Friday, April 14, 2017

Eaten Any Rabbit Lately? Rabbit Hunts and Rabbit Suppers in Early Grinnell

In early March I was browsing that day's edition of the New York Times when I ran across an article about rabbit, and how rarely Americans, compared to the French, eat rabbit. The recipes outlined by the author sounded tempting, but my mind focused upon something else: the frequency with which I had found announcements about "rabbit suppers" in newspapers of the early twentieth century. Many fraternal organizations—for example, the Knights of Pythias, the Odd Fellows, Eagles—and many churches and other organizations throughout the Midwest sponsored rabbit suppers, often at holidays or special organization anniversaries. In other words, despite current disinterest in putting rabbit on the menu, apparently there was a time when rabbit was often served at dinner—in early Grinnell no less than elsewhere in mid-America. What was up with that? I decided to look into it, and what I found is the subject of today's story—a kind of anti-Easter bunny story.
Unattributed photograph of a rabbit hunt in Hoxie, Kansas (undated but thought to be from 1905-1915)
(Photo from Kansas Historical Society: http://www.kshs.org/km/items/view/218733)
***
Most suburban Americans today hold fairly tolerant views of rabbits—unless, like Beatrix Potter's Mr. McGregor, they are trying to protect their gardens from rabbits' own dining preferences. However, out on the plains of the Midwest where small towns like Grinnell had grown up in the last half of the nineteenth century, rabbits were less loved; indeed, rabbit populations—protected by and feeding on the prairie's bounty—were huge, making them an inviting target for sport. To many early Iowans, rabbits seemed to be everywhere, and, following the same attitudes that led them to hunt down wolves and other wild animals, settlers on the plains organized rabbit hunts whose sometimes tremendous yields decorated many early twentieth-century photographs (like the Hoxie, Kansas photograph above).

So long as the prairie offered cover, rabbits remained plentiful, explaining at least in part how rabbit hunts became part of Grinnell's social life. As early as 1890 Grinnell College President George Gates went rabbit-hunting with friends, and succeeded in taking down eighteen rabbits.
The Unit, vol. 1 (1890):99
College students also found time to catch and cook rabbit. An article in the December, 1922 Scarlet & Black reported that several students had caught fifteen rabbits that they served at a dinner for the men of Dibble Hall. But collegians might also encounter rabbit on the menu while traveling, as happened in 1924 when the College Glee Club visited Huron, South Dakota. According to an S&B report, the local alumni invited the singers to join in a "real Dakota rabbit hunt," whose yield was then made the central dish of a banquet in the Glee Club's honor.
Scarlet & Black, December 17, 1924
For reasons I don't understand, rabbit seems to have been especially important to the Knights of Pythias, not only in Grinnell but all across the country. One of many announcements of a rabbit supper came in a January, 1919 issue of the Grinnell Herald. According to this report, several Knights had bagged 57 rabbits who were served up to some 250 guests. Unlike most writings about rabbit suppers, this one detailed the preparation to which the bunnies were put. "The main article on the menu," the newspaper said, "was broiled or roasted rabbit altho[ugh] veal loaf was served to those who couldn't eat rabbit meat without being reminded of the fuzz on the outside. The rare rabbit steaks were served hot and juicy, cooked to a turn with plenty of rabbit gravy for the thoroughly mashed potatoes."
Grinnell Herald January 21, 1919
The Pythian Knights made their rabbit feed in Grinnell an annual event, for the most part without stimulating any commentary. But news of the January, 1925 rabbit supper provoked some wonder from editors at the Davenport Democrat and Leader:
We are wondering what kind of taste Grinnell folks have that they will deliberately and without compulsion eat rabbits?...Rabbits were not made to eat. They were made for the fur to be used by hat makers.
Grinnell Register January 8, 1925
Complaints like this were few, however, and were not enough to alter practice. A 1930 announcement for yet another Knights of Pythias dinner declared that hunters had killed three times as many rabbits as had fed the 1919 banquet. Perhaps each diner received a bigger plate, since the newspaper said that about the same number of guests—250—had joined in the gastronomical fun.
Grinnell Herald, January 17, 1930
The Pythians elsewhere—in Columbus and Fort Wayne, Indiana, as well as in Marion, Mansfield, and Wauseon, Ohio, as a Google search confirms—regularly held rabbit suppers which were often opened to the community. In many places it was the Eagles who served rabbit, and in other places it was the Odd Fellows; in Gilbert, Iowa it was the local gun club; in Webster City, even the Boy Scouts got into the act.
Webster City Freeman February 2, 1920
Churches also hosted rabbit suppers. For example, in January 1923 the United Brethren church in Greene, Iowa organized a rabbit banquet. In Des Moines in 1909, Rev. J. W. Abel of Wesley Methodist organized what became an annual rabbit hunt for parishioners. The Iowa Humane society protested that "the plan would foster inhumane tendencies in church members," but Abel carried on. African American churches also sponsored rabbit hunts. Davenport's Bethel African Methodist Episcopal church sponsored a rabbit hunt as early as 1901, and an October, 14, 1920 issue of the Iowa Bystander confirmed that churchmen were still hunting rabbits.

However, rabbit suppers did not require a church or any other sort of organization. For example, an Iowa City newspaper told of Mr. W. R. Griffith who ran the local yellow cab company, and in December, 1925 put on a rabbit feed for all his employees and their families. Sometimes rabbit suppers became special features of hotel restaurants, as happened in Green Castle, Indiana in 1924.
Daily Banner (Green Castle, IN),  January 5, 1924
In other places a rabbit supper was joined to holiday feasting, as happened in Alliance, Ohio where the Eagles arranged an annual rabbit supper for Thanksgiving.
Alliance Review & Leader November 24, 1920
***
Newspaper reports do not often describe the rabbit hunts themselves, but at least sometimes they were organized much like wolf hunts, systematically corralling all rabbits within a shrinking circle. The Webster City Freeman told of such a hunt organized among the men of the local machine-gun regiment. Major Lund dispatched his men
over about a mile of territory and [they] then gradually work[ed] in toward a given center, driving the rabbits in. No firearms were used, the men catching them with their hands or using clubs. Thousands of rabbits were scared up, and as they dashed past the men managed to grab about one out of every twenty-five....Out of the wild mess that looked considerably like a cattle stampede, the soldiers managed to stop about 150 (Webster City Freeman, November 5, 1917).
Among civilian organizations, however, the more common practice was to use guns, and also to create two teams that competed against one another: the side that killed more rabbits got to enjoy the dinner being served them by the losing side. This was how it played out in Hardy, up near Humboldt:
Sides had been chosen...and there were about 100 men on each side. The hunt lasted all day and ranged over many miles of country near Hardy...More than 700 rabbits were killed, about 800 pigeons, thirty jack rabbits and numerous crows. Hanson's side won the day, Earl Saxton was high man with 150 rabbits and a bagful of pigeons (Humboldt Republican, February 14, 1930).
Rabbit hunting became so common in the area that in March, 1931 a little three-year-old boy from Malcom caught the fever. When his parents noticed that the boy was missing, neighbors and friends scoured nearby fields, only discovering the boy in a cornfield after dark. Reunited with his mother, little Jack Eichhorn told her that he had been "hunting rabbits wif Buddy," his dog.
Grinnell Herald, March 24, 1931
At some point—perhaps the early 1930s—either because the supply of rabbits had fallen off or because people were looking for an easier supper, some industrious farmers began to raise domesticated rabbits. A notice in the November 11, 1930 Grinnell Herald, for instance, reported that several Grinnell-area residents were organizing a local chapter of the American Rabbit and Cavy Breeding Association. According to the newspaper, at least one food market in Grinnell—Thompson  Food Store, 918 Main Street—regularly had rabbit for sale, and "many Grinnell people think it is as good as chicken." Moreover, the newspaper asserted conclusively, "In New York City rabbit meat is eaten extensively." By December the paper could claim that "over 400 domesticated rabbits of several breeds" were being raised in Grinnell.
Grinnell Herald December 5, 1930
***
Despite the development of domesticated rabbit production, Grinnellians still hunted rabbit. In the depths of the Depression, rabbit helped supplement diets that might otherwise have been light on meat. Indeed, when being interviewed about the 1930s and 1940s, Everett Armstrong maintained that out in the country no one with a gun went hungry.
There was a lot of hunting in those days, too. You know, people were hunting for food. You could go out and shoot rabbits at night...we used to eat rabbit all the time because we got tired of beef and pork. Rabbit was kind of a treat for us and we'd go out and we'd—My dad, if he was out on the road somewhere, he always carried a gun with him, and he'd shoot rabbits and bring them home at night and we'd clean them and we'd hang them up on the clothesline and let them freeze. And when you wanted something different than beef and pork, you'd go get a rabbit.
Rabbits are still hunted in Iowa today, and each year the DNR publishes the dates for the rabbit-hunting season. Nevertheless, the huge rabbit hunts of yesteryear—like the 1919 hunt around Killduff which yielded 450 rabbits—will not be seen around Grinnell any time soon, nor are the rabbit suppers that were a regular feature of community life in early Grinnell likely to fill the town's twenty-first-century social calendar.
Kellogg Enterprise December 19, 1919
And for that, Peter Rabbit and friends are no doubt very happy.



