Kate Richards O'Hare

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Kate Richards O'Hare in 1915 Kate Richards O'Hare in 1915.jpg
Kate Richards O'Hare in 1915
Kate Richards O'Hare, circa 1913 Kateohare.jpg
Kate Richards O'Hare, circa 1913

Carrie Katherine "Kate" Richards O'Hare (March 26, 1876 – January 10, 1948) was an American Socialist Party activist, editor, and orator best known for her controversial imprisonment during World War I.

World War I 1914–1918 global war starting in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the resulting 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.



Early years

Carrie Katherine Richards was born March 26, 1876, in Ottawa County, Kansas. Her father, Andrew Richards (c. 1846–1916), was the son of slaveowners who had come to hate the institution, enlisting as a bugler and drummer boy in the Union Army at the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861. [1] Following the conclusion of the war he had married his childhood sweetheart and moved to the western Kansas frontier, where he and his wife Lucy brought up Kate and her four siblings, raising the children as socialists from an early age. [1]

Ottawa County, Kansas County in Kansas

Ottawa County is a county located in the U.S. state of Kansas. As of the 2010 census, the county population was 6,091. The largest city and county seat is Minneapolis.

Kansas U.S. state in the United States

Kansas is a U.S. state in the Midwestern United States. Its capital is Topeka and its largest city is Wichita, with its most populated county being Johnson County. Kansas is bordered by Nebraska on the north; Missouri on the east; Oklahoma on the south; and Colorado on the west. Kansas is named after the Kansas River, which in turn was named after the Kansa Native Americans who lived along its banks. The tribe's name is often said to mean "people of the (south) wind" although this was probably not the term's original meaning. For thousands of years, what is now Kansas was home to numerous and diverse Native American tribes. Tribes in the eastern part of the state generally lived in villages along the river valleys. Tribes in the western part of the state were semi-nomadic and hunted large herds of bison.

Union Army Land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War

During the American Civil War, the Union Army referred to the United States Army, the land force that fought to preserve the Union of the collective states. Also known as the Federal Army, it proved essential to the preservation of the United States as a working, viable republic.

O'Hare briefly worked as a teacher in Nebraska before becoming an apprentice machinist in her native Kansas. After being moved by a speech by labor activist Mary Harris Jones, she became drawn into socialist politics. She married fellow socialist Frank P. O'Hare.

Nebraska U.S. state in the United States

Nebraska is a state that lies in both the Great Plains and the Midwestern United States. It is bordered by South Dakota to the north; Iowa to the east and Missouri to the southeast, both across the Missouri River; Kansas to the south; Colorado to the southwest; and Wyoming to the west. It is the only triply landlocked U.S. state.

Machinist person who machines using hand tools and machine tools to create or modify a part that is made of metal, plastics, or wood

A machinist is a person who machines using hand tools and machine tools to create or modify a part that is made of metal, plastics, or wood.

Mary Harris Jones Irish-born American labor and community organizer

Mary G. Harris Jones, known as Mother Jones, was an Irish-born American schoolteacher and dressmaker who became a prominent organized labor representative, community organizer, and activist. She helped coordinate major strikes and co-founded the Industrial Workers of the World.

Political career

She unsuccessfully ran as a candidate for the United States Congress in Kansas on the Socialist ticket in 1910.

United States Congress Legislature of the United States

The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, and consists of two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Both senators and representatives are chosen through direct election, though vacancies in the Senate may be filled by a gubernatorial appointment. Congress has 535 voting members: 435 representatives and 100 senators. The House of Representatives has six non-voting members representing Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia in addition to its 435 voting members. Although they cannot vote in the full house, these members can address the house, sit and vote in congressional committees, and introduce legislation.

In the pages of the National Rip-Saw, a St. Louis-based socialist journal in the 1910s, O'Hare championed reforms in favor of the working class and toured the country as an orator. In 1916 the Socialist Party of Missouri named O'Hare its candidate for U.S. Senate, heading the Socialist ticket in the state. [2]

St. Louis independent city in Missouri, United States

St. Louis is a major independent city and inland port in the U.S. state of Missouri. It is situated along the western bank of the Mississippi River, which marks Missouri's border with Illinois. The Missouri River merges with the Mississippi River just north of the city, forming the fourth-longest river system in the world. The city had an estimated 2018 population of 302,838 and is the cultural and economic center of the St. Louis metropolitan area, which is the largest metropolitan area in Missouri, and the 20th-largest in the United States.

