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November 2018

OSU Press Interview with Heather Mayer

 The history of the Industrial Workers of The World (IWW) is a fascinating story of a radical labor movement in the 1900s. The members were referred to as “Wobblies” and fought tirelessly for social justice. While historians have focused on this movement and their work, the role of women in the IWW has long been overlooked.

 Heather Mayer researched the role of women in the IWW and compiled what she discovered in Beyond the Rebel Girl, one of our most recent titles. In this interview, Meyer shares her experience of conducting this important research, learning more about key figures in the movement, and the origin of her interest in radical history. This interview was conducted through email with Zoë Ruiz and Carolyn Supinka, our Griffis Publishing Interns.

 

Heather Mayer will be at Powell's on Wednesday November 28.

 

 

 

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ZOË RUIZ: In this book, you’re challenging the predominantly male and masculine narrative about the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in the Pacific Northwest. While IWW members are often depicted as young, single, and male, Beyond the Rebel Girl widens the lens and includes the history of members who were women. There were many members who were wives and mothers in the group. How did women who were wives and mothers, who had familial responsibilities, make a significant impact on IWW in the Pacific Northwest?


HEATHER MAYER: They had an impact in ways that I think have been easy to overlook. For example, in 1908 Wobbly Joe Walsh helped to organize the “Overalls Brigade” of hobo Wobblies who hopped trains from out west to join the national convention in Chicago. It’s a pretty standard story in the history of the union. But when I was reading an article in the Industrial Worker, they noted that his wife, Dollie Walsh, joined them and helped to organize meetings along the way. That’s pretty important to their success, and yet often goes unnoticed. Kate MacDonald edited the Industrial Worker when her husband was arrested. Edith Frenette arranged for boats to take Wobblies into Everett during the free speech fight. Women brought food and supplies to men in jail. Women with families couldn’t always risk arrest by speaking on the street, for example, but they could help with fundraising and spreading information about what was happening.


CAROLYN SUPINKA: Can you share about your experience researching the role of women in the Wobblies? What was it like researching a group that has been overlooked?


HEATHER MAYER: For my first big research trip, I was really excited to visit the Reuther Library at Wayne State University when the Industrial Workers of the World collection is held. They have 180 boxes of material, and I came away from that trip with maybe a few sentences that I used in the book. No wonder the previous histories of the union didn’t say much about women! I also realized that I was going to need to be a lot more creative in my research.

ZOË RUIZ: I’m curious about your historical research of the Everett Massacre and the Tracy Trial. In the book, you write, “The Everett Massacre is one of the most infamous events in the history of the IWW, but little investigation has been made into the role women played in the events…” How was this experience for you in terms of research and writing? Did what you discover through your research surprise you?


HEATHER MAYER: Studying the Everett Massacre is really where I started to think that there might be more to the story. When you read Wobbly Walker C. Smith’s book The Everett Massacre that came out in 1917, there were photographs of women at the funerals--there were 18 female pallbearers. Women testified during the trial, and Edith Frenette, one of the women, was portrayed as the ringleader by the mayor of Everett. It seemed like there was a story there, and the more I dug in, the more I found. But for every lead I was able to follow, there were a lot of names like Mrs. Smith or Mrs. Jones that I couldn’t find any more information about, which was, of course, very frustrating.

 

ZOË RUIZ: Throughout the book, you allow historical figures and histories long forgotten to come alive. I was fascinated by the historical figure Marie Equi. She was an “open” lesbian, physician, and local celebrity, who was tried and convicted and spent almost a year in prison at San Quentin. What were your first impressions of Marie Equi? Did those first impressions change or deepen throughout the research and writing process?

 

HEATHER MAYER: Marie Equi has always been a fascinating figure in local radical history, and she is finally getting the attention she deserves with the biography Michael Helquist has written about her for OSU Press. I think from what we know about Equi’s personal relationships she could be challenging to be around, quite temperamental. But the working people of Portland really seemed to love her--I think because of the care she provided, taking on patients who couldn’t pay and supplying birth control information and abortions when it was illegal to do so. She was more than just talk; she concretely helped people. And, she was never afraid to stand up for what she believed in, even at great personal risk.

 

CAROLYN SUPINKA: To end on, can you talk about how punk music introduced you to the history of radicalism?

 

HEATHER MAYER: Punk music has long been associated with politics but bands that I listened to in high school like Good Riddance and Propagandhi explicitly connected listeners to authors like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, the anarchist publisher AK Press, or included audio excerpts of famous speeches on their albums. In addition to the music I was listening to, I was a freshman in college when the 1999 WTO protests happened in Seattle, and that brought a lot of attention to the anarchist movement. I knew I wanted to study history, although I initially focused on Ancient Greek history. What was happening politically when I was in college really shifted my focus to radicalism, birth control activism, and anti-war activism, all movements that I then traced back to the early twentieth century.

 

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Heather Mayer is a historian interested in social justice movements in the United States. Introduced to the history of radicalism through punk music and the antiglobalization and antiwar activism of the late 1990s and early 2000s, she decided to focus her studies on the intersections of gender and labor activism. She received her PhD from Simon Fraser University and has been teaching history at Portland Community College since 2008. She was born and raised in Oregon and lives with her family in the Portland area.