Thursday, April 6, 2017

When German POWs Canned Corn in Grinnell...

A few weeks ago I posted a story about how, during World War II, several hundred Mexicans as well as Wisconsin native Americans came to Grinnell to help harvest seed corn. The demands of warfare had drained much of the working-age population out of town, obliging the seed companies to seek temporary help.

Another page in that story concerns German prisoners of war who, like the Mexicans and Menominee native Americans, came to Grinnell to bolster the work force in war-time Iowa. However, unlike the others, the POWs did not reside in Grinnell, even temporarily; early suggestions of building a tent camp near the college campus were not received well, so planners decided to house the men at the former Sac and Fox Sanitarium in Toledo, and bus them into Grinnell each day in late summer. Some prisoners worked in the fields to complete the harvest, but most worked at the canning factory, which came to life late each summer, canning large quantities of sweet corn and other vegetables. This is the story of how Germans, far from home and the war in which they had fought, played their part in Grinnell's wartime history.

Images courtesy of Grinnell Historical Museum

***
The Grinnell Canning Company factory arose in 1912 on the land just west of the Minneapolis-St. Louis Railway line and east of Park Street (later known as 230 Park), just south of Harrison Ave. Rumors about the coming of the new business appeared in newspapers in late 1911, but by early 1912 the Herald reported that George R. Kelley (1880-1954) of Vinton, Iowa, had visited Grinnell in behalf of his business, Iowa Canning Company, whose several factories were reported to have produced 12 million cans of corn in 1911.

Kelley and his investors—the only local investor was W. T. Moyle who operated a grocery store in town—agreed to build a new canning facility in Grinnell. Property south of town (and south of the paving!) was soon acquired, and farmers were enlisted to plant and provide the corn from what Kelley hoped would be 1000 acres.

Grinnell Canning Factory (ca. 1912) (Digital Grinnell)
Plans called for a total of five buildings—four of them all brick—on the site. The process room would be 45 x 60 feet and stand three stories tall. The warehouse would be two stories high, but constitute a long rectangle—60 x 120 feet. The retort room and boiler room—both one-story—would be 24 x 100 and 30 x 60 feet, respectively. The first stop for corn deliveries would be the husking shed, a frame building measuring 44 x 160 and fitted with dumps to facilitate unloading farmers' wagons. So the entire complex—completely invisible today because of subsequent development—promised to be imposing.

By early May, 1912 the newspaper reported that R. G. Coutts had won the contract to build the factory, his low bid coming in at just over $21,000. Since the company estimated that machinery for the factory would cost another $20,000 and because the firm also had to purchase property on which to erect the facility, total costs were estimated at around $50,000. With a payout of some $17,000 to local farmers and labor costs that first year of around $10,000 (up to 250 laborers were thought necessary), the newspaper noted that "the presence of this factory means the expenditure of large sums of money each year in Grinnell and vicinity."

The plant opened its doors in late August, 1912, and set about its brief, hectic, season. One month later the newspaper declared that the first year's pack was complete, having produced 55,000 cases of corn—or, to put it another way, 1.3 million cans. Kelley and others announced their satisfaction, and Grinnell's canning industry could bask in a successful beginning and what looked like a potent contribution to the local economy.
Des Moines Register April 13, 1930
Over the next several decades the canning factory prospered. Of course, there were setbacks: more than once the factory was closed for the installation of new equipment; a drop in demand as the Depression settled into Iowa closed the factory for a time; severe drought also affected production in the early 1930s, and at least once the company had to face litigation about failure to pay obligations. For the most part, however, the factory followed an annual rhythm, opening in late summer for the harvest and the rush of canning (a time when the most on-site labor was needed), then closing off the pack a month or six weeks later, with only a small crew thereafter to complete labeling, storage, and shipping of the factory output. In 1935 Mid-State Canning took over operations without much effect upon local production.
Council Bluffs Nonpareil September 2, 1945
But, like the seed corn business, Iowa's canning factories—in 1900 there were only 17 canneries in Iowa but the number swelled in the first two decades of the twentieth century—had to confront the shortage of labor that World War II had brought to the American heartland. Their solution was to make use of German and Italian prisoners of war, who had been installed in a network of camps across the country, beginning in 1943.
***
Prisoner-of-War Camps in the United States as of June, 1944 (US Army via Wiki Commons)
By 1945 the United States housed some 425,000 prisoners of war (about three-quarters of them German) in some 175 camps. Iowa had two such camps—one at Clarinda and the other at Algona; both were designed to accommodate up to 3000 prisoners, but neither ever reached maximum capacity.
Des Moines Register August 20, 1943 (State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City)
In late summer 1943 the Des Moines Register announced a plan to locate a POW camp in Algona, but the first prisoners did not arrive there until early April, 1944. Some 500 German prisoners were brought from Nebraska to help construct camp facilities, where over the next twenty months some 10,000 prisoners spent time. Like other POW camps, Algona had its own farm, band, theater troupe, newspaper, and other forms of entertainment to help prisoners pass the time. Algona's POWs even managed to create an impressive, 20 x 40 feet nativity to mark Christmas, a memento of the camp that remains on display in Algona each December, decades after the camp closed.
A Camp Algona POW Band (http://www.traces.org/germanpows.html)
The Geneva Convention prohibited using POWs for war-related labor, but the men could volunteer for non-war-related work, and many did. Work detachments were sent to do logging in Minnesota, harvest sugar beets in the Dakotas, help localities recover from tornadoes, harvest peas in Minnesota and corn in Iowa. Each man received a credit of 80 cents per day, which was not in itself much stimulus to work, but the chance to get out of camp, to see other people and other towns proved attractive to hundreds of the POWs.