Working class Social class composed of members of the society employed in lower tier jobs

The working class comprises those engaged in waged or salaried labour, especially in manual-labour occupations and industrial work. Working-class occupations include blue-collar jobs, some white-collar jobs, and most pink-collar jobs. Members of the working class rely for their income exclusively upon their earnings from wage labour; thus, according to the more inclusive definitions, the category can include almost all of the working population of industrialized economies, as well as those employed in the urban areas of non-industrialized economies or in the rural workforce.

An orator, or oratist, is a public speaker, especially one who is eloquent or skilled.

After America's entry into World War I in 1917, O'Hare led the Socialist Party's Committee on War and Militarism. For giving an anti-war speech in Bowman, North Dakota, O'Hare was convicted and sent to prison by federal authorities for violating the Espionage Act of 1917, an act criminalizing interference with recruitment and enlistment of military personnel. With no federal penitentiaries for women existing at the time, she was delivered to Missouri State Penitentiary on a five-year sentence in 1919, but was pardoned in 1920 after a nationwide campaign to secure her release. In prison, O'Hare met the anarchists Emma Goldman and Gabriella Segata Antolini, and worked with them to improve prison conditions.

Bowman, North Dakota City in North Dakota, United States

Bowman is a city and county seat of Bowman County, North Dakota, United States. Its population was 1,650 at the 2010 census.

Espionage Act of 1917 United States Federal Law

The Espionage Act of 1917 is a United States federal law passed on June 15, 1917, shortly after the U.S. entry into World War I. It has been amended numerous times over the years. It was originally found in Title 50 of the U.S. Code (War) but is now found under Title 18, Crime. Specifically, it is 18 U.S.C. ch. 37

Missouri State Penitentiary

The Missouri State Penitentiary was a prison in Jefferson City, Missouri, that operated from 1836 to 2004. Part of the Missouri Department of Corrections, it served as the state of Missouri's primary maximum security institution. Before it closed, it was the oldest operating penal facility west of the Mississippi River. It was replaced by the Jefferson City Correctional Center, which opened on September 15, 2004.

After her release and the war's end, support for the Amnesty movement waned. In April 1922, to free America's "Political Prisoners" she led the "Children’s Crusade", a cross country march, to prod Harding to release others convicted of the same 1917 Espionage act she had been convicted. With support of the fledgling ACLU, the women and children stood at the gates of the White House for almost two months before Harding met with them, ultimately releasing many of the prisoners of conscience. [3]

O'Hare, unlike Socialist Party leader Eugene V. Debs and other prominent socialists at the time, was a supporter of racial segregation, and penned a 1912 pamphlet titled "Nigger" Equality, which attempted to appeal to Southern voters. [4]

Later years

Kate O'Hare divorced Frank O'Hare in June 1928 and married the engineer and businessman Charles C. Cunningham in California in November of the same year. Despite her continued involvement in politics, much of O'Hare's prominence gradually faded. O'Hare worked on behalf of Upton Sinclair's radical populist campaign in the 1934 California gubernatorial election, and briefly served on the staff of Wisconsin Progressive Party politician Thomas R. Amlie in 1937–38. Esteemed as a penal reform advocate, she served as an assistant director of the California Department of Penology in 1939–40.

Death and legacy

O'Hare died in Benicia, California, on January 10, 1948.

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  1. 1 2 "Andrew Richards," St. Louis Labor, whole no. 806 (July 15, 1916), p. 8.
  2. Otto Vierling, "Socialist Party of Missouri," St. Louis Labor, whole no. 801 (June 10, 1916), pg. 2.
  3. Freeberg, E. (2008) Democracy’s Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, The Great War and the Right to Dissent, Cambridge Massachusetts, Harvard University Press
  4. Kate Richards O'Hare, "Nigger" Equality, St. Louis, MO: National Rip-Saw, 1912.


Further reading