2020 Presidential EndorsementOn March 11, 2020 by Elyse
You might not have heard, but the U.S. is in the midst of a teeny, tiny, not-at-all-consequential presidential election. And not everyone is excited about a field limited to three white, septuagenarian men.
If you’re on the verge of chucking your TV out the window next time you see a campaign ad, allow me to present an independent, dark horse candidate who won’t spend a cent on commercials—in fact, they’ve never heard of a television.
Second Glance History is proud to endorse. . . drum roll, please. . .
Mary McDowell! Haven’t seen her on the cable news shows yet? Allow me to introduce you. She’s as white as Sara Lee bread, and she makes the septuagenarians look young, but her unimpeachable record of public service has earned her my vote.
She was born in Ohio in 1854 and came of age in Chicago, where she’s devoted her life to alleviating poverty. She started young; during the Great Chicago Fire, 17-year-old McDowell reportedly “hitched the family horse to an old ‘Germantown’ wagon and helped many refugees to safety with their belongings.”
Among McDowell’s adult accomplishments is the opening of a settlement house in the city’s Back of the Yards neighborhood, notorious as the setting for Upton Sinclair’s seminal novel The Jungle. The organization offered kindergarten classes, vocational courses, bathing facilities, clubs, concerts, lectures and many other services for the largely immigrant, working class community. And I call myself a good citizen when I don’t litter.
Other highlights on her resume include leadership roles in the women’s suffrage movement, the Women’s Trade Union League, and the Illinois and the national League of Women Voters organizations.
Still not convinced? Read on for more about the candidate who’s won Second Glance History’s unprecedented and prestigious endorsement.
She’s nonpartisan and despises party politics.
A rarity in our polarized political climate, McDowell identifies as an independent and has supported candidates on both sides of the aisle, including Republican Theodore Roosevelt and Democrat Woodrow Wilson.
In fact, she has no patience for political parties at all:
Human life is the price of waste in the management of municipal affairs! . . . The first thing any city should do in its campaign for health is to eliminate party politics. Any intelligent man or woman, unhampered by politics, would know how to handle, sanely, almost any municipal housekeeping problem which affects the health of the community. Under the present conditions, a whole group of party politicians go poking along doing one dull thing after another and accomplish little or nothing!– Mary McDowell, quoted in the Day Book, October 27, 1913
She’s referring to city governments, but you can apply her words to your legislative body of choice.
She has a plan for that.
Step aside, Elizabeth Warren. McDowell knows what it takes to make America great—er, her campaign slogan is still a work in progress, but her vision is clear.
She has the best nicknames.
In a nod to her work in the neighborhoods surrounding Chicago’s infamous stockyards, McDowell has been called the “Stockyards Angel,” “Fighting Mary,” “Darling of the Packingtown,” “Kerosene Mary” and “Mother of the Stockyards.” Any of those would look great on a campaign button—with the exception of one less flattering moniker: “Angel of the Garbage Dump.”
Let’s make these hashtags trend: #SoarWithStockyardsAngel, #TeamKerosene, #FightingMary4Pres and #GOTVforGarbageDumpAngel.
(This is why I stick to longform writing.)
She has union support.
Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and the president are all keeping busy courting union support, but have any of them earned a testament quite like this?
When a Stockyards strike was organized and called by the chief of the butchers’ union in 1904. . . Miss McDowell, who saw clearly the direct relationship between the wages in the packing houses and the extremely low standard of living in the district, stood wholeheartedly with her neighbors in their struggle. She did more. She came out publicly on the side of the strikers. She was the only outstanding public person in the district to take and maintain this attitude. . .
Her public attitude regarding the strike at a time when the cleavage between sympathizers and objectors was deep and cut across many strata of city life, including the university circle, was the acid test of her loyalty. In spite of scathing criticisms and pressures from many sides, she maintained her position to the end and never faltered. This public declaration of opinion gave her status and prestige in labor circles thereafter.– Herbert E. Phillips, Mary McDowell and Municipal Housekeeping
In the stockyards strike of 1906, it was she who persuaded the strikers against violence; who helped the women to organize like the men; who went to their employers to negotiate agreements; and who explained to those to whom the social worker’s position in the issue was not clear: “Labor needs spokesmen; I think I could do no better than to stay here and do all in my power to make the public understand the human and social side of this industrial dispute.”– Resolution adopted by the Chicago Council of Social Agencies, January 23, 1937
She’s not afraid to stand up to politicians.
Chicago used to dump garbage in holes in the pavements in the stockyards district. The street commissioner said that garbage made fine pavements after it had been down a year or so, but in the meantime the odor made the stockyards smell like a perfume factory.
One bright morning Miss McDowell appeared at the mayor’s office. Bringing up the rear was a troop of foreign women [community members]. Through Miss McDowell they kicked about the garbage. The mayor patiently explained what nice pavements garbage made.
“All right, we want the rest of it dumped on Lake Shore drive. If it’s good for the stockyards it’s good for the drive, too,” said Miss McDowell.
Very fashionable folks dwell on that drive, you know, and so garbage was not used for paving purposes there, and—after that talk—it was not used in Packingtown any more either.– The Day Book, November 19, 1912
It wasn’t the last time the Angel of the Garbage Dump advocated for improved waste disposal. At a City Council hearing the next year, McDowell testified to the Committee on Health:
You have had a report that the present [waste] reduction plant is a good one. I visited it yesterday and saw millions upon millions of flies swarming on garbage lying exposed and rotting in the sun and sending its foul stench through the neighborhood to poison little babies.– Mary McDowell, quoted in the Day Book, July 8, 1913
If the hearing had been recorded, that colorful snippet alone would surely have made her go viral.
She has no vices.
Her only recreation is trimming hats. She really enjoys it.
“If the working girls and the workingmen’s wives and the children didn’t need me,” she explains, “I would spend all my time trimming the prettiest and most expensive hats ever seen.”– The Day Book, November 19, 1912
I’d like to see someone try to blackmail McDowell with a dossier on hat trimming.
McDowell hasn’t qualified for any debates yet, and since she passed away in 1936, she’s unlikely to be onstage anytime soon. Still, it’s all about grassroots support. If you have an election coming up, show up to the voting booth, and if you don’t see McDowell’s name on the ballot. . . well, you’re already there, so you might as well vote for whoever you believe is the next best candidate. Happy primary season, folks.
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Welcome to Second Glance History! This blog seeks to uncover the people and the stories forgotten by history and give them another read through a modern lens. Join me every week as we examine the differences that divide and the common threads that connect the then to the now.