Document 12A: "Wave on Wave of Cheers Echo O'Hare Triumph," New York Call, 17 June 1920, pp. 1, 4.
O'Hare did not rest upon her release from prison, but immediately began a nine-month lecture tour. These articles describe both her reception from Socialist audiences and the content of her lectures, which now focused on reforming prisons. In Document 12B, O'Hare recounted one of the most disturbing experiences she faced in prison, being forced to bathe in an unclean bathtub after a woman with syphillis had bathed. O'Hare often used the graphic imagery of women suffering from syphillis, tuberculosis and other communicable diseases in her attacks on the prison system. By stressing that diseased women were not separated from "clean" women and that disease transmission therefore occurred frequently within the prison, and by reminding her audiences that the average woman prisoner's sentence was two years, O'Hare hoped to arouse public outrage to demand segregating diseased prisoners from healthy ones.
WAVE ON WAVE
OF CHEERS ECHO
3,000 Auditors Pledge to
Fight for Release of
Political Prisoners Behind Bars.
PROUD OF HER FIGHT
Released Prisoner Declares
She Was More "Dangerous"
in Jail Than on
Three thousand people gathered last night at the Lexington Opera House, Lexington avenue and 51st street, to welcome Kate Richards O'Hare on her release from the Federal penitentiary in Jefferson City, Mo., pledged themselves to continue the fight for the release of 2,000 other political prisoners still confined in the Federal jails.
Pandemonium broke loose the moment the tall and familiar figure of Mrs. O'Hare appeared as she entered the rear of the hall. The audience rose to its feet and cheered as she walked up to the platform. It continued, each time from another part of the large hall, while Algernon Loc, who was addressing the meeting when she entered, made repeated attempts to resume his address every time the applause died down, but in vain.
It broke anew when she stepped to the platform, continuing for eight minutes, while bouquets of roses were being brought up to her from all parts of the hall.
"It was hard to go to jail," she declared, "but it would have been still harder not to stand up for the things I believe. I am glad, I am proud, I am happy. I am glad, proud, and happy that the powers that be considered me a dangerous woman, sufficiently dangerous to lock up. And when they shut me up, they found that I was 10 times as dangerous in jail than out. Then they released me."
In spite of the intense heat, every seat in the vast hall was filled long before the hour set for the opening of the meeting. The balconies, box seats, and the orchestra were filled to capacity.
Marie MacDonald opened the meeting, which was called to welcome back, she said, one who had served 14 months on a trumped-up charge. Her release, she said, was as cowardly as was her confinement, as it failed to admit that the government had committed a grievous miscarriage of justice.
Enemies Recognize Movement.
"We have driven them into a corner," Marie MacDonald declared. "Our enemies now recognize that there is a great movement, a splendid and growing Socialist movement, that has undertaken the defense of the Constitution, and which stands not only for political democracy, but for far more than that--industrial democracy."
Theresa Malkiel, introduced as one who had worked the hardest for the release of political prisoners, said that Kate Richards O'Hare "was sent to prison for our sins." Kate--as the speakers affectionately referred to the rest of the evening--"was invincible in jail and out of jail, in winter and summer, in every cause that needs a spokesman."
"Mr. Palmer thought he would be able to stifle her voice," Mrs. Malkiel declared. "He has since learned his mistake. In jail she awoke a hundred unfortunates who for the first time in their lives, perhaps, had a kind word spoken to them.
"They cannot conquer women like Kate Richards O'Hare, they cannot conquer men like Eugene V. Debs, they cannot conquer young girls like Mollie Steimer." When the applause at the mentioning of the names of Debs and young Mollie Steimer died down, she
referred to the day a year and a half ago when at Webster Hall in this city several hundred devoted Socialists gathered at bid of Kate Richards O'Hare farewell.
"On that occasion she asked us to show our devotion by rededicating ourselves to the task she had left undone, the erection of a stronger and better Socialist movement," Mrs. Malkiel concluded. "We still have that task before us. We must keep up the fight. Better than flowers, better than gifts, let us devote ourselves to that task."
Algernon Lee, who followed Mrs. Malkiel, declared that the release of Mrs. O'Hare was not due to any sudden appreciation by Attorney General Palmer of the meaning of justice, or any realization on the part of President Wilson of the significance of the word mercy.
