Socialist organizer Kate Richards was born March 26, 1876, on a farm in Ottawa County, Kansas. Her family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where she joined the Christian Endeavor Society, the Women's Christian Temperance Union, and the Florence Crittenton Missionary Society. She attended Pawnee City Academy in Pawnee City, Nebraska, receiving a teaching certificate in 1894. She taught school for several years but eventually returned to Kansas City and worked as a secretary in her father's machine shop. Acquiring a share of the enterprise, she joined the International Association of Machinists. Through union activities, she became acquainted with socialist doctrines.
In 1901 she moved to Girard, Kansas, to attend the International School of Social Economy, where she met Frank P. O'Hare. They were married in 1902 and moved to Chandler, Oklahoma Territory (O.T.), in 1904, where Frank O'Hare wrote for the Chandler Publicist, a socialist newspaper. Kate O'Hare began organizing Oklahoma women into the Socialist Party. She was instrumental in building a strong grassroots socialist organization in Oklahoma. Her oratorical skills and ability to reach her audience made her a popular speaker. She traveled throughout O.T. and the Southwest delivering the socialist message at town meetings and socialist encampments.
In 1909 the O'Hares moved from Chandler to Kansas City, Kansas. She continued her work for the Socialist Party and was elected to the National Executive Committee in 1910. In 1917 she served as chair of the War and Militarism Committee at the St. Louis Emergency Convention and as international secretary of the Socialist Party. She spent four years in the Missouri State Penitentiary for her antiwar protests. After her release, she worked for women's prison reform. Kate Richards O'Hare died of coronary thrombosis on January 10, 1948, in Benicia, California.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Neil Basen, "Kate Richards O'Hare: The First Lady of American Socialism," Labor History 21 (November 1980). Sally M. Miller, Prairie to Prison: The Life of Socialist Activist Kate Richards O'Hare (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1993). Suzanne H. Schrems, Across the Political Spectrum: Oklahoma Women in Politics in the Early Twentieth Century, 1900-1930 (Lincoln, Nebr.: Writers Club Press, 2001).
Suzanne H. Schrems
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