'GENE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE'
Agnes Boulton, with whom Eu
Were it not for a voice that was slightly huskier, a mole on the
lower right cheek and the absence of Louise's Celtic facial coloring, Agnes
might have been Louise's identical twin.
And as John Ransome, the
When Agnes' husband died, he left her a debt-ridden farm in the
In October of 1917, she decided to go to
It was all there on page two; her picture,
big headlines, everything. . . "No money in milk cows," says woman
dairy farmer who has made a brave fight. . .Now in
In her book about her life with O'Neill, Agnes recalled that when she first met him she showed him the newspaper clipping; he read it and feigned horror: "Good God! Dairy farmer . . .brave fight. . .supported a child and herd of cows. . .I don't believe it. A waitress, yes; even a ribbon clerk. . . but a dairy farmer, milking cows and sticking pitchforks into manure; How could you possibly let them print such a thing?"
"I'll have you know," Agnes said indignantly, "this write-up got me eleven proposals of marriage, and one farmer came to my home to show me his bankbook. Another man wrote me that he was a widower and knew I was a fine woman, and that I would be good to his children because I reminded him of Abraham Lincoln."
"It must be your mole," grinned O'Neill, "it's in the same place his was."
She had little money when she left
When she arrived in
She arrived at the Golden Swan early and waited uneasily in the darkened Hell Hole off the main bar. The place smelled of stale beer and tobacco. She was grateful no one else seemed to be around and no waiter came to ask her to order a drink. Then, as her eyes became accustomed to the dark, she noticed him staring at her from where he was sitting, motionless, in the far corner. She saw that he was wearing what looked like a seaman's sweater under his jacket, and as he kept staring at her she became uneasy. There was something both sad and cruel in the way he looked at her. She had a vague and troubled feeling that they may have met before. He reminded her of some one or something she could not quite identify.
Then Christine came in and embraced her. Christine, thoroughly Danish, tall and voluptuous, with a great pile of red-gold hair, called O'Neill and introduced Agnes. "This Is Gene O'Neill," said Christine. Long after 0'Neill's death, Agnes still remembered how pleasant the name sounded to her when pronounced by Christine with a Danish accent. Then his brother Jamie came and Agnes saw at once that Christine was in Love with him. When the two men left and went into the main car, Christine told Agnes that their father gave each of them fifteen dollars a week, and Gene had run out of money so that it was Jamie's turn to do the lending.
"Keep clear of Jamie," warned Christine, "He's a wild one. He tries to make love to every woman he meets, so look out, dearie." Christine sighed: "What a man! He's crude and cruel and foul-mouthed. But you hardly mind when he's making love to you."
Gene walked her to her hotel that night. It was cold and he had only a light topcoat. At the steps she held out her hand to say goodnight, but he wanted to go on talking. Finally she told him she wanted to go in because she was cold. He hesitated, and then startled her with: "I want to spend every night of my life with you - every night of my life." He turned and began walking away.
She lay awake a long time wondering about this strange man and what he had said only a few hours after meeting her for the first time. It was, she knew, not an unusual thing for men to say what he had to women with whom they wanted to go to bed. But she had the strange feeling that if she had invited him to come up to her room, he would not have accepted.
It was not long before everyone who had known about O'Neill's infatuation with Louise Bryant saw the remarkable way that Agnes resembled Louise and the effect that she had on O'Neill. A few days after they had met, Christine telephoned her to say that she was planning a party at her apartment Saturday night. She added that some people would be there who might be able to help her with her writing career, and then said: "Gene will be there; do come, dearie." Agnes said she would.
O'Neill arrived almost two hours after
the party had gotten under way. He was drunk and seemed to have forgotten all
about Agnes, as he began concentrating his attention mostly on Nina Moise, the
least attractive, but perhaps the most talented of the women at the party. O'Neill had become greatly attached to her.
She was, by this time, the producer at the McDougal Street Theater, and it was
to her apartment that O'Neill came to talk despairingly about Louise after she
Agnes felt depressed and out of place. Christine was busy mixing punch, occasionally taking a drink from a pint bottle of brandy. Suddenly - years later she said she was unaware of what she was doing - Agnes walked across the room, drew O'Neill's attention away from Nina and said: "Hello, remember me? I'm the one with whom you wanted to spend the rest of your life."
O'Neill stared at her and tried to smile. Then he said: "It's a cold night - a good night for a party. Ah,the iceman cometh." He staggered away, and at the door Agnes saw him take a flask from his hip pocket and take a long drink, -he gave a loud laugh as though he wanted to draw everyone's attention to himself, and began to walk carefully across the room. At the fake fireplace mantel he grabbed a chair, mounted it, turned toward the room where all were watching him in silence, and in a thick, dramatic voice declaimed:
Turn back the universe
And give me yesterday.
He carefully turned to face the clock on the wall above the mantel, opened the glass cover and began twisting the long hand, and as the small hand followed, he again spoke:
Turn back the universe
And give me yesterday………
He stepped from the chair and managed to
stagger his way out of the room. Agnes looked about her for Christine. She became aware that these people whom she'd
just met, smiled when she caught them staring at her. Then she heard Susan Glaspell say to Mary
Pyne: "It's your friend from
MARY PYNE: "This exhibition to impress us - this 'Turn back the clock and give me yesterday' When a man makes a gesture like that to convince others that he is still in love with a woman, it's safe to say he dramatizing his love, not feeling it."
SUSAN: "Whatever it is, I hope
Louise leaves him alone when, and if, she gets back from
As the days passed, Agnes heard a great deal about Louise Bryant: how attractive she was, how talented, how distressed O'Neill had been to find himself in love with the wife of one of his best friends. She saw a snapshot of Louise, her long legs in tight riding breeches spread apart, her hands deep in the pockets of a smart jacket, an impish grin on her face, leaning against a shingled, weather-beaten wall, a gamin cap rakishly on her head. Agnes Boulton, not yet certain if she was in love with O'Neill, both envied and hated this woman. She had a famous and exciting and adventurous husband, with whom she'd gone to a new world - why couldn't she have left O'Neill alone?
