Socialism and Suffrage in SoDak

Several Socialist leaders came to South Dakota to campaign for suffrage, and equal suffrage was supported by South Dakota socialists in the 1910s.

Visiting Lecturers and Organizers

In 1898, Ida Crouch-Hazlett (c1870-1941) toured South Dakota for the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), but soon after, in 1902, became a prominent organizer and lecturer for the Socialist Party of America. Revealing some of her opinion of class hierarchies, it was reported that she said “that active opposition to the movement has ceased in the state except among classes that have everything to fear from upward social movements” [Turner County Herald (Hurley SD), September 22, 1898The Herald-Advance (Milbank SD)September 23, 1898; et al.]. She spoke often on suffrage as well as Social Reforms [Black Hills Union (Rapid City SD), July 29, 1898; Mitchell Capital (SD), October 7, 1898].

Crouch-Hazlett had trained in education and economics. In 1894-1900, she worked as a journalist and from 1896-1901 worked as an organizer for the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Just a few years after campaigning in South Dakota for NAWSA, Crouch-Hazlett became an orator and organizer for the Socialist Party of America. In 1902, she ran for the U.S. House of Representatives from Colorado on the Socialist ticket. She then toured for the Socialist Party, with a long-term stint in Montana, until 1921. At points in Iowa on a tour in 1921, she was frequently harassed and several times abducted by American Legion groups in their war-time obsession with disloyalty [Sources: “Ida Crouch-Hazlett,” Wikipedia; Christopher Nehls, “‘Treason is Treason’: The Iowa American Legion and the Meaning of Disloyalty after World War I,” The Annals of Iowa 66(2) (Spring 2007), 131, 136-137 (includes 1904 photo)].

M. Lena Morrow Lewis (1868-1950) first came to South Dakota representing the Illinois woman’s suffrage association, and in the spring of 1909, returned to South Dakota for the Socialist Party of America. She spoke on Socialism in Hot Springs in March then went for a time to Sheridan, Wyoming. In May, she came back through, lecturing at the courthouse in Sisseton on May 6 and 7, at the Methodist Episcopal church in Madison on May 11, and in Pierre on suffrage “from a socialist standpoint.” The Sisseton news item promoted: “ladies especially invited” and free admission, and that Lewis had “the reputation of being one of the best woman orators on the American platform” [Hot Springs Weekly Star (SD), March 19, 1909; Pierre Weekly Free Press (SD), April 29, 1909; Sisseton Weekly Standard (SD), April 30, 1909Madison Daily Leader (SD), May 10, 1909]. Born in Illinois, Morrow started political work as an organizer for the W.C.T.U., then for the suffrage movement from 1898 to 1901, and partnered with the labor movement in Chicago to work for suffrage. In 1902, she joined the Socialist Party and worked actively as a lecturer and organizer from 1908 to 1914. She also moved to California and Alaska, working often as a journalist for Socialist causes. In 1931, she had a position on the Party’s national executive committee. [Sources: “Lena Morrow Lewis,” Wikipedia; “Lena Morrow Lewis,” Her Hat Was In The Ring; “Guide to the Lena Morrow Lewis Papers TAM.015,” Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive, New York University; “An Open Letter to Jane Addams, National Socialist (Washington, DC), 1912 October 20,” Jane Addams Digital Edition, Ramapo College].

In February 1910, Anna Maley (1872-1918) came to South Dakota to lecture on socialism in Madison [Madison Daily Leader (SD), February 7, 1910]. In March, she wrote about the South Dakota suffrage campaign for an issue of The Progressive Woman [Anna A. Mally, “The Equal Suffrage Campaign in South Dakota.” The Progressive Woman 3(34) (March 1910), 10]. She wrote:

“The woman’s campaign in this state should be honored for the enemies it has made. Politicians in the bad sense generally are against it. Politics everywhere is bound to be corrupt so long as public officials are the servants of moneyed interests which preserve and perpetuate their power…
Today our leaders of thought tell us that some women will be permitted to observe the standards of purity which men have set for them only if they tamely consent to the enforced debauchery of other women. The women of the working class must be forced and betrayed into white slavery in order that the virtue of the comfortable home may be protected…. they fear that the women will introduce into the general life the religious and moral standards which up to this time the men have so rigidly imposed upon the feminine half.”
She described campaign secretary Cicely Tinsley as “a dignified but finely democratic woman.  She has a broad outlook over the social field and is ready to retire prejudices and discuss principles,” and Perle Penfield as “a woman of quiet power and is brave and patient under all discouragements.”
— Mally, “The Equal Suffrage Campaign in South Dakota.”

In October, Maley spoke in South Dakota at the courthouse in Madison on the state militia bill and suffrage — “Equal suffrage from a socialist standpoint will also be discussed.  Something new and of special interest to women” — and, as Morrow Lewis had, at the courthouse in Sisseton [Madison Daily Leader (SD), October 17, 1910; Sisseton Weekly Standard (SD), October 21, 1910]. Born in Minnesota, Maley was trained in education and literature, and joined the Socialist Party in college. She started working for socialist newspapers as a journalist, going to Kansas, New York, and Washington. In 1909, Maley joined the Woman’s National Committee and became its chair. In 1912, Maley ran for governor in Washington. In January 1915, she married Dr. W.M. Ringsdorf of Huron, and in April spoke on “the liquor question” in Madison [Sources: “Anna A. Maley,” Wikipedia; “Anna Agnes Maley,” Snohomish County Women’s Legacy Project; “ANNA AGNES MALEY, FIRST WOMAN TO RUN FOR WASHINGTON GOVERNOR, 1912,” From our Corner blog, Washington Secretary of State Office (August 9, 2012); Hot Springs Weekly Star (SD), January 8, 1915; Madison Daily Leader (SD), April 16, 1915].

