor Roiph had out- 
witted the unemployed by not ordering the police to bash 
their skulls in with nightsticks. The San Francisco Ex- 
aminer sneered, "Although paraders carried banners de- 
nouncing the government and the police, and some frankly 
longed for the martyrdom of cracked skulls and imprison- 
ment, they met with nothing but courtesy and gentle 
treatment." The Examiner may have sneered, but hun- 
dreds of workers did not. They flocked into Communist 
headquarters at 145 Turk street, seeking admission into 
the party. 


From then on, until the middle of 1933 the struggles 
and organization of the unemployed occupied the party's 
major attention in California as throughout the country. 
These struggles assumed mass demonstrative forms, and 
were the most dramatic expression of any wide movement 
among the people. Two state hunger marches were or- 
ganized in January of 1932 and 1933. Numerous demon- 
strations were held in the separate localities of the state. 
Tens of thousands of persons participated in these actions, 
and thanks to their organization and militancy, given lead- 
ership by the Communists, the principle that hunger is a 
social concern was established. These struggles wrested 
the first relief concessions from the local governments, 
then moved on to securing relief from the state, and 
finally laid the foundation for the New Deal measures of 
social security and relief. 

During these turbulent years, Anita Whitney resided 
in Oakland, devoted her energies to the International 
Labor Defense and the many Jimmy Higgins jobs of a 
good Communist. In the ILD she was associated with 
Ella Reeve "Mother" Bloor who had been sent to Cali- 
fornia by the national ILD office as a field representative, 
and Mrs. Warwick, then Alameda County ILD secretary. 
All three women were in their sixties and Anita was the 
youngest of the trio, Mother Bloor being her senior by 
five years and Mrs. Warwick by two. Both her partners 
were old friends. Anita first met Mrs. Warwick at the 
Loring Hall convention which founded the Communist 
Labor Party in California, and became acquainted with 
Mother Bloor in the early twenties when the latter was 
dispatched to California as the first national representa- 
tive of the Workers Party. The three women worked 


closely together, and developed a comradeship which 
went far beyond the formal associations in common polit- 
ical activity. 

Those were busy years for the ILD. There were scores 
of arrests of Communists and other militants in California, 
most notably the Imperial Valley criminal syndicalism 
case in the late twenties and early thirties. In those years, 
the ILD interceded nationally in behalf of the Scottsboro 
Boys and Angelo Herndon. Anita worked with her 
customary selfless devotion, particularly in behalf of Hern- 
don and the Scottsboro Boys and regards as the high point 
of that period of her activity the huge mass meeting in 
Oakland for one of the Scottsboro mothers. Locally, she 
helped raise funds and bail for those arrested. Only at 
rare and brief intervals was her modest property not tied 
up in bail commitments. This activity of hers frequently 
kept her on the sidelines as a reserve during the more 
demonstrative actions of the party. For example, in one 
of the early unemployed demonstrations, she was ordered 
to stay away so that in event of arrests she could help 
raise bail for those jailed. 

With her comrades, she regularly trudged down to the 
Southern Pacific and Key System railroad shops early in 
the morning to distribute leaflets. She spoke at noon-day 
factory gate meetings before the cotton mills. She also 
soap-boxed at 10th and Broadway, the only corner where 
the police allowed the Communists to hold street meet- 
ings in Oakland then. 

She collected signatures to place the Communist Party 
on the ballot in California. More than 33,000 signatures 
were collected throughout the state, although only 14,500 
were required by law. Yet, in San Francisco, reputedly 


at the instigation of Cameron King, deputy registrar of 
voters and still a Socialist, the election petitions were 
thrown out and the party was kept off the ballot in 1932. 

William Z. Foster, the Communist presidential candi- 
date, came through California on a national speaking tour 
and was everywhere greeted by large throngs. In Los 
Angeles, he was arrested while speaking to 5,000 persons 
who had gathered in the plaza to hear him; but mass 
protest, in which Theodore Dreiser joined, won his re- 
lease. In San Francisco, hundreds were turned away 
after 2,000 persons jammed Polk Hall at the Civic Audi- 
torium. In Oakland, 1,000 heard him at the 12th Street 

During 1932 Anita moved to San Francisco and was 
attached to the North Beach branch of the party. She 
recalls the branch with a wry smile. She was the only 
woman and only native-born person in it. The others 
were Chinese, Italian and Spanish or Mexican. They met 
in the small, crowded homes of the members. All of 
them were heavy smokers, and the mixed fragrance of 
Italian cigars, Bull Durham, an occasional "tailor made" 
cigarette, or a pipe filled the crowded room. Anita, who 
also had the distinction of being the only non-smoker, 
swears that at times the smoke was so thick she could not 
see the faces of her comrades. To make matters worse, 
the meetings dragged on interminably. If a report was 
delivered in English, a Chinese comrade would get up 
and apologize, stating it was necessary for him to translate 
the report into Chinese for those of his countrymen who 
could not understand English. An Italian usually fol- 
lowed, and then someone who spoke Spanish. The meet- 
ing thus lasted three times as long as that of an ordinary 


branch, and an ordinary branch meeting generally lasted 
far into the night. 

Anita spoke at the street meetings organized by the 
branch, and on one occasion had an unusual experience. 
She had delivered a brief speech from an improvised plat- 
form, in her usual calm and placid manner. A Spanish 
party member then mounted the platform to translate her 
speech, and launched into a typically fiery Latin oration. 
Anita listened amazed and shocked and wondering, 
"Could I really have said all that!" 


In 1932, a new and reinvigorated movement for the 
freedom of Tom Mooney was ushered in by a huge meet- 
ing of 12,000 persons at Civic Auditorium in San Fran- 
cisco, where Paul M. Calicotte "confessed" that it was he 
who placed the fatal Preparedness Day bomb. The meet- 
ing was organized officially by the Tom Mooney Molders 
Defense Committee, represented by Sam Goodwin, but 
heard such diverse speakers as Lincoln Steffens, Theodore 
Dreiser, Samuel Ornitz, Leo Gallagher, Irvin Goodman, 
and Sam Darcy, then state secretary of the Communist 
Party. The Communist participation in the meeting was 
dramatized by the entrance of 5,000 workers, including 
1,500 from Alameda County, who marched into the audi- 
torium in organized fashion, having previously been 
mobilized at street rallies of the Communist Party. 

The movement quickly assumed a mass organized char- 
acter and the following March, a meeting at the Civic 
Auditorium was sponsored by 74 organizations, including 
36 AFL locals and seven other unions, two of which were 


old established independent unions, the Brotherhood of 
Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, Lodge 143, Oak- 
land, and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, Local 8, 
while the remainder were unions of the Trade Union 
Unity League. 

During the initial stages of this movement, Anita still 
resided in Oakland, and she canvassed virtually every 
AFL union in that city, and proudly recalls that she was 
greeted with enthusiasm in all these unions, being ex- 
cluded from but one. 


Early in 1933, The Western Worker began to carry 
increasing references to strikes in the agricultural regions. 
A typical issue (April 17, 1933) had such stories scattered 
over the front page: "Pea Pickers Refuse To Work For 
15c Per Hour; Many Join Union"; "Strawberry Workers 
in Southern California Plan Strike"; "East Bay Workers 
Fight Wage Cuts In Pea Fields" ; "Jail Agricultural Work- 
ers in Effort To Stop Strike." 

