Remember the Ladies: Ameringer a Socialist Party activist, journalist

A progressive political activist and social reformer, Freda Ameringer helped Oklahoma’s Socialist Party rise, anti-World War I movement be heard, New Deal gain support, state’s anti-labor legislation be defeated, Civil Rights movement strengthen, and Equal Rights Amendment pass.

Freda Hogan was born in November 1892 in Huntington, Arkansas. Her childhood home was filled with socialists, feminists, and trade unionists debating the major issues of the day. As part of her education, she attended speeches and public debates, and worked in her father’s print shop, learning how to set type, run the presses and write.

When her father ran for Governor in 1910, the teenager took over the Huntington Herald. In 1914, she also became the secretary of the Socialist Party of Arkansas, running the party’s operations – campaigns, speaking tours, conventions, and membership. She saw Socialism as a fight against corporations, banks, and other economic powerhouses that undermined the rights of working people.

During the 1914 conflict with the United Mine Workers and the management of Prairie Creek Mine No. 4, Freda publicized the events, making the imprisonment of UMWA officials a cause célèbre in trade union circles, and writing how guards intimidated workers and their families.

By 1912, Freda also working to bring women’s suffrage to Arkansas. In 1915, she joined the Socialist Party’s Woman’s National Committee to organize women. When women were granted partial suffrage in Arkansas in 1917, she convinced 67 women in Huntington to pay poll taxes in order to vote in the 1918 primary elections.

Opposed to America’s entry into World War I, the Hogans moved to Oklahoma in 1917. Freda traveled with Oscar Ameringer throughout Oklahoma to raise capital for the “Oklahoma Leader,” a new socialist newspaper. During the heyday of Oklahoma Socialism, Freda was more radical than Oscar, whom she married in 1930.

From 1931 to 1968, Freda published the “Oklahoma City Advertiser,” a periodical that promoted small businesses and attacked monopolies while advocating for trade unionism, civil rights, low-cost health insurance, and social programs associated with the New Deal and the Great Society. She published a muckraking series, “The History of Oklahoma Natural Gas,” and championed higher education reform, protection of veterans’ benefits, and affordable health care.

After Oscar’s death in 1943, Freda founded the Oklahoma Urban League in 1946 and raised funds to establish the Pilot Club and build nine community centers. She campaigned for the YWCA, UNICEF, and the Metropolitan Library System. Freda editorialized against segregation and the antilabor “right to work” movement and in favor of slum clearance, public transportation, and the 1960s “War on Poverty.”

In her later years, Freda still battled her archenemy Daily Oklahoman publisher E.K. Gaylord, for “busting” labor unions or printing “racist” editorials. She characterized one front-page diatribe as “worthy of Governor Wallace’s staunchest segregationist supporters.”

In retirement she remained critical of the New Right, opposed the arms race, and championed minority and women’s rights. She often paraphrased her husband’s words, “It’s a damned great life, if you don’t weaken.” Freda Ameringer died at age 95 in October 1988 in Oklahoma City. 

Dr. Edwyna Synar has been writing and speaking about Women's History for over 20 years. Her stories in this series can be found at http://rememberladies.weebly.com

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