Document 8D: Excerpts from letter from Kate Richards O'Hare to "Sweethearts," 22 June 1919, printed in Kate Richards O'Hare, Kate O'Hare's Prison Letters (Girard, Kansas: The New Appeal Publishing Company, 1919), pp. 40, 41, 42-43 (History of Women Microfilm, reel 914, no. 7648).


June 22, 1919.

Dear Sweethearts:

        I will have to rush at a great rate with my letter today as for some unknown reason our lights are shut off, making it impossible to do anything at night. I don't know whether it is temporary or permanent. Certainly, I hope it will not be long. The cells are so dark that reading or writing is almost impossible at any time of the day. Until this week the lights were turned on as soon as we were locked in and we could read and write, but now we are left in darkness until eight and then they are off again at nine. This compels us to stew in the frightfully hot cells from six to eight absolutely unable to do anything to distract our minds from the misery. However, I feel sure that it is temporary, so will make the best of it for the time being, but it is severe hardship to be denied my reading and opportunity to write in comfort, and I suppose this letter will be harder to read than usual.

* * *

        First, write Helen Holman, 7 East 15th Street, New York, Secretary of the Kate O'Hare Committee and get the petition blanks demanding a Congressional investigation of my case and secure as many signatures as possible. Second, write and induce everyone else that you can reach to write your Representative and Senator, stating that you have signed the petition and why.

        As to what to send me, things to eat are always welcome and if I have more than I need, there are many hungry women here who need it sorely. Unless our lights are restored, reading matter will be only an aggravation; temptation to ruin our eyes.

* * *

        I was interested in Reverend A.'s message and appreciate it. I would like you to ask him how much the Church Federation spent in Foreign Missions last year, and how much on the study of welfare of Missouri delinquents, and which he feels Christ meant when he said, "love thy neighbor," and "feed my lambs." Ask him if he knows there is not a single Bible in the Women's Department of the Missouri prison, and ask what organized Christianity has done to secure the segregation of the feeble-minded and merely unfortunate from the more hardened criminals of the State. Asy [sic] him if he don't think it would be good common sense Christianity for the Church Federation to insist on the Psychological Department of the State University being permitted to make a survey of the inmates of this institution that we might have some scientific data to verify my studies and observations here. Ask him if it is good common sense, not to mention good religion, for his organization to remain deaf, dumb and blind to the fact that these stone walls not only shut idealists, unfortunates and feeble-minded in, but just as rigidly shut scientific investigation out.

* * *

        I was ill in my cell all one day recently and some "uplifters" were being shown through the prison. I was lying behind the curtain where they could not see me and their astonishment on viewing my pictures was most amusing. I suppose they could not imagine a Socialist caring for beautiful pictures.

        Don't be alarmed, I have been quite ill, but am much better today. I became overheated in the shop with the usual results, but the rest yesterday afternoon and today have done wonders for me and I hope to be almost normal by tomorrow. I saw Mr. Painter[A] Saturday and he promised to do all that can be done to improve the ventilation in the shop and I hope to be able to endure the heat without real danger, but the fact that I have suffered heat prostration on three previous occasions makes me very susceptible and the outlook is not particularly promising. I feel sure Mr. Painter will do all that he possibly can do to insure my safety, but the unfortunate thing is that there is really little that he can do, and it is easier to secure an audience with the President of the United States than for an inmate to reach him, and I really felt that there would be nothing left for him to do but "view the remains" when the redtape was eventually unrolled. He cared for another matter that has been an ever present horror to me, so I feel sure that I shall manage fairly well in the future.

        Tell Mr. Butrum that the Female Department of the Missouri Prison unanimously votes that he is a "darling"; in other words, the best "old scout" extant. The splendid box of fancy soaps came and there was enough to supply every woman, black and white, and for the first time in the history of the institution every woman has toilet soap! The perfume I am still distributing and next Thursday night we will have one grand head-wash. I wish I could find words to make you know how much these things mean in this place. The simplest courtesy means so much and the gratitude is so deep and sincere.

* * *

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A. The prison warden William R. Painter.
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