A decade has passed since I first discovered Ellen Dawson, the fiery Scottish radical who became a leading American communist during the 1920’s. Over the next several years I read stacks of dusty old newspapers, pushed through numerous government documents, explored the world in which she lived, and recorded the fading memories of her surviving relatives. It was a long journey, that included stops at more than 35 libraries on two continents. What kept me going was a fascination with Ellen and the world in which she lived.
In 2010, Strike! The Radical Insurrections of Ellen Dawson was finally published. It was a moment of great personal satisfaction. Now, less than four years later, Strike! is going out of print. It is sad, sort of like the death of a friend. Personally, I don’t think that the book got a fair chance. Academic presses are not very good at promoting their books and that was certainly true with Strike!.
I can take consolation in the fact that copies of the book can now be found in the Library of Congress, the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the public libraries where Ellen fought for the rights of American textile workers – Passaic, New Jersey, New Bedford, Massachusetts and Gastonia, North Carolina – and in university libraries around the world, but I had hoped to reach a broader audience. All authors hope for that.
The publication rights have been returned, so I have another opportunity to tell Ellen’s story, without being shackled by the arcane rules of academic writing. It is something I will consider, because I still think her life is a great story. And, I can still envision Ellen Page playing Ellen in the movie version.
(© 2014 by David Lee McMullen, All Rights Reserved.)