Document 11: "Kate O'Hare Demands Complete Vindication, Not Commutation; To Seek Full Citizenship Rights," New York Call, 1 June 1920, pp. 1-2.
This article documented O'Hare's commitment to eradicating the convict lease system. For socialists, the convict lease system represented the capitalist system with "all of its veneer scratched away." The article also described O'Hare's famous striped messaline "prison dress," which she often wore while lecturing on the abuses of the prison system.
KATE O'HARE DEMANDS COMPLETE
VINDICATION, NOT COMMUTATION;
TO SEEK FULL CITIZENSHIP RIGHTS
Release Terms Withheld
TO FIGHT FOR JUSTICE.
Ex-"Convict" Made 33,120
Pairs of Overalls in 59
By LOUIS ENGDAHL.
ST. LOUIS, May 31.--Kate Richards O'Hare does not yet know the exact terms on which she stepped from the Missouri state penitentiary a free woman, after serving 59 weeks of a five-year sentence.
She has not yet been officially informed whether she has been fully pardoned, or whether her sentence has merely been commuted by the President to provide for her release at this time without restoring her full citizenship rights.
If the latter turns out to be the case, then, she says, she has just begun to fight.
"It will be a very great mistake," she declared here today, "for the Department of Justice to keep this case alive. But the case will be kept alive if full citizenship rights have not been restored to me."
The policy of the administration at Washington with regard to political prisoners and the granting of a general amnesty takes on a new and particular interest in this connection.
Such Action Characteristic.
The release of prominent politicals unaccompanied by complete obliteration of the stigma of prison service from their names would, it is pointed out here, be characteristic of the double dealing in which the Department of Justice has indulged under the regime of Palmerism.
Frank P. O'Hare, who appealed the case of his wife after she had been put behind the bars, declared here today that he was not ready to quit in the matter until full justice shall have been done. He says that the bulletin he has been issuing weekly and sending to a selected list of nearly 2,000 Socialists and radicals will be continued.
He pointed out that James E. Phelan, the banker and political boss who was more active than anyone else in obtaining Kate O'Hare's conviction, has been driven in disgrace from his home town of Bowman, N.D., where Mrs. O'Hare's "seditious" speech is alleged to have been made.
If the Department of Justice cares to keep the case alive, Frank O'Hare says that so far as he is concerned it may do so, but that such action will result disastrously for the prominent persons mentioned in the affidavits submitted to Attorney General Palmer by George E. Roewer, member of the Socialist party's national executive committee, who went to North Dakota recently to make a special investigation of Kate O'Hare's frame-up.
Meanwhile, it developed here today that even the last incident in Mrs. O'Hare's prison life was a skirmish with the officials.
She had been told Saturday night that she might send to St. Louis for clothes to wear on her return home. She told President Painter of the prison board that she would wear just what was provided. "Moreover, she added, "I will wear whatever is provided at the hundreds of mass meetings that I intend to address all over the land."
Picks Messaline Dress.
The prison board president was in a dilemma. The state of Missouri provides $12 for women convicts to obtain an outfit for leaving the penitentiary. The Federal government was more liberal. It appropriated $30 for this purchase.
Whereupon, the United States government, through its representatives gave Kate O'Hare a choice between two dresses. She picked a messaline dress, with stripes of purple, black, green, and blue. She also received a broad-brimmed black straw hat trimmed with red flowers.
"I feel just like a Christmas tree," confessed the former international secretary of the Socialist party.
"Owing to the small sum given them, many of the women are compelled to leave prison without any underwear at all." she said. "Last summer one of my Comrades sent me several dozen suits of underwear. This met the needs of the women leaving prison for the time.
In addition to the sums already men-
tioned, each woman upon leaving prison is giving $5 upon which to start life again.
A prominent local woman, who has valiantly stood by the political prisoners at the state penitentiary in spite of the war prejudice, drove the automobile that carried Kate O'Hare, all her belongings, husband and newspaper representatives to the Central Hotel.
Forced to Leave Prison Garb.
"I told Mr. Painter," said Kate O'Hare, "at dinner that I had put in $1,500 worth of time in making overalls for the government and all they gave me was a hat and this dress that makes me feel like a Christmas tree. In addition, of course, I received 50 cents a month while in class C, 75 cents a month while in class D and $1 a month in class A, where I was when I left."
Mrs. O'Hare was denied the right to take her prison clothes with her as souvenirs.
When she first entered prison she was forced to do her bit on only 55 pairs of overalls each day. Soon she was put on a more difficult task of achieving 17 operations on 88 pairs of overalls each day, and she stood by the task except for the time when she was incapacitated by influenza.
It was figured out that 33,120 pairs of overalls had passed through her hands during her time in prison.
There are big callouses on the knuckles of her fingers where she held the handles of the shears necessary to perform her task. The scar remains where the power-driven needle pierced the forefinger of her left hand. Kate O'Hare's hair is nearly white. Her voice is not as strong as it was when she made speeches nearly every day. Otherwise she is the same. She escaped the dreaded tuberculosis, the terror of every prison.
Mrs. O'Hare Will Write Book.
Kate O'Hare says she is going to write a book about it all. She has had time to think during the past year and to read and, on the train going back to St. Louis, she said she was so full of the things she wanted to put on paper that she could hardly wait to get home.
It should be an interesting book. The capitalist system, inside of a prison, has all of its veneer scratched away.
Kate O'Hare was in prison with the other women politicals. She was with Emma Goldman, who served 20 months of a two-year sentence and was then deported to Soviet Russia. Then there was Ella Antolini, the little Italian girl said to have been framed by the Department of Justice and charged with carrying a grip of dynamite from Youngstown, Ohio, to Chicago.
She served 14 months of an 18 months' sentence and is now being held for deportation. There was a victim of the war hysteria under the Espionage act, Elizabeth Watkins, aged 45, of Covington, Kentucky, who said that the United States couldn't make as good dyestuffs as Germany. She served a year, during which time her invalid sister and mother died.
Scared to Death.
"She was just scared to death by the power machines," said Kate O'Hare, in telling of her case, "so she couldn't perform her tasks. The result was that she was sent to the blind cell, where she contracted influenza, then pneumonia."
Now Mollie Steimer is there alone, and will be the last of war's women prisoners unless Palmer decides otherwise. Rose Pastor Stokes would have been sent to Jefferson City if her case had not been reversed by the higher courts.[A]
A. Stokes was a noted socialist organizer from New York City. A full-text search on her name will produce a list of other documents on the website making references to her.
Back to Text
| Documents Projects and Archives | Teacher's Corner | Scholar's Edition | Full-Text Sources | About Us | Contact Us |