Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

MARTISON, HENRY (1883-1981)

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on March 6, 1883, Henry Martinson became one of the most prominent figures in the North Dakota labor movement. After trying to farm a homestead in Minnesota, Martinson moved to Minot, North Dakota, in 1907 and became a painter. After reading several labor tracts, he became a socialist and began to write for the labor newspaper Iconoclast. He rose to become its editor. He served as secretary of the state Socialist Party until its collapse in 1918, then recruited members for the Nonpartisan League. He remained active in the labor movement and in 1937 was appointed the deputy commissioner of labor for North Dakota. He held the position for twenty-eight years, fighting to improve labor conditions.

After losing his state position in 1965, Martinson remained active as secretary of the Trades and Labor Assembly in Fargo, and he began preserving the early history of labor in the state. He wrote a brief History of North Dakota Labor in 1970, expanding on this in articles in North Dakota History and in contributions to the film documentaries Prairie Fire (1977) and Northern Lights (1978). He also wrote and published poetry with regional themes. In 1975 he was named poet laureate of North Dakota. Martinson sought public offiqce many times, always on a socialist platform. He commented wryly late in life that while he should have won these contests, he lacked the votes. Active in the cause of labor to the last, he died in Fargo on November 20, 1981.

See also FILM: Northern Lights .

Terry L. Shoptaugh Moorhead State University

Martinson, Henry. Comes the Revolution: A Personal Memoir of the Socialist Movement in North Dakota. Fargo: n.p., 1969.

Martinson, Henry. Papers. University of North Dakota Library, Grand Forks ND.

Martinson, Henry. Village Commune Barefoot Boy. Fargo ND: n.p., 1976.

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