What comes Around

Martha Gruening: The Liberation School Period 1887-1925

Until the first of November this year, our knowledge of the Libertarian school was about all that is included in the side bar. When we asked experts of the period about the school, the answer was, “It is a researchable project.” This is the same answer I remember receiving when my professor didn’t know the answer.
Since then we have done the research on our own and now know a lot more about Martha and Helen, the whole Gruening family, the early years of the NAACP, Black Theater, WPA Writer’s project, NBLA, Smith College-class of 1909 (and Bryn Mawr and then NYU Law), The Nation magazine, book and magazine reviews and critics pre-WWII, personal data like adopting a black child and the numerous times she was arrested while working for various causes, most always summarized as, People’s Rights.
The tranquil image of Gomez Mill House is really shaken during the Libertarian school period. Let’s look at Martha’s life and what we have learned about her.
Dr. Emil and Phoebe Gruening had five children. Mrs. G or Phebe is from a farm family in Bergen County, NJ. The eldest child was son, Ernest, who followed his father in medicine to get his medical degree and then branched into other careers. He was editor of The Nation magazine, The Post, and FDR asked him to become the governor of the Alaska territory. Later he became a senator and is widely remembered for his “No!” vote on the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. Not a shabby family.
Not gaining the national acclaim like Ernest, the ladies had each distinguished themselves. There were four sisters, our subject Martha, and Clara, Mary and Rose. All deserve chapters in our house and certainly in the rights movement in American history.
She was a Smith College graduate (class of 1909) and came from a well-known family; her father was an eminent physician and her brother would eventually become a prominent public official. Gruening herself was writing for and helping to edit a short-lived pacifist magazine, The Dawn, in Greenwich Village, at the time of her arrest. She held a law degree from New York University (awarded 1912). From 1911-1914, Gruening served as an assistant secretary to the National Board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); she and the prominent African American cofounder of the NAACP, W. E. B. Du Bois, were appointed by the NAACP to investigate a race riot that broke out in East St. Louis, Illinois, in 1917. In August 1887, she traveled to Houston, Texas, to report on the race riot there that involved members of the all-black Twenty-fourth Infantry.
A World Without War Syracuse Studies on Peace and Conflict Resolution Harriet Hyman Alonso, Charles Chatfield, and Louis Kriesberg, Series Editors 1997
Then she came to Gomez Mill House!
Martha encouraged tolerance and the rights of all people. We certainly want to know more about her work — especially here.
from: A World Without War. Series Editors, Harriet Hyman Alonso, Charles Chatfield, and Louis Kriesberg. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Studies on Peace and Conflict Resolution, 1997.

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