Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

BLOOR, ELLA R. (1862-1951)

Ella Reeve "Mother" Bloor was a feminist and labor organizer who dedicated her life to the cause of America's industrial workers and farmers. She was born on Staten Island, New York, on July 8, 1862, and brought up in comfortable upper-middle-class circumstances. As a young woman she was drawn to the suffrage and prohibition movements, and after 1902 she devoted herself to labor issues, investigating, for example, the Chicago meatpacking industry and demonstrating for the rights of working women and their children. In 1919 she broke with the Socialist Party because many in its ranks supported World War I, and she joined the newly formed American Communist Party.

In 1929 the Communist Party sent Bloor, then sixty-seven years old, to work with farmers in North and South Dakota. For the next five years much of her focus was in the Great Plains. In 1930 Bloor married North Dakota farmer and fellow Communist Andrew Omholt, and a year later she joined the United Farmers League as an organizer in the Dakotas and Montana. The United Farmers League fought bank foreclosures and organized mass demonstrations, often with Bloor literally leading the parade. When the unrest spread into Iowa and Nebraska as the "Farmers Holiday" movement grew, Bloor continued her role as featured speaker, especially during the dramatic Milk Strike of 1932 in Sioux City, Iowa. She frequently worked alongside her oldest son and party comrade, Hal Ware. In 1934, while protesting on behalf of striking women chicken pluckers in Loup City, Nebraska, Bloor was arrested for the thirty-sixth and final time in her long career. In 1935, after multiple appeals failed, the then seventy-three-year-old woman served thirty days in an Omaha jail–an event that received much sympathetic press even in mainstream publications.

Hailed in a 1937 Life magazine piece as the "grand old woman of the U.S. Communist party," Bloor spent her final active years fighting fascism at home and abroad. She died in Richlandtown, Pennsylvania, on August 10, 1951.

Kathleen Banks Nutter Smith College

Bloor, Ella Reeve. Papers. Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton MA.

Bloor, Ella Reeve. We Are Many. New York: International Publishers, 1940.

Dyson, Lowell K. Red Harvest: The Communist Party and American Farmers. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1982.

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