She continued seeing him. Not once did he try to Make love to her or even hint that he was interested in making love. He drank a great deal and talked about writing and about revolutions and of how he would die only when the last bullet had been used up.
One piercingly cold night as they walked
along the sidewalks of
It was a week before Christmas. They had just finished dinner at Christine's restaurant. O'Neill suddenly announced that a friend of his who had an apartment had given him the key while he was out of town, and he asked if she would go there with him. She agreed.
was a weird, nightmarish experience for the beautiful woman dairy farmer from
When she again awakened, it was
daylight. O'Neill was still sleeping and
breathing heavily. The vapor her breath
made in the cold room reminded her of the farm in
O'Neill was standing by the bedroom door.
He was furious. He unleashed a string of obscene seaman's oaths that stunned
her. She bit her lip to keep the tears back and slammed the door. At the
Brevoort, she bathed, tried in vain to sleep, and spent the rest of the day and
night trying to decide what to do. In the morning she came downstairs to inform
the clerk that she was leaving
I am only a dream that sings
In a strange large place,
And beats with Impotent wings
Against God's face.
No more than a dream that sings
In the streets of space;
Ah, would that my soul had wings,
Or a resting place.
And with it was a typed copy of his "Moon of the Caribees." As she read the manuscript she saw a sensitive, unhappy, confused man in search of an indefinable something. She knew he would be at the Hell Hole waiting for her.
"Louise Bryant," wrote Agnes Boulton, "became only a dream for me that sings in the streets of space."
They had two wonderful, idyllic months in
Agnes had never known such peace and
contentment. One afternoon there was a knock at the door and Laurence Lytton,
who lived in the apartment next to theirs, said he didn't quite know how to say
it, but he had something to tell them.
He looked - recalled Agnes - like something the Dutch painter, Frans
Hals, might have produced on canvas. He
was so embarrassed both she and O'Neill had trouble keeping from laughing. Then it was her turn to blush furiously.
Lytton found words to say he couldn't help but hear them talking at night
because the walls were so paper-thin.
Agnes realized with a shock that he must have heard them making love. O'Neill grinned. Lytton said his girl friend, Alice Uhlman, thought
Agnes and O'Neill ought to get married.
Agnes looked at O'Neill. He
continued grinning. Agnes Boulton became
The first letter from Louise arrived on
February 20th. Years later Agnes recalled with what she described as
"dreadful clarity" that the letter was from
She remembered that when she finished
reading, her throat was dry and she was trembling. It was a most passionate letter, designed to
overwhelm O'Neill. Louise wrote that she
had left Jack Reed in
Agnes' heart sank as she watched indecision and confusion mirrored in his face. Finally he said - it was almost a moan: "I must see her. I have to explain. I can't leave it like this. - I can't do this to her. . .I. . .I. . ."
"You want to see her? You want to see this woman?"
"I should tell her in person that it's all over. She traveled three thousand miles. . ."
"And don't forget those frozen Russian steppes," broke in
Agnes bitterly. (Steppes are the vast plains in
She said: "How can you do this? She loves John Reed. She chose to go with him, not to stay with you."
"You don't understand. She told me herself that there was never any physical relationship between them."
"Oh, you fool. You poor naive fool." Then she realized that she was saying the wrong things to him in his present state of mind. But even as she watched O'Neill and wondered what she ought to do, there was a knock at the door. It was the postmaster with a special delivery letter.
"I don't want to read it," said O'Neill as he took the letter, "She's crazy." But he did read it, and when he finished reading it, he said: "I must see her. I owe her an explanation."
Agnes began to weep and O'Neill looked at
her as if he was seeing her for the first time.
"I am not going to drink - I won't get involved with her - I just
want to tell her that I have you and that it's all over between us." It was incredible, simply incredible, thought
Agnes. He was trying to convince her
that he was willing to stop work on "Beyond the Horizon", take a long
The letters from
Finally, seeing no other way out, Agnes
Boulton made the suggestion that he write and tell Louise that he could not
Louise was not annoyed, she was absolutely
furious. She replied that she was
bitterly disappointed, not because she was not going to get a chance to see him
- but in him personally. What sort of a
man was he! How dare he play so lightly
with her feelings? Realizing that she
was defeated, she went on to scold him.
Here she was participating in sensational world events, playing a part
in shaping civilization and he had the nerve to suggest that she drop
everything and take time to travel to
Agnes was torn between relief and pleasure that O'Neill was not going to see Louise, and distress as she watched the man she loved suffer and wilt as he read Louise's last letter to him.
One evening in the fall of 1924, when she was the wife of William C. Bullitt, Louise brought out a pack of letters and handed them to him, one by one. As he read each one and handed it back, she threw each letter onto the burning logs in the fireplace.
"He certainly was in love with you," said Bullitt when the last letter had been burned.
HOME OF THE BRAVE. . .
Louise was devastated. She felt that she had been victimized, humiliated and betrayed by this man who had told her he could not live without her, and would wait for her to the end of time. And then he had the temerity to reject her for a pale carbon copy. Had he not told her that although he had been involved with many women, he did not know what sex really was until she came along? It was the first time that a man had truly rejected her. It would have been no consolation had anyone suggested to her that it happens all the time.
Then the latent masochism that enables humans to enjoy wallowing in self-pity, took over and she tortured herself at night by visualizing Agnes Boulton in bed with O'Neill, and O'Neill responding to her caresses and passionately clinging to her. She had weird dreams. She was lost and when she asked a policeman for help he turned and walked away. She was a child again and saw her mother beckoning to come to her, but Mrs. Bryant kept moving away, and no matter how fast she walked or ran she could not reach her.
