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Freda Hogan Ameringer was a journalist, Socialist Party official, and labor activist in Sebastian County; she moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, during World War I. Her socialism, like that of most other Arkansas party members, emerged out of the Farmers’ Alliance and the Populist movement. She saw socialism as a fight against corporations, banks, and other concentrations of economic power that undermined the rights of the nation’s working people.
Freda Hogan was born on November 17, 1892, in Huntington (Sebastian County) to Dan Hogan, who was one of the founders of the state’s Socialist Party, and Charlotte Yowell Hogan, who suffered from physical debilities. Her childhood home, which included three younger siblings, was a gathering place for socialists, feminists, trade unionists, and others debating the major issues of the day. Hogan became a devoted socialist by her early teens. Although she attended Huntington’s common school, most of Hogan’s education was informal—reading from the family’s library, attending speeches and public debates, and, most importantly, working in her father’s print shop. While she was growing up, her father published a series of newspapers—the Southern Worker, Huntington Herald, and Huntington Hummer—all with a socialist editorial line. At an early age, she learned the basics of journalism—how to set type, run the presses and other machines, and write. In 1910, while her father was on the campaign trail seeking the governor’s office on the Socialist Party ticket, seventeen-year-old Hogan took charge of the Huntington Herald’s day-to-day operations.
Along with her journalistic endeavors, Hogan took an active role in the Socialist Party of America. She became the secretary of the Socialist Party of Arkansas in 1914, running the party’s operations—coordinating campaigns, scheduling speaking tours, organizing conventions, producing literature, maintaining membership rolls, and corresponding with county affiliates—until 1917. She also joined the national party’s Woman’s National Committee, which promoted suffrage and organized during campaigns, in 1915.
Hogan also stood at the center of a cadre of socialist women working to bring women’s suffrage to Arkansas. As early as 1912, one publication identified Hogan as “among [the] most active women inArkansas in furthering [suffragist] propaganda.” Hogan also began making a name for herself by publishing pieces in socialist newspapers and periodicals throughout the country. Much of her early writing reflected traditional female concerns with domestic life and targeted young people, hoping to convince them to become devoted party members. But the Sebastian County Union War of May 1914 gave her the opportunity to expand her journalistic endeavors. In the pages of the International Socialist Review, Railway Carmen’s Journal, New England Socialist, and Woodrow’s Monthly, Hogan recounted not only the initial confrontation but also the subsequent actions of company owner Franklin Bache and the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). More than anyone else, Hogan publicized the events in southern Sebastian County, making the imprisonment of UMWA officials a cause célèbre in socialist and trade union circles.
After Arkansas women received partial suffrage (meaning that they could vote in primary elections) in early 1917, Hogan took the lead in mobilizing the women of Huntington for political action. She promptly helped organize a local socialist women’s league to spread the socialist message among the newly enfranchised voters of southern Sebastian County and served as an officer. The league convinced sixty-seven women to pay their poll taxes to become eligible to vote the following year. Hogan explained, “This just allows us to vote in the primary, but it shows that we are interested in the question and the dollar goes into the school fund.”
Hogan’s optimism over the prospects of women’s suffrage soon gave way to fears that the nation would be dragged into the war that had been raging in Europe since 1914. According to Hogan, the United States’ protection of “capitalists in the manufacture and shipment of war materials to belligerents” had caused American deaths on the high seas and was pushing the nation into war. She faulted these capitalists for whipping up frenzy to enter the war: “They are cowardly enough to desire that we make a breastwork out of our bodies that this manufacturing may go on; that others of our [i.e. working] class stand ready to go to war that still larger orders and profits may be made.”
Not long after the United States entered the war in 1917, Hogan left Arkansas. Health problems provided the push. Oscar Ameringer, whom she would marry in 1930, later explained: “What with hard work, close confinement in a stuffy print shop, and worry about paper and ink bills, Freda had got herself down to ninety-six pounds. The doctors pronounced her condition incipient T.B., and urged her to seek health and livelihood in God’s fresh air.” Oscar Ameringer gave her the opportunity to do just that, as she traveled with him through Oklahoma to raise capital for theOklahoma Leader, a new socialist newspaper to be based in Oklahoma City and modeled after Victor Berger’s highly successful Milwaukee Leader. Ameringer hoped that the whole Hogan family would eventually resettle in Oklahoma Cityto help manage the paper, and the family moved in 1919. The departure of the Hogans from the state left Arkansas’s Socialist Party—already in decline amidst the red-baiting and jingoism that accompanied World War I—rudderless.
Freda Hogan Ameringer went on to become one of Oklahoma City’s leading journalists and citizens. From 1931 until 1968, she edited the Oklahoma City Advertiser, a weekly that blended promotion of small businesses and attacks on monopolies with advocacy of trade unionism, civil rights, low-cost health insurance, and social programs associated with the New Deal and the Great Society. In addition, she was a founder ofOklahoma City’s Urban League and a number of other civic organizations. Freda Hogan Ameringer died on October 4, 1988.
For additional information:
Green, James R. Grass-Roots Socialism: Radical Movements in the Southwest, 1895–1943. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1978.
Pierce, Michael. “Great Women All, Serving a Glorious Cause: Freda Hogan Ameringer’s Reminiscences of Socialism in Arkansas.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 69 (Winter 2010): 293–324.
Thompson, John. “She Never Weakened: The Heroism of Freda Ameringer.” In An Oklahoma I Had Never Seen Before: Alternative Views of Oklahoma History, edited by Davis Joyce. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994.
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Last Updated 2/26/2016
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