Document 8L: Letter from Kate Richards O'Hare to "Sweethearts," 5 October 1919, printed in Collection of Letters Written by Kate Richards O'Hare in Prison, and Bulletins Relating to Them (St. Louis: F. P. O'Hare, 1919-1921). .
Jefferson City, Mo.,
October 5, 1919.
F. P. O’Hare
1011 Holland Bldg.,
St. Louis, Mo.
It is raining and gloomy this morning so I shall pass the day writing. I am still feeling fine, eat and sleep well and manage to get thro the wearing labor of the day without unbearable weariness.
My letters from home were very scrappy this week but I know you are terribly busy and the children are full of their school work and other activities. It is too bad that Kathleen will have a rainy day for her visit to the country, but the twins won't mind, - in fact, I think they will enjoy hiking in the rain regardless of the effect on their clothes.
I was so sorry indeed to hear that Josephine (our housekeeper) was not well, but I know Dr. H. is very conservative in his diagnosis and not given to alarms. If it should be necessary for her to leave St. Louis, write to E.M., giving him the true history of her case, and no doubt he will be able to arrange some place for her out west. This creates a new problem for you but somehow things always seem to come out right in the end and worry never helps matters. But of course it does take all of the courage and fortitude I can command to go on and on, day after day, week after week, and month after month, in the soul-destroying, brain-stupefying, body-wrecking monotony and slavish labor of prison life while I know that outside my children need me as they will never need me again.
For two years elected officials, editors, educators and clergymen have glorified slaughter, idealized killing, sanctioned mob-madness and physical outrage upon every human being who dared to disagree with the administration. For two long bitter years they sowed the winds, now they are reaping the whirlwinds. When savage bloodlust is unleashed it is not always careful to choose socialists and labor leaders for its victims; sometimes it chances to be mayors and governors and senators. There is serious danger that the mob spirit may sooner or later turn upon some who have fanned the flames of disorder and seared men's souls with the gospel of hate and unlawful vengeance. At this hour a monument is being unveiled over the grave of Prager, one of the first victims of mob madness, and I wonder if there will be any one with the courage to say what I am saying now- that Prager was not murdered in the high road of Illinois by a mob of drunken miners; Prager was murdered in the editorial rooms of respectable newspapers by sober sane editors.
I can't help but be depressed by all of the horrors that are taking place out in the world, the strikes, the outbursts of mob-madness, the wilful and wanton murder of working men and women, yet I know that all of these things are but the birth pangs of the coming of the new order. They are but the natural reaction of a betrayed, disillusioned, embittered humanity that is rapidly awakening to the wrongs that have been heaped upon it in the name of democracy, the outrages that have been forced upon it in the name of patriotism. How long this night of horror will be, how rough the road and how bloodstained the way, none of us can say. But there is one consolation we Socialists can take to our hearts: We know our hands are free from bloodstains, and our garments are clean. For years and years we have tried to lead the feet of mankind to the paths of internationalism, cooperation, peace and justice, but the workers were too stupid to hear and the rulers too blind and ignorant to heed and now the deluge is upon us. Who can say what the end will be or when the night of horrors will break!
However we must live thro each day and meet the petty labors and weary duties of commonplace life, no matter how terrible the war that rages, so I presume the braver, finer thing is to live each day as cheerfully and serenely as possible, and do the humble work patiently, that we may be ready for the larger tasks of the future. So I stitch all day at the dreary monotonous labor, share the heartaches and the sorrows of the other women, ready my letters, books, papers and magazines and really manage to achieve a life that is not unbearably hard.
I miss the intellectual companionship of Emma very much. She and the two girls who were paroled were most congenial and now I have only little Ella who is at all intellectually companionable. I had a letter from Stella and also one from Emma and I see by the papers that Emma's deportation has been indefinitely postponed. I was certainly amused by your story of Emma and H. In fact I barely escaped getting in trouble over it. Three strange survivals of the old prison life are very much in evidence here. There are three frightful crime, - courtesy, kindness and laughter. Indulgence in either is cause for punishment, and I have to watch my step. I read your letter at the table and giggled like a schoolgirl over the story. It reminded me of the old problem of the "irresistible force and the immovable object."