Prisoner labor was also alluring to the midwest farm economy as labor shortages became more common, especially during harvest. Communities like Tama began to agitate for installation of branch POW camps in their towns, both for the revenue stream these establishments represented as well as for the availability of agricultural laborers.
Cedar Rapids Gazette July 30, 1943
According to a 2009 interview with Larry Ellis, whose father, Percy (1904-1960), had managed Grinnell's canning factory in the 1940s, there was even talk about creating a temporary POW camp in Grinnell:
They were gonna take 'em [POWs] in the old riding academy up here at the college. ...if you go back to maybe where the baseball diamond was at, the riding academy sat right in there and it was a good-sized riding academy, and they wanted to house [the POWs] back there in tents. And the people of Grinnell didn't like that idea. They didn't feel secure to have them down in the residential area where if some of them would get loose, why...
Sac and Fox Sanitarium in Toledo, occupied by POWs in 1945
A compromise solution was to establish Branch Camp No. 27 in Toledo, making use of the former Sac and Fox Sanitarium there. The folks around Tama had entertained the idea of a branch camp for some time, and the decision to use the old sanitarium was greeted with enthusiasm. In late summer 1945 about 125 POWs (along with about a dozen guards) were transferred from Algona to the Toledo sanitarium. In the presence of an armed guard, these men worked in canning factories in Gilman, Toledo, and Reinbeck, and also worked in the fields to bring the harvest to the canneries.

Grinnell was one of the beneficiaries of Branch Camp No. 27 POW labor.  Every day in late summer 1945 buses brought some sixty German POWs from Toledo to work two shifts in Grinnell. Some worked in the fields to bring in the corn, and others worked in the canning factory. At the end of the day, the prisoners were bussed back up to Toledo.
Des Moines Register August 30, 1945
The Grinnell Herald-Register claimed that Manager Ellis thought the prisoners "good help and [they] gave no trouble." The visiting Germans must have provided some sight, however. According to the newspaper, they traveled under armed guard, and wore overalls "with P. W. stenciled on the back in big letters." Factory manager Ellis told the Herald-Register that some of the men spoke English quite well, and, aware of what their comrades on the Russian front had experienced, they were "glad to be in this country instead of in the hands of the Russians."
POW overalls with "PW" stenciled on them
Unattributed photograph in Mariah Goode, "The Harvest of 1945: German POW Camps Filled Door County Labor Shortage," Door County Pulse July 1, 2005 (https://doorcountypulse.com/the-harvest-of-1945/)
Nevertheless, evidence of contact between the German POWs and Grinnell civilians is slight. Larry Ellis maintained that the POWs worked at the very back of the canning factory,
by the cooling canal, that was a[n] open area. It was screened in, had a roof on it, came down, oh there was a screened area maybe four or five feet high from your waist up to about a foot from the top of the building. It was all screened in so you had plenty of air moving through there. They'd stay right there and that's where they guarded them at. 
Apparently in this area the POWs would box the canned corn, working in isolation from most other laborers in the factory. Given this separation and the fact that the entire POW contingent went back to Toledo each night, few were the Grinnellians who met one of these Germans, now far from their homes.
Grinnell Herald-Register September 20, 1945
The only one of the POWs at work in Grinnell whose name made it into the public record was a man whom the newspaper called Wilhelm Liesenbach. Unlike the Germans at work inside the canning factory, Liesenbach was part of the contingent put to work out in the fields. According to a brief report in the Herald-Register, the POWs had finished their day's labor, and had already boarded a truck for the drive back to the factory when Liesenbach's hat blew off. Jumping off the moving truck, Liesenbach landed on his head. The resulting fracture took him to St. Francis hospital, although how long he stayed there the paper did not say. Indeed, I could find no other record of Liesenbach at all, making me wonder if perhaps the name—better known as a place in central Germany—might have been misreported. But I could find no other evidence of contact between the POWs and townsfolk.

POWs who did similar work elsewhere seem nevertheless to have made connections with locals. As Michael Luick-Thrams reports in Signs of Life: The Correspondence of German POWs at Camp Algona, Iowa 1943-46, young Evelyn Grabow of Owatonna, Minnesota exchanged notes with POWs who worked with her at the Owatonna cannery. One German left this note of appreciation in his own creative English:
Evelyn! Last time, I was very sorry to cannot have say you good bye as I wanted to do it...The feeling, to have made the acquaintance of one person very congenious, makes me happy and I have a good knowledge of human nature. From this country I get only unagreeable experiences. This [my meeting you] is a beautiful exception....
POWs who ended up working in farmers' fields also at least occasionally established personal relations that were revived in letters after the war's end. A 1946 letter from Helmut Langenbach to a Moorhead, Minnesota farmer, Henry Peterson, is one of many examples, if exceptional in its detail. Despite the sometimes contorted spelling and grammar, the letter confirms that Peterson had made strong personal connections with the POWs who worked on his farm:
Our camp have had a good cook, a good citchen and the best Army-food-ration. And then you was coming evry Saturday with bier [sic] an cigarettes. Allway [=Always] a Hollyday [holiday] for the P.W.s of Moorhead City. Evry Sunday we drove to the Staate-park for swimming or to your sport-field...When a P.W. was sick you was helpful and has given fruits to the hospital. We have had to this time nothing for a thank [you but]...Today I will thank you again for all [the POWs you helped] through my letter.
Some Iowans also established personal relations with at least some of the POWs. For example, Chad W. Timm, writing about Iowans' encounters with POWs, quotes Gerald Haas, who was only twelve when his farmer parents employed Algona POWs. "My family hired some prisoners to pull and cut weeds on our land," Haas remembered. "....My mom always cooked and fed them their noon meal and as a result they worked very well for us." Something similar happened with the Balgemans, who had Algona POWs work on their farm. "Balgeman's father became close to two of the Germans, and kept in touch with them after they returned to Germany." Indeed, for several years after the war the Balgemans sent packages of food and clothing to their former German laborers, helping reunited families get through the worst of the post-war recovery in Germany.

Something like this may have happened in Grinnell, too, but interviews with some thirty Iowans about farm life in these years did not produce a single mention of the German POWs, let alone any evidence of on-going relationships after the prisoners returned home.
***
Algona Upper Des Moines September 6, 1945
Once the war was declared over, some newspapers reported that POWs might wish to remain in the US, rather than return to their native countries, a development that patriotic Americans found unsurprising if not altogether welcome. All the wheels of government were turning in a different direction, however. As provisions of the peace were settled, the US government started to close the POW camps. Toledo had only been a temporary branch camp, and it was abandoned soon after the 1945 harvest ended. Camp Algona survived longer, but it, too, gradually emptied out as the Americans transferred POWs to other facilities to expedite repatriation. The Algona camp officially closed in February, 1946, its buildings and property being ceded to the city.
Des Moines Register September 21, 1945
***
Back in Grinnell, the cannery continued to operate, but its future grew cloudy. In 1947 the factory managed to pack only 11,260 cases, a record low, and well below the record high of 105,000 cases packed in 1931. In 1948 output rose again to 50,000 cases, about the same number of cases that the factory had packed with the help of German POWs in 1945. However, by the time that the city of Grinnell celebrated its centennial in 1954, the canning company was gone, its factory occupied by a fertilizer enterprise.

