Jessie Wallace Hughan
Jessie Wallace Hughan was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 educator, a socialist activist, and a radical
Political radicalism
The term political radicalism denotes political principles focused on altering social structures through revolutionary means and changing value systems in fundamental ways...

 pacifist. During her college days she was one of four co-founders of Alpha Omicron Pi
Alpha Omicron Pi
Alpha Omicron Pi is an international women's fraternity promoting friendship for a lifetime, inspiring academic excellence and lifelong learning, and developing leadership skills through service to the Fraternity and community. ΑΟΠ was founded on January 2, 1897 at Barnard College on the campus...

, a national sorority for university women. She also was a founder and the first Secretary of the War Resisters League
War Resisters League
The War Resisters League was formed in 1923 by men and women who had opposed World War I. It is a section of the London-based War Resisters' International.Many of the founders had been jailed during World War I for refusing military service...

, established in 1923. For over two decades, she was a perennial candidate for political office on the ticket of the Socialist Party of America
Socialist Party of America
The Socialist Party of America was a multi-tendency democratic-socialist political party in the United States, formed in 1901 by a merger between the three-year-old Social Democratic Party of America and disaffected elements of the Socialist Labor Party which had split from the main organization...

 in her home state of New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...


Early years

Jessie Wallace Hughan was born December 25, 1875 in Brooklyn, New York. She was the third of four children born to Margaret and Samuel Hughan, who were of Scottish
Scottish people
The Scottish people , or Scots, are a nation and ethnic group native to Scotland. Historically they emerged from an amalgamation of the Picts and Gaels, incorporating neighbouring Britons to the south as well as invading Germanic peoples such as the Anglo-Saxons and the Norse.In modern use,...

, English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

, and French
French people
The French are a nation that share a common French culture and speak the French language as a mother tongue. Historically, the French population are descended from peoples of Celtic, Latin and Germanic origin, and are today a mixture of several ethnic groups...

 ancestry. Her father was an accountant.

Hughan attended grammar school
Grammar school
A grammar school is one of several different types of school in the history of education in the United Kingdom and some other English-speaking countries, originally a school teaching classical languages but more recently an academically-oriented secondary school.The original purpose of mediaeval...

 on Staten Island
Staten Island
Staten Island is a borough of New York City, New York, United States, located in the southwest part of the city. Staten Island is separated from New Jersey by the Arthur Kill and the Kill Van Kull, and from the rest of New York by New York Bay...

 and then went on to Northfield Seminary, a theologically liberal
Liberal Christianity
Liberal Christianity, sometimes called liberal theology, is an umbrella term covering diverse, philosophically and biblically informed religious movements and ideas within Christianity from the late 18th century and onward...

Unitarian Universalism
Unitarian Universalism is a religion characterized by support for a "free and responsible search for truth and meaning". Unitarian Universalists do not share a creed; rather, they are unified by their shared search for spiritual growth and by the understanding that an individual's theology is a...

 college preparatory school for girls located in Northfield, Massachusetts
Northfield, Massachusetts
Northfield is a town in Franklin County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 2,951 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area...


Hughan enrolled at Barnard College
Barnard College
Barnard College is a private women's liberal arts college and a member of the Seven Sisters. Founded in 1889, Barnard has been affiliated with Columbia University since 1900. The campus stretches along Broadway between 116th and 120th Streets in the Morningside Heights neighborhood in the borough...

 in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 in 1894. In January 1897 she co-founded there with three other students the international sorority Alpha Omicron Pi
Alpha Omicron Pi
Alpha Omicron Pi is an international women's fraternity promoting friendship for a lifetime, inspiring academic excellence and lifelong learning, and developing leadership skills through service to the Fraternity and community. ΑΟΠ was founded on January 2, 1897 at Barnard College on the campus...

. In 1898 she graduated, earning her A.B. degree, for which she authored an unpublished senior thesis on "Recent Theories of Profits." An excellent student, Hughan was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, a national honorary society.

