Ella Reeve Bloor
Ella Reeve "Mother" Bloor (July 8, 1862–August 10, 1951) was an American labor organizer and long-time activist in the socialist and communist movements. Bloor is best remembered as one of the top-ranking female functionaries in the Communist Party USA.
Ella Reeve "Mother" Bloor was born Ella Reeve on Staten Island, on July 8, 1862, the daughter of Harriet Amanda (née Disbrow) and Charles Reeve. She grew up in Bridgeton, New Jersey. She was married first to Lucien Ware, then Louis Cohen, and finally Andrew Omholt. After marrying Lucian Ware when she was nineteen, she was a mother of four by 1892. Her daughter, Helen Ware, was a concert violinist while son, Harold Ware, became an agriculture expert as an activist in the Communist Party of America. One of her other sons was Buzz Ware, an artist and prominent leader in the Village of Arden, Delaware, where she lived for many years.
Early political career
Ella became involved in several reform movements including the prohibitionist Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and women's suffrage. She was the author of two books for children, Three Little Lovers of Nature (1895) and Talks About Authors and Their Work (1899).
In 1897 Ella was a founding member of the Social Democracy of America, a new organization established by her friend Eugene V. Debs and Victor Berger — a group which would later emerge as the Social Democratic Party (SDP). She later recalled:
"When I joined the Social Democracy I was living in Brooklyn and I had married for the second time. My husband, Louis Cohen, was a socialist. I was pregnant with the first of the two children of that marriage. The railroad men [Debs supporters] came to my house so I could continue to act as [local] secretary."Debs set up a paper in Chicago called The Social Democrat. At his request I wrote a children's column for it. The children answered the appeals of Debs and his colonization committee by sending me money. I felt it was unfair to collect money for something that did not yet exist. People were already selling out businesses to join the colony. A national convention was held in Chicago [June 7–11, 1898] and our local sent delegates. Among them was my husband who still felt that anything Debs was in must be all right. I agreed to withhold final judgment until the delegates returned. When they came back and reported that plans to establish the colony would continue, I resigned. I simply could not stay with anything so unscientific.
"But a new disappointment was in store for me. The Social Democracy, I soon discovered, was a utopian scheme. Debs' plan was to form an ideal colony out West to show by example that socialism could work. From the outset I told the members of my group that this colonization scheme was unsound, not real socialism at all. I stayed with it for a while because of my loyalty to Debs, and because this was the nearest thing I had yet found to a socialist movement.
"He was small and slight and prematurely gray, and spoke very deliberately and convincingly."Daniel DeLeon and I became friends.... I became very much interested in the New York Labor News Company — the first organization that published revolutionary books and pamphlets in English on a large scale. Its manager was Julien Pierce. Together we proofread the pamphlets translated by DeLeon, often having o reconstruct the English, a greater task than we ever let him know."
"The Socialist Labor Party was a revolutionary party in those days and DeLeon, its leader, was a brilliant theoretician and speaker, a courageous fighter against capitalism.... I was impressed with his analysis of the evils of the capitalist system, and of the fallacy of isolated socialist colonies as a way of achieving socialism. I felt that at last here was scientific socialism and joined the SLP.
Ella was elected to the governing General Executive Board of the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance (ST&LA), the SLP's trade union affiliate. She was also the ST&LA's organizer for Essex County, New Jersey and was sent to Philadelphia by the organization in an effort to organize street car workers there.
Ella recounted her growing disaffection with the SLP in her 1940 memoir:
"Gradually the defects of the SLP were brought home to me. I found many workers antagonistic because I was organizing a rival union. The STLA was weakening the AF of L [American Federation of Labor] by drawing off its more radical elements and leaving the reactionaries in control, and was itself organized on too narrow and sectarian a basis to accomplish anything. Furthermore, the SLP as a political party had little real influence because DeLeon was against taking part in the immediate struggles of the workers.... I began very early to see the importance of a united trade union movement, and felt that Socialists should work within the AF of L. I felt that DeLeon understood Marx very well abstractly but knew little about the practical needs of the labor movement."The last time I talked with DeLeon I told him I was moving to Philadelphia and was willing to accept the secretaryship of the SLP local there, which had been offered me, but I could not go along with their principles wholeheartedly. As a good friend of mine, DeLeon accepted what I said without anger, but would not change his methods."
