“HOME AND MOTHER” – September 7, 1914

By Labor Day, 1914, Americans had been honoring working men and women with a national holiday on the first Monday of September for twenty years. ((Labor historian Philip Foner asserts that Labor Day was observed first and informally in 1885; Oregon became the first state to make it an official holiday in 1887; and it became a national legal holiday in 1894 (First Facts 92). However, reporting on the events of this day, the Morning Oregonian claims that the Knights of Labor first held a parade in New York in 1882; the Knights settled on the first Monday in September in 1884; Colorado was the first state to declare it a holiday, in 1887; and it is celebrated in every state and territory except Nevada, North Dakota and Wyoming, while in Louisiana it is celebrated only in New Orleans parish (7 Sept. 1914; cf. Corning 138).)) According to one historian, “a growing consensus that the government must do more to correct the evils of industrial capitalism” was emerging. Yet, while gains had been made, this remained a tumultuous time for the labor movement, its future far from certain.

In Woodrow Wilson, labor had a modest friend in the White House and other allies (such as Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan) in the Administration. The nation’s first Secretary of Labor, former mine worker William Wilson, had begun to attempt to mediate worker grievances against employers. In June, Representative Henry De Lamar Clayton, a Democrat from Alabama, had introduced a bill declaring that “the labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce,” guaranteeing the right of trade unions to exist, legalizing peaceful picketing, boycotts, and strikes, limiting the use of injunctions against striking workers, and providing for jury trials in criminal contempt cases; Samuel Gompers of the American Federation of Labor hailed it (too optimistically) as labor’s “Magna Carta.” ((The A.F. of L. tepidly endorsed Wilson over Roosevelt and Taft in 1912 and, after the election, the President consulted frequently with Gompers about matters of policy and legislation. The Department of Labor was created in March, 1913. Unions had been fighting for twenty years to stop judicial harassment under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, under which they frequently were prosecuted as illegal restraints of trade, and current injunction legislation. Clayton’s bill passed the Senate on September 3, just four days before this speech; the Clayton Antitrust Act would become law on October 15. While its gains were important, only “lawful” activities were protected, language which provided the basis for subsequent judicial interpretations that rendered the protections themselves virtually meaningless (Greene 242-48; Foner, First Facts 51; Morning Oregonian 3 Sept. 1914).))

Nonetheless, appalling working conditions and “wage slavery” could be found in industry after industry across the country. Many more radical and socialist elements, disenchanted with Gompers’ conservative Federation, had formed the International Workers of the World, under whose banner the often-deadly work of organizing was on-going. Textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts (almost half of whom were women and young girls), demanding “bread and roses, too,” struck in 1912, with as many as 20,000 laborers at a time on the picket line.  A year later, 25,000 silk workers in Paterson, New Jersey, struck for twenty-two weeks, until they were, by one account, “starved into submission.” The first effort to organize California migrant agricultural workers occurred near Marysville later in 1913 in the so-called “Wheatland Hop-Fields Riot,” in which a district attorney, a deputy sheriff, and two hop-pickers were killed. In January, 1914, Henry Ford, probably in an effort to thwart I.W.W. organizing, announced an unheard-of wage-and-hour scale of five dollars and eight hours a day. Then, in April–five months before this Labor Day–during a United Mine Workers’ strike, Colorado militia strafed a strikers’ tent camp with machine-gun fire and torched the tents with people still inside. Thirty-nine men, women, and children were killed in the “Ludlow Massacre” ((See, respectively: Foner, History 4: 306-28, 351-72, 261-80; Foner, First Facts 117-18, 116).))

If conditions for most American workers were tenuous, the lot of women workers was worse. ((According to data presented at the 1907 Chicago Industrial Exhibit, sponsored by Jane Addams of Hull House and the Women’s Trade Union League of Chicago, female workers were earning an average of only $7.25 per week, and many as little as $3.00 (Foner, First Facts 209).)) And then there was that vast category of women–housewives–whose work was not even recognized as “work” and went uncompensated.

