Don’t worry, Fellow Worker,
all we’re going to need
from now on is guts.
Hellraisers Journal, Tuesday November 13, 1917
Cook County Jail, Illinois – “Girl in Red” Detained
Miss Genevieve Semashko, dubbed the “Girl in Red” by the Tribune, was detained at the Cook County Jail on Saturday, November 10th, while attempting to communicate with her sweetheart, George Andreytchine. FW Andreytchine is one of the I. W. W. class war prisoners currently held as a guest of that institution. The “Red Sweetheart” was suspected of aiding a plot to “battleship” the jail.
From The Chicago Sunday Tribune of November 11, 1917:
I. W. W. RUSHED FROM JAIL TO PREVENT RIOT
Girl and Man Seized as Notes Bare Plot.
Learning that the more than one hundred members of the I. W. W. held in the Cook county jail, were plotting to “battleship”-their vernacular for “start something”-federal authorities hurriedly began distributing them to various jails yesterday. The prisoners were held as dangerous enemies of the country.
When the I. W. W. men say “battleship” it may mean many things. When they “battleshipped” once in the Seattle jail, they tore the building asunder, almost. It is believed they had under way a plot in Chicago for a wholesale jail delivery that would have startled the nation. Notes, smuggled into the jail with food, intercepted by the a jailers, give reason to surmise that the plot was nipped just in time.
Two Arrests Made.
As it is, two arrests were made yesterday. They are:
“JACK” RUSSELL, alias Wilson, who has been permitted to bring the prisoners food daily; address 117 [not readable] street.
GENEVIEVE SEMASHKO, 16 years old, sweetheart of George Andreychine [Andreytchine], one of the first I. W. W. workers arrested. She is known as “The Girl in Red. Her home is at 1352 West Madison street.
Russell was taken handcuffed to the office of the department of justice, after which he “vanished.” The girl was questioned at the East Chicago avenue station and permitted to go home.
John Semashko, her father, when seen at his home, proudly admitted that he was an organizer and speaker for the Industrial Workers of the World, that he had been run out of Russia with his family as a revolutionist; that he was a Socialist and an apostle of free speech and free thought, and was bringing his daughter up in the same belief.
Worker in High Schools.
“She has been a pupil in the Chicago high schools and has been organizing her schoolgirl friends for the I. W. W.,” he added with some pride. The girl, he said, though too young to be admitted as a member of the I. W. W., has been attending meetings whenever possible.
“America is a fee country,” he went on. “My daughter went to the jail to see her sweetheart, and she did no wrong in talking to him.”
Known as “the girl in red,” she has been a familiar figure around the jail for weeks. She has been calling up to Andreychine, she standing in an alley and he peering down through the bars. The police and federal authorities hope to show that the “simple girl of 16” was up to more than mere romance by notes they intercepted.
Some of these are as follows:
NOTE NO. 1-
If they try to take you fellows away, put up a protest. If they insist let “the girl in red” know and we will take care of the other end.
NOTE NO. 2, the answer-
Your proposition is foolish at this time. Why didn’t you say that yesterday?
NOTE NO. 3, also from inside jail-
If doorman won’t let you in, come around to the back. Have something important to tell you.
Signaled to Prisoners.
The police believe it is important that when they “went around to the back” they found the girl in the alley making signals and talking to a member of the I. W. W. inside upstairs in the jail.
Russell, big as William D. Haywood himself, except in girth, in appearance a typical I. W. W., was arrested almost at the same moment as the girl, but at the door of the jail. It is claimed that he is the agent who has been smuggling notes back and forth in food or getting them past the guards surreptitiously.
Federal officials refused to talk of the attempted jail delivery and the police showed evasiveness, but it is believed that the official plan to remove the prisoners, started so suddenly yesterday morning, was the result of the authorities getting wind of the plot.
Haywood Taken to Wheaton.
In the first batch yesterday morning nineteen were taken out. Of these ten went to Joliet and nine to Wheaton. William D. Haywood, leader of the I. W. W., held under $25,000 bond which he has not provided, was taken to Wheaton. It is planned to put others of the I. W. W. held here in jails at Waukegan, McHenry, Geneva, and elsewhere.
