Saturday, January 14, 2012

Apple Roller Award -- Our Next Honoree

The Apple Roller Award could not be more fitting in THIS case. The image above is a portrait of Madge Oberholtzer, the woman who brought down the Ku Klux Klan in the USA. Her sacrifice was quite similar to that of our previous Apple Roller honoree, Mohamed Bouazizi; she couldn't tolerate the way she was being treated, and in mid-April 1925 took steps to kill herself. Rather unexpectedly, she took the KKK down with her. Within a couple of years of her horrible death, Klan membership in the US had dropped from millions to a few paltry thousands. We have Madge to thank. This is a very serious, very heartfelt thank-you. Many Americans today are unaware of how close were were in that dim, dead year to having a Klansman in the Oval Office.

This is a really dreadful story. A prominent KKK booster and networker in Madge's home state of Indiana, D.C. Stephenson, became infatuated with her, pursued her for a short time and eventually lured her over to his place on some pretext. She turned up at her parents' home several days later, battered, bruised and vomiting uncontrollably. She was covered with bite marks, from the top of her head down past her ankles -- even her tongue had teethmarks on it. She had been kidnapped and repeatedly raped by this man who claimed to love her so much, assisted by a couple of his Klan buddies. To get away from her captors Madge decided to kill herself, and took a corrosive poison, bichloride of mercury. Unable to decide what to do with her, he and his accomplices just dropped her off at home, where she died after nearly a month of agony. The extended death throes gave her the chance to dictate and sign a dying declaration, explaining exactly what happened and allowing the authorities to prosecute Stephenson for the many crimes he committed against Madge, including murder. Stephenson, the Grand Dragon of the Realm of Indiana and the greatest recruiter the Klan had ever seen, went down in flames. BUT MADGE'S GOLDEN APPLE ROLLED EVEN FARTHER THAN THAT. Stephenson decided to bring down everyone he associated with -- more than a few prominent names in politics, business and what have you all across the Midwest. Every one of them was a Klansman or had Klan backing.

(Contrary to what you may have seen in the movie version of this grim story, Cross Of Fire starring Mel Harris as Madge and John Heard as Stephenson, Madge did not die of the poison she took. The autopsy showed that she had almost totally recovered from the effects of the tablets. She was killed by an abcessed lung caused by an especially deep, infected bite wound in her left breast.)

If you click on the title of this blog entry, it will take you to Madge's dying declaration.

Now here's an odd little coincidence: I knew a library book had come in for me through MelCat, but I order several at a time and did not know which title I was going to pick up. As I was driving over to the library this morning, I suddenly remembered that I needed to give Madge the Apple Roller Award today, having forgotten to do so from my work terminal last night. I walked to the circulation desk and the librarian handed me a copy of Grand Dragon: D.C. Stephenson And The Ku Klux Klan In Indiana, by William Lutholtz.

Reporting a rape is one of the toughest things any woman has to face, even today, and it was even harder to do in 1925. It's disgusting, it's humiliating, it's terrifying -- and she was reporting a rape committed by one of the most powerful men in the Midwest. BUT SHE DID IT ANYWAY.

Every American owes her a debt of gratitude.


Anonymous sieve cleaner said...

sieve cleaner

1:38 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home