Finding aid to the Violet Orr oral history, 1919-1976 (bulk 1976), MS 3516

Finding aid prepared by Marie Silva
California Historical Society
678 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA, 94105-4014
(415) 357-1848
reference@calhist.org
2011


Title: Violet Orr oral history
Date (inclusive): 1919-1976
Date (bulk): 1976
Collection Identifier: MS 3516
Creator: Orr, Violet.
Extent: Transcript: 2 folders (0.1 linear feet); Tapes: 15 audiocassettes
Contributing Institution: California Historical Society
678 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA, 94105-4014
(415) 357-1848
reference@calhist.org
URL: http://www.californiahistoricalsociety.org/
Location of Materials: Collection is stored onsite.
Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English.
The sound recording from this collection was digitized by the California Audiovisual Preservation Project (CAVPP).
Abstract: Transcript and sound recording of Lucille Kendall's 1976 interviews with Violet Orr, including a brief interview with Violet's husband Paul Orr; an interview history; and one folder of Orr family papers and photographs, dated from 1919 to 1976. The interviews document Violet Orr's childhood and marriage; her trip with Paul Orr to the Soviet Union in the 1920s; her activities as a Communist Party organizer in the 1930s and '40s in California, including her involvement in the San Francisco laundry workers' union and work for the radical newspaper, the People's World; and the Orrs' experiences during the post-war Red Scare.

Access

Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

Copyright has been assigned to California Historical Society. Materials in these collections are protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) and may not be used without permission of California Historical Society. Use may be restricted by terms of CHS gift or purchase agreements, privacy and publicity rights, licensing terms, and trademarks. All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from, or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the Director of Library and Archives, North Baker Research Library, California Historical Society, 678 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105. Restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Violet Orr oral history, MS 3516, California Historical Society.

Separated Materials

The original sound recording from which the Orr oral history was transcribed is stored separately on cassettes 30.1-30.15.
Photographic portraits of Violet and Paul Orr have been removed to the California Historical Society's Portrait Collection.

Related Collections and Materials

Related Collections
The following oral histories were prepared by Lucille Kendall in her effort to document the lives of women labor activists and radicals for the California Historical Society's "Women in California Collection":
Clemmie Shuck Barry oral history, MS 3251
Dorothy Elizabeth De Losada oral history, MS 3522
Elaine Black Yoneda oral history, MS 3524
Helene Powell oral history, MS 3518
Katherine Rodin oral history, MS 3517
Louise Lambert oral history, MS 3520
Marion Brown Sills oral history, MS 3525
Mildred Edmondson oral history, MS 3523
Sonia Baltrun Kaross oral history, MS 3515
The following oral histories were prepared under the auspices of "The Twentieth Century Trade Union Woman: Vehicle for Social Change," a project of the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, The University of Michigan-Wayne State University:
Angela Ward oral history, MS 3536
Caroline Decker Gladstein oral history, MS 3025
Other Related Materials
Orr, Paul and Violet. 1993, the world of tomorrow: timely look into the future. Altadena, California: Pacific Progress Publishers, 1968.

Acquisition Information

This oral history was transcribed from four interviews with Violet Orr conducted by Lucille Kendall for the California Historical Society in 1976.

Biographical Information

Communist and peace activist Violet Orr was born in San Francisco in 1904. She spent her childhood in San Francisco, Iowa, Oregon, and finally Palo Alto, graduating from Stanford University. She married Paul Orr in 1926, and together they traveled to the Soviet Union, living there for two years, from 1928 to 1930. Active in the Friends of the Soviet Union, the Orrs joined the Communist Party in 1932. As a Communist Party activist, Violet Orr filled many positions in Northern and Southern California: as an organizational secretary in Oakland in the early 1930s; a candidate for the California State Assembly from Richmond (1934); a laundry worker and labor organizer in San Francisco (1935-1937); and an advertising and circulation manager of the People's World in San Francisco and Los Angeles (1937-1946). Throughout this period, she played an energetic role in California's radical print culture, not only as a manager of the People's World, but also as a founder of the San Francisco laundry workers' newspaper, the Shake Out; a contributor to the Western Worker; and a leafleteer among Richmond refinery workers. During the 1934 General Strike, the Orrs' Point Richmond home was ransacked by vigilantes.
After World War II, Violet and Paul Orr worked as school teachers in Oregon, returning to California in 1951 after losing several jobs in the early years of the post-war Red Scare. They continued to feel the strain of rising anti-communist anxiety in Pasadena, where Paul was fired from his job at the California Institute of Technology for refusing to disavow his Communist Party membership. In Pasadena, Violet was active in the Methodist Church and in various peace movements. She and Paul co-authored a utopian novel, 1993, the World of Tomorrow, which was published by Pacific Progress Publishers in 1968.

Scope and Contents

This oral history collection consists of a transcript and sound recording of Lucille Kendall's 1976 interviews with Violet Orr, including a brief interview with Violet's husband Paul Orr; an interview history; and one folder of Orr family papers and photographs, dated from 1919 to 1976. The Orr interviews were conducted under the auspices of the California Historical Society's "Women in California Collection" as part of an oral history project documenting the lives of women labor activists and radicals in California.
The interviews document Violet Orr's personal experiences, family life, and radical activism, from the early 1900s to 1950s. In particular, the interviews shed light on her childhood, education, and marriage; her trip with Paul Orr to the Soviet Union in the 1920s; her activities as a Communist Party organizer in the 1930s and '40s in California, including her involvement in the San Francisco laundry workers' union and work for the radical newspaper, the People's World; and the Orrs' experiences during the post-war Red Scare.

Indexing Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog:
Orr, Paul.
People's world (San Francisco, Calif.).
Communism--California.
Communists--California.
Laundry workers--Labor unions--California--San Francisco.
Audiocassettes.
Oral histories.
Radicalism--California--Newspapers.