Document 15: Carrie Chapman Catt, "An Open Letter to the D.A.R.," The Woman Citizen (July 1927), 10-12, 41-42.
In spite of Addams's belief that public protest was futile, Catt continued with her appeal to the better judgement of DAR members. In July 1927 she published "An Open Letter to the D.A.R." in The Woman Citizen, the official publication of the League of Women Voters. In the excerpts provided here, Catt asked DAR members to reconsider their activities. She suggested that their attacks went against everything their Revolutionary ancestors stood for, including freedom of thought and freedom of speech. She denied any connection between pacifism and Bolshevism and explicitly stated that neither Addams nor WILPF were communist dupes. Instead she offered another explanation -- that the Daughters were actually the dupes. This idea was echoed later by DAR member Helen Tufts Bailie. She charged that military men had exploited the organization's good intentions in order to secure the position of a military elite within the government. The presence of a strong pacifist movement pushing for disarmament threatened their power. Like Balch, Catt employed evidence of Republican and Democratic support, including that of Coolidge, for Addams and her activism.
An Open Letter to the D.A.R.
The Officers and Members of the Daughters of the American Revolution
Are Asked to "Think it Over"
Meaning Certain Anti-Red Campaigns in Which
Innocent Women and Women's Organizations Have Been Slandered
"Five generations ago the United States leapt from the trapdoor of history. This startling event was achieved by some men and in spite of others," says Guendalla in his Fathers of the Revolution. True enough. You are the Daughters, three or four generations removed, of those heroic men who achieved. All Americans are proud of them and loyal to their memory and deeds. You are proud enough of that ancestry that revolted and won, that saw a vision of self-government when there was none, and established it in spite of others, that you maintain an association to commemorate your pride. None in all the world objects nor fails to agree that there is justification for your pride. You have done excellent work in emphasizing phases of American history. Good citizens are grateful to you for it.
Of late you appear to have wandered from your original objective, and a rather startling twofold result has shown itself.
Surprising as it may seem to you, in libraries and laboratories among psychologists and experts on inheritance, the D.A.R. is now considered an interesting "case." These men of science say that the qualities which led the Fathers to live and die for certain ideas, new in their time, have become atrophied in the Daughters. They say that while the Fathers tolerantly recognized the right of others to their own opinions as a part of God's law of progress, never pausing, you their Daughters, declare that whatever is, must forever be, and assume a petrified standpatness on that pronouncement. The great liberties the Fathers established were free thought, freedom of religious worship, free speech, free press, and free assemblage. Just now, with Bolsheviks announcing a world revolution, a careful scrutiny of these liberties and probably a new definition of some of them may become necessary. These scientists say you do not discuss this need, but are opposing certain of these liberties in a way not comprehensible. They say you have slipped out of the camp of your Fathers and into that of "in spite of others," where, curiously, you praise the Fathers, but condemn that which made them worth of praise. I leave you to judge the merits of this turn of public comment. In truth, the Daughters of the Founders of this Republic, great men, brave men, should be the leaders, the pathfinders, the inspirers of all women, in their new opportunities opened up by education and political freedom. But are you? If not, why not?
The second phase is stirring much wider circles. There you are boldly charged with having inexcusably violated President Roosevelt's spirit of the Square Deal. You are accused of being active distributors of literature that slanders other women as well educated, honest, and loyally American as are you--literature subtly designed to throw suspicion upon and impair the reputation of other women's groups and organizations quite as high-minded as your own.
The campaign directed and financed by parties unknown, that your leaders are assisting, professes to aim at the destruction of an alleged Bolshevik plot to overturn this government, and to rally public opinion to "our common defense" when and if the conspiracy eventuates.
These would seem worthy purposes provided (1) that the campaign had brought forward one single proof that such a plot exists and (2) that it really rallies public opinion. It has done neither. It has not unearthed a single Bolshevik nor discovered any evidence of a plot that the newspapers had not previously given the public. Instead it has made slanderous, mendacious and brutal attacks on thousands of women who never saw a Bolshevik in their lives. It has charged them with direct or indirect connection with Moscow, with plots and plans to overturn the government until a veritable wave of hysteria is sweeping the country.
