Fall 2022 Utah Historical Quarterly
American history has witnessed many points of transition and transformation. Among the most remarkable moments of change in the nation’s modern past is that time known as the Progressive Era: those years from the late nineteenth century until the 1910s when Americans faced their brawling, industrializing nation with a clutch of laws and reforms meant to safeguard children, workers, or women; when professionalization came to a host of occupations and group activities flourished; when women became increasingly present in the public sphere. And in this issue of Utah Historical Quarterly—with its emphasis on twentieth-century professional associations, child-centered advocacy, and labor rights—we see the saplings of the Progressive Era bearing fruit.
Susan Rugh opens the issue with an analysis of three Utah men who tapped into the growing prosperity of postwar America by founding lodging chains. As she explains, the creation of these little empires was not simply a matter of building motels along the West’s new highways, but rather a story of how the investment of capital and labor—especially family labor—combined with the development of business groups to lay the framework “for an extensive western hospitality network.” The organizations the Utah moteliers nurtured “were a crucial step in the metamorphosis of the lodging industry from small, family-owned motels to the later dominance of the nationwide motel chains like Holiday Inn.”
Our second article steps back to the charged and difficult years of the Great Depression. In it, Linda Zabriskie examines the role of Senator Elbert Thomas on the La Follette Civil Liberties Committee, which investigated the illegal use of spies, weapons, and more to discourage laborers from unionizing. Thomas’s experiences years earlier, as a major in the Utah National Guard, prepared him for his role as the committee’s co-chair, and his kindly, cerebral performance in the hearings elevated his national stature. In this year of 2022, when Americans from Amazon employees to Starbucks baristas have begun to unionize, the work of Thomas and the La Follette committee is entirely relevant.
Next, Sarah Langsdon pieces together a history at once heartbreaking and hopeful, with her telling of how a murder case involving a young boy galvanized women’s clubs in Ogden to fight for a better juvenile justice system. Difficult family dynamics underlay fourteen-year-old Ray Clough’s murder of his father in 1920; those same dynamics meant the teen had no place to stay but the local jail, with adult criminals, while he awaited trial. Well-heeled women who had already taken on the role of “child savers” responded by advocating for Clough and crusading for the establishment of an appropriate juvenile detention center. The effort took decades but succeeded in the end.
Like the women who advocated for Ray Clough, Claire Haines navigated a public world that was not entirely accepting of women. Like the men who established motel chains in the mountain West, Haines knew the importance of business clubs and associations. In 1923, Hannah Claire Haines became the first female certified public accountant in Utah. As David Hales and Alison McNeal relate, her path was one of professional success, marked by more than a little gender-based discrimination. Haines’s career stretched from the 1910s to the 1970s, and despite her difficulties, she gathered a tidy personal fortune and dedicated it to furthering the cause of education—especially for women.
Christine Cooper-Rompato closes this issue with her account of a woman who bridged the private and public worlds of the late nineteenth century with remarkable skill: Kate Barron Buck, musician, mother, fabric artist, and dentist, seemingly all at once.