George Kelley, who had founded and then superintended the Grinnell plant for several decades, managed his last stint at the cannery in 1934, then moved to Forth Worth, Texas where he lived with his son (who was also a cannery manager). He later moved to Los Angeles where he died in 1954. Percy Ellis, who managed the canning factory in the 1940s, also moved on, in his case to Seymour, Wisconsin, where he headed yet another cannery. Ellis died there in 1960 and was buried at St. John's Catholic cemetery in Seymour.
Gravestone for Percy Ellis, St. John's Catholic Cemetery, Seymour, Wisconsin
https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=ellis&GSiman=1&GScid=88969&GRid=15360796&
What about the POWs who worked in Grinnell? I could find no trace of these folk, nor did I discover evidence of later correspondence or visits, as happened with some of the POWs in Algona. These men had appeared in Grinnell on a daily basis for a month or so in late summer 1945, making few personal contacts as they were ferried back and forth from Toledo. Then, when the packing season ended, they returned to Algona, and by the beginning of 1946 were on their way back to Europe. Did they remember Grinnell? Had they made even fleeting contact with Grinnellians at the cannery or out in the fields? We may never know....
***
PS. Karen Groves originally put me on to this story, and along with Dorrie Lalonde of the Drake Community Library, helped me dig out some of the particulars. I thank them both. I hope that this post might find some folk from around Grinnell who recall the POWs working here, and can perhaps add some examples of personal connections with the German POWs.










Saturday, March 18, 2017

When Refugees Were Welcome...

Part of the public debate about recent efforts of the new administration in Washington to limit immigration to the US concerns the fate of refugees, especially those people fleeing the on-going war in Syria. In this context, US immigration policy after World War II has some lessons to teach, and those lessons reach right into Grinnell, where the family of Roberts Lapainis arrived in August, 1948. Roberts, his wife Elisabete (Elisabeth), and their son Egils, were among the refugees admitted to the United States under the authority of the Displaced Persons Act of 1948. Because of this legislation, refugees for the first time became an important part of US immigration policy, and under the act's auspices (renewed in 1950 for two years) a total of some 400,000 individuals "who were victims of persecution by the Nazi government or who were fleeing persecution...[or] who could not go back to their country because of fear of persecution based on race, religion or political opinions" were admitted to the United States. This is the story of one such family.
Grinnell Herald-Register August 12, 1948
***
Roberts Lapainis was born in Riga in 1919, hard on the heels of World War I and the creation of the independent state of Latvia. In March, 1942 he married the former Elisabete Kremer, and soon thereafter their first and only child, Egils, was born. This young family came together just as the fate of Latvia was sadly woven into the poisonous fabric of war. Latvia fell to Soviet occupation as part of the 1939 Non-Aggression Pact between Germany and the USSR, then later fell to invading German armies in 1941, then again to Soviet troops in 1944. Both occupiers attempted to purge Latvia of resistance by arresting those suspected of harboring ties to the enemy. Roberts very nearly fell into Soviet hands in 1941, narrowly escaping arrest and exile to Siberia; but when the Germans returned in 1944, they sent him to Germany as forced labor. Somehow he escaped this fate, and, as he told the Herald-Register on his arrival in Grinnell, he worked undiscovered on a farm near Wittenburg until the allied armies arrived. Meantime, Mrs. Lapainis and Egils lived in a Displaced Persons (DP) camp in Esslingen, Germany; they were reunited in August, 1945, and lived at the Esslingen camp until June, 1948 when they departed Germany for the U.S.
Egils, Elizabete, and Roberts Lapainis (far left) at arrival in Des Moines
Des Moines Register August 1, 1948, p. 17
The Lapainis family crossed the Atlantic on the S.S. Marine Flasher, bringing with them two trunks, two suitcases, and a couple of boxes with which to begin a new life. Apparently the family was interviewed about places where they might settle, and the Lapainis family chose Iowa, where they arrived August 1, 1948. Church World Service (CWS on the S. S. Flasher manifest) sponsored the immigration of the Lapainis family, but in Grinnell it was St. John's Lutheran Church that took responsibility for the family. According to the report in the Herald-Register, Rev. Harold Bomhoff found a job for Robert with Iowa Southern Utilities, but finding them a place to live in Grinnell proved harder. However, as reported in the 1950 Grinnell city directory, the Lapainis family took up residence at 921 Summer Street. By this time young Egils must have been enrolled in school, perhaps at nearby Cooper Elementary. Still, it must have been difficult, since, except for Elisabeth's knowledge of English, almost everything was strange and new.
Passenger Manifest for S. S. Flasher, arriving in New York From Bremerhaven, Germany, July 26, 1948
Lapainis family members appears ten, nine, and eight spaces from the bottom of the page
Numerous DPs (as they came to be known) in letters sent back to Europe confirmed the difficulties of adjusting to a new country. An article in the October Des Moines Register, which was based upon news included in the European DP camp newspapers, quoted a young Pole who had settled in Fulton, MO: "The beginning of life in America is very difficult," he wrote, "since the sight of cars, houses and other things owned by other people makes you yearn to have the same. There are more cars here than bicycles in our own country." A Latvian who ended up in France asked rhetorically, "And are there no disappointments? Good Lord, who does not experience them in the course of starting a new life? Any DP who expects to find everything perfect in his new country is a fool."

What about the Lapainis family? Did they expect everything to be perfect? Evidently not, although, like most refugees, surely they nursed dreams. Robert (as he came to be called), who spoke Latvian, Russian and German fluently, now had to contend with English, of which he knew very little when the family arrived in Iowa. Having attended night school in Riga before the war to become an electrician, he hoped for a job in the US that would match his skills and provide a living for his family. Elisabeth had studied piano at the Conservatory of Music in Riga, and admitted to the Herald-Register in a 1948 interview that she hoped to "continue to play if I have such a job that allows me," demonstrating her mastery of English gained while she worked for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Commission in Germany. "We want to earn our living, find bread, learn the English, go to night school and get the papers to become American citizens," she continued, summarizing her family's hopes for the future.
***
149 Kenmore NE, Cedar Rapids (2012 photograph)
For reasons that the public record does not preserve, Mr. and Mrs. Lapainis decided to leave Grinnell, and as early as 1951 they may have been residing at 149 Kenmore NE in Cedar Rapids. Robert had gained admission to the electricians' union and had begun work for Iowa Iron Works in Cedar Rapids. In subsequent years Robert worked for a variety of companies: Cedar Rapids Electric Supply (from at least 1954 through 1957); Paulson Electric (1958); Wubbens Electric (1959); Munson Electric (1970); and Acme Electric (1981). Perhaps the multitude of employment options in a much larger town was the main draw of Cedar Rapids.

Sometime soon after 1953 Elisabeth was teaching piano out of the family's Cedar Rapids home. Twice a year the newspaper announced recitals at which her students performed, so that over the more than twenty-five years she taught piano, hundreds of students passed through her front door.
Cedar Rapids Gazette December 13, 1959
The connections with music were obviously important to Elisabeth, and Cedar Rapids offered numerous paths through which she might continue her musical interests. Her piano teaching brought her into membership of the Iowa Music Teachers Association, and she soon joined the local Mozart Club, where she served as an officer for many years.
Cedar Rapids Gazette July 22, 1956
Her ambition to continue performing also found an outlet in the local Beethoven Club where, alongside other musicians, Elisabeth Lapainis often performed on the piano. As with Robert's work options, opportunities to continue her life in music were more numerous in Cedar Rapids than in Grinnell.
Cedar Rapids Gazette January 12, 1964
Egils Lapainis made the transition from Grinnell schools to Arthur Elementary, an old Cedar Rapids school to which a primary addition was joined in 1952. He seems to have made a fairly smooth adjustment, as local news reported him to be involved in school plays and Cub Scout activities.
Arthur Elementary School PTA Cub Pack 25 version of TV's "Super Circus" (Ringmaster Egils Lapainis far right)
Cedar Rapids Gazette May 23, 1953
At George Washington High School, Egils seems to have continued to prosper. The high school yearbook reported that Egils was a member of Adastra (the local chapter of the National Honor Society) and the German Club, and that he took part in Forum, the local student government organization. After graduating from Washington, Egils enrolled at the University of Iowa where in 1965 he graduated with a bachelor's degree in business administration.
Egils Lapainis, 1961 Monument (George Washington High School Yearbook)
Robert Lapainis died suddenly December 30, 1993, and was buried at Cedar Park Memorial Cemetery. He and his wife were long-time members of St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Cedar Rapids (then at 2100 First Ave., NE, now St. Mark's Faith and Life Center in Marion, IA) where his funeral was held. Elisabeth lived much longer—more than thirty years after she retired from teaching piano—and died July 14, 2014 at her son's residence in Palm Desert, CA.
Gravestone of Robert Lapainis (1919-1993), Cedar Park Memorial Cemetery, Cedar Rapids
https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=lapainis&GSiman=1&GScid=2195104&GRid=129395740&
***
What does the Lapainis family's immigration to the United States nearly seventy years ago tell us and how does their experience illumine present-day immigration preoccupations? 

