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The Socialist newspaper, the Montana News, has its roots in Lewistown, Montana, as the Judith Basin News published by J. H. Walsh, from April to June 1904. On July 6, 1904 Walsh resumed publication of the newspaper in Helena under a new name, the Montana News. The origins of the American Socialist movement are linked to the first national convention of the Social Democratic Party in Indianapolis in the summer of 1901. The Socialist upwelling in Montana can be tied to deadly working conditions in the state’s forests, smelters, and industrial copper mines. The Judith Basin News constituted the first Socialist newspaper in Montana, and its influence was reflected in the mushrooming of the party’s membership from 25 in 1901 to 400 in 1904. The Montana News, a four-page, six-column weekly continued operating until January 4, 1912, following the decline of Socialist electoral fortunes in Montana.

After moving the Montana News from Lewistown to Helena, the owner and editor Walsh located the newspaper at 22 Park Avenue, the Socialist Party headquarters. Beginning in 1905, James D. Graham, state secretary of the Socialist Party and Montana’s first Socialist candidate for alderman, assumed the role of business manager. Graham, a Scot immigrant and machinist by trade, managed the newspaper during most of its life. In December of 1905 a prominent Colorado suffragist and friend of the labor movement, Ida Crouch-Hazlett, assumed the position of editor. Crouch-Hazlett had played a key role in women winning the vote in Colorado and ran for the U.S. Congress several times as a Socialist. Over the years, the Montana News covered the activities of the U.S. Socialist Party and its the state and local organizations and editorialized about the difficulties women faced in the workplace and community. The paper published front-page cartoons satirizing its political opponents and “capitalistic interests.” Crouch-Hazlett applauded the Socialists for accepting women into their fold without hesitation and affirmed party efforts to promote universal suffrage.

Beginning in 1908, a major schism appeared between the officers of the Montana Socialist Party and the management of the Montana News. Lewis Duncan--a Unitarian minister, party leader, and Socialist mayor of Butte (1911-14)--accused Crouch-Hazlett and Graham of misappropriating funds. In 1910, the Montana Socialist Party brought suit against the two newspaper managers, and that same year Duncan accused Crouch-Hazlett of “living openly in an adulterous and licentious relationship with a former member of the Lewistown local.” Conflict within the ranks of the Socialist Party both in Montana and nationally contributed to its decline by the early 1920s. Despite its relatively short run, the Montana News provides insight into the rise and fall of a third party in Montana and offers a unique perspective on U.S. politics during the turbulent era framed by rapid industrialization, labor unrest, and the beginning of World War I.

Provided by: Montana Historical Society; Helena, MT