Scott Duniway long had been concerned about women’s economic security, so it was natural for her to revisit the issue on this day “dedicated to the toilers of the Nation.” Portland’s stores were closed and “a day filled with excitement and interest every minute” was planned. Concerts, vaudeville, and a variety of athletic and other contests, with $1,200 in prizes donated by the city’s merchants, would make for “merriment on foot in the city parks.” The main program unfolded at the Oaks Amusement Park, where “foremost in interest in the competitions” was the “better baby contest” that opened the day’s celebration. Sponsored by the Central Labor Council and the Portland Eugenic Society, six valuable prizes were awarded to the “youngsters coming the nearest to eugenic standards,” with nary a dimple swaying the judges in this “strictly scientific test.” Next came an address on “The Progress of Labor,” by attorney William A. Munly. (((1863-?): born Carbondale, Pennsylvania; graduated public high school, 1878; principal, school at Olyphant, Pennsylvania, 1881-83, after which removed to Oregon; city editor, Portland Daily Standard, 1885; married Elizabeth B. Buckenmeyer, 1891; studied law with Attorney General George Earle Chamberlain; admitted to bar, 1894; private secretary, Governor Sylvester Pennoyer, 1887-95; assistant postmaster, Portland, 1896-98; U.S. Attorney, Third Dist., Alaska Territory, 1917-21; Democrat (History of the Bench 196; “Political Graveyard“).)) Then, just after noon, in the Oaks auditorium, Scott Duniway took the stage. ((Morning Oregonian 7 Sept. 1914. Abigail alludes to the eugenics competition in this speech’s concluding paragraph.))

In the retrospective manner that typifies her later speech-making, Abigail speaks from her experience as a young wife forced to support her family after husband Ben sustained his crippling injury. What we call the Protestant ethic plays an important part in her thinking. Her praise of the “wage-earning, tax-paying” class, and disdain for the moneyed class, does not turn on innate differences in character, but on the transformative (perhaps even “redemptive” is not too strong, or too heavily religious, a term) power of labor, which is accessible to all people. Her story of a woman “who lived in an elegant residence on the hill, spending her days in luxury and her evenings in revelry,” is telling. Initially, Abigail’s scorn for this “little bundle of pink and white tyranny” is unbounded. However, scorn gives way to approval and even admiration when this “frivolous” woman, facing financial disaster, “arise[s] in the majesty of a new sensation” and starts a business. This story corroborates Scott Duniway’s own; the moral of both is that responsibility advances human character.

Ultimately, this is the ground in which her justification for woman’s rights is rooted: Character so developed has earned the blessings of liberty. This is why Scott Duniway believes that the West, and particularly the Pacific Northwest, is especially fertile soil for the seeds of equality: The pioneer experience of her people, both men and women, has molded their characters and earned them their freedom. This is why equal rights are inevitable: The advancement of human character is a natural part of evolutionary progress. This is why she prefers not to antagonize men: Appealing to their noblest instincts invokes the most advanced aspects of their characters and should, according to this implicit rhetorical theory, be most persuasive. Finally, this is why she (like a number of other woman’s rights advocates) sometimes deviated from a strict “natural rights” defense of equal suffrage and supported something less than universal suffrage: The franchise was not an inherent right of humans qua humans, but a right to be earned. ((As early as 1881, Abigail opined against unqualified suffrage and in favor of “intelligent and moral qualifications” for voters. This fomented yet another disagreement with Dr. Mary Anna Cooke Thompson, who argued that no qualifications should be put on women while there are none on men, that full franchise should be granted first and reasonable qualifications designed by both sexes second. This disagreement underscores the magnitude of the 1910 “tax-paying women” proposal’s compromise of principle (Morning Oregonian 10 Feb. 1881; Oregonian 10 Feb. 1881).)) In short, the core of Scott Duniway’s rhetorical strategy, although adapted to political realities as she interpreted them, was not simply a product of political expediency, but was grounded in genuine conviction borne of her life experience.

