The Women’s Auxiliary
The Women's Auxiliary ("the Aux") was comprised of 50-75 core leaders and hundreds of members. It directed hospital visitation, commissary, stockade visitation and infirmary subcommittees. In addition to the activities carried out by these committees, the Aux maintained solidarity among the workers, their families and the community at large by engaging in direct actions, picketing, marches and meetings. Marvel Dobbs, married to Farrel Dobbs, and Clara Dunne, married to Grant Dunne, co-organized the Aux. Marvel kept a diary, available at tthe Minnesota Historical Society, which many historians use in their research.
The following essay, titled “Women Active on the Firing Line” was written by an unnamed "Aux" member and published in Revolutionary History, Vol.2 No.1, Spring 1989.
When the General Drivers’ Union made a strong appeal to the wives of their members to aid in every way possible, they met with a response they had not dreamed of. Women came to Strike Headquarters, ready and willing to do any kind of work assigned them. Girls trained in office work took over the routine work. Others gave their heart and soul to the feeding of hungry droves of men.
Women pickets took up the cause on the line of battle. Three of our women were seriously injured in riots with police. One’s life was despaired of for several days. Another was taken to the hospital with a very seriously fractured ankle. She is at present confined to her bed, and will be there for some time to come.
Still another was so badly beaten in the Tribune riot that all old operation lesion opened up, and there is danger of internal hemorrhages. Still another was beaten across the arm with a billy. She is still carrying her arm in a sling.
Another interesting angle to this situation was brought out when sympathizers began to offer their services. One young woman, a graduate of the University who had specialized in sociology came down to offer her services. She felt that the power of the women had not even been felt in this class struggle. A young couple, friends of the other girl, offered their services. Using these three as an advisory council, the officers of the auxiliary started to raise money.
A committee, composed of Mrs. Grant Dunne as president of the auxiliary and Mrs. Farrell Dobbs, as secretary, these three friends, and two other women not connected with the union, met at four o’clock one afternoon. The next night at midnight the auxiliary had in its Commissary Relief Fund, $416.70. The necessity of feeding the families of the men on strike until they would again be able to draw wages was brought home to us very forcibly during the last few days.
The newspapers of Minneapolis, being the instrument of the Citizen’s Alliance, were muzzled to such an extent that no news in favor of the strikers was ever published. To attempt to counteract this state of affairs, the women organized a mass demonstration. We marched from the Auditorium on Grant and 14th Streets straight down Nicollet Avenue. Led first by four women carrying our banner, followed by about 500 women, many of them sympathizers, we broke every traffic rule in Minneapolis. Crowds gathered along the sidewalk and followed the procession to the court house.
We marched straight to the mayor’s office. A committee entered to present our demands upon the mayor or his emissary – Mr. Guise. The gentlemen were not in. in fact Mayor Bainbridge was in his usual position – home in bed ill. Mr. Guise would be in by 2 p.m. It was then about 12:30. The committee decided to wait.
The women, quiet and orderly during the whole proceedings, suddenly were infuriated by something. Inquiry disclosed that the chief of police had thought it smart to parade a batch of his special deputies down the same corridor the women were waiting in. Only quick thinking on the part of the committee saved those deputies from being very badly hurt.
The mayor’s secretary arrived in surprisingly short time. The committee waited upon him. They got just what they expected – nothing. The demands were the immediate removal of Chief Johannes, the removal of all special deputies, and no further interference with pickets. The committee then left. The crowd was addressed by Frieda Charles, and dispersed in an orderly fashion.
In closing let me emphasize again. Let your women work in this class struggle. Their place is right along side of the men, shoulder to the wheel, fighting for their birthright. The Women’s Auxiliary of General Drivers’ Union No.574 has set an example which we hope will be followed by the working class women throughout the nation.