"The Common Enemy"
Among the literature your association has distributed is a pamphlet called "The Common Enemy." Certain paragraphs unmistakably prove that it was printed either by or for the D.A.R. It has been distributed by your members at D.A.R. meetings, and therefore its circulation appears official. No one else but your association appears to be responsible for it.
The following quotations (italics ours) will suffice to make clear its contents:
"Communism, Bolshevism, Socialism, 'Liberalism' and Ultra Pacifism tend to the same end."
"Those classes under the last two groups are very largely dupes of the world revolutionary movement, a movement which proposed to destroy civilization and Christianity."
"The six objectives of Communism, Bolshevism, Socialism, 'Liberalism,' and Ultra Pacifism are:
"1. The abolition of government.
"2. The abolition of patriotism.
"3. The abolition of the property right.
"4. The abolition of inheritance.
"5. The abolition of religion and
"6. The abolition of family relations."
(Note: These six aims might be correctly stated as the objectives of the most extreme of Communists, but they are not all included in the objectives of moderate Communists and certainly not in those of Socialists, yet these are made to seem the objectives of "Liberals" and "Ultra Pacifists" with no definition of what these classes are.)
"The world revolutionary movement . . . encouraged by its advancement in Russia, Mexico and other countries, firm in its belief that it can and will destroy the government of the United States by the slow yet certain 'poison of liberalism,' is working here through every possible agency. It is 'boring from within.'"
"The world revolutionary movement operates through more than two hundred different organizations." A few of these organizations alleged to be revolutionary, are listed under three heads: (1) "The best-known Communist organizations," (2) "The best known open Socialist organizations," (3) "The most prominent 'liberal' and Pacifist organizations." In the list of fourteen organizations I find "The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom."
I am not a member of this organization. I have attended none of its meetings, am not in sympathy with all of its policies, and carry no brief for it. I do not, however, approve of the use of libel as a campaign method and your pamphlet therefore set me to investigating. It makes five distinct charges against this organization (and, incidentally, thirteen others).You declare it to be:
- One of two hundred organizations operating in a world revolutionary movement; or its members are
- Dupes of the world revolutionary movement.
- A factor in a movement to destroy civilization and Christianity.
- Aiming at the above-named six Communist objectives
- Aiming to destroy the government of the United States.
No names are given in this pamphlet of persons connected with these two hundred organizations alleged to be engaged in subversive movements; but another pamphlet circulated by your members, and at times in connection with "The Common Enemy," gives the key to personalities. It is a reprint of thirty-six pages, July 3, 1926, read into the Congressional Record by Senator Bayard, purporting to be opposition to the Maternity Act, but, in reality, it is a wholesale attack upon the patriotism and honor of individual women and women's organizations. It is signed by the five directors of the Woman Patriot Publishing Company, all formerly known in the anti-suffrage campaign, whose paper still carries at the head, "Against Feminism and Socialism."
Here I find Miss Jane Addams listed as President of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Nowhere is it frankly stated that "Miss Addams is a Bolshevik," but by indirect processes, innuendoes, and unrelated quotations, a combination of sentences charges her organization with direct Communisitc activities, its President with Communistic faith, and both together are unmistakably charged with work to destroy civilization and Christianity. It says definitely that Miss Addams "desired the aftermath of the war to be International Communism."
Of course you would not circulate these pamphlets if your officers did not believe these slanders and if you did not expect others to be persuaded by them. That exactly the effect you must want has been created is proved by letters here and there brought out where the hysteria has run particularly high. Basing their statements upon this pamphlet, such letter writers have said the bold words that "Miss Addams is a Bolshevik."
Are the Charges True?