As more crops ripened, more such items appeared, and 
thousands of additional workers joined in the strikes 
which seemed to sprout with the inexorability of nature, 
just as the blossoms turned into fruit, and the seed in the 
ground bore fruition in the rich and diversified crops of 
California's fertile valleys. Peas and strawberries, lettuce, 
then raspberries and potatoes, then cherries, apricots, pears 
and peaches, tomatoes and chile, hops, grapes and, finally, 
cotton. From the Imperial Valley in the south, along the 
slopes of the mountains that descend to the seashore, up 
the rich San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys to the hardier 


fruits of the northern end of the state, crops and revolt 
ripened in unison. And the revolt seemed to be motivated 
by forces as elemental as those which turned the dull 
brown of California's valleys into rich, lush green. Yes, 
the struggles were elemental. They were struggles to 
survive. Wages were below the minimum necessary to 
sustain life. They had been driven down to ten and 
fifteen cents an hour. In the early phases of the strike 
movement, the workers aspired to twenty-five cents an 

This strike movement reached its climax in October 
with the great cotton strike of 15,000 workers. The walk- 
out started in the Bakersfield area and swept northward 
with the ripening of the crop of over 100,000 acres of 
cotton. The growers, who increasingly had been resorting 
to terror to stem the strike wave, outdid themselves in the 
brutality with which they sought to break the cotton 

The terror reached its tragic and bloody crescendo in 
the Pixley massacre. At Pixley, the workers had for days 
pleaded with the judge and sheriff to disarm the vigilantes 
lest bloodshed ensue. On the day of the massacre, a 
worker came to the court house, told the judge that armed 
men were in the vicinity and again pleaded that the author- 
ities take some action. The judge refused, and even while 
the worker was remonstrating, another worker rushed in 
excitedly and said that armed vigilantes were moving into 
town. Sheriff Hill sent two officers out to investigate 
and they returned in fifteen minutes with seventeen men 
under arrest all of them unarmed strikers, including 
the one who had come to the court house to warn the 


While this was transpiring, a meeting of cotton strikers, 
addressed by Pat Chambers, president of the AWIU, 
was in progress at the square, some 100 feet down the 
street from the court house. When the meeting disbanded, 
some of the workers headed for the union hall across the 
street. Three armed vigilantes shouldered their way 
through the workers, and attempted to enter the hall. A 
Mexican worker, named Hernandez, seemingly fearing 
that the armed thugs had come to carry out the threat 
"to get" Chambers who had just entered the hall, blocked 
their way. He was knocked to the ground with the butt 
of a rifle, and as he fell the vigilantes pumped bullets 
into his body. Another Mexican, Davila, with arms up- 
raised attempted to step in as a peace maker. He, too, 
was knocked to the ground and shot. The shots were a 
signal for the vigilantes who had massed on the other 
side of the street, and they opened fire indiscriminately 
into the ranks of the workers. Many were wounded, but 
only Hernandez and Davila were killed. 

Despite this terror the strike ranks held and by the 
end of October, the growers began to settle for a rate of 
seventy-five cents a hundred pounds, a twenty-five per 
cent increase over what they had offered, although still 
short of the original strike demand for $1 a hundred. The 
increase in wages, it was estimated, added a million 
dollars to the aggregate income of the cotton pickers. 
Among the ranchers who signed with the AWIU were 
such huge concerns as Miller and Lux and Buttonwillow. 

During the strike, 101 workers were arrested, and even 
after the settlement, fifty-one still faced trial, most of 
them in jail. The courage of the Communists who bore 
the brunt of this terror, the self-sacrificing loyalty to the 


movement of the organizers who entered the valleys with- 
out funds and carried on their activity often without food 
and lodging, won the admiration of thousands of Califor- 
nia's most exploited and oppressed workers. The terror 
reign had its aftermath in 1934 and 1935 when eighteen 
workers were tried in Sacramento for criminal syndicalism, 
and several of them were sent to prison for terms ranging 
from one year upward. 

Anita's efforts, through her association with the ILD, 
were centered on raising funds for the legal defense of 
the strikers, and relief for the strike kitchens. As the 
most famous of those who had been persecuted under the 
criminal syndicalism law, she actively engaged in the 
broad mass movement launched during those years for 
repeal of that law. Although the campaign did not suc- 
ceed in its objective of repealing the law, it did score a 
major victory in a state supreme court decision reversing 
the convictions of all the Sacramento criminal syndicalism 
case defendants. 

The agricultural strikes were overshadowed by the 
great industrial struggles of the following year and little 
attention has been given to their particular significance 
in the growth of the labor and progressive movement in 
California. Yet, these strikes, together with the unem- 
ployed movement, were the seed of the great upsurge of 
1934 and thereafter. Three features of these strikes are 
particularly noteworthy: 

1. Although the movement began before passage of 
the National Industrial Recovery Act, it was stimulated 
by NIRA's famous Section 7-a, which held forth the 
formal promise of the right to organize. The strikes 
represented the first mass dramatic response to NIRA in 


California, and thus served to inspire a similar response 
in other industries. 

2. They struck at the most powerful potential reserves 
of reaction in California. Agriculture was not only the 
state's largest industry; not only did it represent the great- 
est single concentration of capital, but this capital imposed 
such a rule upon the rural communities of California as 
to make them potential shock troops against labor. The 
strikes, therefore, were flank attacks against California 
capital, and when the maritime walkout came the follow- 
ing year, conditions in the valleys were still so unsettled, 
the great landowners were still so shaky that they were 
unable to use rural California as a battering ram against 
the industrial workers of the coast cities. 

3. The strikes occurred just as the economic index was 
beginning to curve upward after having reached its depth 
in the summer of 1932. Many of the workers involved 
had been thrown out by industry and took to the fields in 
the hope of picking up a few dollars harvesting crops. 
With the further progress of recovery, these workers 
returned to industry, taking with them the militant tradi- 
tions of struggle and organization acquired in the agricul- 
tural strike movement. 

The Communist Party, because of its leadership in the 
unemployed and agricultural movements, registered its 
first decisive growth since its formation in 1919. 




Anita Whitney's emergence as a public tribune of the 
Communist Party coincided with the party's own emer- 
gence as an important factor in the labor movement and 
political life of California. Both events, closely related, 
can be dated as beginning with 1934. The very date is 
significant, connoting as it does the fundamental truth 
that the growth of the Communist Party and its public 
figures proceeds in direct relationship with the growth 
of labor organization and the popular democratic mass 
movement among the people. The year 1934 marked a 
turning point not only for the Communist movement in 
California, not only for Anita as a representative of that 
movement, but also for labor and the progressive political 
currents in the state. These interrelated turning points 
were in turn related to great realignments then in process 
on a worldwide scale, setting into motion the greatest con- 
flicts in world history. 

For the labor movement, the year's high point was the 
maritime strike and the General Strike in San Francisco. 


In the realm of politics, there was the EPIC movement 
which drew thousands of hitherto politically apathetic 
people into active political life and left as its heritage a 
strong progressive wing within the Democratic Party. 
This progressive wing, because of its grass roots origin, 
retained a popular mass character in following years 
which distinguished it from the progressive groupings in 
the Democratic Party of most other states. 

The Communists had been among the pioneers in 
present day union organization on the Pacific Coast water- 
fronts. In the late twenties and early thirties, Commu- 
nist seamen, working against great odds, between the 
hammer of police persecution and the anvil of starvation, 
helped establish and sustain organizations of seamen in 
San Pedro, San Francisco and Seattle. With the help of 
other militants, these organizations evolved into the Ma- 
rine Workers Industrial Union. 

The official AFL seamen's unions but skeletons which 
lived in the past, a past crowned by the shame of the 1921 
strike betrayal, and their leaders passively accepting the 
shipowners' savage assault upon the living standards of 
the men aboard ship, the Marine Workers Industrial 
Union was the only force actively defending the interests 
of the seamen. It never grew into a mass organization, 
yet it exerted an influence far greater than its numbers 
and it did organize and lead sporadic strikes on individual 
ships and in individual companies. What was commonly 
believed to be the first sustained and organized struggle 
aboard a ship since 1923 was waged on the West Coast 
freighter Point Gorda of the old Swayne & Hoyt line in 
the fall of 1932. 


In 1933, the advent of NRA stimulated the longshore- 
men to challenge the "Blue Book" company union which 
had held undisputed sway on the docks through every 
devious means of intimidation made possible by job con- 
trol and the active assistance of the shipowners. The 
Communists and other militants among the seamen gave 
all the support they could to this revolt among the long- 
shoremen, but the mainspring of the movement naturally 
came from among the longshoremen themselves. They 
organized into the AFL International Longshoremen's 
Association which had long been moribund on the Pacific 
Coast and managed to retain only a precarious toehold 
in one or two isolated ports of the Northwest. The influx 
of longshoremen into the ILA and the existence of a con- 
scious, well-organized militant group in San Francisco, 
centered around The Waterfront Worker, a mimeo- 
graphed publication, quickly transformed the character 
of the ILA. By the time the strike was called in the 
spring of 1934, the militancy and democratic spirit among 
the longshoremen, particularly in San Francisco, had 
reached such heights that the old line officials, including 
International President Joseph P. Ryan as well as his 
Pacific Coast henchmen, could no longer control the 
membership, and during the course of the strike itself, 
the rank and file established its own militant leadership, 
headed by Harry Bridges. 