The Lapainis family history makes clear that they successfully adapted and that they contributed generously to the community that received them. It is true that the family left Grinnell surprisingly quickly—why they moved to Cedar Rapids remains unclear, but there can be little doubt that they succeeded in merging into American culture and contributing to their new country.
Photograph of Elisabeth Lapainis (1917-2014) from her 2014 obituary
http://www.cedarmemorial.com/Obituary/2014/Jul/Elizabeth-Lapainis/?PF=True
At the announcement of Elisabeth's 2014 death, several former students took time to add their appreciations in the funeral home's on-line book of remembrance. Nancy (Spear) Patrick, for instance, wrote that Mrs. Lapainis "taught me discipline, patience, and being true to yourself...." Donette Piering, another former student, noted that Elisabeth's teaching had enabled Piering to begin a journey that took her onward to organ performance in college and beyond. Janet Booth Gerdom recalled that "her tough but loving instruction gave me lots of confidence and I have enjoyed playing in the years since." I am better, she continued, for "having known Mrs. Lapainis."

I don't know if Robert's death summoned similar expressions of appreciation from fellow workers or employers, but his work record makes clear that he contributed to the businesses for which he worked. Moreover, as when he and some others volunteered to straighten out poles bent over Cedar Rapids's Kingston stadium, Robert was giving back to the town that had accepted him and his family. No doubt they were equally valuable to the congregation at St. Mark's Lutheran Church.
Robert Lapainis and others repair Kingston Stadium poles bent by wind
Cedar Rapids Gazette June 22, 1954
***
Unfortunately, the Lapainis's success does not tell the whole story of the 1948 law, and the fuller narrative invokes some unhappy parallels with contemporary immigration policy. As then-President Harry Truman pointed out when he reluctantly signed what became known as the Displaced Persons Act of 1948, Congress had delayed action on the bill until the very last day of the legislative session, so that, if Truman vetoed the bill, there would be no replacement until Congress reconvened. To avoid keeping DPs in difficult circumstances any longer, Truman signed the bill into law, but not without observing its several objectionable features.

In the first place, Truman observed,
The bill discriminates in callous fashion against displaced persons of the Jewish faith. The primary device used to discriminate against Jewish displaced persons is the provision restricting eligibility to those displaced persons who entered Germany, Austria, or Italy on or before December 22, 1945. Most of the Jewish displaced persons who had entered Germany, Austria, or Italy by that time have already left; and most of the Jewish displaced persons now in those areas arrived there after December 22, 1945, and hence are denied a chance to come to the United States under this bill. By this device more than 90 percent of the remaining Jewish displaced persons are definitely excluded.
The same deadline had the effect of preventing many Catholic DPs from qualifying for admission to the US, since many of the Catholics who fled the post-war Communist governments of central Europe arrived after the December, 1945 deadline. As a result, the legislation had embedded within it religious preference, enabling protestants like the Lapainis family to benefit, but prohibiting many thousands of Jews and Catholics.

The act further demanded from immigrants guarantees—that their employment would not affect American workers, that they were assured "safe and clean housing"—and insisted upon detailed investigation of each applicant, a combination of expectations that, as Truman noted, reflected "a singular lack of confidence by the Congress in the capacity and willingness of the people of the United States to extend a welcoming hand to the prospective immigrants."

None of this undermines the good done by the 1948 law, which gave new beginnings to thousands of refugees whose options war had reduced dramatically. Like today's refugees from war in Syria, these people found themselves dependent upon the receiving country's generosity—or lack of it. Similarly, Congress's imposition of religious preference (although more subtle than recent efforts) and the insistence upon detailed vetting are themes prominent in present-day efforts to restrict refugee immigration to the United States.

So, although we can hope that the United States will continue to be receptive to refugees, keeping in mind the satisfaction and payback that come from successes like the Lapainis family, we should remain mindful of the biases of religion and race, and the consequences that their deployment has for millions of refugees worldwide.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Trailblazer...

A few years ago several Grinnell women collaborated to produce an exhibition to mark Women's History Month. Titled "Trailblazers: Notable Women of Grinnell," the display introduced visitors to twenty-two of Grinnell's illustrious women, including Cornelia Clarke (1854-1936), Fannie Buchanan (1875-1957), and Abby Williams Hill (1861-1943, about whom I've posted before). A summary of the exhibit appeared in the summer 2012 Newsletter of the Grinnell Historical Museum, and some of these women were the focus of a 2015 bucket course.
Laetitia Moon Conard (1871-1946) (undated photograph)
Grinnell Historical Museum
One of the women whose life the exhibition and bucket course documented was Laetitia Moon Conard (1871-1946), a scholar, teacher, mother, and political activist. Perhaps especially in a month that celebrates women's history, Conard's life reminds us that the development of Grinnell depended not only upon men like J. B. Grinnell, but also upon many remarkable women like Laetitia Moon Conard. Drawn into the orbit of Socialist Party politics, Conard appeared on the ballot in 1932 as candidate for governor, in 1934 as candidate for Congress, in 1936 as candidate for the U.S. Senate, and in 1940 as candidate for lieutenant-governor—apparently the first woman to stand for election in each case.
***
Elizabeth Laetitia Moon was born in 1871 on a farm just inside the eastern border of Pennsylvania. A child of observant Quakers, Elizabeth attended Quaker schools, graduating from Westtown Friends Boarding School in 1889, after which she attended Smith College, from which she received her bachelor's degree in 1894. Two years later she took an M.A. from Smith, then went to Paris where in 1896-97 she studied at the Sorbonne. Returning to the United States, she enrolled at the University of Chicago where in 1899 she received a Ph.D., having written a dissertation upon the religious practices of native Americans. In all this, she exceeded the accomplishments of most of her coevals.

The following year she married Henry Shoemaker Conard, a fellow Quaker who himself had attended and later taught at Westtown. A botanist, Conard studied at the University of Pennsylvania, but in 1906 the couple moved to Grinnell, Iowa where Henry took up a position on the college faculty. A daughter—Elizabeth—had been born to the Conards while they were still living in Pennsylvania. In Iowa a second daughter, Rebecca, was born in 1909, and in 1912 a third child, Alfred, joined the family, helping fill the Conard home at 1310 Elm.
Conard Home, 1310 Elm Street (undated photograph)
Grinnell Historical Museum
Henry Conard's career blossomed at Grinnell, and many have written about his accomplishments. How Elizabeth—or Laetitia, as she came to call herself—prospered in these early years is less well-known. In answer to the 1910 census-taker, Mrs. Conard described herself as a "tutor," although exactly what that meant is unclear. The 1920 census reports in the column reserved for work or occupation that Mrs. Conard had "none."