On July 10, 1916, Theresa S. Malkiel (1874-1949), as chair of the Woman’s National Committee of the Socialist Party of America, spoke at the courthouse in Sisseton [Sisseton Weekly Standard (SD), July 7, 1916]. She was one of three women who toured on suffrage for the Socialist Party executive committee that year. A Jewish Russian [Ukrainian] immigrant, Malkiel started working in the garment industry in the Lower East Side, New York City in 1891 and was soon working to organize unions. She found women’s representation in the movement to be lacking. In 1909, she was elected to the Woman’s National Committee and became its chair. While chair, she started “Woman’s Day,” an event that became International Woman’s Day. In the 1910s, touring the South made her more keenly aware of racism in the party. [Sources: “Theresa Serber Malkiel” and links to selected writings, Wikipedia].

Another of the Socialist women touring in 1916 was Mary L. Geffs (1856-) of Denver who, in September, came to Sisseton as well to speak on “Suffrage from a Socialist viewpoint… On the street if weather permits, otherwise in the court house.” The next night she spoke on Socialism itself [Sisseton Weekly Standard (SD), September 15, 1916, September 22, 1916; American Socialist (September 23, 1916), 4]. In Colorado, Geffs had run for Secretary of State in 1910 on the Socialist ticket, for their state assembly in 1912, and to be a justice of the state supreme court in 1918 [Sources: “Mary L. Geffs,” Her Hat Was in the Ring.]

South Dakota Socialists and Suffrage

Stacy A. Cochrane, who lived over the years in Ipswich, Brookings, Aberdeen, and Columbia, supported suffrage in his work as a lecturer for the state Socialist party [Madison Daily Leader (SD), October 9, 1905]. Cochrane was married to Floy L. Cochrane, who was long active in the W.C.T.U. He had worked as a newspaper editor, lawyer, and teacher. He was appointed state engineer of irrigation and then director of farmers’ institutes under Gov. Andrew Lee’s Populist administration, and became a state organizer/lecturer for the Socialist party. He was also on the Socialist ticket for various offices including lieutenant governor and attorney general [For instance: Press and Daily Dakotaian (Yankton SD), May 29, 1888; Sully County Watchman (Onida SD), August 15, 1891; Dakota Farmers’ Leader (SD), May 22, 1896, May 29, 1896; Black Hills Union (Rapid City SD), March 12, 1897; Mitchell Capital (SD), September 3, 1897, January 27, 1899, October 28, 1904, January 8, 1914; Hot Springs Weekly Star (SD), June 10, 1898, July 15, 1898; Turner County Herald (Hurley SD), January 8, 1903; Madison Daily Leader (SD), March 5, 1904, September 8, 1905; Omaha Daily Bee (NE), October 21, 1905; Aberdeen Democrat (SD), May 25, 1906, February 7, 1908; Pierre Weekly Free Press (SD), April 9, 1908, June 9, 1910; The Herald-Advance (Milbank SD), January 9, 1914, May 27, 1921; “Stacy A Cochran,”].

When Cochrane planned a speech on Socialism at the opera house in Madison, it was reported that “to women, does he hold out the bright light of founded hope that shall touch the very life of all her kind and equal standards and suffrage shall be a part” and that “there was a fair-sized audience present, including a number of ladies” [Madison Daily Leader (SD), October 9, 1905, October 13, 1905].

Shepard H. Goodfellow of Brookings was a suffrage supporter in 1909, and involved with the state Socialist party from 1908 to 1912. In 1912, attorney Nellie A. Douglass of Ft. Pierre, who had worked for suffrage in campaigns from 1894 to 1910, stood for election as South Dakota attorney general on the Socialist ticket. Simeon H. Cranmer had supported suffrage from 1884 to 1904 and had been involved for a time with Populist, Social Democrat, Socialist, and Independent parties over the years.

In 1912, the state Socialist party passed a suffrage plank in their state platform, that remained in place as a “usual socialist line” in 1914 [Kingsbury, History of Dakota Territory, vol. 3 (1915), 723; Sisseton Weekly Standard (SD), January 16, 1914, September 25, 1914]. In 1916, the state Socialist platform included the statement: “We stand, as we have always stood, for universal adult suffrage” [Sisseton Weekly Standard (SD), November 3, 1916].

In February 1918, it was reported that the Socialist ticket in South Dakota included Lela Knapp of Sisseton for Congress and Olive Knowles of Deadwood for superintendent of public instruction—“The Socialist party in its convention at Mitchell, did not believe in waiting for equal suffrage in this state for making a congressional nomination” [Madison Daily Leader (SD), January 25, 1918; The Herald-Advance (Milbank SD), February 1, 1918]. Lela Knapp had been the publicity chair for the Roberts County Suffrage Association at its organization in September 1916 [Sisseton Weekly Standard (SD), September 8, 1916]. {However, the Pierre paper reported that the Socialists’ congressional candidate was her husband John C. Knapp… and in August it was reported that he and another men were leaving the party because of the War [Pierre Weekly Free Press (Pierre SD), April 25, 1918; Sisseton Weekly Standard (SD), August 30, 1918].}

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