The vital role of the Communists in that strike was 
attested to by Bridges himself in his testimony before 
Dean James M. Landis during the first of his deportation 
hearings. The Communists helped rally public sympathy 
for the strikers, helped raise relief and provide legal 
defense. Through The Western Worker, which was 


adopted as an official organ by the strike committee, and 
through individual Communists among the strikers, the 
party sought to project those policies which it believed 
would ensure victory. The Western Worker was the 
only newspaper which supported the strike, the Com- 
munist Party was the only organized political force to 
assist the strike, and the workers, engaged in a desperate 
battle, welcomed this aid. The prestige of the Commu- 
nists in the labor movement generally, and among the 
maritime workers particularly, reached a high point. The 
Communist Party thereafter became a recognized factor 
on the waterfront whose opinion and advice was wel- 
comed by thousands of workers as coming from a tested 
friend, one who had rallied to their side when they were 
in need. They remembered that one of the strike martyrs 
who gave his life's blood on Bloody Thursday was a 
Communist, Nick Bordois. 

Anita herself was in Berkeley, convalescing from an 
illness, when the strike broke out. As the situation grew 
more tense and the terror against the strikers and the 
Communists more acute, she returned to San Francisco 
to do what she could, although she was still feeble from 
her illness. Her home was used for some time as a 
liaison headquarters for the distribution of literature 
among the strikers and the workers of the city generally. 

A rich anecdote growing out of the strike serves to 
cast Anita in an unusual light. The incident occurred 
after the General Strike had been called off and a wave 
of terror was directed against the Communists and other 
militants by armed vigilantes, aided by the police. Com- 
munist headquarters and the offices of The Western 


Worker were smashed. Homes of individual Commu- 
nists were raided, their occupants beaten and jailed. 
Anita's nephew, who lived in her home on Macondray 
Lane, was apprehensive lest their house be raided and 
his aunt beaten or jailed. He at first suggested that 
Anita leave town, but she would not hear of it. He then 
exacted from her a promise that she would place the 
chain latch over the door while he was away at work 
during the day. When he left for work, Anita kept her 
promise, chain latched the door. A short while later, 
the door bell rang. Anita opened the door the few inches 
which the chain latch permitted, and peered through to 
see a tiny and pitiful beggar woman who was peddling 
pencils. This experience shamed and humiliated her. 
"I, a free born American," she thought, "sitting in my 
own home behind a latched door!" It was too much, 
and she unlatched the door. However, she realized there 
was clear and present danger, and decided to find a 
weapon with which to protect herself against any unwel- 
come intruder. She found a cane, but that was too un- 
wieldy. She then tried a fire poker but it was too heavy 
to be maneuvered with ease. Finally, she settled upon 
an empty milk bottle, and all day she went about her 
work, the milk bottle at her side, and when she answered 
the door bell, she opened the door wide, but the milk 
bottle was in her right hand. 


With the entire state stirred by such events as the 
maritime strike and the EPIC upheaval, the Communist 
Party managed to get on the California election ballot 


for the first time in its history. More than 31,000 sig- 
natures were collected on petitions to place the party on 
the ballot, although only 14,500 were required by law. 
This time, the political atmosphere in the state and coun- 
try was such that the authorities did not dare reject the 
Communist petitions. An indication of the prevalent 
progressive spirit was the 242,313 votes secured by Leo 
Gallagher in the primaries, running with the Communist 
endorsement for a seat on the state supreme court. 

Anita Whitney was nominated for state treasurer on 
the Communist Party ticket headed by Sam Darcy, can- 
didate for governor. The party's campaign was directed 
chiefly against the Republican regime of Governor Mer- 
riam and its black record in dealing with the unemployed, 
its flagrant strike-breaking in the agricultural and mari- 
time industries and the San Francisco General Strike. 
But the mass discontent, expressed most forcibly in the 
nationwide strike wave of 1934, found its chief political 
outlet in California in the rise of the EPIC (End Poverty 
In California) movement, led by Upton Sinclair, which 
captured the Democratic primaries and turned the party 
in a progressive direction. 

The Communists criticized the EPIC platform for the 
petty-bourgeois Utopian illusions it created, but at the 
same time they later acknowledged their failure to appre- 
ciate sufficiently the character of EPIC as essentially a 
mass people's movement groping in a progressive direc- 
tion. The basis for unity between the Communists and the 
EPIC movement was registered most clearly in the cam- 
paign and vote of Anita Whitney. Despite the party's 
criticism of the EPIC platform, many EPIC clubs en- 
dorsed* her candidacy, and when the election results were 


tallied, she had 100,820 votes, at least 90 per cent of 
them received from people who voted for Sinclair on the 
EPIC ticket. 

Upton Sinclair was defeated in an historic campaign, 
unprecedented for its bitterness and the unprincipled use 
by the reactionaries of the "red scare" bogey to win the 
elections. The Communists corrected their previous esti- 
mation of the EPIC movement, and the antagonism be- 
tween Communists and Epics was largely eliminated in 
the course of a number of united front campaigns on 
economic and political issues, in which Epics, progressive 
trade unions and the Communists participated. Large 
numbers of disillusioned Epics turned to the Communists 
for leadership and many joined the party. 

Anita's vote, more than twice that of any other Com- 
munist candidate, legally qualified the party for a place 
on the ballot in the next state elections. Although some 
minor special circumstances attended her unusual vote, 
fundamentally it was a personal tribute, an indication of 
the prestige she enjoyed among thousands of Californians 
who regarded her as the best representative of the Com- 
munist Party, thousands who had come to admire her for 
her self-sacrificing work in the women's suffrage move- 
ment, in her efforts on behalf of the Negro people and 
the Irish liberation struggles; thousands of union men 
and women who had come to know her as a staunch 
champion of labor, thousands who admired her noble 
and courageous behaviour during the seven years that the 
shadow of a penitentiary sentence hung over her, and still 
other thousands who became acquainted with her in the 
course of her modest, patient and tireless activity as a 


member of the Communist Party. Anita Whitney became 
recognized as the best known and most widely beloved of 
the Communist spokesmen in California, one whose life 
was associated with that which was finest and best in the 
state since the beginning of the century. 

The party with which her name was now inseparably 
linked continued to grow and gain influence. Many hun- 
dreds swelled its ranks from among the Epics, the mari- 
time and agricultural workers, and Socialists who became 
dismayed with the ruinous course of their party. 


In 1934-35 the shadow of the coming war became the 
dominant fact in world politics . From its inception, the 
Communist Party had warned of the imminent danger of 
war in the making. For many years, it was virtually a 
lone voice, a harsh voice to those lulled by the idyllic 
pacifism of the Coolidge era. Beginning with 1929 and 
for several years thereafter, the Communists initiated in- 
ternational demonstrations against imperialist war on 
August 1, anniversary of the outbreak of the World War. 
Anita herself was jailed for picketing in connection with 
the first of these August 1 demonstrations. A newspaper 
photograph shows her marching, carrying a placard read- 
ing: "August First Is The International Day Against 
Imperialist War." Anita and others arrested with her 
received 30-day suspended sentences. 

But after 1933, after the advent of Hitler to power, 
after the emergence of the Fascist bloc of powers intent 
on aggression, after these intentions materialized in the 
attack on Ethiopia and the rearmament of Nazi Germany, 


the Communists were no longer a lone voice. Hundreds 
of millions of people throughout the world sensed the 
imminence of war and identified this menace with fas- 
cism. With these millions, the Communists made com- 
mon cause. They worked to unite these millions around 
a common program of collective agreement among the 
democratic nations to halt the aggression of the Fascist 
Axis, and within each country to crush the Fascist reaction 
which was making a bid for power. 