After graduation from Barnard, Hughan enrolled in Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

, also located in New York City. There Hughan earned her Masters of Arts
Master of Arts (postgraduate)
A Master of Arts from the Latin Magister Artium, is a type of Master's degree awarded by universities in many countries. The M.A. is usually contrasted with the M.S. or M.Sc. degrees...

 degree in 1899, writing a thesis entitled "The Place of Henry George
Henry George
Henry George was an American writer, politician and political economist, who was the most influential proponent of the land value tax, also known as the "single tax" on land...

 in Economics," and her Ph.D.
A Ph.D. is a Doctor of Philosophy, an academic degree.Ph.D. may also refer to:* Ph.D. , a 1980s British group*Piled Higher and Deeper, a web comic strip*PhD: Phantasy Degree, a Korean comic series* PhD Docbook renderer, an XML renderer...

 in 1910. Her dissertation was adapted by Columbia University Press
Columbia University Press
Columbia University Press is a university press based in New York City, and affiliated with Columbia University. It is currently directed by James D. Jordan and publishes titles in the humanities and sciences, including the fields of literary and cultural studies, history, social work, sociology,...

 and published in book form as The Present Status of Socialism in America, for which the prominent British-born socialist John Spargo
John Spargo
John Spargo was a British-born American socialist political activist, orator, and writer who later became a renowned expert in the history and crafts of Vermont...

 wrote the introduction. The book was later reissued by a commercial publisher under a slightly revised title.

Hughan made her professional career as an educator, teaching in a series of public and private
Private school
Private schools, also known as independent schools or nonstate schools, are not administered by local, state or national governments; thus, they retain the right to select their students and are funded in whole or in part by charging their students' tuition, rather than relying on mandatory...

 schools following her graduation from Columbia with her A.M. degree in 1899. She first taught in schools in Naugatuck, Connecticut
Naugatuck, Connecticut
Naugatuck is a consolidated borough and town in New Haven County, Connecticut, United States. The town spans both sides of the Naugatuck River just south of Waterbury, and includes the communities of Union City on the east side of the river, which has its own post office, Straitsville on the...

 and White Plains, New York
White Plains, New York
White Plains is a city and the county seat of Westchester County, New York, United States. It is located in south-central Westchester, about east of the Hudson River and northwest of Long Island Sound...

 before returning to New York City in the early 1900s to complete her doctorate. Following her graduate work, she taught in a number of high schools throughout New York City, primarily in Brooklyn
Brooklyn is the most populous of New York City's five boroughs, with nearly 2.6 million residents, and the second-largest in area. Since 1896, Brooklyn has had the same boundaries as Kings County, which is now the most populous county in New York State and the second-most densely populated...

. In the 1920s, Hughan was in charge of the English Department at Textile High School, a position which she retained until her retirement from the profession in 1945.

Socialist activism

Jessie Wallace Hughan joined the Socialist Party of America
Socialist Party of America
The Socialist Party of America was a multi-tendency democratic-socialist political party in the United States, formed in 1901 by a merger between the three-year-old Social Democratic Party of America and disaffected elements of the Socialist Labor Party which had split from the main organization...

 (SPA) in 1907.

Hughan's primary place in the socialist movement was as an officer of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society
Intercollegiate Socialist Society
The Intercollegiate Socialist Society was the a Socialist student organization from 1905-1921. It attracted many prominent intellectuals and writers and acted as the unofficial Socialist Party of America student wing...

 (ISS), an independent organization established by author Upton Sinclair
Upton Sinclair
Upton Beall Sinclair Jr. , was an American author who wrote close to one hundred books in many genres. He achieved popularity in the first half of the twentieth century, acquiring particular fame for his classic muckraking novel, The Jungle . It exposed conditions in the U.S...

 in 1905 to provide a venue of topics related to socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

, pro and con, by university students across America. Hughan was elected to the Executive Committee of the ISS in 1907 and served continuously in that capacity until the end of the organization in 1921, continuing in a similar capacity in its successor organization, the League for Industrial Democracy
League for Industrial Democracy
The League for Industrial Democracy , from 1960-1965 known as the Students for a Democratic Society , was founded in 1905 by a group of notable socialists including Harry W. Laidler, Jack London, Norman Thomas, Upton Sinclair, and J.G. Phelps Stokes...