Portland Book Festival

We at the OSU Press had a great time at the Portland Book Festival this year! Formerly known as Wordstock, the Portland Book Festival is a major regional literary event organized by Literary Arts that has brought together writers, publishers, and book lovers from the Pacific Northwest and beyond since 2005. This year the festival took place on November 10 in downtown Portland and featured over 100 authors who shared their work at readings, panels, and lectures. Read on to hear about our team at the 2018 Portland Book Festival.


 The book fair was bustling! The OSU Press was one of 80 vendors selling books and talking to readers and authors on Saturday.

 We got to say hello to our authors Greg Nokes author of Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hell’s Canyon, Sue Armitage author of Shaping the Public Good: Women Making History in the Pacific Northwest, and Kris Anderson, author of State of Giving: Stories of Oregon Volunteers, Donors, and Nonprofits. Marty and Tom were busy talking books and saying hello all day.


 We went to some amazing panels in the morning and afternoon on Saturday. Trevino Brings Plenty, Laura Da’, and Layli Long Soldier shared beautiful and moving poems and perspectives at the New Poets of Native Nations panel. Seeing Marilyn Chin, Eileen Myles, and Justin Phillip Reed at the Outside In: Poetry & Politics panel was incredibly inspiring as well.

  

 

 Meanwhile in the Portland Art Museum galleries, Son of Amity author Peter Nathaniel Malae was featured as a Pop-Up reader in the afternoon.  

 

Listeners gathered to listen to the opening pages of his novel next to the the painting Untitled (House on Cliff) by artist Anne Kutka McCosh.

In addition to OSU Press, the OSU MFA program was also present at the festival. During Portland’s Lit Crawl, OPOSSUM Magazine hosted a Literary Cabaret featuring writers of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction with accompanying musicians. OSU MFA faculty Marjorie Sandor, Keith Scribner, Tracy Dougherty, David Turkel, Elena Passarello were among the readers and musicians, and MFA alumnus Erica Trabold was a featured reader as well. The day of the festival, Elena Passarello moderated the panel Real Women: Badass Heroines featuring authors Karen Karbo and Amy Stewart, and Tracy Daughterty interviewed author Sara Weinman. It was wonderful to see OSU’s community participating in this year’s festival.

 Thank you to all who visited us at the Portland Book Festival, and thank you to those visiting us virtually too! We’re thrilled to be a part of this literary community with you.

 

Stormy Behavior: John Dodge on the Psychology of the 1962 Columbus Day Storm

"The worst storm I have ever seen is approaching Portland and the Willamette Valley right now," meteorologist John C. "Jack" Capell warned listeners via radio on the evening of the 1962 Columbus Day Storm.

So opens A Deadly Wind, in which author John Dodge uses research and interviews with survivors of the storm to paint a picture of the event, sharing how the storm shaped the lives of Oregonians.

Today on the blog as part of University Press #TurnItUP week highlighting local publishing, John shares his findings from a different side of the storm’s history: how the event affected different age groups psychologically.


STORMY BEHAVIOR    

Young children rushed outside to the let the powerful winds propel their bicycles or lift them off their feet in fanciful flight. Friday night commuters drove home at the peak of the storm, mindless of falling trees, downed power lines and debris slicing through the air. Families huddled in their living rooms in front of single pane picture windows that bowed and exploded in gusts of wind. Homeowners ventured outside as the winds howled, determined to prop up and protect trees, patios, roofs and antenna, often in vain, and at great risk.


 

Photograph of Kelso Airport in Southwest Washington Courtesy of the Cowlitz County Historical Museum, Kelso, Washington.


In hindsight, much of the behavior at the height of the 1962 Columbus Day Storm was naïve, impulsive and ill-advised. But the residents of the Pacific Northwest had no frame of reference, no experience to guide their actions in the face of an unprecedented and deadly windstorm.

Dr. Ralph Crawshaw, a Beaverton, OR.-based psychiatrist in 1962, studied the reactions of different age groups of storm survivors. He found that young children in the absence of a parent exhibited very little fear.

Walter Breitenstein was an eight-year-old walking home from school southeast of Salem, OR. that Friday afternoon as the winds at his back roared. “I leaned backward, spreading my coat open, making a little hop and the wind carried me effortlessly. It was like I was flying.”

He flew past his house, but was brought back to earth by the powerful sight of his neighbor’s livestock watering tank as it flew through the air and crashed into a nearby fence. “I decided I better go home,” he recalled.














 

 

 

 

 

Photograph of a crushed car in Portland. Courtesy of Oregon Historical Society.

 

Teenagers and young adults as a group confronted the storm head-on, shielding themselves with a sense of immortality. At the heavily-wooded University of Oregon campus in Eugene, students gathered outside in an excited group, enjoying the spectacle of the storm as trees fell all around them and power lines glowed with short circuits. Many teenagers hopped in their cars at the height of the storm to visit friends or witness the damage in their neighborhoods. “There was much socializing in this age group, for the exhilaration needed to be shared,” Crawshaw said.

