"I had asked for the transfer in order to get outdoor farm work. It is a relief from
the months indoors with pots and pans [...] The time has passed with unexpected
rapidity – due to the loss of time-sense in the busy routine of institutional life."
I've only come across one other letter from an imprisoned conscientious objector so far. A quick and easy Google search told me this one was from the Roger Nash Baldwin – co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 1920. He wrote his friends (presumably HWLD among them) on May 26, 1919 to inform them that he had been transferred from the Essex County Jail in Newark to the Essex County Penitentiary in Caldwell, New Jersey, twelve miles away. Baldwin remarks on the rigidity of the day's routine, the beautiful scenery, and the fact that his not-so-harsh environment is more of a "county work-farm for short-term offenders" than a "penitentiary."
Baldwin's 1981 obituary confirms that he was jailed for his pacifist ideology and refusal to submit to the draft. He eventually oversaw the ACLU's defense in the Scopes trial and Sacco-Vanzetti case. This information is significant but cursory – qualifying more as the stuff of "fun facts" than any in-depth analysis. So, I opted to make Baldwin a miniature case study of pacifism and queerness. Hopefully, by investigating his take on civil liberties and sexuality, I could find connections to HWLD's own life.
Roger Nash Baldwin. American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties. Accessed February 27, 2016. https://www.aclusandiego.org/founding-of-the-aclu-1920s.
In doing so, I came across a great read, Leigh Ann Wheeler's How Sex Became a Civil Liberty. From it, one may glean two interesting points about Baldwin's sentiments on sexuality:
- Baldwin's attitude toward the state was partly radicalized by Emma Goldman – a notorious anarchist and leader of the Free Speech League. While he had always considered the state a means of achieving social reform, she considered it a "tool of coercion and repression – an entity that persecuted its opponents, repressed labor, prohibited birth control, and punished sexual nonconformists" [Chapter 1]. Baldwin grew enamored of Goldman and her free love agenda and more disillusioned with democracy.
- "Baldwin was not alone; many men who helped lead the ACLU or were involved with female ACLU leaders imported their ideals about individual freedom into their sexual and romantic relationships and did so frankly. In many ways, their private lives became laboratories for experimenting with sexual civil liberties" [Chapter 1].
Further, Wheeler goes on to describe women's rights activist Harriet Pilpel and her proposal at a 1964 ACLU conference to "protect all private sexual behavior between consenting adults" [page Ixvi]. Baldwin argued that this definition was too narrow and failed to "recognize the unique problems faced by 'bi-sexuals,' especially married fathers charged with committing a homosexual act" [page Ixvi].
Indeed, privacy itself was a contested topic within the sphere of sexual civil liberties. According to Robert Cottrell, in his book Roger Nash Baldwin and the American Civil Liberties Union, Baldwin contended that "Private sexual life should be private, not in public places. You don't have public fornication or public homosexuality. Some things you don't do in public view. The Puritan ethic had something to be said for it" (166).
So, my questions are: How might a man like Roger Nash Baldwin have reconciled his views on civil liberties, civil disobedience, and sexual nonconformity – heterosexual free love versus homosexuality? Was he aware that a number of people in his own movement (like HWLD) were homosexual? How would he feel about the tool of civil disobedience used in movements for sexual liberation and modern LGBT rights in parallel to its use in pacifist protest?
in the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Dana Papers (DG 011), Swarthmore College Peace Collection.