Friday, August 18, 2006

Notes: Sticking to the Union (Julia Ruuttila)

I finished reading Sticking to the Union: An Oral History of the Life and Times of Julia Ruuttila, by Sandy Polishuk. Julia Ruuttila lived from 1907 to 1991 and was fiercely devoted to labor activism throughout her life. She lived much of her life in Portland, OR. She recalled some anecdotes of Dr. Equi's involvement in disseminating information about birth control and in progressive politics.

As an oral history, the book mainly employs Julia's own voice to tell her story. There are also notes that provide background to the times and issues. I learned a lot about US history - in particular about the Centralia Tragedy of 1919. Fifteen years later, one of the IWW men who was wrongfully convicted in the case was still in prison. Julia led a Free Ray Becker Committee, traveled around the area as an investigator to take testimony from the surviving witnesses. On September 20, 1939, the Governor Clarence Martin commuted Ray Becker's sentence to time served (18 years, 3 months).

Throughout the book Julia Ruuttila speaks with a clear voice of reason, intelligence, and hope. She was a hard-working reporter for the labor press and a poet and novelist on top of that. She tells the story of the men in her life and the difficult circumstances that she faced.