I have had many nice letters from old friends and new ones all over the country and they helped me bear the loneliness of Emma's going. Janet K. wrote and sent me some books which the girls are devouring with great gusto. It is such a pitiful tragedy that these women to whom love has brought nothing but misery and sorrow should be so hungry for the most romantic and impossible love stories. In them I suppose they find a narcotic for their own tragic heartaches. Ella received the book Janet sent and wants me to express her thanks. So many of the books that are old to me are such new wonderful friends to her. A friend in Webster Groves sent me "Towards Democracy." Of course Carpenter and I are old friends, but I enjoyed reading him once more. He seems more live and vital and real to me now. Ella had never seen the book and she is simply buried in it. I envy her her first reading of some of the wonderful things. Ella also wants me to thank Augusta Holland for the beautiful box of candy and Lillian Bider for the book.
I had a nice letter from Mr. Huebsch who sent me a number of books that I have enjoyed greatly. I like the "Life of Juares" very much. The author seems to agree with my idea of the man, and naturally I think it is very fine. I also enjoyed the little book "Women and the Labor Party" edited by my dear friend, Marion Phillips of London. Nearly all the contributors are very dear friends, and it came as a message from the women that I love and honor. I missed Dr. Benthem from the group. I hope that the weight and horrors of the war have not been too much for her. Please see that a copy of the 'Appeal' special and the prison letters go to Dr. Phillips. I think she would be interested in knowing that the rug she gave shares my prison cell and that I never see it or feel its soft warmth but it brings beautiful memories of the wonderful weeks in London and the dearly loved friends and co-workers there.
I enjoyed the little book you brought me, "Theosophy Simplified" for its beautiful simplicity. How Iwwish [sic] writers on other subjects could master Mr. Cooper's remarkable style. The writers on modern psychology, for instance. Freud isn't so bad, he is wordy but quite plain, but most of his followers feel it more important to impress the reader with their painful learning than to make their subject clear. There is nothing I know that would be so valuable to me here as a few good books on psychoanalysis that could be read and understood by these women; their average intelligence is about on a par with the people outside. The copy of Hart's "Psychology of Insanity" has gone the rounds and at least two-thirds of the women read it with some degree of understanding and they tired me out explaining the things that were not clear to them. About ten or fifteen have read Hitschmann’s "Freud’s Theories of Neuroses", and about the same number Lay’s "Man’s Unconscious Conflicts". If I only had these three books, and White's "Mechanism of Character Formation" written in a simple clear style, I think they would be of more value and saving force than all the preaching, punishments and black holes. I see by a review in the 'Dial' that White has a new book, "The Mental Hygiene of Childhood", and Lay also, "The Child's Unconscious Mind." I wish Dick would get them for me from the library and mail them to me.
I read and reread all of Charles Rann Kennedy's plays. I feel that "The Servant in the House" and "The Terrible Meek" are the best, but the "Winterfeast" is beautiful and I should have so enjoyed seeing it. Tell him I think "The Necessary Evil" hints at a bit of subconscious conflict. I appreciate his sending them to me, and I amd [sic] glad that I will have the pleasant memory of them to counteract the dark memories of this place. Some one sent me "Why Marry" by Jesse Lynch Williams, and it is delicious. How I wish I might have seen Nat Goodwin in it. Really my stay here has given me an opportunity to read and enjoy many things I could never have found time for outside. Always there was the urge of my work, the necessity for study that I might keep abreast of the time and tide of life's events. I could never sit down and read a thing merely because I enjoyed it and I almost lost my love for literature in the necessity for the study of textbooks. It had been years since I read a book of poetry but here when the day's work is done and we are caged like animals, there are long hours to be filled with reading or the heart hunger and loneliness becomes maddening. When I first came, Carl Sandburg sent me his "Cornhuskers" and Carlin "My Ireland", and in them I found my old love of poetry revived. I have gone either forward or backward, just as you view it, to a state of mind where I can enjoy literature for its own beauty and not for the propaganda it contains.
