Scioto Marsh Strike

June 20th, 1934

____________________________________________________________________________ 1934

____________________________________________________________________________ June:

1934.06.20 – 1934.08.28  (10 weeks)
——————————————————————————————————————————————————————       [2] 41:083 – North America – United States of America – Ohio – Hardin County
LimaScioto Marsh

SCIOTO MARSH ONION STRIKE – June 20, 1934 ———————————————————————————————————————————————–

This is an undated type-written letter from “Susan” (husband: “Elmer”) to Hemme Martin, living in San Diego, California.  The letter is about the Scioto onion workers strike, and about other issues seen relevant to Susan in the summer of 1934.

Information contained in {braces} are for clarification and are not part of the original type-written letter.

Dear Hemmie;

You will never know how many times I’ve started letters to you and been interrupted.  Life has been pretty complicated and your Susan has been dizzy more than once.

Elizabeth is still at Antioch but has decided to finish at Iowa if she does not get the co-operative job she wants – reporter on the Augusta Georgia Constitution.   She is finding the lot of a newspaper woman is not all roses as newspapers want men in preference to women.  (The New York Times has over 300 men, they say, in all positions and only one woman!)

Well, to make a long story short, in order to better fit herself for the job she stayed on at Yellow Springs {in Greene County, Ohio – home of Antioch College} all summer and reported for the Associated Press , the Springfield News and the Dayton News. Hasn’t quite made expenses but as they only pay two dollars a column, but the summer has been far from wasted.

Seeing as we could not get home we went down there to see her and had a wonderful visit with her.  The country around Yellow Springs is is wooded with hardwood trees and quite New England in atmosphere.  Then we made long drives to Columbus, Xenia, Dayton, Cincinnati and Kentucky.  Now Elmer is gnashing his teeth that we didn’t go to the Tennessee Valley Project.

You might be interested in Kay’s experience with the onion strikers.  She had met a socialist organizer and introduced him to us when we were there.  He asked her why she didn’t write up the Sciota Marsh strike.  She told him it was too far and she couldn’t afford the trip for what they would pay.  He suggested a friend with a car – which she hadn’t on tap, so he told her he was hitch-hiking there the next day and if she cared to go along she was welcome.

So she said, “Take it or leave it, mother, that’s the way we got there.”

He introduced her to the strike leader, himself, who took her home and she found his wife was only eight months older than she was.  Home was a tiny box although the wife had done wonders with cretonne and boxes of ruffles.  Then she interviewed the policemen, sheriff, judge, and finally millionaire owner of the marsh.

Conditions are really terrible there.  They have brought in ignorant Tennessee mountain whites and kept them by themselves.  Children of five and six years are paid three and four cents an hour for weeding on their knees in the muck which is so irritating that it causes boils and abscesses if the skin is in any way broken.

Heads of families get as low as $1.50 A WEEK.  for trespass  While the owner had the strike leader safe in jail when they proved he  was three feet away from the lot line, the poor Kentuckians were told they had to load up their goods and go.  They had no place to go but had loaded up when the leader got out and he ordered them back in their homes.  The police man threatened arrest and the leader said, “Go get your warrant, you know where I live.  I’ve never run away yet.”  Of course they couldn’t arrest him.

Then, finally, she interviewed Mr. Edwards {Allen P. Edwards, manager of the Scioto Land Co., age 72}.  Two armed guards were at the gates of the grounds and a man was cutting a great lawn with a power mower.  The atmosphere was a little tense as Mr. Edwards had a loaded revolver on the desk between them.  His wife comes in, quite bitter, and said, “What newspaper are YOU with.”

Kay said she paused and then replied gently, “You see I’m a student at Antioch College and taking a course in labor relations and wanted to study this from all sides including yours.”

Then instead of having time to get material she had a time to get away.

As she was leaving a socialist mass meeting was in progress and she sat in on that.  Finally the lawyers for each side presented their cases and she started back for Springfield.

When Mr. Barton, the Associated press man saw her he said, “thank God, I thought you’d get shot.”

When she finally reached home she was so unstrung it was 3 o’clock before she could get to sleep.

I say this generation has all the fun.  We never had such adventures as that, did we, Hemmie.

It has been the hottest summer on record and you know well enough that we have had a drought.  Now fall has dropped out of a clear sky and Suzanne is getting ready for school.

She has decided to work a year before going to college, the way Elizabeth did.  Don’t know but what that is the best plan, always provided the job can be found.

She is quite an adept at sewing and has made herself a lot of clever clothes at little expense.  Also she has taken over Elizabeth’s fall underthings and gets some fetching effects.

Now tell me what you are doing.  Do you garden?  I believe I enjoyed the horticulture building as much as any at the fair.  how is business now in San Diego?  What do the people think of N R A ?  It has been my observation that as a people we are very impatient.  The N R A to my notion is far from perfect but is a step in the right direction and probably will take years, if not centuries to come near a perfect society.  But the fickle public, now the worst danger is passed, lack the far view to hold on and work for the future.

Anyway, I am convinced Roosevelt is sincere and earnestly trying to do what is right.  On every hand I see the selfish ones willing to pull down the temple to save their petty interests – and not keen enough to realize all will perish with the destruction of the part.  But things move so swiftly now-a-days we forget reforms usually take generations.

Tell me about yourselves.  Is Lloydine to teach this year?

With love in chunks,
Ever yours,


Click on letter image to enlarge.

Click on April 12, 1988 newspaper article image to enlarge.

[Post originally written on March 9, 2011 @ 7:30 P.M. Mountain Time] updated: 2011.03.09





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