Within the United States the break between the Roose- 
velt Administration and the most reactionary forces with- 
in the country in 1935, symbolized by the formation of 
the Liberty League to fight the New Deal, and the with- 
drawal of support to the administration by such gentry 
as Charles E. Coughlin and William Randolph Hearst, 
created realignments wherein it became possible for the 
Communist Party to collaborate with the popular forces 
which gravitated around the New Deal. This collabora- 
tion reached its high point during the second Roosevelt 
term, beginning with 1937, when the administration 
opened its campaign for reform of the Supreme Court in 
the wake of such legislative enactments as the Social 
Security Law, the National Labor Relations Act, the 
Walsh-Healey Act, and still later, the Wages and Hours 

- In California, the beneficent effects of the united front 
activities between the Communists and former Epics, who 
now formed a militant progressive wing within the Dem- 
ocratic Party, made themselves felt in the 1936 elections 
and bore their most fruitful results in the 1938 campaign. 
With the help of Earl Browder who in 1936 personally 


visited Upton Sinclair and other old EPIC leaders, friend- 
ly relations were established between them and the Com- 
munists. Under the leadership of William Schneider- 
man, who had become Communist state secretary in 1935, 
and Anita Whitney, who became state chairman in 1936, 
the party maintained these relations and in 1938 its coun- 
sels helped dissuade some of the old Epics and other pro- 
gressive Democrats from launching a premature third 
party movement. Thanks to the avoidance of a split, a 
progressive majority was formed in the Democratic Party 
and it swept the elections, ousting the Merriam regime 
and defeating the labor-crippling Initiative No. 1 which 
would have virtually outlawed unionism in California. 
The Communists projected before the masses the need for 
unity against the reaction centered around the Republican 
Party, and thus helped create the atmosphere in which 
the narrow and partisan considerations or personal at- 
tachments and ambitions of certain leaders in the progres- 
sive camp were swept aside by the elemental urge of the 
masses for unity. In this campaign, too, The People's 
World, a daily paper founded with the help of the Com- 
munists and other progressives in January, 1938, made 
its mass debut, and exerted some influence in the attain- 
ment of the progressive victory. 

Anita Whitney was the party's standard bearer in the 
elections and polled 98,791 votes for the office of state 
controller, again securing enough votes to fulfill the legal 
requirements to retain the party on the ballot. By this 
time, Anita was not only state chairman of the Commu- 
nist Party but also a member of the party's national com- 
mittee. She campaigned throughout the state, bringing 


the party's message of unity of labor and all progressive 
forces against the Fascist menace. She pleaded with all 
the eloquence at her command for mass petitions and 
protests to lift the embargo on democratic Spain, then 
fighting for its life, and to force a halt to the shameful 
shipments of scrap iron, oil and munitions to militarist 

The crowning symbol of the progressive unity then 
achieved in California for a brief time and a source of 
great personal joy to Anita was the liberation of Tom 
Mooney in January, 1939. For her, who had taken up 
the fight for Mooney in 1916 and who personally expe- 
rienced the same reactionary hysteria which was respon- 
sible for his imprisonment, his liberation not only culmi- 
nated 22 years of consistent effort, but also was a token 
of hope, of victory in the wider goals she had set herself 
in life. 


It was a different sort of campaign in a different atmos- 
phere that Anita waged in 1940. Her party was under 
attack, the subject of an unprecedented wave of slander, 
misrepresentation and vilification. As candidate for the 
United States Senate, she was the party's most prominent 
public champion against its enemies and their frenzied 
abuse. Just how successful a champion she was can be 
gauged by her vote. She received 97,478 votes, virtually 
the same number obtained in 1938. The vote was a pop- 
ular demonstration of the fact that despite the orgy of 
red-baiting, masses of people retained their faith in Anita 
Whitney and the party she represented. 

Anita's opponent was Hiram Johnson, the isolationist 


appeaser. Anita assailed his anti-labor record, and drew 
the sharp contrast between the isolationist appeasers' 
espousal of a negotiated peace with Hitler, and the Com- 
munists' consistent anti-Fascist fight for a people's peace. 
Replying to those who had slandered the Communists and 
misrepresented their position on the war, she declared in 
a statewide broadcast in October, 1940: 

"Our party is an American party, which makes its own 
decisions, and is not influenced or controlled by any 
foreign power. We stand for the defense of American 
democratic institutions, for the defense of our country 
and the interests of the American people." 

To the red-baiters who said the Communists were fifth 
columnists and allies of Hitler, she scornfully replied: 

"We have been fighting Hitler and Hitlerism long 
before some of these Republican and Democratic politi- 
cians found it has become fashionable to do so. Where 
were these great patriots when we Communists fought to 
save Spain and China from the Axis powers ever since 
1936? Where were they when we fought against the 
Munich policy? Where were they when we were picket- 
ing Japanese ships that were picking up American oil and 
munitions to bombard Chinese women and children? If 
there is any fifth column in this country, you will find it 
in the ranks of the red-baiters." 

Johnson was a fortunate opponent for he provided an 
opportunity for dramatizing the distinction between bis 
bogus "isolationism" and the positive foreign policy 
advanced by the Communists, a policy based on an al- 
liance of the United States, the Soviet Union and China. 

"Such a constellation of powers, the United States, 
China and the Soviet Union, moving along agreed-upon 


lines fully consistent with the needs of the three great 
peoples, would be very powerful indeed," said Earl Brow- 
der in a speech at Boston on October 6, 1940. "It would 
be a stable combination, for these countries have no rival- 
ries of conflicting interests. It would be strategically 
powerful, because it would immediately hold the keys to 
three continents; a Washington-Moscow-Chungking bloc, 
solidly welded with correct policies, would be unmatch- 
able in world politics. It would be physically strong, 
combining seven hundred to eight hundred millions of 
population, and the preponderance of the world's pro- 
ductive forces. It would be morally invincible, attracting 
the enthusiastic adherence of the suffering people all over 

the globe/' - 

The Communist belief was that this powerful combina- 
tion, supported by the countries of Latin America and the 
peoples of all the world, presented the hope of prevent- 
ing the evolution of the conflict into a world war, and 
offered the opportunity to use the balance of power it 
enjoyed to bring about a democratic, people's peace. Such 
an alliance did not come into being then, and the Soviet 
Union's involvement in the war removed the last hope 
that America could retain its democracy and independence 
by remaining aloof from the conflict. America could not 
withdraw into the shell of splendid isolation, while all 
the rest of the world was threatened by Hitler's conquest. 
The /Soviet Union, with .its powerful Red Army .and : its 
strategic position lying athwart Hitler's path through the 
Near East and Middle East to a juncture with his Japa- 
nese partners, had been the most powerful barrier be- 
tween the United States and Axis aggression. When Hit- 
ler attempted to remove that barrier, he struck directly at 


the national interests of the United States, and left but 
two paths open to the American people, either collabora- 
tion a la Vichy with him, or active alliance with the na- 
tions fighting to destroy the Hitler menace. 

During 1940 Anita was the principal in an amusing 
incident which served to illustrate not only the Commu- 
nist understanding of war, but also how far she had 
advanced from the semi-pacifist illusions which guided 
her outlook in the World War. 

Anita and a party comrade had an appointment with 
several pacifist women. One of the pacifists remarked 
rather cynically that the Communists in weaving around 
had finally reverted to a point where they had a common 
meeting ground with the pacifists. Anita took offense 
at the cynicism, and launched into an explanation of the 
party's position on war, on the difference between just 
wars of a progressive character and unjust wars reaction- 
ary in nature. The pacifist was adamant, repeated again 
and again that all problems within the range of human 
experience can be solved without recourse to violence. 

"Don't you think the American colonists were justified 
in taking up arms in the Revolutionary War?" Anita de- 

"No, that could have been solved without violence." 

"What about the Civil War? Don't you believe the 
North was justified ?" 

"Even that could have been solved without violence." 

"What about the Chinese people then? Weren't they 
right in taking up arms to defend their land against the 
Japanese aggressors?" 

"No. Even that could have been solved without vio- 


Anita glanced downward. "I might have known it!" 
she exclaimed. "You are wearing silk stockings. A paci- 
fist! You're just helping to pay for the bombs to wreck 
Chinese cities, kill and maim Chinese women and chil- 

With that she arose and walked out of the house. Her 
companion trailed after her, and when he came alongside, 
suggested, "Anita, don't you think we could have gone a 
bit easier on those people?" 

