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Jessie Lloyd O'Connor

 
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Jessie Lloyd O'Connor (1904-1988)

Jessie Lloyd O'Connor

Jessie Lloyd (front row, second from right) with an unidentified group, September 27, 1928. Copyright unknown.

This photograph was probably taken in Leningrad during her yearlong tour of the Soviet Union as that nation celebrated its Tenth Anniversary. O'Connor later wrote in Harvey and Jessie (her joint autobiography with her husband), "The frankness and warmth of the Russians gave me a sense of security I had never known before, and as my self-confidence grew, I did things I'd never believed possible."


Jessie Lloyd O'Connor began her career as a labor journalist in the 1920s. She was born into a wealthy family of social reformers, including her grandfather, Henry Demarest Lloyd, author of the 19th century expose, Wealth Against the Commonwealth, and her mother, Lola Maverick Lloyd, co-founder of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Like her mother, Jessie Lloyd attended Smith College, and after her 1925 graduation, she traveled to Europe, hoping to find work as a journalist.

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Photograph

Newspaper clipping on Harlan County mine strike

League of Women Shoppers Pamphlet:
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Jessie Lloyd returned to America in 1928 and a year later began writing for the Federated Press, a union-oriented news service. She covered the National Textile Workers Union and United Mine Workers, including strikes in Gastonia, North Carolina in 1929 and Harlan County, Kentucky in 1931.

Family money (she had inherited part of the Chicago Tribune fortune) gave Jessie and her husband, Harvey O'Connor who she married in 1930, the means to provide generous donations to many radical causes and the freedom to travel and research. They collaborated on expos? of the wealthy and, especially during that period of American history known as the Popular Front, worked with union organizers, the ACLU, the League Against War and Fascism, and the League of Women Shoppers. While living at Chicago's famed settlement Hull House during World War II, Jessie Lloyd served on the boards of thirteen reform organizations as well as maintaining an active role in the Hull House Cooperative.

In 1948 the O'Connors settled in Little Compton, Rhode Island, where civil rights and peace activists, union organizers, novelists, and folk singers came to visit and sometimes stay in their guest cottage. After Harvey O'Connor was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and Jessie's passport was revoked, they helped organize the National Committee to Abolish HUAC.

The O'Connor papers occupy 75 linear feet of shelf space and include extensive personal correspondence with family and friends, such as Mary Heaton Vorse, Josephine Herbst, Ann and Carl Braden, Ella Reeve Bloor, Rosika Schwimmer and Pete Seeger. Her involvement in numerous progressive organizations left an extensive paper trail. These include the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, The People's Constitutional Convention, the American League Against War and Facism, the Chicago League of Women Shopppers, and the Special Committee on Aliens of the ACLU, to name few. Finally, these papers contain a wealth of information on subjects including Hull House, CARE's post-World War II relief efforts, the Massachusetts branch of the Progressive Party, plus many civil rights, civil liberties, and women's organizations.

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 Sophia Smith Collection Agents of Social Change On Line Exhibit Smith College


 
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