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Ella Reeve Bloor (Mother Bloor), 1862- 1951

Ella Reeve Bloor

Ella Bloor was born on the 8th of July on Staten Island and grew up in New Jersey in a family which her ancestors had fought in the Revolutionary and civil wars. Her mother died during childbirth when Ella was 17 years of age and forced her to abandon her education and to take care of her nine younger siblings. There is no surprise that at a young age she got involved in the struggle for women’s rights inside the families and in the society.

In 1897, she joined with Eugene Debs and Victor Berger to form the Socialist Democratic Party. In the following year she moved to the more radical Socialist Labour Party. Then, in 1902 she became a member of the newly formed Socialist Party of America. During these times Bloor along-side the other features like Mother Jones, struggled against child labour in the coal mines, silk mills and factories of eastern Pennsylvania.

Ella Bloor worked closely with Upton Sinclair researching for his muckraking masterpiece “The Jungle” about the filth and exploitation in the Chicago meatpacking industry. This cooperation led to the creation of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in 1906.

In 1913, during one of her missions to the upper peninsula of Michigan to support the striking workers, the Christmas party for the striker’s children was set on fire. There 73 children died from suffocation. Gun thugs kept the exit doors shut tight so that no one could escape. As Ella Bloor wrote, “In almost every house there was a dead child; one Finnish family had lost 3 children.”

In 1914, she witnessed another massacre, this time in Ludlaw, where 13 children and a pregnant woman were burned to death by the Colorado National Guard troops.

In 1919, she left the Socialist Party and with the help of other comrades like John Reed, formed the American Communist Party. In 1921-1922 she attended the second International Convention in Moscow and became a friend of V. I. Lenin and his wife Nadezda Krupskaya.

Wherever there was a struggle against exploitation and oppression of capitalism, Ella Bloor was there to help the workers and the oppressed peoples. That was why the workers called her Mother Bloor. She was the workers champion.

In the case of frame-up victims Sacco and Vanzetti, she traveled across the U.S., speaking at rallies to save their lives. On the 23rd of August 1927, she stood vigil outside the Boston prison the night they were executed. The next day she delivered a eulogy to more than a hundred thousand of their supporters in New York’s Union Square.

Mother Bloor organized and spearheaded the struggle for the release of Eugene V. Debs, the socialist leader, after he was jailed for his opposition to World War I. And, when in 1949, twelve leaders of the Communist Party USA were tried under the infamous Smith Act, she went to Ohio and during a fiery speech in front of thousands of peoples, demanded that the anti-communist witch hunt be ended. There she contracted pneumonia and returned home on a stretcher with a 105 degree fever.

Mother Bloor was jailed on 36 occasions by the U.S. government. The last one was in 1935, when she was 73 years old and came to the defence of 47 women chicken pluckers.

This extra-ordinary woman died at the age of 89 and is buried near the grave of Walt Whitman – their family friend and great American poet – in the Harleigh cemetery in Camden, New Jersey.

Her works:

  • Three Little Lovers of Nature (1895)

  • Talks about Authors and Their Works (1899)

  • Women in the Soviet Union (1938)

  • Autobiography, We Are Many (1940)

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