Discovering the Region: Commentary

17. Anna Louise Strong, I Change Worlds: The Remaking of an American

The progressive and radical milieu of the Pacific Northwest between 1890 and 1920 was captured nicely in the autobiography of Anna Louise Strong. Born in Nebraska in 1885, Strong followed her minister-father to Seattle during the 1910s. In the city she took on tasks associated with progressive-era reforms—organizing a traveling exhibit on child welfare, winning election to and serving on the school board, and organizing cooperative summer camps on Mount Rainier. Over time, however, Strong lost faith in the prevailing social and economic system (a process described in the chapter chosen for this site, titled “I Lose ‘My America’”), and turned to socialism. In Seattle she found many individuals and radicals who sympathized with her politics and supported her quest for a different means of organizing society. She also encountered conservative forces who were equally devoted to resisting change—particularly changes as fundamental as those that Strong advocated. Her pacifism and support for the Industrial Workers of the World cost Strong her position on the Seattle school board. By the end of World War One, moreover, Strong had learned of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and begun looking to the Soviet Union as a beacon of hope for the world. She played a leading role in the Seattle General Strike of 1919. Growing steadily more disillusioned with the United States, however, she left for the Soviet Union in the early 1920s, where she mostly remained until she moved on to the People’s Republic of China in 1958, where she died in 1970. Note how, like other locals throughout the twentieth century, Strong sought and found solace on Mount Rainier.

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