Document 16: Circular, The Children's Crusade to Free the Political Prisoners (St. Louis, Mo: National Rip-Saw, 10 March 1922), Frank P. O'Hare Collection, Box 12, Folder 8, Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis.


        The Children's Crusade for Amnesty sought to publicize the cases of ordinary political prisoners often ignored or overlooked. In this National Rip-Saw circular, Frank O'Hare reported that enough funds had been collected to gather all of the women and children in St. Louis, and requested money from readers to cover the costs of delivering the crusade to Washington, D. C., and of publishing the "Big Book of Facts." Note how much larger this project had become in the two months since O'Hare's letter to Caroline Lowe (see Document 15). For Kate O'Hare, prison reform included a commitment to rehabilitating the American justice system. She maintained that the "justice" the courts exacted was determined by a defendent's economic standing. Defendants with powerful political connections or greater wealth were likely to receive a lighter sentence, while those defendents lacking such resources were punished more harshly. O'Hare's emphasis on the importance of the "Big Book of Facts" reflected this commitment.


The Children's Crusade
to Free the Political Prisoners

and its Army of Volunteer Workers and Subscribers


1049a North Grand Ave., St. Louis, Mo.
March 10, 1922



Success Crowns Our First Effort!

Dear Rip-Saw Reader:

        You have read of the Children's Crusade for the freedom of the men still confined in Federal Prisons charged with violation of the Espionage Act. You have learned of the plan to have the wives and children of the prisoners meet in St. Louis, and go to Washington, D.C., there to lay before the President of the United States the facts in the cases of these men, to present each case on its individual merits, but to present every case with a plea for Amnesty for all.

        The funds for assembling the women and children have been raised, and are now in the bank. On the first call, sent to picked workers for the Rip-Saw, the members of the "Rip-Saw Family" contributed over a $1,000 for this purpose. This is probably all of the money that will be needed for paying the fares of the women and children to St.Louis, and their expenses while in St. Louis.

        So much, so good.

Now to Provide the Big Book of Facts About the Politicals for the Children to Take to the President

        When the Children's Crusade starts to Washington, it cannot, of course, go empty-handed. It must be armed with the unanswerable arguments for general Amnesty, based on the protest against imprisoning men in America for actual or alleged expression of opinion, fortified by the history of each individual case, showing the many instances where injustice has been done. The work of collecting these facts and preparing the arguments is being rapidly carried forward. Thirty days ago we could publish hardly more than a bare list, and an imperfect list at that, of the political and industrial prisoners. Today we know the exact number of Federal prisoners. There are 113 of them, and we are able to give the details in scores of cases. It is expected that in thirty days more all of the essential facts in regard to every case will have been gathered, and the material prepared for presentation to the President.

        The Children's Crusade will carry to Washington the BIG BOOK of FACTS regarding the political prisoners. The printing of this Big Book is our next task.

        We cannot arouse the American people to enthusiastic action over a list of names. The mere catalog of 113 prisoners fails to arouse in us the proper interest and sympathy. But the Big Book of Facts will show that back of each name there is a MAN, and back of each man there is somewhere in the world a mother, wife, sister, sweetheart or child waiting and watching for the day of freedom for their loved one. To these dear ones the NAME of each prisoner means something. It means a working man who has given his life to the service of the toiling masses. There are no wealthy men in prison under the Espionage Act, there are no profiteers, there are no enemy spies in prison under this celebrated SPY act. All the prisoners, without exception, are working men, wage earners, tenant farmers and the like. In every case their families are in actual need as a result of their imprisonment. Each prisoner has a history of long and useful labor in the mills, mines, forests, and factories, or on the farms and ranches of America.

Many Helpers at Work

        All over the country capable hands are busily engaged in gathering together the facts about the lives and trials of the 113 political prisoners. In Chicago, Boston, New York, Washington, St. Louis and elsewhere volunteer writers and investigators are at work. The work of compilation of the Big Book of Facts is going rapidly forward. If it were necessary for the Rip-Saw to prepare this work alone, it would take us many months to gather the material for this master study of the operations of American courts during war time. But with many enthusiastic helpers everywhere it is safe to say that the Big Book of Facts will be ready for the printer in an incredibly short time.

Humanizing Our Appeal

        The Big Book of Facts will tell something about each man, of his home life, his family, his children. It will tell what his activities have been in the world-wide struggle of the toiling masses. It will make the 113 names no longer mere names, but will show that we are dealing with human beings, and not merely "cases". In this book will be printed the evidence that the government attorneys produced against these men, as quoted in the government attorneys' briefs. An examination of the records shows that when the worst testimony against these men is produced it convicts them of ONLY OF EXPRESSION OF OPINION. The court of appeals threw out the so-called industrial charges against the Chicago defendants (counts 1 and 2 of the indictment), and these I.W.W. prisoners are now in prison solely on the grounds of violation of the Espionage Act!

        We have examined the testimony in nearly all of the cases, and we want to shout from the house tops just what evidence was produced against these men to win them five, ten, and twenty-year sentences, and fines running up to $30,000!

        In the case of Clyde Hough, for instance: The record shows that Hough was arrested on June 5th, 1917, and was in jail during the entire remaining period of the alleged conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act, which law was not passed until June 15th, 1917! Write to any newspaper in Rockford, Ill., or to any minister, or to anyone you know in that city and investigate this statement! It seems incredible, but it is true. We expect Mrs. W. B. Hough, the mother of Clyde Hough to be in the Children's Crusade and to personally present to the President the FACTS about her son, as well as the testimonials of scores of citizens of Rockford who hold Clyde Hough in the highest esteem as a clean, noble-minded young man.

        The funds to start the Children's Crusade are on hand. The women and children are ready and eager to co-operate. There is just one thing holding the Crusade from starting. That one thing is the Big Book of Facts.


The Necessity for the Big Book of Facts Is Obvious. Now to Get It Printed!

        Just imagine what it will mean to be able to give every friend of political freedom the Big Book of Facts. Today, there are thousands and thousands of earnest and influential people in every walk of life eager to help. The most they can do is to write a letter to the President urging Amnesty. The Secretary to the President writes back a courteous letter acknowledging receipt, and that is the end of it. The incident is closed. What can you do about it? But with the Big Book of Facts of the Political Cases in your hand you will not write to the President in glittering generalities. You will have specific and proven FACTS. You will have the references with which to nail the opponents of Amnesty to the cross! You will be able to clinch your demand by showing its reasonableness and its justice. You can realize of what enormous value the Big Book of Facts will be to every speaker and writer, how absolutely necessary it is in our battle for the freedom for these 113 men.

        As I see it the Big Book of Facts about the politicals will be one of the most significant books ever printed in America. It will be historic. Do you not know that this issue is one of the greatest causes that was ever presented to the American people? Did you ever stop to think that the story of the American prisoners of conscience, Debs, Coldwell, Clark, Miller, Kate O'Hare, Clyde Hough and their scores of comrades, will be one of the landmarks of history? Such is the case. The daily press is full of the three trials of Fatty Arbuckle, but history will forget Fatty. History will remember the CHILDREN'S CRUSADE TO SAVE AMERICA FROM THE HIDEOUS CRIME OF PENALIZING CONSCIENCE.

* * *

        Our idea is to print all the facts in a book of about 250 pages, because the President of the United States cannot be expected to read this brief unless it is printed. It will cost say $1,000 to print one copy of this book for the President. It will cost only a $1,000 more to print 10,000 additional copies. And our idea is to print 10,000 copies of the book.

One Copy to the President

        One copy of the book to go to the President of the United States, to be presented to him by the children of the prisoners.

        One copy of the Big Book of Facts to go to each and every person who contributes $1.00 or more to the cost of printing it.

        The remainder of the 10,000 copies of the edition to be carried across the country by the Children's Crusade, and distributed to newspaper men, publicists, writers and speakers, and to all interested persons. In this way the complete story of the political and industrial prisoners will be given to the world.