"If they are considering pardons for others, if they have released Kate Richards O'Hare, it is not because they respect either justice, or honor, or mercy," Lee declared. "It is because the two years' debauch which this nation has witnessed is coming to an end, because there is a return to sanity in the public mind, the mind of the working class. People are again beginning to speak their minds, though in some cases it is only half-heartedly.
Tide Is Turning.
"Don't let us congratulate ourselves too soon," Lee warned. "The victory is not yet won. The greatest of all the evils brought by the war has been the destruction of ideals, the poisoning of channels of public opinion, the assassination of the soul of peoples. This must be undone before the victory will have been won. All that can be said now is that the tide is turning."
Lee described the state of mind of the American people from the day the organized mob spirit began to prevail, shortly after the declaration of war in 1917, until a few months ago. He spoke of them as the long, dreary months that seem to pass so slowly and with horror as a people seemed to have gone mad.
"In all those months we might have kept quiet, we might have avoided the persecution to which we who had apposed the war were subjected," he said. "It seemed a thankless and a vain task. But we refused to keep quiet, regardless of the oppression and repression visited upon us. Thanks to that, the tide is beginning to turn today."
It was at this point that the applause began to come from the rear of the hall, and the audience looked there to see the figure of Kate Richards O'Hare make its way down the aisle. The audience rose as one man, waving hats and ribbons in her direction.
For five minutes the cheering continued, and finally Lee was permitted to resume his talk.
"If we are going to deserve to have Mrs. O'Hare out with us," he began, "if we are going to deserve to have Debs out with us, if we are going to deserve what we desire with regard to those who are paying the price for their loyalty to their and our cause, if we are going to re-establish liberty, we must do so as individuals, each one doing his full duty each day that comes and goes.
"If our people are suffering in jail, it is because a majority of the people have been ignorant enough, believing enough of what they had been told, to stand for it. Before we conquer power we must conquer the hearts of the men and women, and that can only be done by each one in this hall going out and visiting three, four, five, or more people daily and impressing them with out message. Then we will deserve and get freedom."
Mrs. Malkiel's Welcome.
Mrs. Malkiel was then called upon by the chairman to deliver the address of welcome.[A]
"We welcome you back to our city, Kate," Mrs. Malkiel began. "We would give you the key to the city if we could but Mr. Hylan will not permit us to do it. The Socialists of this city, state and nation, liberty-loving people everywhere welcome you."
Before she was introduced, Marie McDonald made an appeal for funds with which to conduct the pending campaign, which, she said, was indissolubly bound with the amnesty campaign. Liberty Bonds, in denominations of $100, $50, and bills ranging from $25 to $1, began to come from all parts of the hall. In the 15 minutes that the collection lasted, more than $1,000, it was estimated, was raised and pledged.
In the course of the collection a telegram from the Ladies' Waist and Dressmakers' Union was read inviting Mrs. O'Hare to spend a vacation at Unity House, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Pennsylvania.
The longest demonstration of the evening concluded when Mrs. O'Hare finally managed to make herself heard.
"I feel absolutely certain that you are in a conspiracy with the prison officials," she began. "They would not permit me to talk, and now I have been trying to get the floor for a while and you have tried to stop me."
"Only those who have been behind prison bars can realize what those long, dreary days are, and how happy one is welcomed back to live, love, and means more to me than words can tell. And it means so much to me because I know it is given to me because I am symbolical of those who were willing to face jail in defense of their convictions. They come not only to me but to 'Gene, to Molly, and to all of them.
"It is not easy to go jail, to leave your beloved ones, your home, your friends, and feel the prison gates clang behind you. But hard as it is to go to prison, it is harder still not to stand up for the things you believe in.
"I am sure no Socialist behind prison gates has any regrets. I have not. I stood for what I believe is true. I was not punished in prison, but educated in it. Down among the dregs of the earth, the despised, the hunted, the caged, I learned lessons that no book can teach. It is the lesson of faith in my fellow men and women. Some of them scared a scar in my heart, and yet I would not have avoided them for anything in the world."
She then began to recount her experiences in the 14 months that she spent in jail, while the audience followed closely, occasionally with an ejaculation at the horrors which she and other prisoners suffered and which many still suffer in the jails of the country.
A. Noted New York City trade union and socialist activist, Theresa Malkiel. Browse authors reveals several documents which she authored.
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