Fola La Follette

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Fola La Follette
Fola La Follette 1918-20.jpg
Portrait of Fola La Follette, 1918-20
Born Flora Dodge La Follette
(1882-09-10)September 10, 1882
Madison, Wisconsin, United States
Died February 17, 1970(1970-02-17) (aged 87)
Arlington, Virginia, United States
Resting place Forest Home Cemetery
Alma mater University of Wisconsin-Madison
Occupation Women's suffrage and labor activist, actress and author
Spouse(s) George Middleton, 1911
Parent(s) Robert M. La Follette, Sr. and Belle Case La Follette
Relatives Robert M. La Follette, Jr., Philip La Follette and Mary La Follette

Flora Dodge "Fola" La Follette (September 10, 1882 – February 17, 1970) was a women's suffrage and labor activist from Madison, Wisconsin, United States. At the time of her death in 1970, the New York Times quoted her on women's suffrage: "A good husband is not a substitute for the ballot." She was the daughter of progressive politician Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette and lawyer and women's suffrage leader Belle Case La Follette, wife of playwright George Middleton, a contributing editor to La Follette’s Weekly Magazine, an actress, and, with her mother, a chronicler of her father's life.[1]

Early life[edit]

On September 10, 1882, Fola La Follette was born the first child to lawyer and women's suffrage leader Belle Case La Follette and progressive politician Robert La Follette in Madison, Wisconsin. Her early education was at Wisconsin Academy in Madison.[1][2][3] She went on to graduate from the University of Wisconsin.[4]



After graduating, La Follette acted on the stage for ten years, marrying playwright George Middleton in 1911 while retaining her maiden name.[4] She appeared on Broadway in such plays as Leo Ditrichstein's Bluffs (1908), Percy MacKaye's The Scarecrow (1911) and the Broadway production of her husband's Tradition.[1][5]

Unidentified striker, Fola La Follette and Rose Livingston

Women's suffrage and labor activist[edit]

La Follette wrote for periodicals in the cause of women's suffrage (see below) and was active in helping her mother in the cause from an early age.[3][6]

But it was in the merger of La Follette's women's suffrage and acting careers where she made her greatest impact. She performed numerous times in the one-woman play How the Vote was Won, first in 1910, and, in 1912, she appeared in Vaudeville to give a well-received suffragist speech. Anna Shaw, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, wrote La Follette, praising the 1910 play: "I had the pleasure of being present at the benefit performance of 'How the Vote was Won' ... and I have wanted ever since to express to you and the others who took part with you, my appreciation for the splendid help that play was to our cause."[7][8] For suffragists, La Follette became the embodiment of how they wished to be portrayed. Her wry, gracious performances stood as contradiction to the cliché of the "conventional traditional 'suffragists' who are the butt of the comic-joke maker."[9]

In 1913, La Follette played a role in gaining her father's promise to intercede in the United States Senate on behalf of striking workers in the garment industry in New York City. She spent time as a strike picket and used the prominence of her voice as a member of an influential family and as a well-known actress to denounce the arrests and treatment of striking workers.[10] It was a significant time in both the labor movement and women's movement, and the public's attention was caught by the concept of women picketing for their rights, and La Follette and other activists showed their support.[11] In addition to picketing, La Follette gave a speech to the workers, went to court to testify on behalf of arrested workers and raised the issue of police brutality.[12] Together with other society and college women, La Follette was part of what was referred to in this and other strikes as the "mink brigade", women whose dress and social status would give police pause in arresting them.[13]

Together with other actors, La Follette helped found the actors' union Actors' Equity.[2]

Political campaigner[edit]

In 1924, La Follette took the place of her mother Belle, who had become ill, in the presidential campaign of her father, Robert M. La Follette, Sr.[3]


From 1926 to 1930, La Follette taught at City and Country School in New York City, New York.[3]


