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Women of the Far Right
Part 2: Catherine Curtis, Laura Ingalls, & Agnes Waters

Eugène Delacroix, "Liberty Leading the People," 1830

1,535 words

Part 2 of 3

Glen Jeansonne
Women of the Far Right: The Mothers’ Movement and World War II
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997

Cathrine Curtis: Organizing Women in Washington

Cathrine Curtis had a brief career as an actress, but most of her financial success came from investing. In 1934, she began hosting a radio show called Women and Money, telling both single and married women that it was important to have knowledge of finance. Her show was canceled the next year, when she spoke out against the New Deal. Curtis founded Women Investors in America, which claimed 300,000 members. Her activism included testifying against the Wealth Tax bill of 1935, saying it would harm the widows and children of deceased men, that it discriminated against women, and that life insurance policy payouts should not be taxed.

Curtis became increasingly upset about misinformation in the media, and with men’s inability to do anything to change the direction of the country. “I am more convinced than ever that the women are the only ones who can accomplish anything,” she said. Thus, in 1939, she created the Women’s National Committee to Keep the U.S. Out of War. Her most popular pamphlet was called Your Answers to the War Dancers, which stated that Germany did not pose ideological, economic, or military threats to the U.S. Her lover and publicist was Michael Ahearn, the former publicity agent for James True, the inventor of a weapon called the “kike killer.”

Curtis organized women’s groups in opposition to the Lend-Lease program, which gave $50.1 billion ($759 billion in 2008 dollars) worth of supplies to Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and China between 1941 and 1945. She helped organize women who came to Washington, advising them to visit senators from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sometimes the women had to wait two or three hours to obtain a five-minute meeting, and other times they were not seen at all.

A group of women organized by Elizabeth Dilling stormed into the office of one of the bill’s supporters, Sen. Scott Lucas, with one woman screaming that he was a “dirty dog” and other grabbing his ankle when kneeling to pray at his feet. Another group of women chanted for a senator until Dilling and her secretary were arrested for disorderly conduct. They were let out on $5 bail, Dilling’s sentence was suspended, and her bail money returned. Dilling was arrested again for disorderly conduct, at a sit-in of 25 women who refused to move upon police orders. During Dilling’s six-day trial, mothers filled the courtroom and picketed outside. The judged fined a teary-eyed Dilling $25.

Curtis also opposed Eleanor Roosevelt’s plan to conscript women for a year (announced in an article in the May 1941 Ladies’ Home Journal). In fact, she hated the First Lady with a passion, since she had simply married into undeserved wealth and power, rather than working for it as Curtis had done.

Curtis took over as president of the National Legion of Mothers of America after it got to be “too fascist” for its former leader, and she quickly embarked on a speaking tour. She returned to Washington to testify before a Senate panel regarding a bill that would allow the conscription of private property in military emergencies. The same month, she spoke to the House Military Affairs Committee in opposition to a plan to remove the limits on the number of men drafted, as well as length of service (it was passed by Congress by one vote).

Curits’ anti-Semitism was shaped largely by economic concerns. According to Jeansonne, she believed the British “wanted to dominate the world and force the United States to rejoin the British Empire,” “the Jews dominated banking, politics, movies, and radio,” and “the British and the Jews were part of a worldwide conspiracy that included communists and international bankers.”

After the war, Curtis quit most of her advocacy and lived a normal life.

Laura Ingalls: An Aviator for Peace

Laura Ingalls was an early volunteer for Curtis’ Committee to Keep the U.S. Out of War, who gave her time and two airplanes to the cause. Ingalls had been educated at private schools in Vienna, Paris, and New York. She had been a concert pianist, dancer, and nurse, and spoke seven languages. When she was 25, she became the fifteenth woman to obtain her pilot’s license from a school approved by the U.S. government, and pursued a career as a stunt pilot. Amelia Earhart’s chief rival, Ingalls was the first woman to fly over the Andes Mountains, the first person to fly around the perimeter of South America, set a speed record for flying across the U.S., and performed stunts like 980 consecutive loops and 714 barrel rolls. In addition, Ingalls “was enamored of German efficiency, Hitler’s ideology, and Aryan supremacy.”

In September 1939, Ingalls violated White House air space to drop peace pamphlets that were written by Curtis and addressed to Congress. She was arrested, and her punishment was a one-week suspension of her pilot’s license and having to study air safety.

Ingalls went on a speaking tour in 1941 for the America First Committee and the Women’s National Committee, giving vehement addresses about America’s “lousy democracy” and giving Nazi salutes. Apparently, from the beginning of her association with the America First Committee, she was employed by the Third Reich. She underlined Mein Kampf in red ink, and studied Hitler pamphlets like My New Order and Germany and the Jewish Question. She also read Dilling’s books, and received tracts to distribute from the German Library of Information. Shortly after Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S., Ingalls was arrested for being an unregistered agent of the German government, having been watched by the FBI for some months. She was sentenced to eight months to two years in prison, and was released after 20 months. Prison did not change her views, however, and soon after her release she spoke out against the invasion of Normandy:

This whole invasion is a power lust, blood drunk orgy in a war which is unholy and for which the U.S. will be called to terrible accounting. . . . They [the Nazis] fight the common enemy. They fight for independence of Europe—independence from the Jews. Bravo!

Agnes Waters: Speaking Out About the Jewish Question

Agnes Waters was successful in selling real estate, closing millions of dollars of deals. She was widowed after 10 years of marriage and retired at a young age to devote herself to nationalism. She testified before congressional committees against communistic bills, distributed pamphlets, and gave speeches. At one mothers’ event in Philadelphia, Waters gave a speech on Jewish treachery: “The Jews have every key position in Washington, and if you mothers come down to Washington when you want something done, you will have to talk to some kike in order to have it done.” In addition, she said, it was the Jews who had incited Southern blacks to rise up against the whites.

Unlike many of the mothers, who supported Hitler, Waters thought he was a Bolshevik tool of the Jews who invaded the USSR at the behest of FDR, Churchill, and Stalin. When someone told her that she would be thrown into an insane asylum rather than be given a fair trial, Waters response was to vow to keep fighting even if she had to “rot in jail to clean this government of the Jews who are running the country.” She testified against numerous bills, and was ejected from the offices of countless congressmen. In 1939, the advocacy of Waters and other far-right women helped defeat a bill that would open the U.S. to 20,000 German Jewish children.

Waters advocated against conscription, claiming it would drain American men of “their will to resist subversion,” and after it passed, suggested that Jews rather than Gentiles be conscripted. She told a Senate committee that rather than civilians, convicts and other races should be enlisted:

Why, my ancestors were kings on this earth for a thousand years and when they wanted slaves, if they ever had them, the ancient kings went out and took somebody else’s people, they did not take their own, and that is what I propose we should do—take Mexico, Central, and all of South America.

Waters testified before the House Immigration Committee against allowing Chinese refugees into the country, saying they were needed in China to fight the Japanese, and after that, the Jews. She also said that if elected president she would shoot every black person in the country. The blacks and Jews were given the jobs of the white Gentiles who were off fighting the war. As for blacks in Africa: “Why should we save the niggers?” she said. “We have enough here now.” She ended up being a write-in candidate for the 1944 presidential election, with few votes.

Waters continued to lobby against bills, including one in 1955 that would allow the president to call up Army reservists:

What if the enemy did bomb our cities? What would they destroy? Only our internationalists, our Jews and our niggers who are heavy concentrations in every city. These people are mostly on welfare, and it would be no loss to us to lose them.

Waters ran for president again in 1948, again as a write-in candidate, after she was ejected from a Democratic event for shouting about the Jews and the New Deal.

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