"No," Anita replied, "there comes a time in any con- 
versation when there is an end to it. And that was the 

The year 1941, the 75th year of Anita's life, contained 
two dates which will forever loom large in world history, 
June 22 and December 7. Only five months intervened 
between that Sunday morning in early summer when 
Hitler's luftwaffe and panzer divisions struck across the 
Soviet border in treacherous attack and that other Sunday 
morning in late autumn when with equal stealth and 
treachery Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbor. Actual- 
ly, the dates are more closely related than even the short 
interval between them would indicate. They both de- 
noted the desperate desire of the Fascist Axis to press for 
world conquest regardless of cost. June 22 ushered in 
the greatest crisis in contemporary history; December 7 
was its inexorable echo. The world-wide war which was 
inevitable after Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union be- 
came a grim reality in the death and wreckage wrought 
by Japanese bombs in Hawaii. 


For Anita, the two dates are associated with two meet- 
ings of the national committee of the Communist Party 
where she participated in arriving at the most important 
decisions in the party's life. Only a week after Hitler's 
armies crossed the Soviet frontier, the Communist na- 
tional committee was convened in plenary session. Out 
of its deliberations came a manifesto titled: "The People's 
Program of Struggle for the Defeat of Hitler and Hitler- 
ism!" It addressed these bold clear words to the Amer- 
ican people: 

"The people of our country are facing a new world 

"Hitler fascism has brazenly attacked the Soviet Un- 
ion. . . . This has immeasurably increased the menace of 
Hitler and fascism to the national existence of all peoples, 
to the social and national security of the people of the 
United States. The involvement of the Soviet Union in 
the war has changed the character of the war. The 
glorious and mighty defense by the Red Army and the 
united people of the Soviet Union, their valiant struggle 
to drive out and crush the aggressor, create the oppor- 
tunity for the people of the United States and for all 
peoples to unite and assure the complete and final an- 
nihilation of Hitler and Hitlerism. . . . 

"The defeat of Hitlerism, which means the defense of 
the liberty and independence of all nations, calls for the 
world-wide unity of all peoples in the struggle against 
Hitler fascism. . . . 

"Organized labor and the whole working class are the 
sworn enemies of reaction, fascism and Hitlerism. In 
this new and critical world situation the working class 


therefore faces the duty to assume leadership in the peo- 
ple's fight against the Fascist menace in the fight to 
bring speedy and effective aid to the Soviet Union. It is 
the duty of the working class to lead the fight to establish 
American-Soviet-British collaboration for the defeat of 
Hitlerism and to make this the official and active policy 
of the government." 

The manifesto concluded with such slogans as: 

"Defend America by giving full aid to the Soviet 
Union, Great Britain and all nations who fight against 

"For full and unlimited collaboration of the United 
States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union to bring about 
the military defeat of fascism! 

"For a government policy of democratic struggle 
against fascism!" 

But a few days after Anita returned home from this 
meeting where she participated in the drafting of this 
historic manifesto, she was honored on the occasion of 
her seventy-fourth birthday. It was an inspired occasion, 
the audience of seven hundred who jammed the audi- 
torium at Communist headquarters in San Francisco be- 
yond capacity was enthused and excited by the great 
battle being waged by the Red Army against the Nazi 
invaders, by the knowledge that the Fascist reaction which 
had marched from victory to victory for more than a 
decade had now come to grips with a force which could 
stop it. And all the emotions evoked by that gigantic 
conflict were associated with this tribute to Anita, for to 
those present she was a living embodiment of those 
things for which Red Army men were fighting, bleeding, 


dying. Those who spoke included William Z. Foster, 
the party's national chairman; William L. Patterson, the 
nationally known Negro leader with whom Anita had 
become acquainted during the war days when, as a youth, 
he spoke as a representative of the Negro people to a 
dinner of the Peace Council; Warren K. Billings, the 
veteran union man for whose freedom she had fought for 
twenty-two years, and Mrs. Nick Bordois, widow of the 
Communist workman murdered by San Francisco police 
on Bloody Thursday in the maritime strike of 1934. 

On December 7, Anita was in attendance at another 
plenary meeting of the Communist national committee. 
The discussion centered on how well the party had carried 
the June 29 manifesto to the people, how effectively it 
had helped to rally and organize sentiment behind the 
program of bringing the United States into a full partner- 
ship with Britain and the Soviet Union for the destruc- 
tion of Hitlerism. There were reports from all sections 
of the country, reports of progress, reports of what still 
remained undone. The meeting was in its afternoon 
session and Anita's fellow national committee member 
from California, Steve Nelson, was in the chair. In the 
middle of the session, several of the party's leaders, some 
of whom had been seated on the stage, were called from 
the meeting room by whispered messages. In a few 
minutes they returned. William Z. Foster, his face grave 
and thought-laden, interrupted the speaker who had the 
floor, and announced in somber tones that news had just 
been flashed of a Japanese bombing attack on Pearl Har- 
bor. To the hushed assembly, he underscored the serious 
implications of the news. Like all America, the meeting 
was shocked, tensed by the report. Those present realized 


fully the gravity of the crisis facing the nation, the weight 
of the responsibilities which now evolved upon them as 
leaders of the Communist Party. On Foster's proposal a 
committee of five was chosen to draft a statement of 
policy. In a half hour, the committee returned with a 
short, concise, unequivocal declaration of the Communist 
attitude toward the new turn in the war. 

That statement, as submitted by Robert Minor and 
adopted by the assembly, proclaimed the Communist 
Party's central slogans: "Everything for Victory Over 
World-Wide Fascist Slavery! Everything for National 

"Through the mouths of Japanese cannon, the Axis 
and its vassal states, from Vichy to Helsinki, have de- 
clared war against the United States and all powers that 
stand against enslavement. . . . 

"Never in the history of our country has the need for 
unity of the Nation been so great as now. The Commu- 
nist Party pledges its loyalty, its devoted labor and last 
drop of its blood in support of our country in this greatest 
of all the crises that ever threatened its existence. In the 
tradition of the Communist leaders who in 1861 joined 
the United States Army under commissions issued by 
President Lincoln, 100,000 American Communists today 
step forward to support the bigger war against slavery, a 
war in defense of the whole world's freedom. . . ." 

The meeting was hastily completed, and the national 
committee members and other party leaders rushed back 
to their posts throughout the country to help weld the 
American people into a unified, invincible whole. By the 
time Anita returned to her home, San Francisco had ex- 
perienced its first blackout. War tension was evident in 


the city. California had been proclaimed a combat zone. 
Through the windows of her living room which overlook 
San Francisco Bay, Anita could see the Golden Gate and 
beyond, where American ships, within sight of the Cali- 
fornia coast, were sent to the bottom by Japanese sub- 
marines. She could see huge transports laden with uni- 
formed American boys, gliding out of the harbor into the 
sunset whose golden hues animated the hills of Marin and 
transformed the Golden Gate Bridge into thin bracelet- 
like bands. Beyond the sunset was Pearl Harbor, Wake, 
Manila, Corregidor, outposts of America's Pacific fron- 
tier. . . . 

"Everything for Victory!" It was an unequivocal slo- 
gan, and Anita sought to put it into life without equivoca- 
tion. She went to her local fire house to register for 
civilian defense. She offered her services to the American 
Red Cross and the American Women's Volunteer Service. 
Everywhere, tacitly or openly, she was met with the story, 
"Too old." But Anita was not to be dismissed. The 
phrase "too old" is a challenge to her although she is 
modest about her own ability. She insisted that while 
young people were given more important tasks, there was 
something for her to do. And despite the apathy or red 
tape which met her, she finally found a job, winding 
surgical bandages for the Red Cross, and now, at 75, 
punctual and faithful, she appears at Red Cross head- 
quarters weekly to wind bandages and discuss the issues 
of the war with her co-workers. Her home has been the 
block meeting place for the organization of air raid pre- 
cautions, and the raid warden has consulted with her on 
the improvement of the work. 