However, heavy reliance on this experience has a cost. Throughout most of  her career, Abigail the journalist intimately engaged current events, readily offering her views on financial panics, the gold standard, capital accumulation, and other timely matters. ((On the topic of labor, perhaps the best example is her “Avoid the Cause of Strikes,” now lost but delivered during the turmoil of 1893-94.)) This speech’s silence about recent labor strife, government policy, and other contemporary subjects is stunning, particularly since the occasion begs at least for their acknowledgment, if not exposition. A population explosion in Portland and statewide since the turn of the century had made fear of “rootless immigrants and unemployed laborers” swayed by the I.W.W. “rampant.” ((Moynihan, Rebel 218.)) Only three weeks before this Labor Day, the Federal Industrial Relations Commission–created by Congress in 1912 to investigate “widespread industrial strife and discontent”–arrived in Portland for three days of public hearings. ((Morning Oregonian 17 Aug. 1914.)) That August, Portlanders opened their morning newspapers to find that: trouble still brewed in the hopfields of California, where the I.W.W. possessed “several tons of dynamite” and was “planning big trouble”; self-described “revolutionist” James Thompson of the I.W.W. advocated abolishing the “wage system” in testimony before the Commission in Seattle; Frank Walsh, chair of the Commission, found unrest and sympathy for the I.W.W. greater in the Pacific Northwest than anywhere else in the country; the United Mine Workers canceled an unsuccessful strike in Vancouver, B.C., after fifteen months and more than one million dollars; and even city newsboys were threatening to strike. ((Respectively: Morning Oregonian 6, 13, 20, 21, and 12 Aug. 1914.)) Most alarming of all, riots broke out when a thousand “insurgent” copper miners in Butte, Montana, tried to force other miners to join their new, I.W.W.-inspired union; when rumors reached the camp that the state militia would be called out, the miners threatened to burn the city to the ground; martial law was imposed, the local newspapers were censored, a summary military court superceded civilian rule (seven I.W.W. members were the first to be tried), and a manhunt for the president of the renegade union–wanted on “inciting to riot” charges–commenced. Thus, on the very day that Scott Duniway spoke, Gatling guns guarded the county courthouse in Butte and militiamen patrolled its streets. It was thought that the military would remain at least until after the November elections (at which, incidentally, Oregonians would be voting on a proposal for a universal eight-hour work day). The war in Europe notwithstanding, surely many a lively conversation in the homes and establishments of Portland must have concerned the news from Montana. ((The Morning Oregonian first reported trouble in Montana on August 9; after the first miner was killed, it covered the story every day from August 27 through Labor Day, 1914.)) Yet Abigail ignores these events and abandons deliberation entirely, striving only to evoke a sense of the virtue of work, particularly women’s work. The risk is that her message becomes inspiring but irrelevant.

The only hint of current events is her choice of verse. Abigail commonly utilized poetry (her own or others’) to reinforce a message. But this address relies unusually heavily on this device, quoting no fewer than four: Rose Elizabeth Smith’s “Ninety and Nine,” Joaquin Miller’s “The Bravest Battle,” Charles Swain’s “Home’s Not Merely Four Square Walls,” and Mary Howitt’s “The Clock is on the Stroke of Six.” They are worlds apart, and Scott Duniway’s attempt to meld a Wobbly organizing anthem with cloyingly sentimental paeans to home and hearth is truly extraordinary. ((Even though her version of Howitt’s poem is markedly less sentimental than the original (infra, n. 27).)) The risk is that her inspirational message becomes, upon scrutiny, simply incoherent.

