1920-1942: Out of the Limelight, Still in the Struggle
There is no doubt that Elisabeth Freeman’s radical life continued although the entire scene was muted by political and cultural oppression. The record largely goes silent with the exception of one article in 1935. We know that she worked for a time for the Lighthouse for the Blind and during the Depression for Emergency Home Relief in NYC, where she raged against a bureaucracy that put itself before people, and gave potatoes to the Chinese and rice to the Irish. She counted among her friends famous people: Louis B. Mayer of Metro Goldwyn Mayer Film Studios, the playwright Elmer Rice, writer/producer Wendell Phillips Dodge, and Father Divine, a unique evangelist who always put on a feast for the community.
- 1935 Retrospective article interviewing EF in 1935, Binghamton Sun
- Letter chroniclingi EF dissatisfaction with Work Relief job
- Letter from Elmer Rice to EF
- Wendell Phillips Dodge of the Explorer’s Society and producer of Sweeney Todd writes EF and intimates EF’s outlook on life and old age
A devout Christian Scientist, she was essentially asked to leave the Mother Church due to her radical work with pacifists and socialists. She was subsequently invited to join the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a humanist peace and justice group in NYC.
- Exchange of letters resulting in EF’s separation from the Mother Church, Christian Scientist, letter 2
- Invitation to join the Fellowship of Reconciliation which became a major pacifist group opposing the Vietnam War
From scattered correspondence we can imagine that she was still active in radical causes, writing to “political prisoner” Earl Browder, prisoner Louise Olivereau, ceremony honoring James Weldon Johnson, and to an acquaintance in England about a mutual acquaintance who was killed “escaping” jail. Included also are two membership letters kept in the collection from The Nation and The International Radical Club. She made at least one trip, possibly more, to England, looking up radical friends and writing a piece on the Socialists Convention.
- Letter from Earl Browder from prison, page 2 and page 3
- Letter spurned by Warden, Colorado State Prison
- Letter from James Weldon Johnson
- Letter from British or Irish friend about mutual friend who was killed escaping from jail, related photos
- The Nation Subscription letter from The Nation, a radical magazine
- Invitation to join the International Radical Club, page 2
For several summers she ran an antique shop in Provincetown, then an art colony and home of the avant garde theater troupe, the Provincetown Players. She also had some benefactors including “Jedediah Tingle” an anonymous philanthropist who sent her money when “things were rough”, and Mrs. Crane (of the plumbing fortune) who allegedly gave her an apartment in California.
- Anonymous benefactor sends EF money
- Newspaper account revealing the secret identity of benefactor Jedediah Tingle, number 2
- Photo of Elisabeth at Wardlea in England (PHefuk)
- Obituary in the publication of the National Woman’s Party, highlighting EF’s contribution
Freeman retired to Altadena, California and promptly joined
the local chapter of the National Woman’s Party, still
led by Alice Paul, and dedicated to passage of the Equal
Rights Amendment (ERA). From her correspondence to her nieces
we know that she continued her strong belief in peace and
labor issues. She died of pleurisy on Feb. 27th, 1942.
In the publication Equal Rights of the National Woman’s
Party, they wrote of her life:
Soap-box orator, banner bearer, colorful organizer, always the hardest work fell
to her lot and was conquered by her enthusiasm...Her contribution to the cause of women never faltered.