Document 13: Carrie Chapman Catt to Jane Addams, 26 May 1927, Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Emily Greene Balch Papers (Jane Addams Papers Microfilm, reel 18, #1859-1860).
By mid-1927, attacks on prominent WILPF members escalated to such an extreme that Carrie Chapman Catt decided to take public action. In this letter to Jane Addams, Catt asked Addams to respond to a few questions so that Catt could write with confidence that Addams was not a communist.
Catt's public support for Addams represented a reconciliation between two branches of the former suffrage movement. Catt had caused a split within the women's movement during her term as President of the National American Woman's Suffrage Association. Although Catt was a pacifist, she committed NAWSA to the war effort with the belief that such an expression of patriotism and support would further the suffrage cause. Following the war Catt returned to peace work, founding the Committee for the Cure and Cause of War in 1924. The CCCW, the conservative branch of the peace movement, never affiliated itself with the moderate WILPF or the more radical Women's Peace Union and Women's Peace Society.
Carrie Chapman Catt
171 Madison Ave.
May 26, 1927
Miss Jane Addams,
My dear Miss Addams:
I interrupt your busy life with a letter for which I apologize.
We have all been irritated by the continual vilification of opponents of peace, but now it seems to be a clear case of persecution. You and Mrs. Kelly stand at the top of the list of those most decidedly sat upon.
In California, the past winter, I found the D.A.R. were very diligent in passing around literature at their meetings which condemned other women's organizations and I gathered up some of the material which was given me free from actual members of the D.A.R. who had received it.
Now I am striving to write an open letter to the D.A.R. I do not know what form the letter will finally take, but it has to be completed, passed upon by lawyers, and ready for the printer within the next ten days. We propose to send it to as many D.A.R. addresses as we are able to secure. I am charging them with conduct unbecoming the descendants of the fathers of the Republic and saying that their passing of untruths amounts to persecution.
I had thought of selecting women by way of example and I thought it fair to take the two most persecuted--you and Mrs. Kelly. I am, therefore, asking you some questions for I must be fortified in the event there is another come-back. I shall only use what properly fits in my letter and you may reply in perfect confidence, being sure that I shall only use what you wish.
I found two pamphlets in circulation in California. One of them was called "The Common Enemy." It was put out by the D.A.R. or for them, since it practically announces this fact in some of the paragraphs. It announces also that there are two hundred organizations through which the revolutionary movement operates. It divides this into three classes--the non-Communist organization[s]; the best known open Socialist organizations, and the most prominent liberal and pacifist organizations. Your organization is listed in this class. In another place it says that Communism, Socialism, Bolshevism, Liberalism, and ultra-Pacifism tend to the same end, and those classes, under the named groups, are part of the world revolutionary movement, etc. I claim there are five distinct charges made against your organization connecting it with Communism. No names, however, are printed in this report as connected with any organization. However, in the same distribution was a reprint of the Congressional Record which contained the material presented by the Anti-Suffrage Association and read into the Record by Senator Bayard July 3, 1926.[A] I am sure you never read it through and there could have been no greater waste of your time had you done so. Further, there is a combination of these two which makes the thing so thoroughly an act of persecution. Will you, therefore, allow me to ask you the questions on another sheet?
Please understand that I do not want to bother you with long statements. I only want a "yes" or "no" wherever you can give it. I shall understand. I should feel that I knew enough about the League to make statements on its behalf and on yours, but I would rather have your word. I wish to say "Miss Addams is not a Communist, she is not a Bolshevist and she is not a Socialist," provided these things are true.
I am very sorry to bother you with all this nonsense.
I hope your health is comfortable and that you are getting some enjoyment out of life despite the activities of your enemies. The world honors you just the same and it will build a monument to you some day when the names of the others have been forgotten.
Very cordially yours,
(Signed) Carrie Chapman Catt
A. Thomas Bayard, U.S. Senator from Delaware between 1922 and 1929, objected to consideration and discussion of S.J. Resolution 100, described in Document 18, which would have outlawed war.
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