Portrait of Julia Ruuttila
Secretary of the "Free Ray Becker" Committee
Julia "Kathleen" Ruuttila (1907-1991) was a Portland journalist and left-wing political activist whose career spanned six decades. She took her unusual last name from her Finnish third husband. Ruuttilla often wrote stories, articles and poems under the pen name Kathleen Cronin, which she used to honor her Irish heritage.
Ruuttila's father, John Godman, had been a member of the Wobblies—a radical labor organization-and her mother Ella was a socialist and suffragist. Ruuttilla herself was active in a variety of liberal and radical causes. After witnessing in her childhood the poor working conditions in Oregon logging camps, Ruuttila headed the Woodworkers' Ladies Auxiliary, which supported striking workers in the timber industry. She was part of a committee that worked for the release of Ray Becker, a Wobblies activist who had been convicted in the 1919 slaying of five men who were killed during a labor demonstration in Centralia, Washington. While Becker was never exonerated, his sentenced was commuted, and he was released from prison. (In the photograph, Ruuttila wears a bracelet that Becker made for her while in prison.)
For advocating on behalf of African American families who lost their homes in the 1948 Vanport flood, Ruuttila lost her position with the Oregon Public Welfare Commission. Ruuttila also demonstrated against the war in Vietnam and agitated for a unilateral freeze on nuclear proliferation.
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