Fortunately, it did not last and before long Louise was telling friends that O'Neill had literally camped on her door-step, pleading with her - but she had been firm; her duty was to her husband whose life was in constant peril, three thousand miles away, and she was certainly too involved in world-shaking events herself to have time to trifle with playwrights, particularly those who drank as heavily as O'Neill did.
There was another reason she was able to
clear her mind so quickly and easily of O'Neill. There were so many things-she had put off
doing since she had returned. There were
the articles she had sent to
But above and beyond everything else, overshadowing all other considerations was the fearful realization that Jack was on his way home to face conspiracy charges, and that there was a strong possibility he would be convicted and nave to spend many years in a federal prison.
When the skimpy cable had arrived in
She recalled the morning in Petrograd
when Raymond Robbins turned up while she and Reed were still in bed and pleaded
with them not to return to the
Max Eastman had met her when the steamer, "Bergenfjord," docked on February l8th. He had taken her to his sister Crystal's apartment to stay until she could make other arrangements. Both Eastman and his sister were intensely busy, for - despite suppression of The Masses and the indictments - they had just finished putting final touches to the successor of The Masses, The Liberator, the first issue of which was due off the presses on the first of March.
Reed had cabled that he was Leaving
Russia and, barring something unexpected, was due to reach the
It was not much of a place, but it was
furnished and outside, in front of the building, was a scrawny ailanthus which
she promptly adopted and began nursing back to health, as she did with the
sickly geranium she found in their
Then something unexpected happened to
Reed while he was en-route home. The
American consul in
The reason John Reed was held up two
During the two months he was held up in
Two cablegrams then reached Reed on the
same day. The first signed Steffens-Louise Bryant, said: "Don't return
(home) await instructions." The
other: "Trotsky making epochal blunder doubting
(There was a reason for the sudden
decision of radicals to help a President, who had justified the Palmer
raids. It was based on the belief that
the only hope the "have-nots" in capitalist countries to win concessions
from the "haves" was in survival of socialism in
For a while, Louise clung to the hope
that Reed's return to
As the date for the trial drew nearer, and conditions for war protesters, radicals and other dissenters and no conformers grew worse, Louise began to fear for Reed's very Life. To the usual aversion Americans always have had for war protesters and radicals, there was suddenly added the word, "Bolshevik-sympathizer". For while the sympathizers saw the Bolshevik takeover as the dawn of a new day for the world and America (slogans like "Why Not Here?" were beginning to appear on the West Coast), to most Americans, the words Bolsheviki and Communists came to stand for everything that was evil.
Incredibly sensational reports and
magazine articles fanned the nation's violent reaction to the Bolshevik
(Neither Lenin nor Trotsky, of course, had
ever been in
Louise talked with Max Eastman and all the
others indicted with Reed for their work with The Masses. They were indicted
under the Espionage Act, which Congress had passed and President Wilson had
signed shortly after the
Cordially and sincerely yours, Woodrow Wilson."
So flimsy was the case against The Masses as a magazine busy spreading sedition that, even with the nation well in the grip of mass paranoia, the best the federal government was able to do was get two deadlocked juries after two trials.
Jack had finally been given a visa to
It was ,
Less than three years had passed since the day that Louise caught her first glimpse of New York, and with the passage of that brief period of their "Lives went every trace of the care free abandon with which they greeted each day as they awoke, and the anticipated excitement at night as they climbed into what Reed had described as "our scandalous and sinfully voluptuous bed."
They now lived skimpily in their
When summer came, they divided their
time between their
Boni and Liveright made the advance on
royalties even though the government has confiscated all his notes and other
material he had collected in
Sex became almost a passionless ritual;
often leaving her depressed and frustrated as she recalled what it had been
only a short time ago. But she was
becoming bound to him in deeper, quieter ways.
Revolution was now his passion. He had become more serious, often
worried and deeply depressed. A Letter
from his mother, again threatening suicide because he was "besmirching the
name Reed" while his brother Harry was fighting in Europe, left him so
despondent, so pathetic, she was overwhelmed with a yearning to console
him. She knew she would never again
leave him. And when, during the trying
weeks and months that followed, she heard reports of an affair Reed had with
Edna St. Vincent Millay, she recalled dark-eyed Anne Calahan - how she had
frozen with anger at the sight of her walking naked, a lighted candle in her
hand, reciting poetry - she brooded only a few days. When Reed returned from
The years Louise Bryant was most active,
1917 through the early 1920s, were perhaps the most tumultuous and the worst in
American history for those attempting to bring about changes in the political
status quo of women and any sort of changes in other phases of the
The man leading the drive to keep things as they were was a close friend of Woodrow Wilson's - Alexander Mitchell Palmer - a power in the Democratic Party. His chief assistant was J. Edgar Hoover, head of the recently created department that would later become known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
(The year 1920 also saw the founding of the American Civil Liberties Union by a Princeton-trained sociologist, Roger Nash Baldwin, who had himself been imprisoned for making anti-war speeches.)
A. Mitchell Palmer was a Quaker, as had
been all members of both sides of his family for many
Peace-loving Quaker or no. Palmer made a clear distinction between
external and internal enemies of
Attorney General Palmer had a big job on
his hands. The nation had begun to
Palmer genuinely believed he was justified in doing what he did. Throughout the country, government officials and business executives were receiving packages by mail that proved to be time bombs. Palmer's own home was damaged by a bomb, and near the remains of a man who had been blown to pieces was found a radical magazine advocating bombing tactics.
In many places, notably in the West Coast
A. Mitchell Palmer whipped things to a
frenzy with public statements, reminding the millions of Americans who had
bought war bonds, the owners of farms, and those with savings accounts in
banks, that what he called "
The committee members were intrigued
almost immediately by the testimony of friendly witnesses. A. E. Stevenson of
"You mean," asked Senator Overman, "a man can have as many wives as he wants?"
