The Minute Women of the USA

LEADER IN ANTI-COMMUNISM SLATES LECTURE HERE FRIDAY” reads the title of an article of the Austin American, published in 1952.

Reporting the visit of Mrs. Suzanne Silvercruys, later Stevenson, founder and president of the Minute Women of the USA, the Austin American article introduces Mrs. Silvercruys’ as a woman of prestige: “daughter of late Baron Silvercruys, president of the Supreme Court of Belgium… she was made Knight of Leopold at the age of 20 for her work during the war… she is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts of Great Britain and has received an honorary degree of doctor of humane letters from Temple University.”[1] Silvercruys’ respected reputation bolstered the organization’s credibility, reflected in its predominantly middle-upper- and upper-class membership. The Minute Women were generally housewives with spare time to dedicate to the cause; “it simply gave some conservative upper-middle-class women something to do.”[2]

The goals of the Minute Women were relatively straightforward: mobilizing women in defence of traditional American livelihoods at risk of a communist takeover. The Minute Women’s focus is clear: “to demand the removal of supports of socialism and communism in federal and state governments and in the educational system”[3], yet it is their unique method that proves most effective in fighting communism in the US.

As discussed by Mary Brennan in her work Wives, Mothers and the Red Menace, the Minute Women acted independently, in an individualistic structure. In separating the organization from an overarching political movement or party (despite their obvious Republican loyalty), the women created a secure support system amongst their local communities, connecting each chapter via a network of telephone calls. With thousands of women across 27 national chapters, the Minute Women reported communist activity to their senior using a series of five phone numbers to encourage a “rapid dissemination of information through a national network.”[4]

The underground and anonymous nature of this framework saw Minute Women become “self-appointed anti-communist watchdogs in communities throughout the United States,”[5] – changing what it meant for women to be an activists. Passionate anti-communists needn’t damage their femininity with protests, public meetings and outcries but could simply act as wardens for their communities.


References:

[1] “Leader of Anti-Communism Slates Lecture Here Friday.” The Austin American (1914 – 1972). Jun 01, 1952. https://colorado.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.colorado.idm.oclc.org/docview/1610007280?accountid=14503

[2] Don. E. Carlton, Red Scare: Right-Wing Hysteria, Fifties Fanaticism, and Their Legacy in Texas, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014), 113.

[3] “Leader of Anti-Communism Slates Lecture Here Friday.” https://colorado.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.colorado.idm.oclc.org/docview/1610007280?accountid=14503

[4] Mary Brennan, Wives, Mothers and the Red Menace: Conservative Women and the Crusade against Communism, (Boulder: University of Colorado Press, 2008), 39.

[5] Carlton, Red Scare, 113.