Excerpt from "Queen Silver: The Godless Girl" -- Biographical Section.
The Socialist Queen
Queen once observed to me that every period had its official smear words. When her mother had been on the farm, the smear word had been 'anarchist.' When she went on the lecture trail, the word had been 'socialist.' During World War I, it was 'Bolshevik' or, in California, 'Wobblie.'
The American government -- preparing to enter World War I and panicked to its core by the Bolshevik Revolution that swept communists into power in Russia -- began to crack down on labor radicals, who were often anti-war as well as socialistic. To make matters worse, the membership of the I.W.W. consisted largely of immigrants, especially from Russia and Germany: this made them 'suspicious foreign nationals' in the eyes of the authorities and of American patriots. Moreover, the I.W.W. tactic of declaring strikes ran directly counter to the government's need to maintain wartime high levels of production.
The mass arrests began. One of the first occurred on August 27, 1917 in Tripp, South Dakota, when thirty German nationals were arrested for violating the Espionage Act because they signed a petition against the draft. The list of such incidents would fill many pages. The victims were not always 'alien enemy' nationals, nor were the attackers always the authorities. As World War I progressed, the attacks became more violent and they were directed more indiscriminately to include native-born pacifists and those who refused to buy war-bonds. And, often, the violence was committed by groups of enraged citizens.
In September 1917, after simultaneously raiding forty-eight IWW meeting halls across the country, government agents arrested 165 leaders of that organization. Eventually, over a hundred of them went on trial for violating the Espionage Act: that is, they encouraged desertion from the American military, promoted strikes, and spoke out against the draft. After a five-month trial, every defendant was found guilty, though the sentences meted out varied widely. "Big Bill Haywood", the Wobblies' flamboyant leader, received a twenty year prison sentence. He fled to the Soviet Union, where he died ten years later.
In slightly more than a decade of existence, the I.W.W. had flourished, with its membership swelling to over 100,000 members in 1917. The Wobblies would now decline, with only brief resurgence. This was the point at which Queen and Grace intersected with the I.W.W. and other socialist groups in Los Angeles.
Grace's reaction was interesting. Well aware of the mayhem sweeping radical ranks, Grace ran in 1918 as the "Candidate of the Socialist Party for Representative in Congress 9th District."(36) In "All Work and No Play" -- an semi-autobiographical short story, as many of her stories seemed to be, Grace wrote years later, "Martha [the main character] couldn't see herself spending her life putting patches on the pants of the body politic; what society needed was a new suit of clothes.
"Political work had followed, and she was one of the first women who ran for Congress. It had been in Los Angles, in 1918, when that city had but two districts. She'd been candidate in one of them on the Socialist Ticket, had got close to nine thousand votes -- and been overwhelmingly elected -- to stay at home, away from Congress forever. Nowadays, in less populated districts, men, and women too, have been elected with fewer supporters. Anyway, as Martha said, it really didn't matter."(37)
During the war years, Grace was somewhat protected from the widespread arrests of radicals and raids that were known as the Palmer Raids, so named after President Wilson's Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer. The raids were primarily aimed at immigrant radicals who, as non-citizens, had little legal protection against harassment or deportation. Grace was not only native born, but also from a family whose roots were centuries deep in the American soil and whose name sounded decided respectable. Moreover, because she was educated and politically aware, the authorities had to maintain at least the bare semblance of proper procedure in dealing with her.
But the authorities had an extremely good 'informer' system within the more important radical organizations and they maintained thorough files on the memberships. With such resources at their command, the police and those groups aligned with the police used harassment as their preferred strategy against native-born radicals. Queen described one such incident of harassment which Grace experienced:
"...the Merchants and Manufacturers Association in Los Angeles at that time was the group maintaining the files . It was not done primarily by the police department, but by private organizations. When radicals were arrested, they were usually not taken -- at least, my mother was not taken -- to the police department. They were taken to the Merchants and Manufacturers Association. On one occasion, they showed my mother her file and read things to her from it. They had everything from the time she had left the farm, to her speaking on Boston Common and every organization she'd every spoken for and, I suppose, every man she'd been friendly with.
"One particular thing showed how thorough they were...there was a man by the name of Ed M---- who became a rather famous prison reform speaker. My mother was in Salt Lake City at the time that Ed M--- was going through so she interviewed him for the International Socialist Review for which she was writing at the time. She wrote all night to get the article ready to send into the review, then took it downstairs to proofread it over breakfast, but made the mistake of leaving behind in her room the pictures intended to go with the article. When she got back after breakfast she found her room had been ransacked and the pictures taken. The Merchants and Manufacturers Association file had notes on the interview and on the theft of the pictures. So they were very thorough."(38)
Although it is likely Queen attended the meeting at which her mother was swept up, it is unlikely that she too ended up at the Merchants and Manufacturers Association. Queen recounted many times how her mother, before taking her to a socialist or labor meeting, would press car fare into her hand. If trouble broke out at the assembly, Queen was to head directly out the door, away from the crowds, and go to a 'safe' pre-arranged address. Queen was to stay there until someone she trusted came to get her.
If she became lost along the way, Grace cautioned her to "ask anybody for directions except a policeman." One reason was because the police of that day procured working class children for the local brothels. Presumably affluent children were exempted from such a danger.