Elizabeth Dilling

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Elizabeth Dilling, 1939

Elizabeth Dilling Stokes (April 19, 1894 – May 26, 1966) was an American anti-communist and later antisemitic social activist, as well as an anti-war campaigner and writer in the 1930s and 1940s. She stood trial for sedition in Washington in 1944.[1][2]

The author of four political books, Dilling claimed that Marxism and "Jewry" were synonymous.[3] She believed that Francisco Franco was a brave Christian.[4] She claimed many prominent figures were Communist sympathizers, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Mahatma Gandhi, Franz Boas and Sigmund Freud.[5]

Early life and family[edit]

Dilling was born Elizabeth Kirkpatrick in Chicago, Illinois. Her father, Dr. L. Kirkpatrick, was a physician of Virginian, Scots-Irish, Presbyterian ancestry; her mother, Elizabeth Harding, descended from a long line of Anglican bishops. While she was raised Episcopalian, Dilling attended a Catholic girls' school.[6] She then attended the University of Chicago, where she studied music and languages, but did not graduate.

Dilling became a concert harpist after having been a pupil of renowned harp virtuoso, Alberto Salvi. In 1918, she married Albert Dilling, an engineer and lawyer of Norwegian ancestry. In her early life, money was not a problem for Dilling because of the wealth she inherited from her mother and aunts. Albert also had a good job as the chief engineer of the Chicago Sewage District. The marriage to Albert produced a son, Kirkpatrick (1920–2003), a lawyer, and a daughter, Elizabeth Jane.[7]

Anticommunist and non-interventionist activities[edit]

The couple traveled widely, and in 1931 they visited the Soviet Union. They spent a month there, and filmed what they saw of the atrocious conditions[citation needed]. Especially alarming to Dilling was their Soviet guide's proclaiming, "Our world revolution will start with China and end with the United States!"[citation needed]

When Dilling returned home to Illinois, she went on tour showing her movies and describing the Soviet "workers' paradise" as anything but. From 1932 to 1934 she was associated with Edwin Marshall Hadley of Chicago, serving as secretary of his anti-Communist organization, the Paul Reveres. She broke with him in 1934 over Hadley's anti-Jewish stance, and the organization was dissolved later that year. (Ironically, Dilling's own views about Jews were soon to become much harder than Hadley's.)[8]

After leaving Hadley, Dilling threw herself into collecting facts on Communism full-time. The result was published as The Red Network—A Who's Who of Radicalism for Patriots (1934), a self-declared exposé of Communist front activity in the U.S., which was widely circulated (100,000 copies are claimed). As an example of her technique, in the entry for Albert Einstein, which links him to various Communist organizations, Dilling notes: "married to Russian; his much press-agented relativity theory is supposedly beyond the intelligence of almost everyone except himself." She offers an apologia for the Nazi confiscation of Einstein's property in Germany, saying it was because he was a Communist. The entry for Eleanor Roosevelt reads "Socialist sympathizer and associate, pacifist". A Protestant minister, Harry Emerson Fosdick, was listed because his books were "highly recommended by socialists and other radicals"[9]

She then wrote The Roosevelt Red Record and Its Background (1936), condemning the New Deal, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and officials in his administration, claiming they had strong links to Communists. In The Octopus (1940), which she wrote under the pseudonym Rev. Frank Woodruff Johnson, she attacked the Jewish Anti-Defamation League and associated Jews with communism. It was then that she shifted her emphasis to Jews as being responsible for much of the world's problems, partly based on her readings of the Talmud.

As debate raged about whether the U.S. should get involved in World War II, Dilling became an activist in two organizations inspired by the Detroit-based radio priest Father Charles Coughlin: Mothers' Peace Movement, which she co-founded with Lyrl Clark Van Hyning, and We the Mothers Mobilize for America, based in Chicago. She was also involved with the America First Committee, famously associated with Charles Lindbergh, Norman Thomas, Frank Lloyd Wright, and other prominent isolationists and opponents of the war.