"Yes," replied the witness, "but not all at once. He must have them in rotation."
SENATOR NELSON: "You mean a man can get a divorce when he gets tired of his wife, and get another wife?"
MR. STEVENSON: "Precisely."
SENATOR OVERMAN: "Do they teach free love?"
MR. STEVENSON: "They do."
MAJOR HUMES: "Polygamy is recognized, is it?"
MR. STEVENSON: "I do not know. I have not studied their social order as fully as that, and I cannot say with certainty about polygamy."
As the furor over members of Congress listening to a Bolshevist mounted. Senator Overman's committee stepped up its investigation.
The committee called more witnesses, all
of them violently opposed to the Bolshevist regime in
R. B. Dennis, a professor at
The Reverend George Simonds read the
infamous Jewish Protocols to show that the pogroms against Jews in
Big headlines, with columns upon columns
of space, were devoted by the newspapers to the commercial attaché. Dr. W. C. Huntington, who was in
SENATOR OVERMAN: "Why do they hate us so?"
DR. HUNTINGTON: "For two principal reasons. First because we do not have a Soviet government in this country, and secondly, because we went into the war."
"It seems to me," remarked Senator Overman, apropos of nothing that was germane at the moment, "this man Gorky is a most immoral man."
(Maxim Gorky, the noted Russian writer, who was living with a beautiful actress, had, as a matter of fact, by this time turned against the bolshevist regime because of the violent methods it was using to suppress opposition.)
this went on, and few with any knowledge of
Louise looked radiant. In a fashionable dark suit, gunmetal stockings and a large, floppy hat, she looked utterly out of place in a Senate hearing room. "But," said the Portland Oregonian correspondent in a special dispatch, "it soon became clear from the way she responded to questions that this was a brilliant individual. She looked her questioner squarely in the eye and, in the language of the national game, 'never muffed a ball.'"
She smiled at the men at the press table, and
they smiled back. All papers in the country covered the hearings,
first question she was asked, before the oath was administered, was by Senator
"I thought," smiled Louise,
"I was here to talk about
SENATOR OVERMAN: One who doesn't believe in a Supreme Being can't attach much importance to an oath."
LOUISE: "I understand." She winked at the reporters at the press table and said: "Let the record show that there is a God."
Major Humes took over. He wanted to know about her fist husband, Dr.
Trullinger. A shadow crossed Louise's
face. Sue hesitated, then smiled and
said again: "I thought you wanted to know something about
"We need to know something about the character of the person we are questioning so as to be able to decide how much credence we can attach to the answers."
Louise informed Major Hume that she and Dr. Trullinger were divorced in 1916 and that seemed to satisfy the committee.
The first demonstration by the audience
came shortly after that. Senator Nelson asked her: "Were you in
LOUISE: "I still don't understand
what that has to do with the truth about what's going on in
SENATOR OVERMAN: "Did you participate in the burning of President Wilson in effigy?"
LOUISE: "I did, and I went on a hunger strike."
SENATOR OVERMAN: "So you mean by that that you went to jail?"
LOUISE: "I didn't go to jail. I was dragged into a patrol wagon and was hauled off to jail. And I went hunger Strike."
SENATOR OVERMAN: "A hunger strike?"
LOUISE: "Yes, a hunger strike. You see, if you go without food and become weak, the authorities let you out. They don't want you to die in jail."
It was then that cheers and jeers broke out among members of the audience and Senator Overman ordered the hearing room cleared of everyone except members of the press and witnesses. As the audience was being hustled out of the room, two women shouted as with one voice: "Please, Senator, may we remain. We didn't shout or applaud."
"No," said Senator Overman, "everyone must get out of the hearing room."
MALE VOICE FROM THE AUDIENCE: "May I remain, sir?"
SENATOR OVSRMAN: "No, you may not."
MALE VOICE: "But I am the husband of the witness. I am John Reed."
SENATOR OVERMAN: "All right, you may remain."
Reporting this remarkable scene (demonstrations at Congressional hearings were rare at that time), the news dispatches said the people excluded held a protest meeting in the corridor and as a result all were allowed to return, to be excluded again shortly thereafter for staging another demonstration.
Despite interruptions and sharp questioning by Major Humes and by Senator Overman and the other senators, Louise managed to provide them with a great deal of what she said was the truth about Russia.
She painted a bleak picture of
She insisted that neither she nor her
husband, John Reed, favored a Bolshevik-type government for the
Asked about the Bolsheviki grab of private property without compensation, she replied:
"They requisitioned the banks, just as Benjamin Franklin requisitioned his majesty's post office funds here."
About Madame Breshkovskaya, Louise
said: "I know Babushka well. We had so many talks over tea in
"Are you," asked Major Humes, "a proletarian?"
"I must be," smiled Louise, "I am poor and sometimes have to go hungry."
MAJOR HUMES: "Did you see people starving in the streets?"
LOUISE: "No, I didn't."
MAJOR HUMES: "Then you found things not so bad as painted, is that what you are telling us?"
"I found conditions in
MAJOR HUMES: "You say you don't want to see this
nation intervene in Russian affairs. Do
you then think it is all right for the Bolshevik government to stir up a
revolution in the
At this question, she rose slightly from her chair, remained silent for several seconds, and then said passionately: "Revolutions, sir, are not like commodities that are exported from one country to another. They are created by conditions within a country. The Russian Czars made the Bolshevik revolution possible. If there is ever a revolution in this, my country, it will not be created by the Wobblies or the anarchists or anyone else. It will be the result of the sort of repression now sweeping this country, and by those of this country's leaders who want to see the repression go on."