 (LID) through 1925. She also served as Vice President of the ISS from 1920 to 1921. Other so-called adult leaders of the ISS during this interval included Morris Hillquit
Morris Hillquit
Morris Hillquit was a founder and leader of the Socialist Party of America and prominent labor lawyer in New York City's Lower East Side during the early 20th century.-Early years:...

, J.G. Phelps Stokes, Harry W. Laidler
Harry W. Laidler
Harry Wellington Laidler was an American socialist functionary, writer, magazine editor, and politician. He is best remembered as Executive Director of the League for Industrial Democracy, successor to the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, and for his close political association with perennial...

, as well as founding father Upton Sinclair.

In 1913, the ISS commissioned Hughan to write a book on the principles of socialism to serve as a text for study and discussion by the various chapters of the organization. The resulting publication, a tome called Facts of Socialism, was an influential text among the young intellectuals who participated in the Intercollegiate Socialist Society's activities, a group which included peace activist Devere Allen, journalist Heywood Broun
Heywood Broun
Heywood Campbell Broun, Jr. was an American journalist. He worked as a sportswriter, newspaper columnist, and editor in New York City. He founded the American Newspaper Guild, now known as The Newspaper Guild. Born in Brooklyn, New York, he is best remembered for his writing on social issues and...

, researcher and American Civil Liberties Union
American Civil Liberties Union
The American Civil Liberties Union is a U.S. non-profit organization whose stated mission is "to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States." It works through litigation, legislation, and...

 official Robert W. Dunn
Robert W. Dunn
Robert Williams "Bob" Dunn was an American political activist and economic researcher. Dunn was an active member of the American Civil Liberties Union from its creation, serving on that group's National Committee from 1923 and on its Board of Directors from 1933 to 1941...

, historian Herbert Feis
Herbert Feis
Herbert Feis was an American Author and former Economic Advisor for International Affairs to the Department of State in the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations....

, and publicist Walter Lippmann
Walter Lippmann
Walter Lippmann was an American intellectual, writer, reporter, and political commentator famous for being among the first to introduce the concept of Cold War...


Campaigns for electoral office

For over two decades, Jessie Wallace Hughan was a candidate for public office on the ticket of the Socialist Party of America. Her first foray into politics came in a 1915 bid for Alderman
New York City Council
The New York City Council is the lawmaking body of the City of New York. It has 51 members from 51 council districts throughout the five boroughs. The Council serves as a check against the mayor in a "strong" mayor-council government model. The council monitors performance of city agencies and...

 in 1915. It was perhaps the only race in which she ran in which she had a measurable chance of winning. Hughan ran for office not so much intending to win, but rather as a means of advancing socialist ideas to a broader public and to put pressure on elected officials to co-opt and implement ideas from the Socialist Party's political platform. Hughan therefore was unfazed by electoral defeat, instead running for a steadily escalating series of political offices.

Hughan ran for Secretary of State of New York
Secretary of State of New York
The Secretary of State of New York is a cabinet officer in the government of the U.S. state of New York.The current Secretary of State of New York is Cesar A...

 in 1918. In 1920, she ran for Lieutenant Governor of New York
Lieutenant Governor of New York
The Lieutenant Governor of New York is a constitutional office in the executive branch of the government of New York State. It is the second highest ranking official in state government. The lieutenant governor is elected on a ticket with the governor for a four year term...

 as a Socialist. The year 1922 marked Hughan's first bid for US Congress, an office which she sought four times — in 1922 in the New York 16th District; in 1924 in the New York 17th District; in 1928 in the New York 15th District; and in 1934 in the New York 15th District. In 1926 she took a break from her Congressional campaigns to launch a bid for election to the US Senate from New York. Hughan also ran for New York State Assembly
New York State Assembly
The New York State Assembly is the lower house of the New York State Legislature. The Assembly is composed of 150 members representing an equal number of districts, with each district having an average population of 128,652...

 in 1932 and 1938.