Slanders always grow with travel. It is a pretty dishonorable business to start them or carry them on. If the charges are true, the report is not slander. Now are they true? Do you really think Miss Addams is a Communist? All realize that your convictions must be intense, or your officers careless, since the attack on Miss Addams is upon one who is or has been a D.A.R. herself. I have asked her and upon her word I will take my oath that
Miss Addams is not a Bolshevik.
She is not a Communist.
She is not a Revolutionist.
She is not a red.
She is not even a Socialist.
She is not favorable to the six aims of the Communists, or any one of them.
When she says she is none of these things and the literature you have circulated says she is, who is to be believed?
The International League
I have inquired about the organization of which she is President. This Bayard reprint charges it with standing for many Communistic theories. The chief charges are that it endorses:
1. The disarmament of America first as an example to the rest of the world, a step claimed to be a Bolshevik desire in order that this nation may be found undefended when a revolution is sprung.
2. "A slacker oath" and pledges against all service to their country in time of war.
3. The abolition of "the property right."
The facts are that:
1. No resolution to disarm America first was ever passed by the International or American auxiliary of the W.I.L.
2. A proposal of "slacker oath" was once made both in the international and national conventions, but resolutions pledging members to this action were voted down upon both occasions. A considerable discussion took place at a convention in Zurich (1919) as to what women might do to end war. A resolution was passed (No. 37, page 262, Zurich Report):
"This International Congress of Women, recognizing that a strike of women against war of all kinds can only be effective if taken up internationally, urges the National Sections to work for an international agreement between women to refuse their support of war in money, work, or propaganda."
The question of pledging members to a "strike" in case of war was thus left to the national auxiliaries, and the American auxiliary has taken no action to sponsor or co-operate with such an agreement. The resolution is somewhat unclear, but the one thing that is clear is that no international pledge and no American pledge has been taken.
The insinuation that this body has resolved in favor of the abolition of private property is the most effective charge that could be made against an organization, since the substitution of public ownership for private property is the basis of Communism and Socialism. What, then, does this charge mean? At the Vienna Congress of the Women's International League in 1921, the report was made that in Eastern Europe, Hungary and Rumania chiefly, that large propertied classes enjoyed "privileges" now abolished in Western Europe through land reform laws and death duties (or inheritance taxes). It was the desire of certain delegates to resolve that such laws (all of which we have in the United States) should be established universally. The attempt to write this desire to reduce the relics of old feudalism to the standards set up in the more democratic countries is, it must be admitted, not very clear, yet since that resolution especially mentions that "the abolition of property privileges" is to be achieved by "taxation, death duties and land reform laws," it is nothing short of preposterous to charge this resolution with Communistic intention. Communism abolishes not property privileges but private property ownership altogether--by confiscation.
It is truly shocking to note how untrue, how misleading, how contemptible are the charges made against this body. Call it radical if you wish, but cease charging it with conduct almost treason.
When a man read an alleged list of suspected Americans to the Overman Committee investigating the possibility of Reds in America, he included Jane Addams. Newton D. Baker, then Secretary of War, promptly disavowed the man, and said that he had never been employed by the Department and was never an officer of the Military Intelligence Service. Condemning this published list, he added: "Miss Jane Addams, for instance, lends dignity and greatness to any list in which her name appears."
On January 20, 1927, a testimonial dinner was given in Chicago where she lives and is known. An audience of two thousand of Chicago's best arose and shouted itself hoarse to show that it had faith in her and a letter was read from President Coolidge from which the following is an extract:
"Her work at Hull House during the last twenty-five years of benevolence and charity has been a great contribution to the public welfare. It has set an example which has been an inspiration to well doing all over the country. It was but a short time ago that Miss Addams called at my office, when I was very much impressed by the fact that she had given her life and strength to the services of humanity. I trust that the testimonial of affection and regard which you are about to offer her may give her renewed strength and courage to carry on her work of peace and good will."
If I didn't know Jane Addams, I'd take the evidence of Newton D. Baker, Democrat, and President Coolidge, Republican, as to her integrity, rather than the wild ravings of such a pamphlet as you have circulated.