Most of all, her contributions to the war effort lie in 


the leadership she gives to her party. With the same pas- 
sion and unyielding attachment to principle that she once 
opposed American participation in the war of 1917, she 
now expends her energies to achieve victory in 1942. She 
understands that this war, to use Lenin's words, "notwith- 
standing all the horrors, cruelties, miseries and tortures, 
inevitably connected with every war, had a progressive 
character;" it "served the development of mankind, aid- 
ing in the destruction of extremely pernicious and reac- 
tionary institutions . . . helping to remove the most 
barbarous despotisms in Europe. ..." 




At 75, Anita is a unique political leader. In 1940 
when the Communist Party's national convention elected 
seventeen members to the national committee, Anita was 
one of the seventeen Communists in the United States 
honored with membership on the party's highest com- 
mittee. That is a rare distinction. Communists are ex- 
perienced organizers and political workers, people whose 
ability is heightened by singleness of purpose and abso- 
lute devotion to what they are doing. They have demon- 
strated their ability to move vast numbers of people, to 
help shape the political thinking of America despite their 
comparatively small numbers. Time and again, events 
have proven their farsightedness, their capacity for judg- 
ing the course of history. They regard politics as a science 
and apply to it the critical exactitude of scientists. That 
is their strength. They combine self-sacrifice, devotion, 
loyalty and indefatigability with the most advanced think- 
ing of mankind as summarized in the teachings of Marx 
and Engels, Lenin and Stalin. To be a leader in such a 
party is no ordinary matter. Anita is such a leader. 


What makes her a leader? The answer is complex. 
One cannot point to books she has written, political 
theories she has evolved, or any particular strategy or 
tactics she has innovated. The secret of her leadership 
lies in her person, in what she is, in what she has come 
to represent to thousands of her comrades, and many 
more thousands outside the ranks of her party. Hers is 
the rare quality of leadership by example. People not 
only follow her; more important, they are inspired to 
emulate her. There are people whom you have never 
seen, yet you have heard a great deal about them and 
unconsciously you create a mental portrait of them. Were 
you to be asked to describe the details which contributed 
toward that portrait, you would be at a loss. And yet, the 
very name of this person, who is actually unknown to 
you, connotes a picture which has all the force of reality. 
Anita is such a person, and an aura has been created 
around her, a legend all the more wonderful because it 
has such deep roots in reality. Her leadership is no 
formal process, it reaches into the lives of people, into 
their minds and hearts, and is manifested in all the varied 
and complex expressions of living itself. 

In San Francisco's North Beach, an Italian worker, not 
a Communist, one who had never seen Anita, decided to 
name his daughter after her. In California's valleys, 
among the Mexican agricultural laborers, it is not un- 
common to meet some little girl who answers to the name 
of Anita Ramirez or Anita Gomez. Among the Negro 
families of West Oakland or Bakersfield, there are Anita's 
namesakes. And if her name is remembered at the blessed 
event of birth, it is also remembered in the tragic even- 
tuality of death. On one occasion, Anita was called by 


an Oakland bank and was informed that some worker 
had just died, his name was unfamiliar to Anita, and he 
had his life's savings, some $1,500, deposited in a joint 
account for himself and Anita. "The name Whitney is 
misspelled," the bank official explained, "but there is no 
doubt as to the intent of the deceased. The account now 
is solely in your name." On another occasion the Irish 
landlady of a rooming house called Anita. One of her 
roomers, an old German immigrant worker, seemingly 
alone in the world, had died. The landlady had no fixed 
ideas about the Communist Party or Anita Whitney, 
except that the roomer had talked constantly of both, and 
she was certain that his modest. fortune, if any, must have 
been willed either to the party or Anita. At the bank 
where this old worker's savings were, a will, several years 
old, was found, leaving his meager funds to a niece in 
Stuttgart, Germany. The landlady was incensed at the 
thought of the money going to Hitler Germany, and she 
felt certain that a later will must have superceded that 
old one, but it never was discovered. 

The ripening of California's diverse crops can be 
judged by the packages that arrive at Anita's home. Citrus 
fruits from the San Fernando Valley, apples from Eureka, 
plums and cherries from Santa Clara, peaches from the 
San Joaquin Valley, gifts from many admirers. On her 
speaking tours, too, she is showered with gifts, primitive 
and generous expressions of the warmth and affection 
with which she is regarded. Anita returns this affection 
and warmth with a remarkable sensitivity to the emotions 
of people, their inner thoughts and hopes. 

Once she spoke in the town of Fort Bragg. One man 
arrived late at the meeting, and after it was over came 


forward to apologize to Anita for his latecoming. He 
explained he had been detained at the funeral parlor 
where his wife's body lay. She had died that day. 

Then, as an afterthought, he turned to Anita's com- 
panion and said, "It would be wonderful if Comrade 
Anita could say a few words at the funeral services to- 
morrow. Just a few words. It would mean so much to 

"But I don't know the comrade " Anita said to her 

"Anita, you know the life of a worker's wife," he re- 
plied. "Just say a few words about what this woman 
aspired to, what she hoped for, what she lived for." 

Anita agreed, and the next morning delivered a brief, 
simple talk at the bier. The dead woman's children, 
strangers to the Communist movement, wept. They came 
forward to wring Anita's hands, to thank her for an apt 
and wonderful tribute which made them see their own 
mother in a new and finer light. . . . 


Anita has a passion for going to the people. Her cam- 
paign tours are not a series of speaking engagements. 
Whenever possible she goes into the homes of the people, 
those who are poorest, in the slum shacks on the outskirts 
of town, in the farm labor camps, those who are most 
oppressed and persecuted, the Negroes and Mexicans. 
Once she was scheduled to speak in Santa Barbara, and 
her comrades, knowing she had a strenuous schedule, 
prepared a room and bed where she could rest prior to 
her meeting. But when Anita arrived oh, no, there was 


no time to be resting. She took the local party organizer, 
also a woman, house to house in the Mexican district of 
Santa Barbara, and the organizer was amazed at the 
reception they were accorded. And always she returns 
from such visits with new strength and vigor, with re- 
newed indignation at the poverty and squalor in which 
human beings must live. 

Early in 1942 when San Francisco was agitated by the 
Audley Cole case, Anita again exhibited this faculty for 
going directly to the people with their problems. Cole, a 
young Negro, had passed the examination and met all 
other requirements for a job as motorman on the munici- 
pally operated streetcar line. However, a reactionary 
clique within the street carmen's union exerted sufficient 
influence and powers of intimidation to dissuade the 
working motormen from training the Negro apprentice. 
The situation developed into a national scandal, and while 
many complex factors were involved, one of the solutions 
to the crisis lay in inspiring the rank and file of the car- 
men's union to repudiate those elements who fostered the 
Jim Crow exclusion of Cole. Anita reacted by going to 
the rank and file. For the better part of an entire day, 
she rode streetcars, getting off one and on to another, 
talking to conductors and motormen, explaining the harm 
being done to their own union, to the labor movement, 
and to the nation, then engaged in a war for its survival 
necessitating the maximum effort of all the people for 
victory. Thus she contributed her modest bit toward cre- 
ating that body of public opinion, in and out of the labor 
movement, which finally solved the crisis, won Cole the 
right to the job and admission into the union. 

Anita has the deepest sense of responsibility to the 


masses. During her 1940 election tour she was in an 
automobile accident. The car turned over and several of 
her ribs were broken. It was painful and very serious 
for a woman of 73, but there were several towns where 
she had been scheduled to speak and she insisted on fill- 
ing those engagements. "But the comrades are expecting 
me," she protested. And only the firm insistence of the 
party finally dissuaded her, and even then only after she 
had been promised that as soon as she was well, even 
after the elections, meetings would be arranged for her 
in those towns to compensate for the disappointment the 
local comrades must have felt at her failure to appear. 

Her devotion to people is as constant as it is tender. 
Her solicitude for the health of people, of leading persons 
in the party, rank and file comrades, non-party people of 
her acquaintance is no formal matter, it is a deep concern. 
Some time ago, she undertook to supply a Communist 
organizer in one of the rural communities with periodicals 
and literature which the latter could not afford to buy. 
It is an obligation she fulfills with painstaking care and 
punctuality. Upon returning from a trip, no matter what 
its duration, among the first things she does it to gather 
up The New Masses, The Daily Worker and other bits 
of literature, wrap them carefully, and send them off. 

