Grace Wick Protests
Unemployment (1935) & Retirement Benefits (1957)
OrHi 81084 & CN 018397
"If Eve's fig leaves, I hope the barrel stays"—so says was one of dozens of slogans decorating the barrel shown in the photograph above. In May 1935, Grace Wick (1888-1958) protested her unemployment by walking around in downtown Portland, clad only in this barrel. "The New Deal of Oregon stinks!" reads another of the stickers.
Outspoken and controversial, Wick was a writer, actor, teacher and political activist who moved to southern Oregon from the East Coast in 1922 and then to Portland in 1927. In 1922 she was instrumental in getting Democrat Walter Pierce elected governor of Oregon. She fell out with Pierce in 1925, however, when he refused to stay the execution of a man whose parents she had befriended in Jacksonville. This conflict influenced Wick to speak out against Pierce in his unsuccessful re-election campaign and may have soured her opinion of the Democratic Party.
Nevertheless, Wick remained in the party after Pierce's defeat, and in 1934 she ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Congress as a "Progressive Democrat." It was Roosevelt's New Deal—which she later called the "screw deal"—that turned her away from the Democrats for good. As an advocate for retirees and the unemployed, she initially supported the New Deal, but Roosevelt's administration failed to back a bill she favored that would have paid for assistance to the poor by taxing people with yearly incomes of over $5000. She left the party and in 1936 again ran unsuccessfully for Congress, this time as an Independent.
After leaving the Democratic Party, Wick became drawn to the political right wing, adopting positions that were anti-immigrant, isolationist and anti-Semitic.
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