The text is taken from a manuscript in the Abigail Scott Duniway Papers, consisting of a letter to the editor, dated September 22, 1914, and beginning: “Some friends, seeing the splendid address of my friend, Col. C. E. S. Wood ((Charles Erskine Scott Wood (1852-1944): lawyer, poet, philosophical anarchist; born Erie, Pennsylvania; graduated West Point, 1874; participated in Nez Perce campaign of 1877 (Chief Joseph), and Bannock and Piute campaign of 1878, reaching the rank of First Lieutenant; admitted to bar in Washington Territory, 1879; Columbia University law graduate, 1883; resigned from Army and admitted to Oregon bar, 1884; although married, became companion of Sarah Bard Field, the two moving to San Francisco after passage of Nineteenth Amendment, 1920; entertained artists and intellectuals in salon atmosphere in their home, “The Cats”; they married January 20, 1936, following Wood’s wife’s death (Corning 273; History of the Bench 250; Field; Powers 441-52).)), in your valuable columns, as he gave it to the public on Labor Day, having asked me to send my speech to you, I have consulted my notes, and with your permission will submit the same to your readers. ((Wood spoke immediately after Scott Duniway. The Oregonian reported Wood’s speech the following morning (September 8). It declined to publish Abigail’s letter. Wood also testified during the U.S. Industrial Relations Commission hearing in Portland on the subject of Oregon’s minimum wage law, where he described himself as an “anarchist” (Morning Oregonian 22 Aug. 1914).)) I said, substantially,”

Mr. Chairman and friends of the Federation of Labor: I wish to say, before beginning the subject of “Home and Mothers,” as advertised for this important occasion, that, as a laborer myself, born and brought up in the labor element, I have always felt the deepest interest in every movement for bettering the conditions of

“The ninety and nine who live and die
That one may rend in luxury
And be wrapped in its silken fold.
The one in a mansion rich and are,
The ninety and nine in hovels bare.”

But, so rapidly are the conditions of the laboring people improving through the organizations that have come together on this historic occasion that I love to be able to add, in the words of the poet just quoted, that

“The night, so dreary and dark and long
At last shall the morning bring,
And over the land the visitor’s song
Of the ninety and nine shall ring,
And echo afar, from zone to zone,
Rejoice, for labor shall have its own.” ((Roughly, the first and third verses of Rose Elizabeth Smith’s “The Ninety and Nine,” which reworks–for labor organizing purposes–an earlier hymn of the same name (words by Elizabeth C. Clephane, 1868, music by Ira David Sankey, 1874) based on Matthew 18.13: “He rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.” It was incorporated into the I.W.W.’s legendary Little Red Song Book, compiled “To Fan the Flames of Discontent” (first printed in 1909), circa 1916. The complete lyrics are:

There are ninety and nine that work and die,
In hunger and want and cold,
That one may revel in luxury,
And be lapped in the silken fold.
And ninety and nine in their hovels bare,
|: And one in a palace of riches rare. :|

From the sweat of their brow the desert blooms
And the forest before them falls;
Their labor has builded able homes,
And cities with lofty halls;
And the one owns cities and houses and lands
|: And the ninety and nine have empty hands. :|

But the night so dreary and dark and long,
At last shall the morning bring;
And over the land the victor’s song
Of the ninety and nine shall ring,
And echo afar, from zone to zone,
|: Rejoice! for Labor shall have its own. :|

Ninety and Nine“; “The Ninety and Nine“; “I.W.W. Little Red Song Book“; Foner, History 4: 152.))

We all know there is no excellence without labor; and everybody ought to know that the most important and poorest paid of all the labor of earth is that of the home, where ‘The mother who treads the old kitchen floor’ has been immortalized in the words of Oregon’s greatest laborer and warrior poet, in his eulogy upon the mothers of men. ((Joaquin (Cincinnatus Hiner) Miller’s “The Bravest Battle” (198). It was one of Scott Duniway’s favorites; see also “Woman in Oregon History” and “How to Win the Ballot.” Her rendition diverges in both minor and notable ways; the latter are identified in subsequent notes.))

“The greatest ((Miller: “bravest”)) battle that ever was fought!
Shall I tell you where and when?
On the maps of the world you will find it not,
T’was fought by the mothers of men.

Nay, not with cannon or battle shot
With sword or nobler pen!
Nay, not with eloquent words or thought
From mouths of wonderful men;

But, deep in a walled up woman’s heart
Of woman who ((Miller: “that”)) would not yield,
But bravely and ((Miller: “patiently, silently”)) silently bore her part
So, there is her battle field ((Miller: “Lo! there in that battlefield.”)).

No marshaling troop, no bivouac song,
No banners ((Miller: “banner”)) to gleam and wave
But ((Miller: “And”)), oh, those battles, they last so long,
From babyhood to the grave!

