New Llano Museum event to explore life, contributions of noted activist, editor

NEW LLANO -- The Museum of the New Llano Colony will highlight the life and legacy of Kate Richards O'Hare, activist, reformer and editor who founded the Commonwealth College in the New Llano Colony.

A lecture will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 8 at the museum, located at the old New Llano Town Hall at 211 Stanton Street. An exhibit will be at the museum through March 29.

The lecture will be given by Dr. Lynda Boren, a New Llano resident and professor of women's literature and American literature. She has taught at Tulane University, Middlebury College in Vermont, Georgia Tech and Northwestern State University.

Boren has researched the colony and grew up learning about its residents through her family.

The event coincides with Women's History Month, observed in March.

The New Llano Colony thrived for over two decades, from 1917 to around 1937. New Llano was once home to the leading national socialist newspaper, a broom factory, sawmill, ice plant, sheet metal factory and more. Its residents, who were from across the country, sought a society with equal rights for women, minimum wages, healthcare and pensions for older residents.  

"I live in a colony house built in 1929. My grandfather bought the house and some acreage from the colony. My great, great, great grandfather homesteaded almost all of the land that later became New Llano," she said.

Boren said O'Hare was a "fascinating" woman.

"She was a very well-known woman in her day and age. She actually went to prison for her views under the espionage act but the espionage act had to be modified because all she was doing was exercising her freedom of speech. She went to prison for 14 months because she was encouraging people not to support our involvement in the first world war," Boren said.

Boren said O'Hare went on to write books on prison reform.

"And later became an authority on prison reform," she added.

O'Hare came to New Llano in 1924 not only to start the Commonwealth College, but also to print a newspaper, the American Vanguard. There are no known copies of the paper today.

"We're just excited about the fact that she was here," Boren said.

The Commonwealth College was founded on the idea of being half work, half learning experience. The college was based on Ruskin College in Florida, near Tampa, which is no longer in existence, Boren said.

"They would work four hours a day and learn four hours a day," Boren said. "The first enrollment was 46 students."
The college later left and relocated to Mena, Arkansas. O'Hare went on to teach there.

"After that, she divorced her husband and she married a lawyer by the name of Cunningham and ended up living in San Francisco, and becoming very involved in penal reform," Boren said. "Earl Warren, governor of California when she lived there, asked her to sit on a lot of board and committees involving penal reform."

You can find more information on O'Hare HERE.

You can find more information on the New Llano Colony HERE.

The Museum of the New Llano Colony is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
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