Lena Morrow Lewis

Lena Morrow Lewis

Lena Morrow Lewis was born in 1862. As a young woman she joined the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Later she became active in the women's suffrage campaign in San Francisco and attended the Karl Marx Club in Oakland.

In April 1902 Lena Morrow Lewis joined the Socialist Party of America. Lena became a full-time political organizer and later claimed that over a 30 year period she "covered every state in the union except Mississippi in organization and educational work".

In 1907 Lena became the first woman to be elected to the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party. She also organized the Alaska Territorial Socialist Party and served as vice-president of the Alaska Labor Union.

In 1920 Lena Morrow Lewis took charge of the Eugene V. Debs campaign in the North-West and supported Robert LaFollette and Burton K. Wheeler in 1924. She also served as State Secretary of the California Socialist Party from 1925 to 1930 and was editor of the Labor World from 1925 to 1931.

In 1932 she managed the Socialist campaign in Salt Lake City as well as working for the party in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Idaho.

Lena Morrow Lewis complained that the Socialist Party of America "became a party of dictators and lost its democratic soul" and in March 1936 joined the American Labor Party.

Lena Morrow Lewis died in 1950.

Primary Sources

(1) Lena Morrow Lewis, Daily Socialist, (3rd July, 1907)

For a number of years I worked in the temperance cause, and while that movement partakes of all the characteristics of a reform movement as related to the social system, yet within its own field or limitations it is revolutionary, in that it seeks not to reform, but to abolish the institution against which it directs its force. But 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.

(2) Lena Morrow Lewis, letter to Morris Novik (3rd August, 1936)

I 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 Lieutenant 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.