However, in 1925 Mrs. Conard went to New York City to study at Columbia University, and after her return began to teach at the college. Sometimes described as lecturer in economics, she actually helped found the discipline of sociology at Grinnell College, as Susan Ferguson and Katie Mears have written in a fine, so far unpublished study. For the fifteen years before her 1941 retirement, Conard received no salary, despite having introduced an entire sociology curriculum. At the occasion celebrating the half-dozen 1941 retirees, College President Samuel Stevens recognized in Conard "a brilliant and wise woman who has made the subject matter of sociology of vital significance." Remarks at a follow-up celebratory dinner were less enthusiastic and reflected gender stereotyping. Symbolic honors went to zoology Professor H. W. Norris "because of his scholarship and being a 'bright light' on the campus," while Dr. Edward Steiner earned his "because of his honor, dignity and courtesy." "Mrs. Conard," who also had a Ph.D. and no less reason to be called "Dr.," was said to deserve honors "because she had been a good wife, friend, and teacher."

Time has overcome some of the inattention that Conard endured in her lifetime. But what remains largely unattended in Grinnell—both college and town—is Conard's political activity, and it is to that aspect of Laetitia Conard's life that this post now turns.
***
Right Reverend Paul Jones, Episcopal Bishop of Utah, 1916-1918
Dan Bammes, "Utah Episcopalians Remember Pacifist Bishop"
http://kuer.org/post/utah-episcopalians-remember-pacifist-bishop#stream/0 
Evidence of the first shoots of Conard's politics is barely discernible. For example, the Scarlet and Black reported in March, 1920 that, after attending a talk in Oskaloosa by Jane Addams, Grinnell College students organized to collect money for Armenians, Austrians, Germans, Poles and Serbians who had been affected by the war. The newspaper identified Mrs. Conard as one of the persons to whom students might entrust their donations, presumably because of her interest in the issue. Similarly, a February 1922 S&B article noted that the Conards had hosted a dinner in Quad dining hall in honor of Episcopal Bishop Paul Jones,"who represents [and helped found] the Fellowship of Reconciliation," an organization established on the eve of World War I to advocate for peaceful resolution of conflict. After dinner, the newspaper announced, the group discussed the work of the Fellowship, presumably with the goal of persuading attendees to support non-violent approaches to disputes. It is impossible to know how actively Conard took part in these events, but her later actions make it hard to think that she sat quietly as conversation flowed around her.
Frederick J. Libby (1874-1970), ca. 1942
The Quaker Testimony for Peace: Archival Resources at Swarthmore College
http://www.swarthmore.edu/Library/friends/Peace%20in%20Friends/PeaceTest%20_%20K_O.htm
Even as her political interests grew, Conard continued to accompany her husband on botanical excursions, which often involved camping out and bringing along groups of students. Increasingly, however, the record exposes her acting on her own priorities. An April, 1923 article in the Scarlet and Black, for instance, took note of a meeting at the college club where several speakers reported on meetings they had recently attended. "Mrs. Conard," the paper continued, "spoke on a meeting she had attended in which Mr. [Frederick J.] Libby, the pacifist, was the main speaker." Libby, a one-time Congregationalist minister who joined the Society of Friends in 1921, was founder and long-time executive secretary of the National Council for the Prevention of War, so it is not difficult to imagine what Conard had to say about his talk, perhaps a stimulus to Conard's own growing commitment to pacifism.
Robert LaFollette (1855-1925), undated photo
http://progressiveeraphotosexhibit.weebly.com/robert-m-la-follette.html
Soon Conard threw herself into supporting the 1924 presidential candidacy of Wisconsin Senator Robert "Fighting Bob" LaFollette (1855-1925). Nominee of  his own Progressive Party, LaFollette espoused a populist platform that favored government ownership of the railroads and electric utilities, support for labor unions, and outlawing child labor, among other things. He had opposed World War I, and sought to demand a referendum before any government could again involve the United States in war.  These views won Conard's support, as a September, 1924 article in the Scarlet and Black noted; "Mrs. Bradshaw and Mrs. Conard" were leading LaFollette boosters, the newspaper observed, and went on to report that "Mrs. H. S. Conard was acting chairman of [LaFollette's] county committee." In 1920s Grinnell, a Republican stronghold, LaFollette's positions must have seemed radical, and Conard later reported that many of her friends had been shocked that she could align herself with LaFollette. However, as later events proved, LaFollette was only the beginning of Conard's political radicalism.

In the 1924 election LaFollette won his home state of Wisconsin and a respectable portion of the national vote, but it was Calvin Coolidge who won the presidency. The race had exhausted LaFollette, however, and he died only a few months later, the promise of a new politics evaporating. As the 1928 presidential election neared, Conard turned to yet another third-party candidate, Norman Thomas (1884-1968), newly elevated to head the Socialist Party. An article in the November, 1928 Scarlet and Black quoted Conard on the unknown candidate. "Norman Thomas," Conard said,
is an absolute pacifist, partly because he knows people, partly because he is an exceptionally clear thinker, and partly because of his indomitable energy in going straight to the heart of every problem....Norman Thomas is for the underdog. He is internationally minded....
Despite Conard's enthusiastic support, Thomas, a little-known Presbyterian minister, made little dent in the 1928 electoral victory of Herbert Hoover. But, like LaFollette's loss in 1924, Thomas's 1928 failure did not drive Conard away; indeed, as the Depression grew increasingly deep and international politics grew more strained, Conard was more drawn to Socialist Party politics than ever.
Delegates to the 1929 Conference on the Cause and Cure for War, Washington, DC
Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of Congress (http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/hec.35230/)
Traces of Conard's continuing activism appeared occasionally in newspapers. Articles in the 1929 S&B report that Conard had helped organize a peace committee within the college YWCA, and that the committee maintained a table in the college library that provided peace literature. That spring the college newspaper told of another meeting of the YWCA peace committee at Mrs. Conard's home, at which time she told of her experiences at the Third Conference on the Cause and Cure of War that she had attended in Washington, DC in January, 1928. Her talk seems to have galvanized student activism, for the newspaper told of plans being laid to send members of the peace committee "to make peace talks to Christian Endeavor groups" at churches in the area.
Sherwood Eddy (1871-1963) (undated photograph)
Summer 1930 Conard joined one of Sherwood Eddy's seminars that visited the capitals of several European countries, along the way meeting with experts and friends of Eddy's who briefed them on historical and political happenings (Eddy writes about these trips in chapter 7 of his Eighty Adventurous Years: An Autobiography [NY: Harper & Row, 1955]). As Rick Nutt has shown (The Whole Gospel for the Whole World: Sherwood Eddy and the American Protestant Mission [Macon, GA, 1997]), the so-called American Seminars began in 1921, and typically lasted two to three months, regularly visiting London, Germany, Geneva, Austria, Czechoslovakia and France. Beginning in 1926, the seminars also visited the USSR, and inevitably attracted a wide array of American intellectuals. So Conard was in distinguished company when she set out for Europe that summer.
Grinnell Herald, August 29, 1930, p. 1
Conard kept notebooks of her seminar impressions, but, unfortunately, the notebooks seem not to have survived. Happily, since she, like other seminar participants, published reports on their travels, we can identify some of the events that seminar participants enjoyed in Russia and what effect they had upon Conard, who offered her first reflections in a letter sent from Moscow August 12th and published in the Grinnell Herald August 29, 1930. Then living in a Moscow hotel close to the Kremlin, Conard announced that she was favorably impressed by the energy that revolution had brought to Russian daily life. Based upon visits to local institutions, movies provided by their Soviet hosts, and the blitz of propaganda, Conard judged the infant revolution to be making great strides in mechanizing agriculture, in improving education, and in giving women larger roles in all official bodies. Indeed, after visiting a Moscow People's Court, Conard noted that the judge was a woman, and that more than a third of all Soviet judges were women; moreover, the conductor on the trolley that took them to court was a woman, and it was a woman who controlled the track switches." Finally, Conard observed, "there are prominent Russian women officials" everywhere. By contrast, she continued, "The United States gives less to women in the way of public office than England, Germany or Russia," a circumstance her later life tried to correct.

