Document 10:  Letter from Florence Kelley to Jane Addams, Naskeag, Maine, 20 July 1927, Rockford College Archives (Jane Addams Papers Microfilm, reel 19, #248).

Introduction

        In this letter to Jane Addams, Florence Kelley detailed a strategy for pursuing a libel suit against the Daughters of the American Revolution. She referred to the example of a suit threatened by Norman Thomas, later a Socialist candidate for President of the United States. She hoped to have the Women's Trade Union League join her, and expected that her son, Nicholas, could pay whatever legal expenses they incurred.

Mrs. Florence Kelley
Naskeag, Brooklin
Maine
 
Dearest J.A.:
 
        The Balch's bring the tidings, which give me the usual summer joy, that you are actually at Hull's Cove.

        I missed a call yesterday afternoon from them because I was taking John's mother-in-law, Martha McNeill, to Ellsworth on her way home.  So I do not know how serious the consequences may be of a rumored tumble since you arrived.  Here's hoping they may not have been serious at all.

        Have you seen the D.A.R. slander-pamphlet, The Common Enemy?  Mrs. Catt published a fierce, but evidently not fierce enough, attack upon it in the current Woman Citizen which has been feeble-mindedly answered by Mrs. Grace Brosseau, President General of the D.A.R.  I think the time has come when there must be a libel suit to stop this endless and ever|more wide-spread sewage.

        Have you read Professional Patriots?

        I am impressed by the fact that Fred Marvin has been broken and the New York Commercial killed by a lawsuit brought against the latter jointly with the Security League by Norman Thomas, Arthur Garfield Hays, McAlister Coleman and a Mrs. Frank whom I do not know.

        McAlister Coleman tells me they sued for $25,000 each, carefully selecting their judge in the New York court; that the suit cost them almost nothing, being entered by friends in the legal profession; that they had no intention of letting it come to trial, but are carefully keeping it hanging; that Fred Marvin came to Norman Thomas and begged on his knees that they withdraw it, but Norman summoned courage to tell him that they needed money for the cause and that $100,000 would not begin to pay them for his lies and insults.

        The New York Commercial was an old and, of late years, feeble journal, and the scandal of this suit put an end to it.

        I am asking Mary Dreier if she and Mrs. Robbins will back Rose Schneiderman in such a suit.  Rose, I feel confident, would be delighted to bring it, if she had the Woman's Trade Union League behind her, which would be impossible without Mary Dreier and perhaps Mrs. Robbins.

        Ko would, of course, see me through, though I think the costs would be trifling.

        We should, I suppose, each have her own counsel, and the suit would have to be entered where the offense was committed.  This geographical item I have not yet obtained.  I have always assumed that the D.A.R. headquarters were in Washington with their building.

        How do you feel about this?  Do you take literally the Quaker injunction to keep out of the courts?  Hollingsworth Wood is, of course, a lawyer and a Quaker of the most faithful.

        Ko has recently united with the Society of Friends but continues his work at 20 Broadway being, I gather, neither more nor less conscientious in his practice than he has always been.

        I have asked the office to get me a dozen copies of The Common Enemy, and will send you one as soon as they come.

        Rose Schneiderman and I could, at a pinch, go ahead without you so far as we ourselves are concerned, but I am not at all clear what the effect on public opinion would be of our doing so.  The suit is brought considered, of course, not in the hope of extracting pelf from the D.A.R. but of closing its insolent and mendacious hydra-headed collection of mouths, to say nothing of its ink bottles and typewriters.

        Until I learned of the eminently successful outcome of the Norman Thomas suit, I had been unwilling even to consider Mr. Chenery's urgent entreaties that I sue the Woman Patriot.  The foul nest seemed, however, too insane to be worth tackling under any circumstances.

        The D.A.R. is another and entirely different story.  Please write me what you think.

        I cannot come to Hull's Cove this summer because I am working with two secretaries, one compiling the next pamphlet of the League on legal deaths and mutilations of wage-earning children, and one on my everlasting reminiscences.[A]

        Mrs. Prang is not here, being apparently fatally ill in the New England Sanitarium at Melrose.  Blind, alas, and palsied, though with her incredible, gallant spirit she managed to spend the winter in Arizona, going thither immediately after her ninetieth-birthday dinner and returning a few weeks ago for medical care in the sanitarium.

        Dear love to Mary.  I am assuming that her coming to the land of rain and fogs means that the asthma is conquered.

        What are the chances of your both coming over for next Sunday dinner?  Then we could talk over the possibilities of the D.A.R. lawsuit with or without your participation.

 

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A. These reminiscences have been republished in Kathryn Kish Sklar, ed., The Autobiography of Florence Kelley: Notes of Sixty Years (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr, 1986).
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