Her mother, who died in October, 1927, suffered from 
failing eyesight during the last years of her life. Those 
were difficult years for Anita; her criminal syndicalism 
case was still pending in the courts, she was preoccupied 
with the fight to save Sacco and Vanzetti, yet she min- 
istered to her mother's needs, read to her aloud for many 
hours from works she thought her mother would enjoy. 
As a co-worker of those years said, "She was never too 


busy, too absorbed to give this pleasure to her mother. 
Anita's capacity for strong human ties is exemplified by 
her relations with her family. None of the family is 
sympathetic to her political views, yet with most of them 
she has maintained the closest bonds, and she commands 
their respect. One of her nephews is a West Pointer and 
recently he has corresponded with her, expressing admira- 
tion for the Red Army and his amazement at the fact she 
had known the strength of the Red Army while he, a 
military man, had not. 

Her love for people is no blind abstraction. It is tem- 
pered by a keen, and when necessary, a critical appraisal 
of them. She is proud of the fact that she was among 
the first to detect one of the most notorious stoolpigeons 
who once wormed his way into the Communist Party in 
California. On another occasion, after only a two-day 
visit to a certain rural community, she reported to the 
party's state headquarters that the organizer in that local- 
ity was unreliable. Her diagnosis of his failings was so 
accurate that virtually all her specific predictions of what 
would happen if he remained in that region were fulfilled. 

Stalin has said that modesty is a cardinal virtue of a 
Bolshevik. Modesty is not only a trait deeply ingrained 
in Anita, it is a way of life for her. It is expressed most 
forcibly in her insistent readiness to fulfill the modest 
tasks, the humble jobs. The faithful regularity with which 
she reports at Red Cross headquarters to wind bandages 
is illustrative of this. She insists on distributing leaflets 
door to door, is regular and punctual in attendance at the 
meetings of her Communist Party neighborhood branch, 
and oftentimes pleads that some trip out of town be post- 
poned a day so that she will not miss her branch meeting. 


Some years ago she was twice urged to go to the Soviet 
Union, and each time she refused, insisting that the money 
and her time could both be expended more usefully in 
work at home. 

Her manner of living, her home are simple to the ex- 
treme, in keeping with her innate modesty. During her 
criminal syndicalism trial and after, the story was assidu- 
ously spread that she was a woman of great wealth, and 
somehow the legend persisted in some quarters. Her foes 
even used this legend as an argument for her imprison- 
ment. So insiduous had that legend become that John 
Francis Neylan deemed it necessary to dispel it in his 
pardon plea to Governor Young. 

"Under the heading of extenuating circumstances," 
wrote Neylan, "may I first dissipate a fiction which has 
been widespread, and which probably accounts for what- 
ever superficial reason has been advanced for the incar- 
ceration of Miss Whitney. I refer to the story that she 
is a woman of great wealth and has had the means to 
employ counsel to make an unusually vigorous fight in 
her behalf. 

"First let me assure Your Excellency that whatever 
wealth Miss Whitney inherited was never great. Secondly 
may I advise you that even her modest inheritance has 
long since approached the vanishing point, due to her 
activities in behalf of the poor and lowly, the distressed 
and suffering and particularly needy children. . . . The 
records of the State of California, the histories of charit- 
able organizations and the memories of public officials 
can supply some of the detail of how she served for years 
without one cent of compensation. Hundreds of men, 


women and children not numbered among the affluent 
can tell a story the narration of which on her own behalf 
Miss Whitney considers unthinkable." 

So simple and unassuming is her mode of life that she 
keeps well within her modest income and what remains is 
generously contributed to various anti-Fascist activities 
and labor causes. 

Anita's modesty, her gentleness and kindly warmth, 
her graciousness and serene poise are characteristics which 
strike one upon first acquaintance. But these virtues are 
ennobled by a stout heart, fighting spirit and keen mind. 
Aroused by some injustice, Anita's voice can be metallic 
and angry. Involved in a dispute over what she considers 
a matter of principle, Anita can be adamant, unyielding, 
and sharp as the poor pacifist who deplored all violence 
and yet wore Japanese silk discovered to her discomfort. 
Her gentleness is no Gandhi-like perversion. It is deeper 
and richer because she is capable of seizing a milk bottle 
to defend herself against vigilante hoodlums. The Catho- 
lic Monitor in 1920 described her as "a noble and beauti- 
ful character who would not crush the broken reed nor 
quench the burning flax." The Monitor did not fathom 
the full depth of the nobility and beauty of her character. 
The Christian ethics which shaped her early attitudes 
have become tempered by Communist conviction. She 
not only loves her fellow-man, she is ready to fight for 
him, and not to fight merely with the abandonment of 
martyrdom, but to fight to win, to win a better life, a 
higher social order. She sees in Communism the highest 
sort of humanism, for it is an activist humanism, not one 
beatified by abstract platitudes, but one that maintains 
a constant grip on reality, steers its course to conform to 


that reality, and never takes refuge in sham or petty 
moralisms to escape some of the unpleasantness of reality. 

Anita has a passion for life. Once, somewhat abstract- 
edly, she began to cite instances of longevity in her family. 
So-and-so lived to be 86, so-and-so 87. Someone inter- 
rupted, "Oh, Anita, you, the way you live, you will beat 
them all." 

"Do you really think so?" she inquired. 

"Of course. . . Really." 

She felt more cheerful. 

Her passion for living is most radiant in her enthusiasm 
for nature, in a youthful delight at traveling, especially 
to places which are new to her. On the road, she is wont 
to interrupt the most serious political conversation with 
some exclamation, "Oh, isn't that larkspur wonderful!" 
And she has a remarkable knowledge of the various 
species of flowers and trees which dot the California 
countryside, and she still finds time to tend the flowers 
outside her home. Going to Los Angeles not long ago, 
she grew wistful as the car passed by fields of ripening 
grain. She turned to the driver, "I remember ... in my 
youth, going through the midwest and seeing whole fields 
of grain waving in the wind ... for miles and miles, as 
far as the eye could see. ..." She paused, lost in remi- 
niscence. Then, suddenly, with naive sincerity, she added, 
"Don't you think we can manage to go by here again 
some time when the grain has ripened?" 

She has a mild distaste for rocking chairs, and an 
anecdote she has remembered for more than fifty years 
may explain this furniture quirk. In her youth, she visited 
the home of a friend of the family. The lady of the 
house, sitting and knitting in a rocking chair, suddenly 


exclaimed, "Oh, how I like to just sit and rot and rot and 
rot!" Anita was mystified by this unusual preference, 
and upon returning home told her mother of it. Her 
mother explained that the poor woman suffered from a 
speech impediment which transformed many hard con- 
sonants into "t". 

"I've thought of that later," Anita says, "and I never 
want to just sit in a chair and rot and rot and rot!" 

Old rocking chair will never get Anita. There is too 
much to do, too much to live for. She does not permit 
herself the indulgence of old age. She keeps abreast of 
world events with a keen eye and exhibits a remarkably 
fine appreciation for change, for the need of readjusting 
old attitudes and concepts to conform with constantly 
changing objective reality. She reads a great deal, literary 
works as well as political tracts or topical books of current 
interest, all with critical judgment. 

In addition to her routine work as a Communist, she 
has special interests related to the activities of the Com- 
munist Party. As always, she is most deeply aroused by 
some act of injustice and persecution against a spokesman 
for the working class. In the past year and a half, this 
indignation at injustice was centered on the case of Earl 
Browder. She collected hundreds of signatures on peti- 
tions requesting Browder's freedom. Through her indi : 
vidual efforts dozens of prominent Californians were -in- 
duced to intercede personally with President Roosevelt 
in Browder's behalf. Wherever she went, whether to a 
meeting of Wellesley alumnae or to visit old associates 
in the women's suffrage fight, the Browder case became 
the central topic of conversation. She had taken up the 


fight with a crusading zeal born of a sense of deep per- 
sonal outrage at the thought of a man like Browder being 
kept behind the bars of a Federal penitentiary. 

