Meridel Le Sueur

By: Jerrold Freitag
February 22, 2015

meridel

Author and poet MERIDEL LE SUEUR (1900–96) grew up among the Midwest’s early 20th century radical farmer and labor groups. In Crusaders, a 1955 biography of her parents, she recalled: “We lost everything time and time again for our beliefs [even though] a little expediency, a little silence, a little ‘cooperation’ could get you a job…” As a young activist she lived for a time in Emma Goldman’s New York commune; by 1925, she had joined the Communist Party. Her novels and nonfiction — including a number of midcentury books for children — convey the message that art is a value — as is the battle against oppression — to be forever reenacted against appeasing “easy-roaders,” capitalists beavering away, and imperialists sworn to protect the system. Although she was blacklisted, she didn’t buckle. “The world was just a world, you didn’t sell your soul for it,” was a Le Sueur maxim she taught to her own children. “My daughters said we never had a nervous breakdown. It was very un-neurotic because there were no choices… You did what was right. You were never tempted by the easy road, in fact, it was suspect.”

MORE ACTIVISTS: Mother Jones | Alexander Berkman | Eugene V. Debs | Tina Modotti | Big Bill Haywood | Lucy Stone | Antônio Conselheiro | Emmeline Pankhurst | Félix Fénéon | Meridel Le Sueur | Pierre-Joseph Proudhon | Zo d’Axa | Mikhail Bakunin | Voltairine de Cleyre | Emma Goldman | Will Allen | Rosa Luxemburg | Simone de Beauvoir | Émile Henry | Pancho Villa | Joe Hill | Margaret Sanger | Aldo Leopold | Screaming Lord Sutch | Nestor Makhno | Dorothy Day | Garry Kasparov | Adriano Olivetti | Mildred Harnack | Frederick Douglass | Murray Bookchin | George Orwell | Bayard Rustin | Abbie Hoffman | Ti-Grace Atkinson | Gloria Steinem | Rudolf Rocker | Stokely Carmichael | Angela Davis

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On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Ishmael Reed, Joanna Russ, Terry Eagleton, Luis Buñuel, Hugo Ball.

READ MORE about members of the Hardboiled Generation (1894-1903).

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Activism, HiLo Heroes

What do you think?

  1. When I was a kid, I loved Le Sueur’s 1951 Davy Crockett biography “Chanticleer of Wilderness Road,” which made capitalism and capitalists the villain against whom Crockett struggled — on behalf of the Indians and the workers.

  2. Not far from where I live is member-owned Mesaba Co-op Park, famed for its progressive history. Meridel LeSuer was a favorite reader at the Midsummer Juanuus Festivals there in the 1980’s.

  3. Freitag introduced me many times to a person, be it an artist, author or scholar, I had never heard about. Le Sueur is among those I have put on my reading list.

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