(There are numerous explanations for
the use of the word, Wobblies, for members of the revolutionary labor group
Industrial Workers of the World, better known as the I.W.W.s. The one
Some of the headlines: RED WITNESS NEVER
FAZED.BY SENATORS. . .LOUISE BRYANT PROVES MATCH FOR INQUISITORS. . . HOT
RETORT ALWAYS READY. . . SENATORS HEAR WOMAN DEFEND BOLSHEVIKI. . . MRS. JOHN
REED DISCREDITS TESTIMONY OF AMERICAN OFFICIALS. . . NOISY AUDIENCE EXPELLED. .
. SISSON PAPERS DENOUNCED. . .PROBE HALTED BY HISSES. . . MISS BRYANT
"RED" WITNESS. . .
Louise wrote Frank Harris, the author - he had not yet written at that time, the sensational, banned-in-Boston book, "My Life and Loves:"
I have been testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee and I want you to know my impressions of that unpleasant experience. .
I found myself at a long table, at which sat six men with cold eyes and harsh angry voices. They were my countrymen, but they were also my enemies. Their hate was naked and ugly, the flame of it burned away the mist before my eyes and I came away with the old, vague fears suddenly turned into vivid realities. . .
The men I write about are old men - not so old in years as in obsolete thoughts. They have determined to fight for a world as it was before the Great War - and that world no longer exists. They had decided to crush unmercifully all defenders of change. Each aged senator, chewing his everlasting cigar, sees in himself a Marquise de Lantenac - a strong man of the hour.
I have never been
afraid of intelligent conversation, but I am afraid of ignorance, ignorance is
cruel and intolerant. One cannot reason
with it. When I went before the Committee I was full of hope. Here in
I could understand their hostility toward those of us who frankly confessed that we are socialists and against capitalism. But their madness ran beyond bounds when they scorned the staunch defender of his own class, the denouncer of socialism, Raymond Robbins.
Raymond Robbins is a man with a conscience. He has been a devout preacher, which is a grave matter because he reckons with God. . . He is sometimes weak and undetermined, but he does not lie. If they could only have understood, those old men, that he, more than any of the people who told them the things they wanted to hear, was their sincere friend and champion. They would have thanked him and not Simonds who wants them to plunge the world into another war more terrible than any we have yet faced.
The truth is, It is stupid of me, or of anyone else, to go humbly before a Committee Investigating Bolshevism with the naive purpose of explaining. These senators have shut their eyes, their ears, their hearts. . . .When Senator Overman (told) the audience that Maxim Gorky is one of the most immoral men in the world, I realized nothing could touch them. Art means nothing to them. Why should love and life?
WOMEN'S LIB - The Tough Years
Many of the women today, who talk about a member of their sex becoming president of the United States, and who appear in public or on television wearing provocatively-skimpy apparel, have either forgotten or have never bothered to find out, what was involved in getting laws passed for the simple, basic right to vote.
Back in the 18th century, Mary Wollstoncroft, the mother-in-law of the great English poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, wrote a book, "The Vindication of the Rights of Women," containing everything that had ever been written before and since, about the rights of women to be considered equal to men in both the political and economic life of a nation. In 1792, when the book was published, it was received with sneers, ridicule and suggestions that the author belonged in a lunatic asylum. Not too surprisingly, most women agreed. There were, after all, still places in the world - and there still are today -where women were required to cover their faces and wear loose, ugly, sack-like clothes so as not to arouse men erotically outside the bedroom (Mary Wollstoncroft's daughter, the wife of poet, Shelly, wrote the horror story, "Frankenstein.")
"Everything is going to change, except the way people think," said Albert Einstein sadly, when long-dreamed nuclear energy became a reality. So it is not surprising that more than a century after Mary Wollstoncroft's book was published, England, the world's first and greatest democracy, should be the land where women had the toughest struggle to win the right to vote, with the United States not far behind.
Outside, Mrs. Pankhurst and Mrs. Kenney tried to address the crowd that had collected. They were arrested for obstructing the sidewalk and fined. They chose to go to jail.
was the last straw. A great many women
had, by that time, become involved in the women's struggle, and it became clear
to them that they would get nowhere by appealing to the humane side of men or
by signing petitions. They adopted the
technique of violence. They began
smashing windows and destroying private and public property. Sent to prison, they staged hunger
strikes. The authorities tried to feed
them forcibly, and when this didn't work, they were paroled, but not for very
long - only until they were strong enough to be dragged back to prison to serve
out their sentences. Emily Davison, a
militant protester, threw herself in front of the horses at a
Every known trick in the parliamentary book, and some that were not in the book, was used to stall proposals to let women vote. The reached its lowest and meanest point the same year Emily died. The Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, announced a measure in Parliament to reform the voting laws and said he would accept women's suffrage amendments. The amendments came to think and fast, and some were so ludicrous, the whole voting reform plan was dropped. It wasn't until 1928 that English women got full voting rights.
So much for the proud British boast the "Britons never shall be slaves."
And that is how things stood when Louise Bryant, upon returning
Two other groups of women were involved in the political rights campaign, both of them opposed to the militancy of the group Louise Bryant had joined. One - the National Women's Suffrage Association - described by the New York Times as "the more gentle branch of suffragettes," believed that Congress could be talked into doing the right thing and submitting a Constitutional Amendment to the states for ratification. Another group, perhaps the largest, insisted that it was not a matter for the federal government. They wanted the issue handled by the individual states, some of which had already begun doing that.
"Take good care of yourself in jail. Am proud of you. Jack"
Four days later, a letter in care of the National Women's Party, Jackson Place, Washington D. C.
". . . I got your little note today. It gave me a shock and made me mad. Why did you do it? You promised you wouldn't go on any more hunger strikes."
Reed had learned of her arrest along with other suffragettes from the New York Times under the headlines: "SUFFRAGISTS Burn Wilson in Effigy. MANY LOCKED UP. POLICE STOP DEMONSTRATIONS BEFORE WHITE HOUSE ON EVE OF AMENDMENT VOTE. VIOLENT SPEECHES MADE."
