Newspaper article

The 'Mother of the Farmer-Labor Party' Didn't Really Want to Add the 'D' to the Beginning

Newspaper article

The 'Mother of the Farmer-Labor Party' Didn't Really Want to Add the 'D' to the Beginning

Article excerpt

Susie Williamson Stageberg is known as the "Mother of the Farmer-Labor Party." The Red Wing activist spent a lifetime fighting for unpopular political and social causes. She strongly opposed the merger of the Democratic and Farmer-Labor Parties in the 1940s.

Susie Williamson was born on January 30, 1877 to Ole and Kristi Williamson. She was born and grew up in Badger, Iowa near Fort Dodge. She attended Tobin College in Fort Dodge and taught at rural schools. Susie also worked as a reporter for the Fort Dodge Messenger.

At age twenty-one, Williamson married professor Olaf O. Stageberg. Olaf landed a job in Minnesota teaching at the Red Wing Seminary, and the Stagebergs moved there around 1910. Followers of Hans Hauge opened the seminary in 1879. Hauge was a forceful Norwegian lay preacher who challenged Lutheran church leaders.

Susie Stageberg made an impression at the tradition-bound Seminary. The church school began admitting women students in 1914, thanks largely to her efforts. The Stagebergs raised funds to improve educational programs.

Stageberg was active in her church and community. She supported the temperance movement and its attempt to limit alcohol use. Stageberg became president of Red Wing's Women's Christian Temperance Union. In 1918 Stageberg backed her husband's campaign to become Minnesota's governor. He ran on the ticket of the National Party, an anti-alcohol group, and lost.

Afterward, Stageberg focused on her own political career. She joined the Nonpartisan League (NPL) in 1920 when the Prohibition Party broke up. The socialist-leaning NPL worked to improve the lives of farmers. During World War I, critics attacked the group as anti-American. By joining the NPL, Stageberg showed that she was not afraid of being branded a political radical.

In the early 1920s, Fred A. Scherf of Red Wing hired Stageberg to edit his newspaper, The Organized Farmer. She used the weekly paper to criticize business and government policies that she felt harmed farmers. …

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