Thursday, January 19, 2017

INEZ | Fund-Raiser for Socialists, 1910-1922

Art Young (1866-1943)
I have just been reading Art Young's long and interesting first (1928) autobiography, My Life and Times, available online ( – the download is slow because the file is large).

It reveals the important and inadequately remembered role that Inez Milholland, daughter and then wife of business entrepreneurs, played as a go-between for the funding of socialist publications in the 1910-1916 period.

Her fundraising continued until her death in 1916 and her influence continued thereafter through her widower Eugen Boissevain, who after her death became highly successful, with two of his five brothers, importing coffee from Java in what was then the Dutch East Indies.

The socialist publications in the 1911-1922 period coincided with the creation of the traditions and energy that emanated for the rest of the century from Greenwich Village.

These traditions were also wrapped up with the energy of New York University. Inez Milholland attended NYU Law School – and thereby became part of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company strike in 1909 and a witness to the fire in 1911 – because her application to Harvard Law School was rejected. The Harvard Law School faculty decided she could do the work, but the administration did not admit women for another four decades–not until 1950.

1. The Masses, 1911-17

Art Young shows how The Masses got started with a $2,000 contribution (equal to about $50,000 today) from Alva Belmont, whose support was enlisted by Inez. Max Eastman hadn't thought of approaching her, because he knew that Alva wasn't  a socialist. But Inez knew that she was a supporter of suffragist causes and correctly perceived that she would be open to supporting other issues if properly presented. (See Young, previously cited 1928 Autobiography, p. 297.)

Inez explained to him that Alva was a "militant" – which would be enough for her to want to enable militancy of other kinds.

Alva's gift was quickly matched by $1,000 from popular novelist John Fox and then another $2,000 from civil rights lawyer Amos Pinchot. That was sufficient to get the magazine under way. Belmont made subsequent contributions.

The magazine was ended when Woodrow Wilson's Postmaster General invoked wartime laws against sedition and refused to mail it. The magazine was succeeded by another one led by Max Eastman, The Liberator, and later by The New Masses.

2. Good Morning, 1919-22

Cartoonist Art Young, a mainstay of The Masses, created his own magazine in 1919. He needed $4,500 to get it going, and received $1,000 of it (equal to about $25,000 today according to the BLS inflation calculator) from Inez's widower Eugen Boissevain. Eugen asked Art: "Are you sure this is enough?" (See his previously cited 1928 autobiography, p. 356.)

Art's magazine competed with Max Eastman's new magazine The Liberator. It only lasted three years. The value of these magazines is that they show an alternative point of view to the prevailing mood of capitalist acquisitiveness that lasted until FDR's election in 1932.

3. John Reed's Trip to Russia

Eugen Boissevain is credited by Max Eastman in his book Great Companions with contributing and raising the money that John Reed needed to go to Russia and write the book that became Seven Days that Shook the World.

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