An engaging memoir records the lives of two journalists chronicles twentieth-century American radicalism
Harvey and Jessie
A Couple of Radicals
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Jessie Lloyd O'Connor, Harvey O'Connor and Susan M. Bowler
This engaging memoir records the lives of two radical journalists who shared commitments to socialism, the labor movement, civil rights movement, peace movement, and to each other. The story of their long partnership chronicles twentieth-century American radicalism in a very personal and evocative way.
Harvey O’Connor, a devoted socialist and Wobbly, was the Eastern Bureau manager of the Federated Press, a labor news service, when he met Jessie Lloyd in 1929. The granddaughter of Henry Demarest Lloyd, the nineteenth century social reformer, and Chicago Tribune heiress, she was, at 25, already a labor journalist of some repute, having been a reporter in Geneva and Russia after graduating from Smith College. Harvey hired her, and they were married in 1930. Their working relationship and their marriage lasted more than half a century.
With the publication of his critically acclaimed book Mellon’s Millions, Harvey established his reputation for muckraking exposes. With their continued participation in leftist causes, their home became a meeting place for reformers, liberals, and radicals of various persuasions. Despite different backgroundsHarvey’s proletarian radicalism and Jessie’s left-pacifist bourgeois familythey valued a variety of radical traditions. Their writing depicts the conflict, challenges, and quarrels that they faced but does not become mired in theoretical sectarian debates.
This dual autobiography vividly describes major episodes in twentieth-century American and world historythe Seattle General Strike, Russia in the 1930s and 40s, the Gastonia strike, steel organizing in the Pittsburgh area and in the early days of the C.I.O., McCarthyismin the words of people who, as writers and public personalities, figured prominently in these events.
"Wobblies in the Northwest woods, the 1919 Seattle General Strike, Pittsburgh and the MelIons, the Soviet Union, even Cuba and Central America: Jessie and Harvey O’Connor have covered them all as crusading socialist labor journalists. For the general reader curious about labor, the left, journalism, dual careers, and social history.
"A marvelous joint autobiography of 'a couple of radicals' engaged in some memorable workers’ struggles of this century Their account of individual experiences and shared history contains much value for today’s militants of all ages. Their story should not be passed up."
"This story, rich in anecdotes deftly winnowed by historian-editor Susan M. Bowler is a big help. Through Harvey and Jessie, we glimpse the Complete American Radical without protective coloration, and we realize that all forecasts of the critter’s demise have been greatly exaggerated."
"I cannot think of two Americans who have led more worthwhile lives than Harvey and Jessie O’Connor. Their story is really a saga of dissenters in the best American tradition."
"Anyone who knows these two extraordinary people can only marvel at their long lives so continually involved in the events of the day. Malvina Reynolds wrote a song about the ‘Good Ship O’Connor’and, in a real sense, through this book it will sail forever."
Susan M. Bowler is a freelance writer.