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Passionate Commitments

The Lives of Anna Rochester and Grace Hutchins

Julia M. Allen

Publication Year: 2013

A story of two twentieth-century American women whose love for each other fueled their work to create an egalitarian world.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. 8-9


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

Passionate Commitments recovers two life stories that, as told here, emphasize intersections between histories that are not often treated together—the history of the American Left, women’s histories, and queer histories. Grace Hutchins and Anna Rochester, born into wealthy nineteenth-century East Coast families, spent the first half of the twentieth century in love with one another and at work agitating for social and economic justice. ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

One of the particular gifts of this project has been the friendships I have made in the course of the research. Anna Rochester and Grace Hutchins have led me into circles of especially kind and interesting people. To all of the people whom I have met during this process: you have enriched my life immeasurably, and I am most grateful. ...

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pp. 1-11

In 1995, I came upon the papers of Anna Rochester (1880–1966) and Grace Hutchins (1885–1969) in the Special Collections at the University of Oregon. Filed among copious materials on the structures of capitalism and women in the labor force were eloquent expressions of devotion—letters, poems, notes—offering a glimpse of the forty-five year partnership of Rochester and Hutchins. I wanted to know more about these women, whose ...

Part One: Beginnings

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Chapter One: 1919

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pp. 15-23

Grace Hutchins and Anna Rochester first met in August 1919 at the annual conference of the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross (SCHC).1 An Episcopal laywomen’s organization, the SCHC gave Rochester and Hutchins two indivisible freedoms: the freedom to form a committed partnership with each other and the freedom, indeed, the necessity, to devote themselves to creating a more just society. ...

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Chapter Two: Anna Rochester

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pp. 25-43

Anna Rochester was born on March 30, 1880, in New York City, into a family tracing itself back to the founding of Rochester, New York.1 Anna’s father, Roswell Hart Rochester, went to work for the Western Union Telegraph Company in 1865. Six years later, at age 32, he was appointed treasurer of the company. He was, according to a historian of the telegraph industry, “a man of marked character, direct, outspoken, brusque. . . . No officer ...

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Chapter Three: Grace Hutchins

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pp. 45-63

Although Susan Hutchins was as devoted to her children as Anna Rochester’s mother was to Anna, she did not leave us a narrative of Grace’s early life. Instead, she chronicled the deaths of Grace’s two older sisters, ages six and three, from diphtheria, just before and after the Christmas of 1887. Grace, two years old, survived, and she continued to commemorate these dates decades later, sending her mother flowers each year. This pattern of ...

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Chapter Four: Community Consciousness

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pp. 65-85

Grace Hutchins and Anna Rochester found each other in the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross, but it was the combined influence of the SCHC and the activist Church League for Industrial Democracy that drew them together in a common purpose—and ultimately a partnership—giving their lives a meaning each had been seeking. One December evening in 1920, Hutchins, then 35, and Rochester, 40, had dinner with Horace Fort, a ...

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Chapter Five: Into the World

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pp. 87-103

Community House allowed Hutchins and Rochester to cement their partnership as they moved away from charitable work and into the world. Yet Community House could not last. There would be no rings, no lasting commitments to a community of women. Economically, the household was not viable. What’s more, the Episcopal Church, at the core of the community, had proved resistant to the changes that had inspired the household’s ...

Part Two: Love and Work

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Chapter Six: Love Requires a New Form

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pp. 107-124

The trip would provide the most significant conversion of Rochester’s and Hutchins’s lives, although both had experienced several reorientations before this. Their 1927 conversion was not an epiphany, nor was it the result of a planned incongruity; rather, it was dialectical change on fast forward, new insights occurring on an almost daily basis. ...

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Chapter Seven: Worker Journalists

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pp. 125-142

Hutchins and Rochester set sail for the United States from Southampton on the Cunard line R.M.S. Carmania on July 9, 1927, “restless for home.” “It’s high time we were back at work,” Rochester wrote to Sally Cleghorn.1 Although they had never stopped working, sending back articles and dispatches from many points of the globe, what Rochester and Hutchins longed for now was a new organizational home, a new community. But ...

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Chapter Eight: Love and Work

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pp. 143-166

Building the party press, “clearing a path in the wilderness,” meant more than simply setting up mechanisms for printing and distribution, although these mechanisms were vital— and expensive. Activists around the world debated larger rhetorical questions of language and format. Rochester and Hutchins had struggled with these questions during their years with the FOR and The World Tomorrow; now they confronted them again, offering their ...

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Chapter Nine: Revolutionary Change

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pp. 167-184

Hutchins and Rochester had, by now, established a rhythm of research, writing, and reviewing, with syncopation provided by demonstrations, meetings, and elections, all working against the swastika-draped silence. The LRA attracted volunteers, many from the Pen and Hammer Clubs, young men and women who brought their college-honed research and writing skills to bear on the deteriorating social and economic conditions.1 Herbert ...

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Chapter Ten: Twentieth-Century Americanism

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pp. 185-199

Rochester’s affections had shifted irrevocably away from Vida Scudder and her efforts to create theological and political synthesis. Without abandoning Scudder entirely, Rochester, along with Hutchins, had become a devotee of labor activist and CPUSA organizer Mother Bloor, signing on as a sponsor for her forty-fifth anniversary banquet.1 With Bloor, they honored the achievements of women labor activists and recommitted themselves to the ...

Part Three: Legacies

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Chapter Eleven: War against Fascism

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pp. 203-225

Tension was building, with international and homegrown fascist aggression, the trials in Moscow, and unexplained disappearances. Although Hutchins and Rochester continued to write and publish new feminist and economic arguments in response to the varying exigencies of the times, they were increasingly buffeted by political storms arising from Europe and Asia, and their arguments grew less and less effective. What’s more, their ...

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Chapter Twelve: Love and Loyalty

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pp. 227-244

Anna Rochester and Grace Hutchins had committed themselves to intervening rhetorically at the point of struggle, but as the war progressed and capitalist and socialist countries allied themselves against fascism, locating the point of struggle for workers in the United States became increasingly difficult. In June 1943, as a means of promoting good will and cooperation among the antifascist countries, the Communist International dissolved itself. ...

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Chapter Thirteen: Cold War at Home

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pp. 245-264

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and ...

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Chapter Fourteen: "Purpose: Keep the Group Going"

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pp. 265-281

During the latter years of Rochester’ and Hutchins’s lives, as their own energy and health began to fail, they struggled against forces determined to ensure that the institutions of free speech and publication that they had helped to build would fail as well. Within a polarized postwar American society, Rochester and Hutchins worked to maintain space for voices challenging capitalism, racism, and sexism. The battle became primarily a financial ...

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pp. 283-285

“Dear dear Grace,” wrote Eleanor Stevenson and Ruth Erickson, upon learning of Rochester’s death, “We were shocked and saddened when we read in The Worker today that our dear Anna left us on Wednesday. In a sense we two felt we had ‘lost’ her when she no longer remembered us—but the loss to you must be great, and we are deeply concerned about you—Do let us know how you are, and when you can make plans, tell us what you ...


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pp. 287-336


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pp. 337-353


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pp. 355-364

E-ISBN-13: 9781438446899
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438446875

Page Count: 378
Publication Year: 2013