Hughan does not seem to have exited the Socialist Party with its so-called "Old Guard" faction in 1936 to join the Social Democratic Federation, instead remaining loyal to fellow radical pacifist Norman Thomas
Norman Thomas
Norman Mattoon Thomas was a leading American socialist, pacifist, and six-time presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America.-Early years:...

 despite the SPA's descent into factional war as the decade of the 1930s came to a close. Tellingly, neither did she run for elective office again after 1938.

Anti-War efforts

A deeply religious person, Jessie Wallace Hughan was a committed pacifist who spent the whole of her life fighting the spread of militarism in America. Following the eruption of the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 in the summer of 1914, Hughan felt herself called to action. In 1915 she organized the Anti-Enlistment League, with a headquarters in her apartment. Hughan and her associates were able to gather the signatures of some 3,500 men to a declaration opposing military enlistment with a view to demonstrating to American political leaders the unpopularity of the European war. She was a devoted opponent of the coordinated "Preparedness
Preparedness Movement
The Preparedness Movement, also referred to as the Preparedness Controversy, was a campaign led by Leonard Wood and Theodore Roosevelt to strengthen the military of the United States after the outbreak of World War I...

" campaign which emerged across the nation in 1915 and 1916.

American entry into the war in April 1917 spelled the end of the Anti-Enlistment League, with the government seizing the organization's files and records.

While she was never fired from her public school teaching positions for her political views, Hughan was called into suspicion in the eyes of some New York politicians. In 1919, Hughan was called before the Lusk Committee of the New York State Assembly
New York State Assembly
The New York State Assembly is the lower house of the New York State Legislature. The Assembly is composed of 150 members representing an equal number of districts, with each district having an average population of 128,652...

, a special committee convened to investigate and report upon radicalism in New York state. The Committee denied her the Certificate of Character and Loyalty due to her appending the words "This obedience being qualified always by dictates of conscience" to the state's teachers' oath.

Later in 1919, Hughan's name appeared with those of settlement house pioneer Jane Addams
Jane Addams
Jane Addams was a pioneer settlement worker, founder of Hull House in Chicago, public philosopher, sociologist, author, and leader in woman suffrage and world peace...

 and liberal journalist
A journalist collects and distributes news and other information. A journalist's work is referred to as journalism.A reporter is a type of journalist who researchs, writes, and reports on information to be presented in mass media, including print media , electronic media , and digital media A...

 Oswald Garrison Villiard on a list of 62 "dangerous radicals" presented to the Overman Committee
Overman Committee
The Overman Committee was a special subcommittee of the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary chaired by North Carolina Democrat Lee Slater Overman. Between September 1918 and June 1919, it investigated German and Bolshevik elements in the United States...

 of the U.S. Senate, the first congressional body charged with the investigation of radicalism in the United States.

Hughan sat on the National Council and was a member of the New York Executive Committee of the Fellowship of Reconciliation
Fellowship of Reconciliation
The Fellowship of Reconciliation is the name used by a number of religious nonviolent organizations, particularly in English-speaking countries...

, a religious pacifist organization, from 1920 to 1923. In 1923, she helped to organize a new anti-militarist group, the War Resisters League
War Resisters League
The War Resisters League was formed in 1923 by men and women who had opposed World War I. It is a section of the London-based War Resisters' International.Many of the founders had been jailed during World War I for refusing military service...

 (WRL), over which she presided as Secretary from the time of its formation. The intent behind the WRL was to provide an organizational framework for opponents of militarism who had no traditional religious basis for their pacifist beliefs. The organization of the WRL was supported by other pacifist groups, including the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Women's Peace Society
Women's Peace Society
The Women's Peace Society was created on September 12, 1919, when a group of women that included Fanny Garrison Villard, Elinor Byrns, Katherine Devereaux Blake, and Caroline Lexow Babcock resigned from the executive committee of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom because they...