My bookcase has overflowed and there is a pile of late arrivals on a chair. I keep them close by the bars so that some of the hall girls and diningroom girls who are not locked in all the time can come and help themselves, and they are so very grateful for this privilege. What a remarkable library it is, and how the children will love it when I can bring my book of treasures home to them. I am sure that no library was ever accumulated in so strange a place and manner.
My cell is a curious looking place with the corner full of jam and jellies, the bookcase full of books, the steel walls decorated with beautiful pictures and the crude prison table holding its fragrant flowers and artistic loving cup. The flowers that you sent came last night, lovely, fragrant red roses. Of course I divided with Ella and each of our cells is sweet with the perfume that reminds us always of the love that no stone walls can shut out and no steel bars hinder. It is very thoughtful indeed for you to send fresh flowers for each Sunday and we enjoy them to the utmost.
I have had a number of splendid letters this week, some from every section of the country. One came from Newfoundland. It was from a lumberjack who wrote me a dozen pages telling of his hunger for education and his longing for an opportunity to attend school. He sent me a tiny pencil sketch of a cutover pine barren that is the most remarkable thing. It is only about an inch and a half by five inches and at first glance it seems only a blur, then it becomes so vivid that you can feel the wind upon your face, smell the pines and the sense of barren desolation sends a chill to your heart. How much this uncultured lumberjack must have felt and suffered to be able to put his very life's barrenness into this tiny sketch!
I have much amusement studying my letters and the people who write them. I have had letters from all manner of people, of all callings and professions except one. I have had letters from men and women from the humblest walks of life and from the most respectable professions. Writers, artists, musicians, college professors and scientists have jostled wobblies, farmers and housemaids when the letters are distributed. I have even had letters from Christian Scientists, Theosophists, Spiritualists, a Jap and a Hindoo, but never has there been a letter from an orthodox Protestant minister. You can imagine my surprise when I received a letter yesterday with the title of "Rev." on it. I thought the impossible had happened, but when I read my letter I found it was from Rev. L.G.L. of St. Louis, and he is not a real orthodox minister of the gospel; he is a Sweden-borgian, and that explains the matter. I often wonder if these gentlemen of the cloth ever read the scriptures -- "I was in prison and ye visited me not". I suppose not, - no doubt they feel that in this matter Jesus really displayed a regrettably low taste. But to return to Mr. L., please tell him that I value his letter. My father was a great admirer of Swedenborg, and we read "Heaven, and Its Wonders and Hell" together, when I was quite a young girl, in fact I think I am more familiar with the writings of this great philosopher and humanitarian than most, and I have a sincere admiration for him and his works, even if I do not follow him fully. I shall be glad to read again the things Rev. L. sent. As I have said I find time and opportunity to read, not so much for the word as for the spirit and no doubt I will enjoy a little dip into Swedenborg, through the broader deeper conception of life that my prison experience has given me.
I see my paper is almost gone and there are some minor matters I must write of. The carbon paper and the questionnaire arrived. I shall try to get some of them filled out. Do try to get a note to Mrs. Gleeson and ask her to see Judge Taylor and ask him to see that the correction is made in Louise Kelley's commitment papers. She was arrested on Feb. 3 charged with complicity in a larceny case, tried on March 17th. She was sentenced to three years here but on June 12 the sentence was cut by Judge Taylor to two years. However, this reduction does not appear on her commitment papers and she is anxious that the matter should be corrected. Let me know as soon as possible whether you can get the traveling bag, the girl goes out soon. I want paper napkins also, get the cheapest kind and plenty of them.
Kathleen must write me all about her visit with the G. sisters and the twins about their visit to Chaminade. I hope Dick gets out also, he is such a quiet, steady chap that we are apt to forget that he is still a boy and should have a boy's amusements. Did I tell you that Mrs. B. sent me such a sweet little picture of the twins on Harold's cycle? She is certainly a faithful, loyal friend that stands all tests.
I must close now, I want to rest and read for a time, our day of rest is almost gone and with morning comes the long, long week of deadly grind at the machines. Love and kisses to all my darlings.
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