Article written by Ellie Kaplan
Anna Louise Strong, a prolific writer and journalist, brought socialist politics to the mountains when she co-founded Cooperative Campers of the Pacific Northwest in 1916. As the outdoor club’s first president, Strong strove to make Mount Rainier National Park accessible to Seattle’s working class by providing affordable transportation, lodgings, food, and supplies to campers.
On November 24, 1885, Anna Louise Strong was born in Friend, Nebraska.1 She was raised in multiple places across the Midwest by social reformers Ruth Marie Tracy and Reverend Sydney Strong, a Congregationalist minister.2 At the age of 23, Strong became the youngest woman at the time to receive a doctorate from the University of Chicago, writing a dissertation titled “A Consideration of Prayer from the Standpoint of Social Psychology.”3 After completing her education, she traveled the country as a progressive reformer. She joined the National Child Labor Committee, an organization that researched and advocated for the labor rights of children, and she worked for the US Children’s Bureau on its child welfare traveling exhibit.4 During her travels, Strong met many left-wing activists and her politics shifted to socialism as a means of accomplishing her social justice goals.5 As a friend later described Strong’s politics, “She just loved people and wanted them to have a better life.”6
In 1916, Strong joined her father in Seattle, which was known at the time for its radical politics. She was the only woman elected to the Seattle School Board in 1917, winning in part by emphasizing her years of experience as a child welfare advocate. However, her position was recalled a year later due to the anti-war, pro-leftist stance she expounded in her work as a journalist.7 This rebuke of her politics did not dissuade Strong, however, and she became well known for her support of the 1919 city-wide general strike through coverage of the labor stoppage in the pages of The Seattle Union Record.8
While Strong is more recognized for her extensive work as a journalist, she also fought to transform Washington’s outdoor scene from a site of upper- and middle-class recreation to one that included the working class. Inspired by her experience at a cooperative camp in California’s High Sierras, Strong gathered support from local organizations, like the YMCA, the University of Washington, and the Seattle Labor Council, to set up similar camps in Mount Rainier National Park in 1916.9 The Cooperative Campers of the Pacific Northwest provided transportation from Seattle to the park, ran several camps (consisting of sleeping tents and a cook tent), and supplied equipment, all at an affordable price. It also arranged guided climbs and hikes led by folks who volunteered their time and expertise.10 Strong was an enthusiastic climber herself, even leading a winter climb up Mount Hood.11 The mountains also provided solace for Strong, especially after the United States entered World War I in 1917, a decision Strong had actively campaigned against.12
In 1921, Strong took her journalism international by moving to the Soviet Union with the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker relief organization. In addition to founding the first English language paper in the Soviet Union, Moscow Daily News, in 1930, Strong also wrote over thirty books and even more articles as she traveled the world. “She sold Communism to the world” as one American diplomat described it.13 Strong spent the last twelve years of her life living in China, where she wrote her international newsletter “Letter from China.” Strong died on March 29, 1970 at the age of 84. She was buried in the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in Beijing, a cemetery reserved for high ranking officials and important contributors to Chinese society.14 From the mountains in Mount Rainier National Park to the capital of China and everywhere in between, Anna Louise Strong fought to improve people’s lives and achieve more equal societies throughout her long life.15
This project was made possible in part by a grant from the National Park Foundation.
This project was conducted in Partnership with the University of California Davis History Department through the Californian Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit, CA# P20AC00946
Jackson, Rebecca B. “Politics of Gender in the Writings of Anna Louise Strong.” Seattle General Strike Project. University of Washington. Accessed September 2, 2020. https://depts.washington.edu/labhist/strike/jackson.shtml.
1 “Biographical Note,” finding aid, “Anna Louise Strong Papers, 1885-1971,” University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, Seattle, WA, 2007, last modified January 31, 2020, accessed September 2, 2020, http://archiveswest.orbiscascade.org/ark:/80444/xv20539; Reuters, “Anna Louise Strong Dies in Peking at 84,” New York Times (New York, NY), March 30, 1970, https://www.nytimes.com/1970/03/30/archives/anna-louise-strong-dies-in-peking-at-84-anna-louise-strong-defender.html#:~:text=TOKYO%2C%20March%2029%20%E2%80%94%20Anna%20Louise,She%20was%2084%20years%20old.
2 “Biographical Note,” Anna Louise Strong Papers; Rebecca B. Jackson, “Politics of Gender in the Writings of Anna Louise Strong,” Seattle General Strike Project, University of Washington, accessed September 2, 2020, https://depts.washington.edu/labhist/strike/jackson.shtml.
3 Jackson, “Politics of Gender in the Writings of Anna Louise Strong”; “Anna Louise Strong Dies in Peking at 84.”
4 Jackson, “Politics of Gender in the Writings of Anna Louise Strong”; Catherine A. Paul, “National Child Labor Committee (NCLC): Founded April 25, 1904,” Social Welfare History Project, Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries, accessed September 23, 2020, https://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/programs/child-welfarechild-labor/national-child-labor-committee/.
5 Jackson, “Politics of Gender in the Writings of Anna Louise Strong.”
6 “Anna Louise Strong Dies in Peking at 84.”
7 Daren Salter, “Witness to Revolution: The Story of Anna Louise Strong,” Communism in Washington State History and Memory Project, University of Washington, accessed September 2, 2020, https://depts.washington.edu/labhist/cpproject/AnnaStrong.shtml.
8 Salter, “Witness to Revolution: The Story of Anna Louise Strong”; “Strike,” Seattle General Strike Project, University of Washington, accessed September 23, 2020, http://depts.washington.edu/labhist/strike/.
9 Margaret McKenzie, “History of the Washington Alpine Club,” Washington Alpine Club, accessed September 2, 2020, https://washingtonalpineclub.org/about-the-wac/history-of-the-wac.
10 Theodore Catton, Wonderland: An Administrative History of Mount Rainier National Park (Seattle, WA: Cultural Resources Program, National Park Service, May 1996), chapter 9, https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/mora/adhi/chap9.htm.
11 McKenzie, “History of the Washington Alpine Club.”
12 Anna Louise Strong, I Change Worlds: The Remaking of an American (Seattle: Seal Press, 1935) quoted in Theodore Catton, National Park, City Playground: Mount Rainier in the Twentieth Century (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2006), 191, fn 24.
13 “Anna Louise Strong Dies in Peking at 84.”
14 “Anna Louise Strong,” Find A Grave, December 31, 2000, accessed September 2, 2020, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/2590/anna-louise-strong; Marilyn Shea, “Babaoshan,” Chinese English Dictionary and Study Center, University of Maine at Farmington, last updated July 2009, accessed September 23, 2020, http://hua.umf.maine.edu/China/HistoricBeijing/Babaoshan/index.html.
15 “Biographical Note,” Anna Louise Strong Papers; “Anna Louise Strong Dies in Peking at 84.”