March 03, 2011

The Freedom Belles

The national effort of the Crusade for Freedom officially began Labor Day, September 3, 1951, and ended in February 1952.General Lucius D. Clay remained the National Chairman and Harold E. Stassen, president of the University of Pennsylvania, was 1951 Crusade “Drive Chairman.”  The nation-wide goal was $3,500,000 in public contributions and 25 million signatures on the Freedom Scroll. 

In my previous post, we looked at the enthusiastic and wide-spread support for the first Crusade campaign and rallies in Syracuse and Onondaga County, New York. Below we will look at the second Crusade for Freedom campaign, which was much more subdued.

Crusade for Freedom national headquarters announced that if Onondaga exceed its goal, one of RFE’s transmitter buildings, estimated to cost between $50,000 and $60,000, would be permanently marked as “The Gift from the Citizens of Onondaga County N. Y.” Crusade for Freedom national headquarters thus set the 1951 campaign goal of $60,000.

On August 30, 1951, F. Ware Clary, Onondaga Country Crusade chairman, and the Crouse-Hinds company, announced that the second Crusade campaign would climax with house-tö-house canvassing on September 20, 1951, from 6 to 9 P.M.  He said, in part,

Last year in Onondaga County, we placed more emphasis on securing moral support, in the form of signatures on Freedom scrolls that we did in collecting money. Individual contributions were limited to $1 at a maximum. We intend to have a similar limitation this year, but we will have to raise more money if we hope to have our name on one of the Radio Free Europe stations that will be carrying daily messages behind the Iron Curtain.

The financial goal of the Crusade campaign in Syracuse was $60,000.

The 1951 national campaign started on Labor Day, Monday, September 3, 1951, with a nationwide radio broadcast carried by CBS and featuring General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lucius D. Clay, Harold E. Stassen, and others. The broadcast, narrated by Edward R. Marrow, was also carried by Radio Free Europe. Eisenhower in Paris, France, said,

They (citizens of iron curtain countries) hunger also for the truth, to sustain them under the crushing weight of a godless dictatorship. You can help bring them the truth through the Crusade for Freedom. I trust every American will support wholeheartedly its campaign to use truth as a weapon against Communistic domination of the world.

General Clay gave a nation-wide radio address that was broadcast by radio station WNBC at 10:15 p.m., September 8, 1951. The New York Times headlined the speech on September 9, 1951:  “CLAY OPENS APPEAL TO AID RED 'SLAVES.” There was also a newspaper appeal, in the best Cold-war rhetoric, to the women of the United States to support the Crusade:

This struggle (against Communism) reaches into every American home. It involves you and me. It affects the way of life of our children and our grandchildren.

The Crusade for Freedom and Radio Free Europe are one of the means, one of the powerful weapons that can be brought into play against the forces of tyranny – powerful because through them American citizens can dispel the chill blackness of evil ideas with the clear warmth and light of truth.

That is the primary reason why it is urgent for every woman to enroll in the Crusade for Freedom.

For the second Crusade for Freedom campaign the women's volunteer group in Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York, known as the Freedom Belles, was again very active in volunteer activity. The Freedom Belles met on September 12, 1951, in the Carriage House of the Corinthian Foundation to organize their bell-ringing canvassing on September 20, 1951.

On Wednesday, September 19, 1951, at 10 A.M., the Syracuse Junior Chamber of Commerce made a “funeral procession with a horse-drawn hears and pall bearers.” The Junior Chamber announced that “The Big Lie of Soviet Russia” would be eternally buried in Onondaga County. At noon planes were to fly over the city and drop freedom leaflets. Between 3 and 4 P.M, “town criers, garbed in appropriate colonial costume” would “broadcast Crusade news of the day emphasizing the rally in Clinton Square. 

The Freedom Belles, co-led by Mrs. Theodore A. Weinheimer and Mrs. Albert H. Merry, were present at the rally. The crowd watched the film The Big Truth about the Crusade for Freedom and Radio Free Europe narrated by Ronald Reagan. The keynote speaker was Paul Fabry, of the Hungarian Section ("Voice of Free Hungary") of RFE in Munich. He told the crowd,

Truth is the hope of our enslave patriots. Support of individual cities like Syracuse is the vital spark of encouragement needed by the Iron Curtain countries because people of those countries realize -- as indicated by last year's results -- that the Freedom Scroll was more than a propaganda device, that it was really the voice of the people.

After his speech, several helium-filled balloons, similar to those launched in West Germany in the Winds of Freedom, were lofted.

Television, radio and film star Faye Emerson also was in Syracuse in behalf of the Crusade for Freedom campaign. She had been invited by the Syracuse newspaper The Post Standard. She spoke before the Kiwanis Club at noon and then before thousands of Syracuse women in the afternoon at the War Memorial building. She called the Crusade for Freedom, “the most effective medium yet devised for piercing the Iron Curtain.”

The September 20, 1951, newspaper Syracuse Herald-Journal front page announced with the headline, "Be at Home Tonight Between 6 and 9 o'Clock When the Freedom Belle Calls." More than 4,600 Freedom Belles rang doorbells that night and accepted donations and signatures "in the big anti-Communist crusade from 6 to 9 P.M." 3,600 were underway in Syracuse and another 1,000 in Onondaga County. 

Each woman was assigned to visit ten houses. The newspaper carried names and photographs of 55 women who were identified as leaders of the Freedom Belles. 

The Syracuse newspaper The Post Standard carried on its front page, this plea: "Battle Reds -- Greet the Freedom Belles Tonight." The Crusade for Freedom logo (Freedom Bell) was on either side of the newspaper name.

Newspapers on September 21, 1951, proclaimed that “Coverage Extraordinary as Freedom Belles Seek to Raise $60,000 in the city.” But as the contributions were being counted, it was clear that the Crusade campaign in Syracuse was not a financial success: by noon on September 21, 1951, only $34,913 had been counted. The goal of $60,000 was not reached. Nationwide, contributions from the American public amounted to $1,930,134.57 -- well under the stated goal of $3,500,000.

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