"Police", said the dispatch
It was only one of the scores the
militant women were staging throughout the
The target of the demonstrations on the eve of the Senate's vote on the 19th Amendment to the Constitution - it again lost, this time by one vote - was President Woodrow Wilson. He had finally become converted to the cause of women's political rights, but the militants felt he wasn't doing enough to assure passage of the amendment. He had, as a matter of fact, sent telegrams to key senators urging approval of the amendment, but the women said it was too little and too late. He was the head of the Democratic Party and they wanted him to put pressure, real pressure, on Southern Senators who had nightmares in which long lines of Negro women were voting against them. They had managed to keep Negro men from voting despite the 14th and 15th Amendments, but these crazy militant women - who could tell what they might not do?
"The effigy of President Wilson, which looked like a huge
doll stuffed with straw and was slightly over two feet in height," said
the New York Times, "was dropped into the flames by Miss Sue White. . .
there was a good deal of confusion as the district police, the military police
and the Boy Scouts, who assisted in the roundup of the women, were getting
busy. . . Miss White made the following
statement before she was pushed into the police patrol wagon: 'We burn not the
effigy of the President of a free people, but the leader of an autocratic party
organization whose tyrannical power holds millions of women in political
slavery. . . Mr. Wilson, as the leader of his party, has forgotten, or else he
never knew, the spirit of true democracy. . . We feel that this protest will
shock Mr. Wilson and his followers and put into action the principle that those
who submit to authority shall have a voice in their government.' And Mrs. Havemeyer of
NEW YORK-Carrying banners on which were
inscribed, "Mr. President, How Long Must Women Wait for Suffrage?" "An Autocrat at Home is a Poor Champion
of Democracy Abroad,"200 militant suffragettes attempted to stage a
PHILADELPHIA-Miss Louise Bryant, wife of well-known Bolshevist propagandist, John Reed, was arrested here yesterday and charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct after she refused police orders to end a street corner lecture on the subject of women1s suffrage. The disorderly conduct charge was added when she allegedly addressed the police in unprintable language.
WASHINGTON-Police put an end to a foot
WASHINGTON-Senator Jones of New Mexico today announced plans o introduce a resolution which would confer the right of franchise upon women, but only to a number in each state that does not exceed the number of men voting.
(The 19th Amendment to the
WASHINGTON-There is every indication that
from now on the warfare between women suffragists and anti-suffragists over
ratification of the Federal suffrage amendment will be carried on with more
regressiveness by both sides. With adoption of the amendment by Congress the
battleground has shifted to the states. Both sides have moved their
headquarters from here to
WASHINGTON-The militant suffragettes represented by the National Women's Party tonight announced plans for a "Prison Special" train to tour the country and whip up support in the states for ratification of the Federal Suffrage Amendment. The women who will make up the contingent aboard what they call the "Democracy Limited" are those who have served jail terms for picketing. They intend to wear costumes resembling those they wore in jail, but rail authorities rejected their demand to have the train painted to resemble a prison.
THE LECTURE TRAIL
Reed had begun planning a trip to
What prompted Reed to want to make the
trip, in addition to his desire to see his mother, was the rapid growth of
radicalism on the West Coast, particularly in
"The first federal blow against the wave of anarchism already launched on the Pacific Coast came to light yesterday when fifty-four labor agitators passed through Chicago in two heavily guarded tourist sleepers bound for immediate deportation from an Atlantic port.
"A motley company of I.W.W. trouble-makers, bearded fanatics, and red flag supporters huddled in crowded berths and propaganda-strewed compartments of the prison train, which slipped in and out of the city so silently that few were aware of its existence. As far as is known, no movement of this kind has ever been attempted by the federal government before, and the train blazed a trail that immigration authorities agree will entirely solve the greatest danger of an industrial unrest during the reconstruction period.
"The (government's) move seemed to take the wind out of the
sails of the labor agitators. Only one
man rebelled when told of Uncle Sam's decision to rid the country of his
presence. He got out a writ of habeas
corpus against the deportation, which was promptly quashed by a Federal judge
Alas for the prediction that this method of handling radicals would "entirely solve the greatest danger of an industrial unrest." West Coast labor unrest continued to grow, particularly on the water fronts of every west coast city, and in the timber industry, and finally reached the editorial departments of newspapers.
Reed felt he
owed it to his comrades on the West Coast to appear and tell them that what was
As Louise watched John Reed, torn between love for his mother and a desire not to bring her more grief, and a feeling that he must help his comrades on the West Coast, she reached a quick decision.
go on a West Coast lecture tour... I
will tell people about the dreadful Overman Committee hearings and about
glum. He knew how distasteful it would
be for Louise to return to
the West Coast and began her speaking tour in March. She addressed huge crowds in
She was unable
to follow any sort of a regular schedule because of this difficulty in
obtaining a hall. In
On April 5, the San Francisco Call reported:
"Refused permission to
"Mrs. Reed was to have
spoken at the Burbank School Auditorium in
surprisingly, it was this opposition, the publicity of difficulty in getting
places for her to speak, which packed whatever halls could finally be
"The truth about
wrote Reed: "Last night's meeting
commercial daily newspapers, which gave wide publicity to the attacks on her
while sponsors were being denied halls and auditoriums, rarely covered the
meetings themselves. In
meeting she wrote long letters to Reed, often while on a train en route to fill
a new speaking date. She described what
happened at each meeting and always ended by telling him how lonely she was,
how she missed him, how she wished she was with him. "Take care of the crocuses.... Is the
Patchin ailanthus going to live? ...I am going to get a big seed catalogue when
I get home and plant and plant and plant."
On the train from
On the train between S.F. and
The last hours in
"... I speak in
She had only hinted to Reed that she was not feeling well, but his reaction was even swifter than when she wrote of her "tummy illness" while he was in Johns Hopkins three years earlier.
telegram "Croton on
"Do not hesitate send for me if at all serious. Can now afford to leave immediately. Have your doctor wire me. Jack "
2d telegram, same day
"Don't tempt fate...stop speaking and come home.