O, ye with banners and battle shot
And soldiers to shout and praise
I tell you the kingliest battles fought
Are fought in these silent ways ((The final four lines do not appear in Miller, whose final stanza is, instead, the much gloomier:

“Yet, faithful still as a bridge of stars,
She fights in her walled-up town–
Fights on and on in the endless wars,
Then silent, unseen–goes down.”


More and more, as civilization advances and the people grow in knowledge and understanding, does the public interest grow in recognition of the all-important work that centers in the environment surrounding Home and Mother. And yet, all important as is the mighty mission of the mother who treads the kitchen floor–the mother of the wage earner’s home, who boils and bakes and stews and fries, who washes, scrubs, and washes dishes; who makes and mends the children’s clothes, and cares for all her household’s needs, in sickness and in health, her work has, until very recently, received no adequate recognition or recompense as the world’s greatest asset. I am not blaming men for this tardiness of recognition of the importance of woman’s work. “Give her of the fruit of her hands,” said Solomon “and let her own works praise her in the gates.” Women are waging no war against men. We all like men a great deal better than we like women; and wise women are not sorry who knows it. Show me a woman who doesn’t like men, and I will show you a sour-souled, vinegar-visaged woman, who owes an apology to the world for living in it at all; and the very best thing she could do for her country would be to steal away and die, somewhere, in the company of the man that doesn’t like women!

In early times the women did the manufacturing of food and clothing in the home. They sheared the sheep, they washed the wool, they spun and wove and dyed the cloth, they made the clothes, they knit the hosiery and made the underwear by hand. They milked the cows, churned the butter, made the cheese, and did a thousand other things now done in factories, putting double burdens on the shoulders of men, and driving women away from home to follow the work and wages without which many a mother could not afford a home; and many a father, needing the allurements that the home of the mother, working outside the home, could no long[er] keep bright and cheerful, would be tempted to seek amusement elsewhere, much to his detriment and, after depriving both home and mother of his companionship without which there is no good living anywhere.

“Home’s not merely four square walls,
Though with pictures hung and gilded;
Home is where affection calls,
Filled with shrines the heart hath builded.

Home’s not merely roof and room;
It needs something to endear it;
Home is where the heart can bloom,
Where there’s kindly words to cheer it.” ((A condensed version (the first four lines of the first verse, followed by the first four lines of the second) of “Home’s Not Merely Four Square Walls,” (a.k.a., “Where Home Is”), by Charles Swain (1801[1803?]-1874), minor English poet & song-writer. Later included in The Book of a Thousand Songs, ed. Albert E. Wier (New York: Carl Fischer, 1918).))

In this new dispensation which has driven so many women away from the home to assist in earning a livelihood, the burden often falls too heavily upon the husband; and the wife becomes a burden too grievous to be borne.

I have known a frivolous woman, a little bundle of pink and white tyranny, who lived in an elegant residence on the hill, spending her days in luxury and her evenings in revelry, while her husband was occupied, often into the wee small hours of the morning, in a little railed off office called a counting room, trying to create an agreement between his ledger and trial balance. The walls of his down town warehouse were lined with great stacks of rusty bacon on one side and great stacks of rusty ((Her handwriting is very difficult here. The best choice seems to be a play on two senses of “rusty”: meaning reasty or rancid in the first instance and alluding to the corrosive qualities of salt in the second.)) salt sacks on the other; and he, growing more and more bent and wrinkled and old, came to a day when he could no longer shun an army of creditors or the warrants of the sheriff; but, while he could hold up his head and face the officers of the law, he trembled with fear at the thought of facing that little specimen of pink and white tyranny on the hill and confessing that he was bankrupt. But I have seen that wife, when the real situation was explained to her, arise in the majesty of a new sensation; and suddenly realizing that man’s extremity was woman’s opportunity, I have seen that woman become the stay and support of her husband in his misfortune and become the helpmeet she would always have been if she had been allowed to be his business counselor from the beginning. I have seen that woman, after the smoke of financial disaster had blown away, go to a friend and secure a loan, and by engaging in a little business, like a boarding-house, or a notion store, enable her husband to again hold up his head before the world and gradually regain the credit he had lost.