In the campaign for Browder 's freedom, she was asso- 
ciated with Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, whose youthful ora- 
tory some thirty years before had helped to awaken 
Anita's interest in the labor movement and Socialism. In 
the intervening years Anita had made Elizabeth Gurley 
Flynn' s acquaintance during the latter' s frequent trips to 
the Pacific Coast and long sojourn in Portland, Oregon, 
and this acquaintance ripened into friendship. Now, Eliz- 
abeth Gurley Flynn had become one of the party's leaders, 
and as secretary of the Citizens Committee To Free Earl 
Browder, an organizer of the fight to free him. 

Anita has always taken a special interest in the work 
of the Communist Party among women, and in the educa- 
tion and development of women within the party. In 
pursuit of this special interest, she has been closely 
associated with her old friend and co-worker, Mother 
Bloor. These two veterans have maintained a constant 
and close correspondence in late years on this problem, 
so near to them both. Anita's interest in work among 
women stems not so much from the fact that she is a 
woman, or from long association with the women's move- 
ment, dating back to the suffrage fight, but primarily 
from the Marxist understanding that in capitalist society 
women are the victims of special exploitation, the social 
horizons of women are more limited, their lives more 
warped by the pressure of social norms and economic 

A similar motivation is responsible for her more than 
thirty years of active association with the struggle for 


Negro rights. From the days when she was connected 
with the founding of the National Association for the 
Advancement of Colored People in the San Francisco 
region to the present there has not been one instance of 
Jim Crow discrimination brought to her attention without 
an instantaneous effort on her part to right the wrong. 

That is, perhaps, most typical of Anita. Wherever in- 
justice is most manifest, wherever persecution is most 
rife, there her interests lie. 


Thousands, hundreds of thousands, of persons in Cali- 
fornia have heard Anita speak from a public platform. 
Personally, she still prefers to speak out-of-doors at some 
street corner where the audience is fresher and the atmos- 
phere less formal. Although her public speaking dates 
back some forty years, she still feels somewhat oppressed 
by the formality of a talk indoors. She is no orator, yet 
a quiet sincerity makes her an effective speaker. Take, 
for example, a recent talk she delivered, a report on the 
Free-Browder Congress (March 28-29, 1942) to the meet- 
ing of the state committee of the Communist Party on 
April 19, 1942. 

A standing ovation greeted her as she mounted the 
rostrum. She stood there, somewhat embarrassed and 
uncomfortable, and attempted to dismiss the applause 
with a modest, impatient little gesture. Her small, trim 
figure stood upright, clothed in a neat, simple blue outfit; 
a conservatively flat hat, brightened by a ribbon, was 
perched atop her head, ordered grey hair protruding in 
the rear. When the applause ceased, she was perfectly 


poised. The audience leaned forward to catch what she 
had to say. She rested her folded arms on the speaker's 
stand before her, leaned slightly forward, and began to 
speak in a soft, placid, narrative tone. As she became 
more immersed in her talk, her shoulders hunched some- 
what and she clasped her hands. For emphasis she leaned 
further forward, waved her head. The words flowed 
smoothly, impelled by a direct earnest sincerity, lightened 
at times by the gentlest humor. They conveyed a personal 
warmth. She used extensive notes, almost a transcript, 
but digressed from them frequently to elaborate on a 
point, or lend it greater emphasis. Soon, her preoccupa- 
tion with what she had to say loosened some of the ear- 
lier restraint, and she tapped the table with her fingers, 
or permitted herself a slight flourish of the hand. The 
audience was completely attentive. There was not even 
the nervous fidgeting so customary in an all-day meeting 
which then was in its afternoon session. She spoke in a 
personal vein. She to you. What she said came so directly 
from her own emotions and thoughts that it was nor 
merely a report of what she had observed and heard; it 
was a testament of personal conviction. She related her 
own experiences in the Browder campaign. She told of 
the prison regime to which Browder was subjected. No 
visits except by immediate members of the family, and 
those only once a month. "These are the conditions under 
which Earl Browder lives today," she said. She under- 
stood and explained the political factors involved in 
Browder's imprisonment, the complex issues which went 
into the struggle for his release. It was not only a simple 
act of justice which was sought. Browder's release was 
a war measure, for America needed his services, his active 


mind and ability to lead. His freedom would be a boon 
to national unity, to the consolidation of those forces 
actively engaged in the gigantic war effort. She said 
these things, but beyond that, there was the deep concern 
for a comrade, for a victim of injustice. 

Despite the visible emotion, there was no oratorical 
crescendo or finale. She concluded with a simple appeal 
for still greater efforts to free Browder. "That is our duty 
and we must face it as Bolsheviks." 

The thousands who have seen and heard Anita Whitney 
on a public platform have caught something of her per- 
son. It is a common tendency to embellish oneself on the 
platform. But Anita is so completely free of guile and 
pretense that she is one of those rare persons who conveys 
her true self to an audience. 

Anita's ceaseless activities to free Browder were 
crowned with a happy ending. One beautiful San Fran- 
cisco May morning (it was Saturday, May 16, 1942), her 
telephone rang. An excited voice on the other side 
bubbled, "Have you heard the news, Comrade Anita? 
Earl Browder is free!" Anita's reply was blurred by tears 
of joy welling up in her throat. ... It was a joy, as deeply 
personal as it was social. Yes, Browder's release had vast 
political meaning. It symbolized the developing national 
unity, the growing determination to place victory over 
the Axis above all other considerations. It added a great 
and valuable force to the fight against Hitler. Yet, it was 
more. A comrade, a friend was free, back in the ranks, 
back in the struggle. Anita knew Browder and his family. 
She had enjoyed visits at the Browder home on her fre- 
quent trips to New York. She felt for him not only the 
attachment of political comradeship, but also the ties of 


personal friendship. Browder, in turn, valued very highly 
her contributions to the party, the things she had come to 
personify to the party membership and to many thousands 
outside of the party's ranks. 


Anita Whitney, daughter of America in whose veins 
flows the blood of the nation's revolutionary creators, in 
her person bridges the gap between America's past and 
its present and future. Her life, its measured tread, its 
logical development, is the story of the unfolding of the 
American ideal. Her attachment to the American tradi- 
tion is the one thread that runs through it, from early 
youth until the present day, and her loyalty to that tradi- 
tion, its revolutionary living meaning, guided her along 
her inevitable course to Communism. Just as the Amer- 
ican revolutionary heritage was handed on by history to 
the working class, so Anita Whitney, who claimed that 
heritage as her own, found her identity with the working 
class, with its most conscious section, the Communist 

Once she was asked, "Anita, how do you regard the 
Communist Party? What has it come to mean to you?" 

"Why," she smiled incredulously, a bit taken aback by 
so amazing a question. "Why ... it has given purpose 
to my life. The Communist Party is the hope of the 

It was a long path she trod, but a straight one. These 
are the mileposts along that path: social welfare and re- 
form, women's suffrage, political education and organiza- 
tion of women, movements against national oppression^ 


first association with the working class in the defense of 
its civil rights, acceptance of Socialism, and, finally, the 
climax, identification with and leadership in the Commu- 
nist Party. The story is far from ended. Few people live 
with such intense concern and preoccupation with the 
present and the future. Greater battles, greater victories 
are to come. Anita was first elected to the Communist 
national committee at the age of 69. Her most vigorous 
political campaign was waged at 73. At 75 today, she is 
vital and alert, not an elder immersed in the past, but an 
amazingly youthful person, a happy combination of the 
wisdom of age and the eager enthusiasm of youth. She 
lends to her work and personal relationships human 
warmth, humor and buoyancy. She is a warm and love- 
able human being, and the admiration and affection her 
comrades have for Anita is matched by the pride they take 
in her. 

The writer remembers having interviewed Dr. Norman 
Bethune, the great Canadian surgeon and Communist who 
served with the Loyalist armies in Spain and later gave 
his life while working under unbelievably primitive con- 
ditions with the famous Eighth Route Army of China. A 
young artist came along to the interview to sketch Dr. 
Bethune. Afterward, the young artist bubbled with enthu- 
siasm. "What a wonderful man!" he exclaimed. "I wish 
I could borrow him for a while and take him around to 
my friends, and say, 'See, there is a Communist/ I am sure 
they would all wish to become Communists, too." Anita 
evokes such a response.