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) was a member of Conard's same 1930 seminar, and he reported in Christian Century having discovered, like Conard, great enthusiasm for changes being effected in Russian society. Niebuhr described the group's visit to Bolshovo, a collective farm twenty miles outside Moscow that Eddy's group visited every year. Niebuhr also reported on the 1929 movie, "Turksib," that the group had viewed. Both these experiences doubtless contributed to Conard's conviction that the revolution's progress and fascination with machinery had generated immense enthusiasm.
Strastnoi (Passion) Monastery as represented in pre-revolutionary postcard (Wikimedia Commons)
While in Moscow the seminar also visited the "Anti-Religion Museum," by which Conard evidently meant the then-new museum in the former Strastnoi Monastery (razed in 1938). Crispin Paine, writing about atheist museums in the USSR, described the Central Anti-Religion Museum in the old monastery, founded in 1929, by quoting a 1933 French visitor: "...Displays [there] were based on the idea that all religions were similar superstitions, which they demonstrated by juxtaposing 'idols, fetishes, Christian images and objects of witchcraft.'"

Conard remarked upon the Museum when, after her return home, she addressed the college Cosmopolitan Club in December, 1930. Although she was confident that "religion will return," she observed to Grinnell students that the Anti-Religion Museum had persuaded her that "atheism is truly a religion endeavoring to cast out the superstitions which have delayed the human race for centuries" (Scarlet and Black December 10, 1930).
Tanager vol. 5, no. 2 (January, 1931):40-42
Special thanks to Chris Jones, Grinnell College Special Collections, for making this material available to me
In an essay published in Tanager, a college publication usually dominated by student writing, Conard developed her point. "Communism," she wrote,
partakes of the nature of a religion. The fervor inspired by its tenets results in a willingness to endure hardships equal to those of the sects.... We who were guided around the Anti-Religious Museum by an ardent atheist and who noticed her seriousness and deep emotion as she came to the corner which exhibited the activities of the young atheist society knew that this apostle believed sincerely that atheism is throwing down the idol thrones and eliminating the oppressive authority of capitalist religion...
Conard went on to say that she thought the greatest failure of the Christian religion lay in its neglect of the welfare of the masses, a charge easily laid at the feet of Russian Orthodoxy. Key to this failure, she thought, was the association of religion with war, a point highlighted in displays at the Anti-Religion Museum, where seminar participants saw photographs "of priests blessing columns of soldiers starting to the front" as well as other exhibits that linked the church to war. No doubt these displays appealed strongly to the pacifism with which Conard had grown up.

Grinnell's Russia traveler also felt sympathy for the Soviet effort to wipe out class distinctions. More than once Conard told audiences about the "one class" she had found in Russia, and how deeply impressed she was with official efforts to measure everything, and thereby bring science to bear upon social and economic development (perhaps a reflection of her own growing commitment to sociological methods as illustrated in her later study of the effects of the Depression on family life). At the same time, Conard was bluntly critical of Soviet efforts to limit access to information, warning of the power this course invested in government.
***
These and other themes drawn from her European sojourn continued to resonate with Conard in the early 1930s as she grew closer to becoming a candidate for statewide office in Iowa. She continued to address various groups, like the League of Women Voters, before whom at a 1931 luncheon in Iowa City Conard talked about "women in industry." Presumably in this period she gave increasing thought to how she might contribute more to Depression-era America, because at the July, 1932 convention of the Iowa Socialist party, Conard was named candidate for Governor, her photograph appearing atop a cluster of photographs of the party's nominees.
Des Moines Register July 25, 1932, p. 2
The Des Moines Register reported on the conference, outlining the party program  and barely commending the nominee:
The Socialist party of Iowa has nominated for governor a woman of character and intelligence, teacher of sociology at Grinnell College, Mrs. Laetitia M. Conard. It has adopted a platform that includes a few shots at the capitalistic system, naturally, but that is largely made up of such planks as one demanding a graduated income and inheritance tax, another insisting that the tariff be made effective on agricultural products, another declaring for the shorter work week, another recommending an international economics conference for tariff reduction, and so on...
The newspaper went on to cast doubt on the party's prospects and its proposed solutions to America's problems:
The Socialist party organization in Iowa is very skimpy indeed...[and] we are a long way from the view that national ownership and management of industries, involving necessarily control by government bureaus and a great subordinating of the individual to the dictation of the government, is the cure for our economic troubles, as serious as those are.
Other responses to Conard's nomination were even less supportive. A month after the Socialist Party convention the Algona Upper Des Moines newspaper openly wondered whether "the candidacy of Mrs. L. M. Conard, wife of a professor in Grinnell College, for governor on the socialist ticket in Iowa will be a profitable ad for that college." Conard herself, however, was undaunted, and embarked upon a series of speeches intended to spread the word about socialist solutions to the country's problems.
Daily Iowan September 18, 1932
The Daily Iowan reported on her September, 1932 talk at the Johnson County Courthouse, where Conard emphasized that "Socialism places human welfare above property rights. The old parties," she continued, "claim that the nation belongs to financiers, but we say it belongs to the workers with brain and muscle, and those who are looking for work...," an echo, perhaps, of her visit to the USSR two years earlier. Moreover, as she often did, Conard asserted that there was little difference between Republicans and Democrats, since both parties were beholden to and supporters of capital, and their policies, even in the best of times, left "countless numbers of unsupported old people, needy families, and unemployed." Socialism, by contrast, Conard argued, was a "philosophy of brotherhood..., the only political theory that expresses the principles of the Christian faith."
Cedar Rapids Gazette October 10, 1932, p. 16
The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported in its October 10th issue on Conard's talk before the Grinnell College Liberal Club, pointing out that Conard took issue with the claim that the United States depended upon a two-party system. "Political parties," Mrs. Conard said, "are formed because of some vital issue, and neither the republicans nor democrats are taking opposite sides on any such issue. If we had a true two-party system," she continued, "it would be socialism against capitalism." This comment must have rankled many in conservative Grinnell, but Conard did not shrink from confronting established powers, also condemning what she called "narrow-minded churches and colleges which condemned a person for being a socialist."

Throughout the autumn Conard carried the message to audiences around the state. The Grinnell newspaper did not often report on these appearances, but a Grinnell Herald article in late October printed responses to a series of questions put to all the gubernatorial candidates by the editor. Conard's replies—usually more detailed and coherent than her fellow candidates'—were printed in full, and allowed her to develop some of the themes of the Socialist campaign.