Men cannot afford to take these double burdens on their own shoulders. Their wives should be their business partners, subject to such regulations of their business affairs, before and after marriage, as are settled amicably between and men when forming their copartnerships for life; or, if they agree to disagree there should always be a way for equitable adjustment of their affairs on a basis of equality of rights.

It is a matter of great consolation to the mothers of the land to note the progress already made in this direction. Instead of the husband and wife being one, and that one always the husband only, the two are being recognized gradually as a united head, where the husband and wife are one, and that one both of them. When that state of affairs shall have become universal in the homes of the wage earning classes everywhere the dream of the poet will not be an exceptional one. Think of the blessed lot of the working mother, in the cottage home of the laboring man where the toiling mother can sing

“The clock is on the stroke of six,
The father’s work is done
Heap up the coals and stir the fire
And put the kettle on.

The hearth is swept, the fire is bright,
The clock ticks listlessly,
The cloth is spread the lamps are light,
The hot cakes smoke in napkins white
And now I wait for thee!

Come home, come, thy task is done
The kettle sings for thee.
The blinds are shut, the curtains down,
The armchair to the fireside drawn,
The boy is on my knee.

Thy task is done, we miss thee here,
Wheree’r thy footsteps roam;
No hand can spread such kindly cheer,
No beating heart, no listening ear
Like those which wait thee home!

Aha: Along the crisp walk fast
That well known step doth come,
The bolt is drawn the gate is part,
The babe is wild with joy at last,
A thousand welcomes home! (( Loosely based on “The Clock is on the Stroke of Six,” by Mary Howitt (1799-1888), English poet, Quaker, and reformer, better known for “The Spider and the Fly.” The first version was published in 1829:

The clock is on the stroke of six,
The Father’s work is done;
Sweep up the hearth and mend the fire,
And put the kettle on.
The wild night is blowing cold,
`Tis dreary crossing o’er the wold.

He’s crossing o’er the wold apace,
He is stronger than the storm;
He does not feel the cold, not he,
His heart it is so warm,
For Father’s heart is stout and true
As ever human bosom knew.

He makes all toil, all hardship, light:
Would all men were the same!
So ready to be pleased, so kind,
So very slow to blame!
Folks need not be unkind, austere,
For love hath readier will than fear.

Nay, do not close the shutters, child;
For far along the lane
The little window looks and he
Can see it shining plain.
I’ve heard him say he loves to mark
The cheerful firelight through the dark.

And we’ll do all that Father likes;
His wishes are so few.
Would they were more that every hour
Some wish of his I knew!
I’m sure it makes a happy day
When I can please him any way.

I know he’s coming by this sign,
That baby’s almost wild;
See how he laughs and crows and stares-
Heaven bless the merry child!
He’s father’s self in form and limb,
And father’s heart is strong in him.

Hark! Hark! I hear his footsteps now;
He’s through the garden gate,
Run, little Bess, and ope the door,
And do not let him wait.
Shout, baby, shout! and clap thy hands,
For Father on the threshold stands.

A slightly different version, retitled “The Father’s Coming,” and set to music by George Frederick Root (1820-1895), appeared in 1852. Although I am not certain, the similarity of these versions, and their substantial differences from Scott Duniway’s version, suggest that Abigail has exercised considerable poetic license here, rather than merely quoting yet a third popular rendering. In any case, it is extremely interesting that the other versions are paeans to Father, in which Mother is utterly self-effacing (“I’m sure it makes a happy day/When I can please him any way”), while, in Scott Duniway’s version, praise be to Mother, who makes home so hospitable.))

How much the working women of the home are owing to the Federation of Labor for the growing advantages that are constantly accruing to them under these progressive conditions, the world is slow to acknowledge. But many thousands do know and [are] acknowledging these advantages already; and the mothers in the homes are signing new songs in their hearts as their cherished babies get prizes at our many fairs, and their proud husbands get ready to step with them in time and time to the sweet songs of liberty as they toil together for the benefit of home and children, each working for the good of all, and all for every one.

I thank you.


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