Edith Wynner, Firecracker
“Is there a Jew in the House?”
Thus began a meeting of the “Great Pro-American Mass Meeting in Behalf of Free Speech and Americanism,” a gathering of several anti-immigrant, anti-Communist, reactionary organizations, on May 24, 1939. The crowd, turned away from their first meeting location at Carnegie Hall, had re-congregated at the Great Northern Hotel a few doors down 57th street. Police swarmed the lobby, shouts went around to “keep the newspapers out,” and journalists were violently jostled aside. The individual who delivered the threatening question above soon turned on a young man, menacing towards him until the man protested that he was Italian, not Jewish. Among those present at this nationalistic rally were speakers for the American Patriots, Inc; the Christian Front; the American Nationalist Party…and a diminutive, pacifist Hungarian Jew, Edith Wynner.
Ms. Wynner, who began her career in the United States as personal secretary to peace activist Madame Rosika Schwimmer, soon developed into an advocate and lobbyist for world peace. Following the lead of her mentor Schwimmer, she believed the best means of sustaining peace would be the creation of a federal world government, directly elected by the people.
Over the course of her career, Ms. Wynner ran the New York office of the Campaign for World Government (pdf), co-wrote a book on peace plans throughout history (from 1306 to 1944!), wrote articles for pacifist and world government publications, and eventually ended her career as advisor and custodian to the Schwimmer-Lloyd Collection at (none other than) the New York Public Library.
What was Ms. Wynner doing at this meeting of wolves? Taking notes. She prided herself on keeping abreast of the actions of her ideological enemies. Far from fearing bullies, she felt she could hold her own. A firecracker indeed.