After the Pearl Harbor attack, Dilling was indicted, along with 28 others, which led to the Great Sedition Trial of 1944.[10] The case finally ended in a mistrial after the death of the presiding judge, Edward C. Eicher. The Chicago Tribune editorialized on the trial as "one of the blackest marks on the record of American jurisprudence".[10] The Smith Act under which the prosecution took place was later found to be unconstitutional in several rulings by the Supreme Court.

In the 1950s, Dilling was a frequent contributor to Conde McGinley's broadsheet Common Sense, and her name often joined his in joint letters to members of the United States Congress.

On October 18, 1943, Elizabeth and Albert were divorced after 25 years of rocky marriage.[11]

Her second husband, Jeremiah Stokes (1877–1954), was a lawyer and author. He authored The Plot Against Christianity which was later published 1964 and included over 200 pages of photocopies from the Soncino edition of the Talmud, with his wife's underlines added.

Media references[edit]

A thinly-disguised version of Dilling named 'Adelaide Tarr Gimmitch' appears in Sinclair Lewis's 1930s novel It Can't Happen Here. The book deals with a hypothetical fascist takeover of the United States in 1937.

Mari Sandoz's 1939 satirical novel Capital City makes reference to Dilling: "Mrs. Dilling...came to town to denounce the university 'with a Red behind every bush of bridalwreath.'"[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jeansonne, Glen (1996), "Chapter 12", Women of the Far Right: The Mother's Movement and World War II, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-39589-8 
  2. ^ Jeansonne, Glen; Luhrseen, David. "Elizabeth Dilling (1894–1966)", in Cook, Bernard A. Women and War: A Historical Encyclopedia from Antiquity to the Present, ABC-CLIO, 2006, ISBN 978-1-85109-770-8, p. 153.
  3. ^ Jeansonne, Glen (1996), Women of the Far Right: The Mother's Movement and World War II, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 26, ISBN 0-226-39589-8 
  4. ^ Jeansonne, Glen (1996), Women of the Far Right: The Mother's Movement and World War II, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 13, ISBN 0-226-39589-8 
  5. ^ "Days of Discontent", Journal of Social History, December 22, 2003.
  6. ^ "The Mothers' Movement reveals obscure corner in America's recent past", Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Wisconsin), April 21, 1996.
  7. ^ Jeansonne, Glen (1996), Women of the Far Right: The Mother's Movement and World War II, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 12, ISBN 0-226-39589-8 
  8. ^ 'Women of the far right: the mothers' movement and World War II- by Glen Jeansonne
  9. ^ Preacher at the Riverside, The Washington Post, April 14, 1985
  10. ^ a b A Mockery of Justice—The Great Sedition Trial of 1944
  11. ^ Jeansonne, Glen (1996), Women of the Far Right: The Mother's Movement and World War II, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 81, ISBN 0-226-39589-8 
  12. ^ Sandoz, Mari. Capital City. 1939. Page 40


  • Dilling, Elizabeth Kirkpatrick (1964). The Plot Against Christianity. Omaha, NE: The Elizabeth Dilling Foundation. p. 497 pp. ISBN 0-939482-45-2. 
  • Dilling, Elizabeth Kirkpatrick (1940). The Octopus. Omaha, NE: Privately Printed. p. 256 pp. ISBN 0-89562-094-4. 
  • Dilling, Elizabeth Kirkpatrick (1935). The Red Network, A Who's Who And Handbook Of Radicalism For Patriots. Chicago, IL: Ayer Company Publishers. p. 338 pp. ISBN 0-405-09946-0. 
  • Dilling, Elizabeth Kirkpatrick (1936). The Roosevelt Red Record and Its Background. Chicago, IL: Privately Printed. p. 439 pp. ASIN B0006ANJE8. 


  • Red Revolution: Do We Want It Here? (1932) written when she was associated with The Paul Reveres
  • Borah, "borer from within" the G.O.P. (1936) On leftist-radical Senator William E. Borah from Idaho
  • Dare We Oppose Red Treason? (1937)
  • The Red Betrayal of the Churches (1938)
  • The Protocols 'Killed' Again
  • Brotherhood (1953)

External links[edit]