For example, when asked about repeal of the 18th Amendment (that had instituted prohibition), Conard declined to endorse repeal, but went on cleverly to urge the repeal of unemployment. "By taking over the industries or by compelling those who run industry to cooperate in taking care of all employable people hunting jobs, the temptation to bootlegging will be much decreased," she argued. Conard went on to favor a state income tax, oppose a state sales tax, favor compulsory unemployment insurance in Iowa, and retain a minimum wage for teachers. She advocated state assistance to local relief funds, opposed mandatory military training in the state's high schools and universities, and encouraged local government to maintain ownership over utilities.
Lucas Country Results of 1932 Election (Chariton Herald-Patriot November 11, 1932)
Although many ideas that Conard espoused ultimately found their way into the political mainstream, she and her party suffered defeat in 1932. In Iowa as in much of the rest of the nation, Democrats prevailed. Even if Norman Thomas's vote total improved upon the 1928 election results, Roosevelt's triumph was nearly universal. Conard, one of several minor-party candidates, came in well behind the Democratic victor, Clyde Herring, and even trailed J. W. Long, independent candidate who came in third. Perhaps because of her poor showing, the Grinnell Herald did not bother to include Conard when reporting election results in Poweshiek County.
Grinnell Herald November 11, 1932
What Conard thought of her 1932 defeat we cannot know, but her subsequent activity indicates that she was not much slowed by the election disappointment. Already in January, 1933 the Scarlet and Black had Conard  decrying capitalism, which, she contended, "is only concerned with profits, while socialism strives toward service and the good welfare of the people." An interview published in the same paper two weeks later allowed Conard to explain the origins of her convictions. "Welfare work, the World War, and women's suffrage were the three things which continually drew my interest toward socialism and the socialist party," Conard asserted. "Mrs. Conard's attention was attracted to the socialist party," the newspaper continued, "because they so strongly advocated the necessity of an equal chance for each individual. Her interest was heightened during the World War, for the socialist party was the only organized political group that definitely opposed war...." As to suffrage, "Many other women came into socialist work at this time for it [the Socialist Party] was the one party that gave the most concentrated support to women's suffrage" (Scarlet and Black, January 18, 1933).

Late in February Conard spoke before the college's Sunday Evening Club, referencing her 1930 trip to Moscow. Russian youth, she contended, saw Americans as purposeless because of their "exaggerated regard for material values and the blind religious concepts of American young people...." In March she was discounting American newspapers, which "have not accepted the responsibilities of presenting political news so that the voter can determine what he is doing." Instead of newspapers Conard endorsed voters' leagues and open forums in all parts of the country which, in her opinion, better instructed the citizen in the affairs of his country.
***
In subsequent years, Conard continued her political activity alongside her on-going teaching duties at the college. Her views, so far as one can find them repeated in the press, did not change. A Des Moines Register article in early February, 1934, for instance, reported that Mrs. Conard had addressed a college class in church, asserting that capitalism is "out of place with the original teachings of Jesus." The next month she was in Estherville, addressing the annual convention of the Iowa League of Women Voters on "women in industry." Back on campus, Conard was telling initiates of Phi Beta Kappa that prerequisites of a scholarly attitude were "an inquisitive mind, insistence upon verification of information, and modesty," characteristics that would also no doubt serve public officials well.
Des Moines Register August 12, 1934, p. 19
The year 1934 saw Conard back on the Socialist ticket, this time as nominee for Iowa's Fifth Congressional District (which then included Grinnell and Poweshiek County). Records prove surprisingly quiet on Conard's part in this election; indeed, the Des Moines newspaper neglected even to mention her nomination when reporting on the Socialist convention, as a letter to the editor of the Des Moines Register shows. Was Conard as energetic and articulate in the more restricted geography of the Fifth Congressional District as she had been when a candidate for governor? It's hard to say, as newspapers seem to have overlooked her campaign entirely, which may explain why the letter to the Des Moines Register, although signed by "Mrs. C. E. Dexter, secretary Grinnell Socialist local," emanated from the Conard home at 1310 Elm Street, Grinnell. Conard lost this race, too, as Lloyd Thurston, a Republican who had previously represented Iowa's Eighth district, claimed the victory.
Des Moines Register August 10, 1936, p. 3
Then, in the summer of 1936, Conard emerged from the Socialist Party convention once again as a candidate, this time for a full six-year term in the U.S. Senate. The Des Moines Register reported on the convention, summarizing the main planks of the party platform: abolish military training at all Iowa educational institutions; empower citizenry by introducing the initiative, referendum and recall petitions; reduce taxes on land and homes occupied by owners; repeal the general sales tax and increase taxes on income, inheritance, gifts and luxuries; and exempt from taxes all homes and farms victimized by natural calamities.

As she had years earlier, Conard repeated her view that the dominant political parties represented little choice. "From the point of view of a socialist," she told an October, 1936 meeting of the Iowa League of Women Voters, "republican and democratic parties are as much alike as two peas in a pod...a capitalist pod." Conard declared that, were voters to elect them, socialists would solve the three great problems bequeathed to society by capitalism: inadequate food, clothing and housing for the masses; industrial autocracy; and the prevalence of war and militarism.

Iowa voters, however, were no more moved by these claims in 1936 than they had been four years earlier, and Conard lost badly to Clyde Herring, the Democrat who had beaten her for the governor's chair in 1932. No record of Conard's reaction to this loss survives, but she cannot have been too surprised by the outcome as she had expended a miserly sum in the campaign. The Des Moines Register, publishing expenditures declared by all the candidates, as required by law, noted that Conard had spent for her Senatorial campaign a total of $5.23, which is little enough, but her Socialist partner, James P. Russell, candidate for governor, reported no expenses whatsoever!
Des Moines Register November 13, 1936, p. 7
Despite—or perhaps even because of—her electoral losses, Conard continued to speak out, depending less upon her commitment to a political career than to policies she thought moral and just. And because she was now a veteran of several state-wide races, Conard remained an attractive candidate to the Socialist Party. Consequently, when Socialists gathered again in 1940 to name a ticket, Conard emerged as the party candidate for Lieutenant-Governor. But in this election, eight years into the Roosevelt administration, Socialists were no more successful than they had been in earlier efforts.

In any event, soon thereafter war once more pervaded American politics, openly challenging Conard's long commitment to pacifism and her opposition to war. A few weeks after the 1940 election Conard published a letter in the Des Moines Register, defending eight students of Union Theological Seminary who had been imprisoned for refusing to register for the draft. Borrowing her argument from another's defense of the students, Conard lauded the students' bravery and the fact that they responded to their consciences in defying the law. "I would add," Conard continued, "my belief that a valuable and not inconsiderable part of the early settlers of this country were made of such stuff as these men. Some of us are glad to be descended from them."

But as war took ever more control of America, Conard's voice grew harder to hear. Perhaps she tired of trying to attract the attention of a disinterested citizenry. Or perhaps she realized that for now only small, personal deeds might make a difference in a country consumed by war. As I have posted elsewhere, in 1942 she and her husband welcomed to Grinnell a handful of American Japanese students who thereby were spared the internment camps so unjustly visited upon American Japanese. Two of those students found their first home in Grinnell with the Conards on Elm Street.

Otherwise, Conard continued her scholarship, telling the Scarlet and Black at the time of her retirement that she hoped to complete her study of the "Kingdom movement," a subject that returned her to some of her early research on religion. All the same, Conard must have seethed at the ways in which wartime America prospered. Little was heard from her in these last years, and apparently her health gradually deteriorated. Her obituary, announcing her November, 1946 death, noted that Conard had spent the last twenty-three months of her life in hospital before meeting the end of a "blameless life, full of good works." The obituary mentions her candidacy for governor in 1932, but no other attempts at elective office. Instead, it mentions her advocacy of various local groups—Uncle Sam's Club; Goodfellows; First Friends Church; PTA; and League of Women Voters. In addition, the obituary observes, "she was deeply interested in every movement for pacifism and against war, and to the fullest extent of her ability contributed to some fifty organizations for human betterment," thereby bringing "her own distinct contribution to the community which was her home for so many years."
Conard's gravestone, Westfield Cemetery