Kate Richards O'Hare (1877–1948)
Kate Richards O'Hare and her children, with photographs of Missouri State Penitentiary and warden, in J. Louis Engdahl, Debs and O'Hare in Prison, 1919?
Kate Richards O'Hare was a prominent antiwar activist for the Socialist Party during the First World War. Born near Ada, Kansas in 1877, she became an apprentice machinist in Kansas City in 1895. The same year she moved to Kansas City, her life was profoundly changed when she heard Mary Harris Jones, a 65-year-old labor activist, preach that socialism and labor activism were vital to improving the economic position of workers. Following Jones's speech, Kate energetically threw herself into studying socialist philosophy, which quickly caused her to become an ardent socialist. In 1899, she joined the Socialist Labor Party, before defecting to the Socialist Party of America two years later. In 1902, she married Francis P. O'Hare, with whom she would edit the weekly National Rip-Saw, a socialist journal, and campaign on behalf of socialism across the country. In 1910, she attempted to enter politics by running for a Kansas congressional seat, but failed to be elected.
After US entry into the First World War in 1917, Kate O'Hare became a political lightning rod due to her leadership of the Socialist Party's Committee on War and Militarism. Across the country, O'Hare gave impassioned speeches against US participation in the war. While giving a speech against the war in North Dakota during July, 1917, she was arrested by the government for violating the Espionage Act of 1917. Sentenced to five years in prison, O'Hare published Kate O'Hare's Prison Letters (1919) and In Prison (1920). In 1920, she was pardoned by President Calvin Coolidge in response to a nationwide campaign by socialists to free her. In return, she organized the Children's Crusade in 1922, in which children of socialists still imprisoned marched on Washington, DC, to create public agitation to free their parents.
In 1928 she divorced Francis O'Hare, and married Charles C. Cunningham, an attorney from San Francisco. Continuing her political activism, in the 1930s she worked for the socialist Upton Sinclair in his unsuccessful campaign to become governor of California. After an active life, she died in California in January, 1948.
Browse Published Materials Digitized for Women Working
- Publications by and about Kate Richards O'Hare.
- History Matters. Kate Richards O'Hare's Life as a Socialist Party Organizer.
- University of North Dakota, Chester Friz Library, Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections. Kate Richards O'Hare Papers, 1917–1972.