Museum the New Llano Colony

Kate Richards O'Hare

Birth: She was born March 26, 1876, in Ottawa County, Kansas in a typical sod-walled prairie cabin.  

Family Information: Married to Frank O'Hare.

Mother of Richard, Kathleen, Eugene and Victor (the last two being twins named after Eugene Victor Debs, a good friend of Kate's.)


Pre-Colony History: Kate had worked briefly as a teacher in Nebraska before returning to Kansas to become an apprentice machinist. There she was drawn into Socialist politics, attended Walter Thomas Mills' school for Socialist workers at Girard, Kansas, and became popular throughout the country as a well-known speaker.

While she was at the Mills school, she met Francis P. O'Hare and they were married at Crawford, Kansas in 1902. By 1910 they had four children and were living in Kansas.

In 1917 at an Emergency Convention called by the Socialist Party, she was selected, along with Job Harriman to serve on the "War and Militarism" committee. Another future colonist, W.R. Gaylord, was selected to serve on the "Constitution" committee.

Also in 1917 she visited the California colony and told them that she'd been asked by three large agricultural publications to investigate Llano's system of co-operative farming. While she was there, she spoke on the war in general, but also expressed herself as being more than pleased with the accomplishments of the colony which demonstrated what "Socialism Applied" can achieve.

In 1918 she was imprisoned under the Espionage Act of 1917 for speaking against the war and served 14 months in the Missouri State Penitentiary until her sentence was finally commuted by President Woodrow Wilson. After her release, she became devoted to prison reform in America.

She and her husband, Frank had published the successful magazine, "National Ripsaw", before she was sent to prison. After her release they published the "American Vanguard" which also had a large, established circulation throughout the country.

Over the years the pair had become the most famous team of Socialist organizers in America. She achieved greater celebrity with her incisive writing and passionate speeches, although her success wouldn't have been possible without his genius for scheduling, managing, coaching and publicity.

Around 1923, when she and Frank joined the colony, they persuaded their old friend Professor William E. Zeuch to come to the colony to start his Commonwealth College.  

Home in Colony:  

Job in Colony: Kate visited the colony in January 1923 and made arrangements for the colony to publish the "American Vanguard" at no cost to the couple. However, for the first year, the O'Hare's would continue to collect any monies from the magazine, which would be used to pay off their existing debts of $8,000, but after that period of time, the magazine would become colony property in exchange for the membership fees for the O'Hare's and their children.

Also, she wrote a regular column for the "Llano Colonist" called Kuzbasing in Dixie and was one of three administrators for the Commonwealth College Association. The Association designated a teaching faculty of Job Harriman, Kate O'Hare, Howard Buck, F.M. Goodhue, Frank O'Hare, Wilbur C. Benton, Theodore Cuno, Ernest Wooster, Harold Z. Brown, Ivy Van Etten, and Zeuch.  

Other Info: Unfortunately, the college group were suspicious of George Pickett, who viewed the college as an adjunct to the colony, while Zeuch and the O'Hare's seemed to look at the colony as a sort of school farm. Fights over priorities were immediate and vicious.

At the same time, Harriman and Pickett were struggling with a dispute over colony leadership. Both Harriman and Wooster had been returned to the colony Board of Directors upon their return, and both were in support of the O'Hares and the college group.

It soon became clear that coexistence with the Newllano colony would not be possible. The Harriman / college group located a new site in Ink, Arkansas, organized the Commonwealth Colony of the Ozarks and they and their supporters moved there over the next few months.

Struggles continued in Arkansas, however. The college group's priorities were again different from the colonists who had moved there to support them. Before the year was out, the college had relocated again, this time to Mena, Arkansas where it would remain until 1940.

Post-Colony History: Though Kate spoke at the Opening Ceremonies of the Commonwealth College over the next few years and remained as one of its teachers and directors, she had also continued her work with prison reform. Between 1924 and 1926 she lived in New York, while Frank had returned to St. Louis and never visited the Arkansas campus. She resumed her full-time residency at the college in 1926 and remained until 1928 when she left for the last time.

In 1928, having divorced Frank, she married Charles C. Cunningham, a San Francisco lawyer.

In 1934 she was active in Upton Sinclair's "End Poverty in California" (EPIC) campaign and in 1939-40 she was assistant director of the California Department of Penology. In 1940 she and Charles were still living in California.  

Death: She died in 1948 in Solano, California.  

Sources: US Census: 1900, 1910, 1920, 1940; Kansas County Marriage Records; "Northwest Worker": April 26, 1917; "Llano Colonist": (Story of Llano), March 25, 1933; "Radical Education in the Rural South; Commonwealth College 1922-1940" by William H. Cobb;; California Death Index  

Kate Richards O'Hare

Kate Richards O'Hare speaking to a crowd in St. Louis.

O'Hare family -- Back row -- Frank and Kate Richards O'Hare, in front are Richard and Kathleen with toddler twins Eugene and Victor.

Contact Us:


Copyright 2018 Museum of the New Llano Colony