One Copy to You

        So one copy of the Big Book of Facts will go to you as your souvenir of this event. An identical copy will go to President Harding, and the remainder of 10,000 copies will serve as ammunition for the myriads of Americans who will rally to the rescue of the happiness of the women and children whose men are now in Leavenworth prison.
        It might be well to explain here that the Rip-Saw is not going to make a penny of profit on the compilation or printing of this book, nor will there be a charge for the time of our editors and office helpers spent on this work. Any money contributed to the Big Book Fund which is not used to pay for white paper, printing and postage for the book will be returned to the contributors.

Send Us Your Dollar

        We are asking you to be one of 2,000 persons to send $1.00 to the Rip-Saw to go into the BIG BOOK FUND, as a means of raising the money to pay for the actual cost of printing the book after it has been compiled.


Exactly How to Help the Rip-Saw Win Amnesty

        We suggest any or all of the following ways to help the Rip-Saw put over the big work we are attempting.

        1. If you received a package of six yearly Rip-Saw subscription certificates on credit, and have not already sent your $3.00 to pay for same, please do so at once or at your very earliest convenience.

        2. Send us a club of at least four yearly subscriptions at the club rate of 50c per year. Remember that subscriptions are the life blood of our magazine. When you send us paid-in-advance subscriptions you strengthen our arm for the fight. We have no paid agents. Every subscription comes as the volunteer work of some loyal friend.

        3. Notice the enclosed 16-line 3-months' subscription blank. Send us 16 3-months' subscriptions at the rate of 12 1/2c each. We shall mail the February, March and April Rip-Saws to each, with the news of the Children's Crusade for Amnesty. This gets us quick and effective circulation, and it is highly important. Be sure to get KEY men and women, persons of influence in your community, to subscribe. They must be informed of the campaign for Amnesty.

        4. Order a bundle of assorted February and March Rip-Saws at the rate of 24 copies for $1.00, and use them among your friends.

        While we are carrying on our campaign for Amnesty, the Rip-Saw magazine must and will go on with its regular work. The March issue of the Rip-Saw will contain SMASHING publicity for the cases of the politicals. We shall tell the story of several more cases, and will have a special article on the "Green Corn Rebellion," in Oklahoma, an article from the pen of John Nicholas Beffels on the Sacramento cases as well as other articles with a direct bearing on the Children's Crusade for Amnesty. But there will be a wealth of other material, for we aim to keep the Rip-Saw overflowing with a variety of good things, to make it a monthly intellectual treat for its readers. We ask you to help us secure the widest possible circulation for the March Rip-Saw. We make a special request to you this month to work as you have never worked before to double the circulation of your magazine.

Keep Us in Fighting Trim Financially

        The above work on your part sustains your magazine while it engages in the big battle for Amnesty. Your contributions for the following purposes go directly and in full for the assistance and relief of the political prisoners.

Help Print the Big Book

        1. Send $1.00 or more to help pay the cost of printing the Big Book of Facts About the Politicals. You will receive one copy (not for the $1.00, but to record the fact that you have helped).

Succor the Prisoners' Families in This Emergency

        2. We have distributed the money you sent us last year for the families of the political prisoners. If you care to send a $1.00 or so for the living expenses of the women and children, who are now battling the world alone while their men are in prison, it will be a noble act of fraternal kindness.

Flash a Little Joy Into the Prison Cells

        3. And just before you write your check, chip in at least a dime more for a fund to divide among the 113 prisoners for pocket money. One of them writes: "Prison life is bitter; if you could send me some dates they would sweeten it some." Another comrade writes for a set of dominoes. And another wants a piccolo, as he plays in the prison band. If there is a place in the world where one needs money it is in prison. I would like to see 10,000 dimes come sprinkling into the Rip-Saw office as pin money for prisoners, to divide equally among these 113 men.

The Children's Crusade for Amnesty

        Elbertine Reeder is all ready to go to Washington to see President Harding, and tell him why she believes her father should be released from Leavenworth prison. Of course her real reason is that she wants her daddy. She wants to be home again in the Chickasaw country, in the Red River Valley in Oklahoma. She wants to see her papa and mamma and her big brother Don once again all together under the roof of the little cottage in the own [sic] of Wilson, Okla. For Elbertine is only nine years old and every girl nine years old knows that the place for her papa to be is at home with the family.

