Lena Morrow Lewis

American activist and journalist

Martha Lena Morrow Lewis (1868-1950) was an American orator, political organizer, journalist, and newspaper editor. An activist in the prohibition, women's suffrage, and socialist movements, Lewis is best remembered as a top female leader of the Socialist Party of America during that organization's heyday in the first two decades of the 20th century and as the first woman to serve on that organization's governing National Executive Committee.

Lena Morrow Lewis, from a 1912 publication



Speech (1907)


In The Female Experience: An American Documentary (1977) edited by Gilda Lerner

  • when one perceives that the saloon is not the cause that menaces the safety and welfare of society, that it is not the cause of poverty and crime, one must, if honest with one's self, and if possessed of a truly revolutionary spirit, transfer activities to other fields.
  • For a number of years I also believed that political bondage was the cause of many of the ills endured by those of my own sex; until I discovered that the man without a job was about as badly off as the woman without a ballot. In fact, a little worse, for we can live without voting but we cannot live without eating.
  • The real antagonism is not that which exists or is supposed to exist between the sexes; but between the capitalist class and the proletariat. Women are victims of class distinctions more than of sex distinctions and when I perceived this fact, I changed my course of action and whatever revolutionary spirit there is in me finds expression today in the Socialistic movement.
  • During the summer of 1903, the Chief of Police of San Francisco took it into his head to stop the Socialist speaking on the streets. Comrade Holmes was the first to be arrested. His case was tried and dismissed. Upon the strength of this we proceeded to hold a meeting at the same corner where he had been arrested. Hardly had I spoken ten minutes when a couple of policemen came up and ordered me to move on. I refused to do so and was at once placed under arrest. This of course broke up the meeting and I was taken to the police station.

The Masses, December, 1911;

  • The tendency of some people to confound the woman question with the sex question evidences a lack of a scientific knowledge and appreciation of the fundamental principles of the two problems.
  • Biological facts cannot be overthrown, but mental viewpoints are largely affected and determined by the economic processes in life, and if we probe deep enough we will find a material basis or ground for all social and mental concepts.
  • The introduction and establishment of the institution of private property completely changed the status of woman in society.
  • When the pioneer woman suffrage workers began their work for equal rights the most popular argument brought against them was that they were "immoral women." Only a short time ago we celebrated the centennial anniversary of the birth of the man who first admitted women as clerks in his store in the State of Maine. This man was boycotted and the women employed by him were considered by "respectable" people of that day as "bad" women. Every effort on the part of women to break away from the narrow life determined by her sex or maternal functions is met by bitter opposition.
  • The ethics of capitalism will disappear with the passing of the institution of private property.
  • The Co-operative Commonwealth will give us a new and a higher standard of morality.

The Masses, March, 1912;

  • Two hundred years ago one could find but few workingmen who could read or write.
  • the new industrial processes which the capitalist system gave the world necessitated the education and mental training of the workers in order that they might be fit and efficient wealth producers. Capitalism therefore created the economic or material reasons far the need of the great mass of the workers to be educated: It "democratized" education.
  • While economic and material benefits have accrued to the master class through the education of the workers; while large profits were only possible through a trained and skilled laboring class, yet in this very thing which makes for the triumph of the master class financially, we see a potent and powerful factor in bringing about the political and industrial supremacy of the working class.
  • Only as the workers have knowledge and intelligence can they solve the problem of their own political and industrial freedom.
  • The capitalist masters have educated the workers to their advantage to-day, but for their undoing tomorrow. The thing that makes for the triumph of capitalism ultimately makes for its own downfall.
  • Education of the workers for the benefit of the capitalist class means gain and profit only for the few, the upper class of to-day. Education of the workers for the benefit of the working class means gain and profit for the working class and ultimately for the whole human race.
  • The future victories of the working class lie not so much in their numbers (the workers have always been in the vast majority), but in the knowledge they possess and the ability to intelligently organize and act together on the political and economic fields.
  • Let us ever remember that knowledge is power!

Letter to Morris Novik (1936)


In The Female Experience: An American Documentary (1977) edited by Gilda Lerner

  • I believe that Labor should have a directing voice in the economic, political and social life of the nation. I believe that political and industrial changes should be brought about by democratic methods and policies.
  • (I) have been an interested student of the labor and Socialist movements for more than 30 years.
  • My membership in the Socialist party began in April 1902 and ended March 1st 1936, when it became a party of dictators and lost its democratic soul. I have now cast my political lot with the Peoples Party affiliated with the American Labor Party.
  • During my years of membership in the Socialist Party, I have covered every state in the union except Mississippi in organization and educational work. From 1912 to Nov. 1917 excepting for the winter months of 1912-3 I spent in Alaska. During that time I organized the Alaska Territorial Socialist Party. Had charge of the Delegate to Congress campaign in 1912 and in 1916 was the candidate myself. In many of the mining camps I received the largest vote of any of the candidates. The winter of 1916 and 17 I served as vice-president of the Alaska Labor Union in Anchorage...It fell to my lot to serve as Acting President a good deal of the time. A membership of more than 3200 with some score or more nationalities required skill in handling the meetings and often interpreters were needed to explain what was said to the various language groups. In 1920 had charge of the Debs campaign in the Northwest and looked after the work of placing the tickets on the ballot in Washington and Oregon. In 1932 managed the Socialist campaign in Salt Lake City and also campaigned that year in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Idaho. Served as State Secretary of California Socialist Party from 1925 to 1930 and from 1925-31 inclusive was managing editor of the Labor World, official organ of the Socialist Party of California. In 1926 ran for Lieut. Governor in California and polled 10,506 votes more than Upton Sinclair who was the head of the ticket. As candidate for the U.S. Senate, I ran ahead of Norman Thomas-Presidential candidate-nearly 8,000 votes. I made a vigorous campaign for the whole ticket but apparently profited most thereby. Had a very active part in the campaign of 1924 and spoke for the LaFollette and Wheeler ticket in Michigan, Ill., Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Idaho and California. During periods covering time from 1922 to spring of 1924 was in New York City and served for a while as organizer for the Umbrella Workers Union. Also assisted in the work of the Paper Box workers Union and helped in their strike... Was the first woman elected to membership on the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party and served from 1907 to 1912. Was elected by the party membership to serve as a delegate to the International Labor and Socialist Congress in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1910 and addressed a number of meetings in various parts of England enroute the Congress and return. Was active in the Leage of Women Voters when in San Francisco.

Wikipedia has an article about: