The Socialist Socialite

Kate Crane Gartz (1865-1949) was an epitome of a famous American type: the wealthy progressive firebrand

Kate Crane Gartz
Kate Crane Gartz

All but forgotten today, Kate Crane Gartz (1865-1949) was an epitome of a famous American type: the wealthy progressive firebrand. Heiress to a Chicago plumbing-supply fortune, she railed against injustice in eloquent, impassioned letters to Jazz Age government officials and newspapers — written from her mansion in Altadena. Gartz often was described as a “millionaire socialist” or a “parlor Bolshevik,” and a 1923 collection of her letters was titled “Parlor Provocateur, Or, From Salon to Soap-box.” Gartz’s preferred title was “Letters of Protest.”

APRIL 22, 1920

Your Honor: I entered the sanctuary, and gazed upward to the stained glass dome, upon which were inscribed four words: Peace, Justice, Truth, Law — and I felt hopeful. …

I listened to the prosecutors; the law in their hands was a hard, sharp, cruel blade, seeking insistently, relentlessly for a weak spot in the armor of its victims. I listened to their Truth, and it was Falsehood; their Peace was a cruel and bloody War; their Justice was a net to catch the victims at any cost — at the cost of all things but the glory of the Prosecutor’s office.

I grew sick at heart. I can only ask myself the old, old question: “What can we, the people, do? How can we really bring Peace, Justice, Truth and Law to the world?” Must we go on bended knees and ask our public servants to see that Justice is done to the defenseless, rather than this eternal prosecuting of the world’s noblest souls? You will find these men guilty, and sentence them to be shut behind iron bars — iron bars which should never be for human beings, no matter what their crime, unless you want to make beasts of them. Is that your object, Sir? It would seem so; and so I say that we must overturn the system that is brutalizing, rather than helping and uplifting men.

It is obvious and heartbreaking that the favored class of Pasadena has no interest in the less-favored class.

DEC. 29, 1921

If you are so opposed to Socialism, Bolshevism, Sovietism, for goodness sake suggest something. Are you satisfied when you know there are six million unemployed — practically twenty-five million starving in a land of plenty? Why put all the blame on Bolshevism, which at least is trying to find a solution? What is the matter with our own precious Capitalism? What do you think unemployment leads to? Need I tell you — REVOLUTION.

JULY 1922

It is not only our right but our duty to criticize the men at the helm of our government, and the government has no right to imprison men for exercising the constitutional right of criticizing their government. … Are you not afraid of forcing revolution by repeatedly denying the petitions of the people for justice, and also, as in the present coal and railroad strikes, in sending troops to protect property, instead of men, in their fight for living wages and decent living conditions? I would be, if I were in your position.

Keep reading: Mark Twain wrote letters about life in California for several newspapers in the mid-1860s. Selections from those letters bring that period of state history to life.

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