"The most dangerous woman in America" is how FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover described humanitarian-social activist-children's champion-world peace advocate Jane Addams, a few years before Addams received the Nobel peace Prize in 1931. You can hardly blame J. Edgar Hoover for shooting from the hip--after all, Addams truly was the scourge of the Chicago Democratic Machine in the 1890's, and FBI files are forever.
But this is not a biography. The Most Dangerous Woman in Americais the draft libretto of a prospective musical comedy. *
From the 1910s through the Depression 30s, when Chicago was the undisputed hobo capital of the United States, a small north side neighborhood known as Towertown was the vital center of an extraordinary cultural/political ferment. It was home to Bughouse Square (the nation's most renowned outdoor free-speech center), Ben Reitman's Hobo College, and the fabulous Dil Pickle Club, a highly unorthodox institution of higher learning that doubled as the craziest nightclub in the world.
In such places, and in scores of other nearby open forums, tea-rooms, little theaters, bookshops, art galleries, taverns, and cafes, Wobblies, anarchists, and other agitators mingled and debated with a wide range of jazz-age artists, writers, musicians, and eccentrics. It was something like New York's Greenwich Village, but-thanks to the prominence of the Chicago-based IWW-much more workingclass, and more openly revolutionary.
Frank O. Beck's "Hobohemia" contains a long-time Towertowner's vivid reminiscences of this colorful, dynamic, creative and radical community that flourished for a generation despite constant onslaughts from the Red Squad, the Vice Squad, bourgeois journalists, fundamentalists and other bigots.
Some of the characters he writes about are well known-Emma Goldman, Lucy Parsons, Ben Reitman, Jane Addams-but Beck's personal recollections of them will be new to most readers. Even more exciting are his memories of such less-well-known personalities as "Red" Martha Biegler, widely regarded as the greatest woman orator at the Square; softspoken labor organizer Anna Martindale; Nina van Zandt Spies, widow of Haymarket martyr August Spies; and irascible Jack Jones, the former Wobbly who from 1916 till his death in 1940 served as the Dil Pickle's ringleader and referee.
Originally published in 1956, "Hobohemia" has long been out of print and hard to find. This new edition is long overdue, for the book is still one of the best firsthand accounts of a unique place and time.
Franklin Rosemont's introduction provides a historical overview of Chicago's working class counter-culture and a biographical sketch of Beck. It also relates the book to earlier and later literature on the subject and fills in some gaps in the narrative. Helpful notes in the text correct a few errors.
Also new in this edition are the illustrations, and a useful index.
Abstract borrowed from Charles H. Kerr.
Additional keywords: Lizzie Davis, Mary "Mother" Jones, Katherine Dunham, Dorothy Day, Dr. Joseph Greer, Jack Macbeth, Social Science Institute, Jimmy Rohn, John Keracher, Frederick M. Wilkesbarr, Herbert William Shaw, Philosophy, Rudolph Weisenborn, Stanislaus Szukalski, Edgar Miller, Arturo Machia, Carl Sandburg, Max Bodenheim, Vachel Lindsay, Emanuel Carnevali, Harriet Monroe, Eunice Tietjens, Fenton Johnson, Lew Sarett, Jun Fujita, Helen Hoyt, Rudolf von Liebich, John Drury, Harvey Zorbaugh, Cold War, Mr. Porter, Bill Shatov, Waldheim, Forest Home Cemetary, Homeless, Class, Homosexuality, Paddy Carrol, Aimee Semple McPherson, Morris Levine, Eugene Debs, Labor, Seven Arts Club, The Pit, Latin Quarter, Hippolite Havel, Alexander Berkman, Newberry Library