        Elbertine is the daughter of Walter Reeder, one of the Oklahoma men convicted as a result of the so-called "Green Corn Rebellion." For a long time it was understood that Reeder had been guilty of taking up arms against the Government, and the public believed that his associates had actually killed officers of the law sent to break up "The Rebellion." Now, after Reeder has been in prison over four years, it is discovered that Reeder's case is of a different sort entirely. There was no violent resistance of the draft. Nobody was killed. Nobody connected with the alleged conspiracy had done more than commit loose talk.

        The case against Reeder boils down to conviction for expression of opinion, and Elbertine's visit to the President is intended to discover whether the Government of the United States intends to keep this family broken up. There are at least three perfectly innocent members of the Reeder family, the mother, Don and Elbertine. An analysis of the facts show that these three innocent persons who never appeared before the jury have drawn the extreme penalty of the law for a crime that public officials of Carter County, Okla., now say even Walter Reeder, the father, did not commit.

* * *

        Little Wendell Westerlund, who lives at 213 East Sixth street, Duluth, Minn., a bright little chap of six years, may not be able to join in the Children's Crusade for Amnesty, which is expected to call on President Harding within a few weeks and plead for the release of all politicals. Wendell's father is Frank Victor Westerlund, who is now serving a term of five years in Leavenworth prison, having been found guilty of being an organizer for the I.W.W. in the famous Chicago case tried by Judge Landis. The court record reveals not one single word of testimony adduced against Westerlund, to prove that he was guilty of interfering with the war.

        A letter received from Mrs. Hilma Westerlund relates that little Wendell was knocked down by an automobile two weeks before Christmas, and his leg was broken above the knee. After being in the hospital for four weeks, he was dismissed to go back to school, but before taking him home, his mother asked for an X-ray examination, and it was found that unless an another [sic] operation was performed, the boy would be crippled for life. He was taken back to the hospital and his leg was broken again. He is not out of the hospital, but requires the constant attention of his mother. It is not certain that he will be strong enough to join his little comrades in their visit to President Harding.

* * *

        There are four children on a farm near Paragould, Ark., ready to join the other sons and daughters of political prisoners in the Children's Crusade to Washington, to present the cases of the political prisoners to President Harding, but their mamma will not be with them. These are the children of J.M. Danley, now serving a term of ten years in the Leavenworth penitentiary. Mrs. Danley died a year after her husband's incarceration for alleged violation of war-time laws. While Mr. Danley has been paying with his liberty for a lifetime of activity as a humble member of cotton farmer's unions, his orphan children have been on the charity of others so poor that they cannot take care of their own. This case is an excellent illustration of the majesty of the law and of the justness of war-time justice. Not by any conceivable stretching of the imagination can these four orphans be considered guilty of harming the United States of America, and Danley is known to have been a law-abiding and useful citizen of the country, but these four young children and two older ones are paying the price.

* * *

        The Children's Crusade is ready to start to Washington on short notice, and is merely awaiting the compilation of the facts in the cases of each of the 113 Federal prisoners. It is intended to make these statements of fact concise and compact, and incorporate them all into one document for delivery by the children themselves to President Harding. Will you help?


        Help this campaign with Subs for the Rip-Saw. Help with orders for bundles of the Rip-Saw to distribute where they will win support for Amnesty. Help pay the cost of the Big Book of Facts to inform the President. Help fraternally and lovingly to take care of the immediate needs of the families of the politicals. Help to cheer up the spirits of the men in prison after their four years of separation from the world by chipping in on the Prisoners' Pocket-Money Fund. Help one way or all ways. Help to WIN.


                                                                     THE NATIONAL RIP-SAW

Frank P. O'Hare

1049a North Grand Ave.
       St. Louis, MO


| Documents Projects and Archives | Teacher's Corner | Scholar's Edition | Full-Text Sources | About Us | Contact Us |