Crawshaw found numerous examples of adults trying to protect their property as the storm raged. Bill and Carolyn Baker were living in north Seattle, WA. She was nine months pregnant when the storm struck. At the peak of the storm, her husband climbed on the roof to reattach the television antennae. “I was terrified that my husband would be blown off the roof and killed, and my child would be fatherless,” she said 40 years after the storm. Baker survived, but Lawrence Parrie, who was stationed by Sand Point Naval Air Station in Seattle, was the victim of tragic irony. He waited until the storm had passed Saturday morning to climb on the roof of his three-story barracks to repair a TV antennae. He slipped and fell to his death.

The storm struck the Portland, OR. region just as Friday night commuter traffic was beginning to build. Commuters heading home would have been better served riding out the storm at their workplace, Crawshaw noted. “However, they undertook harrowing trips home through flying debris, driving over downed high-power lines and searching out devious ways to get through the roads blocked by fallen trees,” the psychiatrist said.

After collecting hundreds of storm survivor stories to help shape “A Deadly Wind: The 1962 Columbus Day Storm,” I had this reoccurring thought: It’s a wonder more people weren’t killed or seriously injured."

 

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Find A Deadly Wind here

John Dodge was a columnist, editorial page writer, and investigative reporter for the Olympian before retiring in 2015 after an award-winning career spanning forty years. Dodge is a veteran of natural disaster reporting, including the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, the 1989 Bay Area earthquake, the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, and numerous damaging windstorms and floods. He experienced the Columbus Day Storm as a young teenager and wrote about the storm at its twenty-fifth, fortieth, and fiftieth anniversaries. He lives in Olympia, Washington, with his wife, Barbara Digman.








 

 

 

 

Join Author Peter Nathaniel Malae on his Book Tour

Today we’re inviting you to join Peter Nathaniel Malae as he travels to bookstores and literary centers reading passages from his new novel, Son of Amity. Peter has been a featured reader at Powell’s Books on Hawthorne and Third Street Books in Salem among other bookstores.

 

 

In this new novel by Peter, a family is caught in the crossroads of violence and loss in the small town of Amity, Oregon. Sissy, Michael, and Pika share a run-down house in Amity and must contend with their individual demons in a region plagued by poverty and addiction. Peter deals with dark subjects in Son of Amity with a steady gaze that also admits the moments of light and redemption.

 

Take a (virtual) seat in the crowd as Peter reads from Son of Amity and paints a picture of the town in which his story takes place:

 

“Poor, white people lived down here. Undernourished, overfed, jobless white people. HHS-invested white people. Gelatinous-spined, weighed down stooping from Ding Dongs and Swanson’s TV dinners white people. For all he knew, he could have been in the West Virginia Appalachians, the Arkansas Ozarks. Strings of spat Cope on the lawn, rusting tractors posted up in gravelly driveways. A trampoline with duct-taped springs and grips sitting on the fenceless divide of shared property lines, dozens of plastic toys scattered across the yards like miniature tornado towns post-blast, spotted beards of clumpy moss uprooting the tiles of rooftops. The white people were out there on the dipping, slanted, paint-chipped front porches, ass-planted on cushion-smashed chairs like toads on a rotting log. The chronically obese and tweaker-thin were both watching him come into their town without connection or invitation or permission, suspicious brown man in a beanie up to no good in his beat-up truck from post-war Japan. Fifteen miles an hour the legal cap, car show investigation of anyone entering the town limits.”

 

 


 

“He wasn’t sure how he felt about what he saw. He knew being poor, but this was a different kind of poor, maybe even a worse kind. Seemed stagnant around here, like he was driving through a time warp, the people sitting in their own shit. In the city, everyone was moving on poverty. Sidestepping it, passing it on, lugging it across a borough for deposit.”

 


 

Take a look at our literary calendar and make sure you save the date for his upcoming readings --Peter will be reading at the Salem, OR Book Bin on Friday November 2 at 7 PM, and will be participating in a pop-up reading at the Portland Art Museum during the Portland Book Festival on Saturday, November 10!

 

 

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Peter Nathaniel Malae is is the author of the novels, Our Frail Blood and What We Are; the story collection, Teach the Free Man; and the play, The Question. A former Steinbeck, MacDowell, Arts Council Silicon Valley, and Oregon Literary Arts Fellow, Malae lives in western Oregon.

Reviews of Son of Amity:

"From the farthest, wettest corner of war-damaged America, Peter Nathaniel Malae brings us the story of a family bound by a shared history of violence, and liberated by the miracle of shared mercy. Written with immense intellect and swagger, Son of Amity imbues the street-level realities ofour times in our cities, towns, prisons, and psyches with the power of myth."  Jon Raymond, author of Freebird and The Half-Life

"This is a tough, haunting, compelling bookone that deals withour society now, with violence and poverty and identity and the very real consequences of being in the crosshairs of war. What a marvel the language is, too. Every sentence is carefully built. Malae ia a powerhouse of a writer." Pauls Toutonghi, author of Dog, Gone and Evel Knievel Days

 

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