Soon after her arrival in Philadelphia, a state convention of the SLP decided to leave the party en masse to form a new organization in the nether region between Morris Hillquit's dissident so-called "Kangaroo" faction which broke away in 1899 and DeLeon's hardline SLP. Ella opposed this new organization, which called itself "The Logical Center" and included Lucien Sanial, a former top official in the SLP. Ella had been watching with interest the formation of the Socialist Party of America (SPA) in 1901 and decided to leave her new Pennsylvania comrades to rejoin her friend Gene Debs as a member of his new organization.
In subsequent years, Ella worked as a trade union organizer and helped during industrial disputes in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Colorado, Ohio and New York. In 1905 she helped a fellow member of the Socialist Party of America, the author, Upton Sinclair, to gather information on the Chicago stock yards. This material eventually appeared in Sinclair's best-selling book, The Jungle. Rumour has it that Sinclair sent her along with a Mr. Bloor as a faux couple to be able to innocently gather data on the meat yards of Chicago. Although they were not married, Ella adopted the name Mother Bloor.
A leading figure in the Socialist Party of America, she ran several times unsuccessfully for political office, including secretary of state for Connecticut, Governor of Pennsylvania, and Lieutenant Governor of New York in 1918.
Ella Reeve Bloor was an adherent of the Left Wing Section of the Socialist Party, which exited that organization to form the Communist Labor Party of America. In 1921 and 1922, Bloor attended the second conventions of the Comintern in Moscow. She was also a delegate to the founding convention of the Red International of Labor Unions in July 1921, at which she used the pseudonym "Emmons" and voted on the basis of credentials issued by three locals of the International Association of Machinists.
She was also a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party USA from 1932 to 1948.
After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Bloor became an advocate of American participation in World War II. Later she argued for an early invasion of Europe to create a Second Front.
Death and legacy
- Ella Reeve Bloor, Encyclopædia Britannica. Accessed September 24, 2007.
- Counterattack, Letter No. 63, August 6, 1948.
- Ella Reeve Bloor, We Are Many: An Autobiography. New York: International Publishers, 1940; pp. 52-53. Note that this convention ended in a split in which the anti-colonists, a minority at the convention including Debs and Berger, left to establish a new organization of their own, the Social Democratic Party of America.
- Bloor, We Are Many, pp. 53-54.
- Bloor, We Are Many, pg. 56.
- Bloor, We Are Many, pg. 57.
- Bloor, We Are Many, pp. 57-58.
- Bloor, We Are Many, pg. 58.
- Bloor, We Are Many, pg. 59.
- James Weinstein, The Decline of Socialism in America, 1912-1925. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1967; pg. 60.
- George Williams, "Moscow Condemned: IWW Delegate in His Official Report Bitterly Attacks Meeting of Moscow Group," The New Age [Buffalo], vol. 10, whole no. 489 (Jan. 5, 1922), pp. 1-2.
- "Rites for Mother Bloor: Funeral of Communist Leader Held in St. Nicholas Arena," The New York Times, August 15, 1951, pg. 24.
- Three Little Lovers of Nature. Chicago: A. Flanagan, 1895.
- Talks About Authors and their Work. Chicago: A. Flanagan, 1899.
- Women in the Soviet Union. New York: Workers Library Publishers, 1937.
- We Are Many: An Autobiography. New York: International Publishers, 1940.
- Kathleen A. Brown, Ella Reeve Bloor: The Politics of the Personal in the American Communist Party. PhD dissertation. Seattle: University of Washington, 1996.
- Kathleen A. Brown, "The 'Savagely Fathered and Un-Mothered World' of the Communist Party, USA: Feminism, Maternalism, and 'Mother Bloor.'" Feminist Studies, vol. 25, no. 3 (Autumn 1999), pp. 537-570. In JSTOR