La Follette served as a contributing editor to the family's eponymous progressive magazine and contributed to other periodicals.[3][14][15]

La Follette's mother had begun a biography of Fola's famous father but died about one quarter of the way into the project. La Follette labored over the next 16 years to finish the biography, published in 1953, which the chief of the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress called "brilliant" and of which the New York Times reviewer wrote: "What we have here, in sum, is a wonderfully rich and detailed personal account that goes far to restore to us one of the giants of the past generation."[1][2]


La Follette died at the age of 87, of pneumonia, in a hospital in Arlington, Virginia on February 17, 1970.[1][2]



  1. ^ a b c d e "Fola La Follette, Suffrage Leader. Actress and Daughter of a Senator Dies at 87". New York Times. February 18, 1970. Retrieved 2010-07-13. Fola La Follette, a suffrage leader, actress and daughter of the late Senator Robert M. La Follette of Wisconsin, died of pneumonia yesterday at a hospital in Arlington, Va. She was 87 years old. ... 
  2. ^ a b c d "Fola La Folette, Individualist to the End". Milwaukee Sentinel. February 18, 1970. Retrieved 2010-07-13. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "The La Follette Family: A Register of Its Papers in the Library of Congress". Library of Congress. 2005–2006. Retrieved 2010-07-13. 
  4. ^ a b "Fola La Follette To Wed. Actress, Daughter of Senator, to Marry George Middleton, Dramatist". New York Times. October 6, 1911. Retrieved 2010-07-13. 
  5. ^ "Fola La Follette". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2010-08-03. 
  6. ^ "Mrs. La Follette Is Leader. Will Direct Suffrage Fight In Wisconsin, Adopting Her Husband's Methods.". New York Times. September 11, 1912. p. 6. Retrieved 2010-08-03. "Fola La Follette ... will travel with her or visit other pointys during the campaign.... 'Our daughter is as much interested as I am and we three counsel together and all are stronger for it.' 
  7. ^ "Fola La Follette Will Give Dramatic Reading". Pittsburgh Press. September 25, 1910. Retrieved 2010-07-13. 
  8. ^ "Suffragists Start Week In Vaudeville. Miss Fola La Follette Wins the Audience and Arthur Hammerstein at the Victoria.". New York Times. September 10, 1912. Retrieved 2010-07-13. 
  9. ^ Margaret Mary Finnegan (1999). Selling suffrage: consumer culture & votes for women. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-10738-9. 
  10. ^ "La Follette To Aid Garment Steers. Promises to Introduce a Bill in the Senate for an Investigation After Daughter Appeals to Him.". New York Times. January 31, 1913. Retrieved 2010-07-13. 'The treatment accorded these poor girls by the police,' said Miss La Follette 'is most brutal and most unfair. Something must be done to change these unlawful conditions.' 
  11. ^ Gus Tyler (1995). Look for the Union Label: A History of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. M.E. Sharpe. p. 84. ISBN 978-1-56324-410-0. 
  12. ^ "Miss La Follette on Picket Duty and Daughters of President-Elect Interested". Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen's magazine, Volume 54. US. March 1913. Retrieved 2010-07-23. 
  13. ^ Carrie Brown (2002). Rosie's Mom: Forgotten Women Workers of the First World War. Northeastern. pp. 28, 37. ISBN 978-1-55553-535-3. 
  14. ^ Book review. Fola la Follette (January 20, 1912). "Woman's Part in Government". La Follette’s Weekly Magazine, Volume 4. Retrieved 2010-07-13. 
  15. ^ Fola la Follette (June 12, 1916). "Will the Women Vote Together?". The Independent (New York), Volume 86. Retrieved 2010-07-13. 

Further reading[edit]

Weisberger, Bernard A. (Summer 1993). "Changes and Choices: Two and a Half Generations of La Follette Women". Wisconsin Magazine of History. 76 (4): 248–270. JSTOR 4636455. 

External links[edit]