"I am dangerous to the invisible government of the United States; I am dangerous to the special privileges of the United States; I am dangerous to the white slaver and to the saloonkeeper, and I thank God that at this hour I am dangerous to the war profiteers of this country who rob the people on the one hand, and rob and degrade the government on the other; and then with their pockets and wallets stuffed with the filthy, bloodstained profits of war, wrap the sacred folds of the Stars and Stripes about them and shout their blatant hypocrisy to the world. You can convince the people that I am dangerous to these men; but no jury and no judge can convince them that I am a dangerous woman to the best interests of the United States". With these words Kate Richards O'Hare defied the court at her 1917 sentencing for violation of the Espionage Act. Her oratory only served to infuriate the judge and land her a five-year prison sentence for publicly opposing America's intervention in World War I. Her opposition to the war was only part of her long history of social criticism.
From her childhood in Kansas and Missouri until her death in 1948, O'Hare challenged virtually all of society's institutions. In "From Prairie to Prison", Sally Miller reveals the story of this colourful and exuberant woman who spent her life fighting for equality and justice. As a young woman O'Hare was active in temperance and social service efforts, until she discovered socialism and thought it to be the cure for all the ills plaguing society. In 1902 she spent her honeymoon barnstorming across the country for the Socialist Party of America. "Red Kate", as she was called, became the most celebrated socialist woman from the West and a close colleague of Eugene V. Debs. Billing her as "the foremost woman orator" and "the busiest woman in America", her national lecture tours drew people by the thousands. Although O'Hare chose an untraditional path as a woman activist, she did marry and rear a family. Her husband stayed behind to take care of the children as O'Hare went on the road to fight for workers, farmers, child labourers, disenfranchised women and prisoners. Kate Richards O'Hare left behind an impressive record as a radical who took on the battles of every forgotten American.
"From Prairie to Prison" chronicles the public and private life of a woman who serves as a model for generations to come.