If not enough money wire and will send some.
Reassured she was better. Reed wrote and again urged her not to risk her health and to come home.
"... And did you know that President Wilson had sent Lincoln Steffens, Bill Bullitt and two or three of that sort on a destroyer to investigate the Soviets. Now you go slow. Cut out the rest of your dates. Jack."
"...sent you a copy of the Liberator with your testimony and the cartoon of you. Am sending a copy of Pearson's with your story in it. Hurry home. Many things happening here. Jack"
Her talks always concerned
appeals for nonintervention by the
Once or twice she delighted her
large audiences by appearing in her provocative Cossack costume. In
But when she
Reed nodded. But there was no way out--only the perilous road ahead was open.
If Reed was beginning to feel,
when Louise returned to
The year 1919
was one in which the campaign against dissenters - be they radical - Wobblies,
mild socialists, violent anarchists, run-of-the-mill labor leaders, or, for
that matter, just doubters of any of the accepted moral and social values -
reached its most devastating point.
It was a time of grave crisis for organized labor. With the end of the war, labor lost its wartime poster-splattered image of a husky worker in overalls, a heavy hammer in his hand, marching beside a handsome soldier, the eyes of both proudly gazing at Old Glory carried by the soldier. Wartime plants were closing their doors, unemployment increased, and those workers still on the job were either striking or threatening to strike to protect the gains they had made in wages and working conditions during the war years, which began in 1914 with munitions orders from the Allies.
with the help of Attorney-General Mitchell Palmer, fought back with court
injunctions. Thousands of other-wise
sane Americans read their newspapers and began to equate major strikes in the
coal and steel industries as threats to the nation's very existence. But the strikes
spread and began to develop into violent confrontations between strikers and
police trying to protect strike-breakers. When the strike fever hit the Boston
Police Department, and the city was left unprotected, the word spread rapidly
that it was the beginning of a Bolshevik insurrection in
It was not
difficult for Mitchell Palmer and the coal and steel tycoons to convince the
American people that the strikes were Bolshevist-inspired. Eu
But the strikes continued to spread. Riots became more violent; attacks by the Ku Klux Klan on Jews, Negroes and Catholics increased; the circulation of Henry Ford's violently anti-Semitic, "Dearborn Independent," rose fantastically; mobs, with police standing idly by, broke up protest meetings; Mitchell Palmer stepped up his drive against aliens; John Reed's father's associate in the Oregon timber and land frauds, detective William J. Burns, along with J. Edgar Hoover, became active in the Department of Justice; bombings by mail increased; and for the first time in American labor history, informers began infiltrating unions, some managing to become union leaders and advocating violence to help in the job of union-smashing.
As the drive
against everything believed to be anti-the-American-way-of-life became more and
more furious, the established Socialist Party in the
Large numbers of those expelled from the established Socialist Party then began talking of forming a new and more militant organization. Reed was not, at that time, among them. He continued to believe that the hard-shell, old-fashioned leaders of the established Socialist Party could be ousted and the party taken over by activists who would then convert it into the sort of an organization Lenin had In mind when he said: "We do not want part-time members who will devote their spare evenings to socialism ... we want people willing to devote the whole of their lives to socialism."
John Reed's dream of capturing control of the established Party and converting it into a revolutionary organization, however, ended in late August of 1919. At one of the strangest and stormiest special conventions American Socialists ever held, the regulars threw out John Reed and his militant followers, not figuratively but literally, with the help of the police. The established and conservative Socialist Party of America was at last free of its radicals, but not of its un-American label. A socialist was a socialist to most Americans, whether he was revolutionary like John Reed or a mild believer in the democratic process like Morris Hilquit, who had defended those indicted in the Masses trial case.
of all this was that, in addition to the regular socialists, there were now two
groups of extremists: the first made up of those who were ousted shortly after
the Bolsheviki took power in
All of this
occurred in August of 1919. Reed still believed, as Trotsky did, that socialism
could not last long except on a world-wide basis. He felt, therefore, that a Communist Party in
A month later
he was on his way to
He spent the
very last night he would ever spend in
It was a
long, hazardous trip into
I have thought about my honey so
much I am nearly crazy to see her. . . from now on we must never again be
separated. This is a grim business. There are Hungarians here and Finns and
Russians, and Letts who tell of the most terrible adventures. They have performed prodigious feats of
heroism going/back and forth from
had John Reed become in radicalism and so accustomed to having Louise around
when he was in trouble that he failed to notice that she had been ailing for
months before he left for
The newspapers continued reporting developments:
January 21, 1920--William Brose Lloyd, wealthy radical; John Reed, Bolshevist propagandist, and 36 other members of the Communist Labor Party indicted in Chicago on charges of plotting to overthrow the American government.
frantic appeals to Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby got her nowhere. She had no word from John Reed and was forced
to depend on New York Times headlines: JOHN REED CUAGHT IN COAL BUNKER ON SHIP
IN FINNISH PORT WITH FALSE PASSPORTS. . . JOHN REED IN JAIL IN
In his prison
White and slim my lover
Birch-tree in the shade
Mountain pools her fearless eyes
Were I blinded to the spring
Happy thrill would in me rise
At the nearness of her.
All my weak endeavor
Lay I at her feet
Like a moth from overseas
Let my longing lightly rest
On her flower petal breast
Til the red dawn set me free
To be with my sweet
Ever and forever. ...
It was a bizarre situation. To avoid international complications that might follow the arrest of an American citizen, the Finns charged him with smuggling. This gave the American State Department an out, since the charge was strictly something for the Finns to handle. To Louise's many frantic appeals, the State Department finally replied that it would arrange for a lawyer to see him in prison, providing she would pay all expenses. This came after Louise had appealed to everyone she knew, including Bernard Baruch, the American financier, who told the State Department: "I don't care who he is. He is an American citizen and he needs help."
