Endless War

August 2, 2011 Leave a comment

The article below was originally published in the February 6, 1975 issue of the underground newspaper Free Flowing.  Thanks to R S for transcribing it.

Ames Teach-In

  Phoenix Party held a teach-in Sunday, January 26, at the Collegiate Methodist Church.  The teach-in was held in conjuction with a national demonstration against the United States’ imperialistic Indo-China policies. The purpose of the each-in was to inform the people of the corruption and fascism of the Thieu regime.

Moderator, Nancy Baumgardner, welcomed an estimated crowd of fifty people and introduced the first speaker, Jim Newcomer, a member of the political science faculty. Read more…

Categories: Anti-War, Student

Notes on the Muscatine Button Workers’ Strike

June 17, 2011 1 comment

From a letter Pearl McGill wrote home from Chicago on April 25th, 1911:

“They had all the hardest Union workers on the black list. The factory where I worked had the most. They had eight men, and me. I was the only girl in the factory they wouldn’t take back. So because there were so many discriminated against the rest of them that could have gone back wouldn’t go until the [manufacturers] will take us all back and deal fair with us. They don’t want to recognize the Union at all but they will have to before they ever start those factories up again.”

The whole factory stuck by a number of blacklisted organizers who you could count on your fingers. My how times change…

And it seems like the other “girls” in the Muscatine button factories weren’t as involved in the union as McGill was. But:

“The militia got out in the streets at Muscatine the other day to break the crowd away from one of the factories and some of the girls caught a solider boy up on fourth street and took his gun and cap and coat away from him and beat it. Ha! Ha!” (from the same letter)

It definitely wasn’t because they weren’t militant enough. I wonder what (or who) stopped them from joining?

McGill Family papers, Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City

Many thanks to Jean Burns for donating her family’s letters, and assistant curator Janet Weaver for telling me how to not break the rules.

Pearl McGill

June 15, 2011 4 comments

Pearl McGill was an organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World in the 1910s. She was born in Grandview, Iowa, and as a teenager she moved to Muscatine, IA to work in the pearl button factory there.  She wanted to save enough money to go to school to become a teacher.  After a lockout in response to unionization, she ended up being a leader in a strike in 1911, at the age of sixteen.  After the strike, she was swept up by the Women’s Trade Union League, who brought her to Chicago, trained her in public speaking, and introduced her to political theory.  She spoke at a lot of fundraisers, then ended up in the middle of the Lawrence textile workers’ strike in 1912.  She worked closely with the IWW there, and split with the WTUL and the AFL.  She was involved in a number of IWW campaigns, then left the union for the Socialist Party of America, and moved home.

She met Helen Keller in Cedar Falls, IA (herself an SPA and IWW member).  Keller encouraged Pearl McGill followed her original dream of becoming a teacher.  Pearl moved to Buffalo, IA, taught elementary school, and married for 6 years, then divorced.  In 1924, her mentally ill ex-husband killed her, and then himself.

Pearl McGill’s life has a lot of lessons for radicals.  I’m especially interested in her political development.  She moved from young worker, to strike leader, to public activist, to revolutionary organizer, to burnout, for reasons that are still relevant today.  Her time as a wife, teacher, and ex-wife has its own lessons.  I’m looking forward to learning more.

Rousmaniere, Kate. “The Short, Radical Life of Pearl McGill.” Labor: Studies in Working Class History of the Americas Volume 6 Issue 3 (2009) 9-19.

Kate Rousmaniere also deserves part of the credit for getting Pearl McGill’s letters to the Iowa Women’s Archives.  The letters, and the rest of the archives, are available to anyone, non-students, non-Iowa residents, whatever.  I’ll be digging into those starting tomorrow.

End of Hiatus

June 14, 2011 3 comments

Hi everyone,

Juan Conatz just added me as a contributor on this blog.  I’m a history nerd and anarchist living in Iowa.  I’m currently reading Solidarity & Survival, and I’m going to try to get access to Pearl McGill’s letters in the near future.  I’ll be posting excerpts from both of those in the coming weeks.

Categories: Miscellaneous


April 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Hey folks. I didn’t run out of material to add to the blog, I just haven’t had much time lately, as I’ve been in Wisconsin and involved in the situation there. Here are some pieces, the first two written by me, on what’s going on in Madison. The third link are a number of articles hosted by libcom.org on the subject. I will return to this blog to add material when I eventually have time to dig around.

Impressions of Madison

Wisconsin: Why a general strike hasn’t happened yet…

Libcom: Wisconsin Protests

Categories: Miscellaneous

Notes on the Midwest Libertarian Conference, May 28-31, 1976, Des Moines, Iowa Part 5 of 5

February 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Part 1, 2, 3, 4

Evaluation of Midwest Organizing and Communications Conference

We were charged, at the Columbia Conference a year ago, to structure a conference on organization and communication. On evaluation we agreed that our structure for meetings and tasks facilitated this goal. We decided however, that it was a real mistake not to have spent more time Saturday morning, at the first general meeting, going through the agenda for that day. If we had been more thorough we could have explained our ideas on decision-making for the large group meetings. People would have had a better understanding of the tasks to accomplish and could have proposed differences if they had them. We were critical of the people who thought the conference was too bureaucratically structured and did not make any effort to give feedback by mail, beforehand. We also agreed that we should have announced the use of the office equipment to everyone at the first general meeting.

We talked about the way the first workshops on Saturday tended to have Des Moines people for facilitators. Given the level of our preparation and the time we spent working together as a group, it was understandable for this to happen. However, we think that we should have been stronger about refusing to be facilitators and pushed for others to play this role. Read more…

Redwing Workers Organization History

February 24, 2011 Leave a comment

This is a history document of short blurbs that can be found in the University of Iowa Women’s Archives. Thanks to SM for this!

November 1972: Marxist-Leninist Educational 2 days, 13 people; high level of solidarity; decided to meet to discuss forming an ongoing group

December 1972: Follow-up meeting to the educational; decided to form an ongoing group

Summer 1973: Women’s  and Men’s caucuses form; initiated by FSG; included all FSG members and people not in FSG, met bi-weekly. Read more…