Or is President Coolidge a dupe?
The fact is that Miss Addams is one of the greatest women this republic of ours has produced. She has given her life to serve others. She knows no selfish thought. You slap her on the right cheek; she only turns the left. Sticks, stones, slanders, you cast upon this highest product of American womanhood and not a protest passes her lips. She is the kind of Christian who might have been thrown to the lions and would have gone cheerfully. The literature distributed by you persuades the uninformed to believe what is not true about an honorable citizen. Think it over . . . .
* * *
I have chosen the above three named organizations[A] as examples of the attacks made by the literature distributed by you, because I am not a worker in any of them. I might have chosen other organizations such as the League of Women Voters, the General Federations of Women's Clubs, the Women's Christian Temperance Union, the Young Women's Christian Association, etc, all of which have been attacked in similar fashion. You oppose them because all have expressed the hope
That peace will one day supplant war
That children will be taken from the factories and sent to school
That mothers and babies will not die by preventable causes
That this country may at least have as high a per cent of literacy as that of Japan.
These measures have no more in connection with Socialism or Bolshevism than has Federal aid in the building of roads or lighthouses.
It is your privilege as free citizens to campaign in support of your opposition to these views, but there is no excuse whatsoever for calling those who differ with you Bolsheviks, Reds and conspirators aiming to tear down the nation. No one feels ill-tempered that you oppose these measures. What does stir criticism is the fact that you impugn the motives, assail the honor, question the intelligence, malign the representatives of honorable organizations, and by wholesale call advocates of these measures dupes and Reds. Perhaps the chief cause of irritation is that the officers of your organization appear to spread the discrediting charges against the elected officers of other organizations--elected because many women have trusted them.
Everyone knows that you did not prepare the infamous Record reprint. No one seems to know who did; but you have distributed it. As a matter of fact, those who stand for the causes I have just named, which, let me remind you, are rather certain in the end to become victorious (in spite of others), are as patriotic and loyal as any D.A.R. and no more Red nor Bolshevik than the most American one of your members.
Think a minute. He who calls names stirs ire; more names, more ire. By and by there is comeback. The caller gets called. You say we, on this side of the fence, are either Bolsheviks or dupes. Just now the folks over here are beginning to take notice. The voices are rising and they are saying "The Daughters! Why, those Daughters are dupes themselves!!"
It would be a wise next step to organize a hunt for real Bolsheviks instead of bogies. With all the capitals of Europe hunting Bolsheviks, with the League of Nations on the verge of action of some sort against Russian propaganda, the Communist question is a live one. So far as this country is concerned, the movement appears to be decreasing, and it has no known great leader, which indicates weakness. But it exists, here are Communists and a Communist party, and the Communist idea, largely founded on dissatisfaction, will perhaps continue to exist while cause, real or imaginary, for dissatisfaction remains.
It might be advisable for sincere patriots to begin the campaign by studying its causes. It would be particularly desirable for all workers to learn what Communists, Bolshevists, Socialists, Liberals, Pacifists, ultra and otherwise, are, in order to detect the differences among these varieties! Think it over, you will be ready for a real Bolshevik hunt. It will not do to be inveigled by the color red, either. That was the anti-suffrage color, it is the flag of revolution, and on June 19 it betokened Fathers' Day. Under these confusions even a patriot should be able to wear a red rose without fear of arrest. Think it over.
A. In the excluded
portion of this document Catt also defended Florence Kelley of the National
Consumers' League and Rose Schneiderman of the Women's Trade Union League.
For more on Kelley, see "How Did Florence
Kelley's Campaign against Sweatshops in Chicago in the 1890s Expand Government
Responsibility for Industrial Working Conditions?" also on this website.
For a suffrage speech by Schneiderman, see "Miss
Rose Schneiderman, Cap Maker, Replies to New York Senator on Delicacy and
Charm of Women," also on this website.
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