, and the Women's Peace Union
Women's Peace Union
Women's Peace Union was organized by Caroline Lenox Babcock and Elinor Byrns in 1921 with the outset to work within the United States political system to outlaw war...


In 1938, with another war looking in Europe, Hughan organized a new umbrella organization
Umbrella organization
An umbrella organization is an association of institutions, who work together formally to coordinate activities or pool resources. In business, political, or other environments, one group, the umbrella organization, provides resources and often an identity to the smaller organizations...

 known as the United Pacifist Committee, designed to coordinate the educational and political activities of sundry pacifist groups. She helped with the organization of public demonstrations, including a series of "No More War" parades in New York City, and was a vigorous opponent of the return to military conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 in 1940. She continued to serve as Secretary of the War Resisters League continuously through the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 in 1945, at which time she stepped down to become the group's "Honorary Secretary." She continued to remain active on the governing Executive Committee of the WRL.

Death and legacy

Jessie Wallace Hughan retired in 1945. She stayed active in the War Resisters League as a member of the organization's Executive Committee until her death on April 10, 1955. She was 79 years old at the time of her passing. She was survived by her sister Evelyn Hughan, with whom she had lived during her entire adult life, as well as her sister Marjorie Hughan Rockwell and Marjorie's four children, with whom Jessie was extremely close.

The two organizations which Hughan helped to found, Alpha Omicron Pi sorority and the War Resisters League, continue as vital and established institutions into the 21st Century. Both of these organizations remember Hughan's name and her role in their formation. Alpha Omicron Pi annually awards a prize known as the Jessie Wallace Hughan Cup to the organization's outstanding chapter.


  • The Present Status of Socialism in America. Introduction by John Spargo. New York: Columbia University Press, 1911. Reissued as American Socialism of the Present Day. New York: John Lane Co., 1911.
  • The Facts of Socialism. New York: John Lane Co., 1913.
  • The Socialism of To-Day: A Source-book of the Present Position and Recent Development of the Socialist and Labor Parties in all Countries, Consisting Mainly of Original Documents. With Harry Laidler, J.G. Phelps Stokes, and William English Walling
    William English Walling
    William English Walling was an American labor reformer and socialist born in Louisville, Kentucky. He was the grandson of William Hayden English, the Democratic candidate for vice president in 1880, and was born into wealth. He was educated at the University of Chicago and at Harvard Law School...

    . New York: Henry Holt, 1920.
  • What is War Resistance? New York: War Resisters League, n.d. [1920s].
  • A Study of International Government. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1923. Reissued in London by Harrap, 1924.
  • What Is Socialism? New York: Vanguard Press
    Vanguard Press
    The Vanguard Press was a United States publishing house established with a $100,000 grant from the left wing American Fund for Public Service, better known as the Garland Fund. Throughout the 1920s, Vanguard Press issued an array of books on radical topics, including studies of the Soviet Union,...

    , 1928.
  • The Challenge of Mars, and Other Verses. New York: [Jessie Wallace Hughan], 1932.
  • The Beginnings of War Resistance. New York: War Resisters League, 1937.
  • What about Spain? New York: War Resisters League, 1937.
  • If We Should Be Invaded: Facing a Fantastic Hypothesis. New York: War Resisters League, 1939.
  • Pacifism and Invasion. New York: War Resisters League, 1942.
  • Three Decades of War Resistance. New York: War Resisters League, 1942.
  • A Preface to Post-War. New York: War Resisters League, 1943.
  • Why Not Peace in 1944? New York: War Resisters League, 1944.
  • New Leagues for Old: Blueprints or Foundations? New York: Plowshare Press, n.d. [c. 1945].

Further reading

  • Scott H. Bennett, Radical Pacifism: The War Resisters League and Gandhian Nonviolence in America, 1915-1963. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2003.
  • Charles Chatfield, For Peace and Justice: Pacifism in America, 1914-1941. Knoxville: University of Kentucky Press, 1971.
  • Lawrence S. Wittner, Rebels Against War: The American Peace Movement, 1941-1960. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1985.

External links

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