. . . Now, honey, I want you please not to influence the American government on my behalf. I mean this very seriously. I want the case decided on its merits . . . and I hate to ask you this, but will you try to get my father's watch out of the pawnshop?
(The watch bequeathed to him by his father in his handwritten will, appears to have become a symbol of his ties to the past and to all the human virtues his gentle father stood for. Pawned for a few dollars, it often fed him and Louise when they were broke, and it have him a mysterious feeling of security when he wore it.)
At this point Lenin acted. He offered to trade for Reed, two Finnish professors who were being held as spies. "You can nave the whole college faculty," he told the Finns, "in exchange for Comrade Reed." Still no action. Louise was in agony. The letters from Reed suddenly began coming regularly. His condition was rapidly deteriorating, but he continued to lie. "Never felt better in my life," he wrote. "... Have quit smoking . . . still not a whisper ... it is dreadful to wait day after day after three months . . . Don't forget interest on the Croton place mortgage is due August 1st ... I have nothing to do, nothing to read .. . Did you get father's watch out of hock? ..." And then: "I'm leaving. This is my last letter to my dear honey from this place. Wait for news from me, dearest."
August 7th, a cable: "Passport to come home refused. . . . Can you come to
Louise answered with a one-word cable: "Yes."
DEATH OF AN AMERICAN RADICAL
The year from
Reed's departure from
ailing in New York - she had not fully recovered from the hunger strikes in
jail - with few of their intimate friends left in the Village, and no one to
advise her what to do next in her efforts to help Reed, she turned to Andrew
Dasburg, the impressionist artist and close friend of
making frequent trips to
Came a day
when she returned to
William Randolph Hearst had revolutionized journalism by not only throwing overboard traditional journalistic methods of publishing reports of events that had actually happened - he arranged to have them happen.
EXAMPLE: When reporter James Creelman and photographer
Frederick Remington, were sent by Hearst to
W. R. Hearst
Everything quiet. No trouble here. There will be no war. Wish to return.
Hearst replied at once:
Please remain. You furnish the pictures,
I'll furnish the war.
(This was revealed during Congressional
In Russia, the
new communist regime, facing mountainous problems - imports cut off by the
Allied blockade; counter-revolutions financed by the Allies; rebellious peasant
land owners called "koolaks" rejecting collectivization; shortages of
everything; and trying to reconstruct the nation on a revolutionary set of
untried principles - had expelled all American correspondents. (Even
two years later, by which time Louise was no longer a secret correspondent and
was listed as an American representative of International News Service, the
communists allowed only two other Americans to report news from Russia. Both J.P. Howe and H.L. Rennick represented
the Associated Press. The New York Times
depended for its news on a Britisher, Walther Duranty, and the
So even though the Hearst newspapers
had labeled Reed "a menace to American values" and Louise herself
"a beautiful dupe of the communists," she had far less difficulty
than she had expected to get finances for a journey to
As she had promised him, Louise kept Andrew Dasburg informed.
Grand Hotel Royal
My dear, nice Andrew:
I arrived in Gothenburg at nine in the
evening and left at ten last night. Arrived in
(It is this report, spread by Dasburg as she
had requested, that has prompted nearly all biographers to say that she went to
She had little
trouble letting him know that she had arrived in
A letter to Max Eastman.
I knew that you
would want details and a story for the Liberator - but I did not have the
strength or the courage. . . Jack's death and my strenuous underground trip to
All that I went through now seems part of a dream. I find it impossible to believe that Jack is dead and that he will not come into my room at any moment.
Jack was ill
twenty days. During only two nights, when he was calmer, did I even lie
down. Spotted typhus is beyond
description - one wastes away to nothing before your eyes. But I must tell you
how I found Jack after my illegal journey across the world. When I reached
Thinking and dreaming
Day and night and day
Yet cannot think one bitter thought away -
That we have lost each other You and I .....
But (before he took to his bed) walking in the park, under the birch trees, and talking through brief, happy nights, death and separation seemed very far away. Together we visited Lenin, Trotsky, Kamenev, Enver Pasha, Bela Kun. . .we saw the ballet and Prince Igor and visited the old and the new galleries.
He was consumed with a desire to go home. Early in his sickness I told him that going home only meant prison. He looked at me and said, "My dear little honey, I would do anything I could for you, but don't ask me to be a coward." I was hurt and burst into tears and said I would go with him any where - to prison, to death, anywhere to be with him. He smiled happily and held my hand. I feel I now have no right to be alive.
Of the illness
I can scarcely write. . . there was so much pain. He fought for his life. The old peasant nurses used to slip out to
the chapel and pray and light a candle for him.
He was delirious in the hideous way typhus patients can be. "You know how it is when you go to
Five days before he died, his right side was paralyzed and he could not speak. And so we watched each other silently each hour of the day and night. When he died I just stayed there talking with him and holding his hand.
. . .I wanted to put my arms about you and hold you close for I shall always think of you as my own little girl. So many memories of you crowd in upon me as I write. . . I think of you coming to me at the Multnomah with the tremulous, wistful story of your love for Jack, of your heartache over all it would mean to the other boy who loved you, of your insatiable need to feel your wings against the world. How I understood and responded. Had I not trod the same path, so bitter and yet so luring that no suffering could make one turn back. . .Then came the black days for you and my heart has been wrung by your agony. I did not know how to reach you. Now Steffens is here and we have talked much of you and he has given me your address. Erskine, too, sends his love. How terrible your loss. Jack, so beautiful, so brave, so brilliant. . .1 send you all my love, and tears, too.
thirty-three years old when he died, a hero of the world's first proletarian
revolution. His ashes were buried in the
Kremlin Wall, a long way from the lavish estate of his wealthy capitalist
Nothing Louise Bryant ever
wrote matches in poignancy the moving description of her last minutes at John
Reed’s deathbed in