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Anthologies, Poetry] Le Prade, Ruth, ed.

Debs and the Poets.


Inscribed To A Close Friend And Suffragist
[Anthologies, Poetry]. Le Prade, Ruth, editor. Debs and the Poets. With an Introduction by Upton Sinclair. Pasadena: Upton Sinclair, (1920).
8vo.; red cloth, stamped in gilt; fine.
First edition. An interesting and very late presentation copy, inscribed: To Anna Baroles Wiley, with cordial regards, sincere appreciation, and all good wishes from her friend Eugene V. Debs Terre Haute, Indiana, September, 1924. The recipient was a librarian and consumer and suffrage activist; she served as the president of the Stanton Suffrage Club of Washington, 1911-12, and was a member of the College Women's Club and the College Equal Suffrage Organization and of various consumer protection leagues.
A book of poems devoted to and inspired by Eugene V. Debs, folk hero of the American left. Debs, born in Terre Haute, Indiana in 1897, was the preeminent union activist and Socialist spokesman of his day. An early supporter of black and women's rights, he was drawn into politics through his work for the railway system, where his exposure to shockingly poor working conditions radicalized him. A charismatic writer and public speaker, Debs lead many national strikes, founded the American Socialist Party and the Industrial Workers of the World, and was a five-time candidate for U.S. President. Since Debs was often jailed in the course of his radical work, many of his campaigns were managed from behind prison walls.
Indeed, Debs was in prison at the time of the publication of this volume in his support. In 1918, he publicly criticized U.S. government censorship of Socialist leaders and its persecution of pacifists and other leftists. As a result, he was arrested for violating the Espionage Act of 1917; in 1919, after a speedy and, according to many, unfair trial, he was sentenced to a ten year sentence.
This collection of poems served to support Debs's 1920 campaign for the presidency, which he ran entirely from his prison cell; it also served as a plea for clemency for the aging imprisoned labor leader:
The United States has an old man in prison in the Federal Penitentiary of Atlanta. The government regards this old man as a common felon, and treats him as such; shaves his head, puts a prison suit on him, feeds him upon prison food, and locks him in a steel-barred cell fourteen consecutive hours out of each twenty-four. But it appears that there are a great many people in the United States and other countries who do not regard this old man as a common felon; on the contrary, they regard him as a hero, a martyr, even a saint. It appears that this list of people includes some of the greatest writers and the greatest minds of Europe and America. (Upton Sinclair, from the introduction)
Contributors to this volume include Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Sara Cleghorn, Edward Carpenter, Eugene Field, Helen Keller, Siegfried Sassoon, and George Bernard Shaw.
On Christmas Day 1921 Debs, age 67, was released from prison by the order of new U.S. President Warren G. Harding. He returned to Terre Haute, where he died in 1926, only five years after attaining clemency and only two years after he penned the inscription in this volume.

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