Among the hundred or more members of the I. W. W. brought to Chicago from all over the United States were the men whom the United States government considered the most dangerous in their entire organization. They were indicted as the leaders in the wave of sabotage, burning, destruction, and deviltry in general alleged by the government.
That they had help in plenty in Chicago is believed to be shown by the very suggestion that they might succeed in a plan to “battleship.” The Cook county jail is considered almost a fortress and a formidable place in case of attempted wholesale jail delivery.
Bigger Plot Foiled.
It is hardly believed that the little “blow off” plot broken up yesterday was the real one planned. It is thought that a far greater scheme was in process of development and the plotters, seeing their plans going to smash, tried to communicate quickly to see if anything could be done.
The arrest of the man and girl yesterday came when Russell appeared, a little early, with his basket of food. With him was “The Girl in Red.” He delivered the basket to Samuel Crawford, elevator conductor. At the same time he passed a note to Crawford addressed to John F. Doran, one of the I. W. W. prisoners.
It is believed he hoped to pass it in himself, but was stopped and “took the chance.” Crawford read the note and turned it over to his superiors at the jail. The note was passed on to Doran as bait and he replied, and this note, intercepted, added a new link to the chain.
Extra Officers Provided.
Fearful that the suspected plot was to gain sudden headway, word was sent to the federal authorities and a number of additional deputy marshals were hastened over where they remained until the prisoners to be transferred were safely away.
“The Girl in Red,” though little more than a child in years, put up a bitter wordy fight when dragged from her lovelorn vigil in the alley under the jail bars. When Earl Waters took her in charge she is reported to have turned a volley of wrath upon him, saying:
The American people are a bunch of skunks. If you and the like of you were in Russia today you would be shot down like dogs When the war’s over we intend to overthrow your rotten government.
Two policemen from the East Chicago avenue station heard the remarks to Waters, a guard in the jail, and took her in charge. At the station when she was searched the third note was found, directing her to go to the alley to hear “something important.”
Girl Is Released.
Acting Capt. Gleason, at the station, after questioning her, ordered her sent home to her parents, releasing her with the remark that he believed her “a child overwrought with the radical ideas of older persons.”
Andreychine, the man for whose love “The Girl in Red” has shadowed the jail for many weeks, was editor of the official Bulgarian organ of the I. W. W., a paper seized and put out of business by the government officials. He was arrested after the 167 members of the I. W. W. were indicted and held in bonds of $10,000. He is about 22 years old, and was translator of languages and considered a good part of the “brains” of the organization.
The Chicago Daily Tribune
-Nov 13, 1917
Note: I have not been able to find any account of the arrest of Miss Semashko described by Haywood, Chaplin, nor any historian, neither do I know of any account of the Chicago IWW prisoners having been rushed from Cook County Jail to other other jails in order to prevent a “battleship.”
Following the above sensationalized reporting, the Chicago Tribune drops the story entirely after reporting the following on November 13th:
“I’ve got notes in and out of the jail every day since George was arrested,” said Genevieve Semashko, 16 years old, who figured as “the girl in red” in the alleged attempt of I. W. W. members to “battleship” the Cook county jail on Saturday. “They were just love notes. You see, I’m engaged to George Andreytchine. We’re going to b married some day.”
Clad somberly in all black, but a touch of green in a boyish necktie she wore, with a black masculine hat upon her head, she appeared at the federal building. She had been sent for to be questioned by officials of the department of justice….
[J. C.] Russell [also being questioned] and Genevieve were permitted to go after spending several hours at the federal building. The department gave out no explanation of its action, but it is believed that they gave satisfactory excuse for their actions. Russell was asked what he took to the incarcerated brothers of the I. W. W.
“O, $10 or $12 worth of food,” he said, “mostly chicken and steaks.”
“Battleship” per Ralph Chaplin:
The Rough-and-tumble Story of an American Radical
-by Ralph Chaplin
University of Chicago Press, 1948
Note: The only record that I could find of an IWW “battleship,” taking place at the Cook County Jail at about this time [early Nov 1917], was described by Ralph Chaplin:
News of the successful Bolshevik revolution was announced on November 7. These were the glad tidings, we thought, tidings that the whole world had been waiting for. We were not unlocked for exercise that day, nor was “Pinky” permitted to go the round of galleries calling, “Cups out!” but I learned afterward that people passing on Dearborn Street could hear the cheers, singing, and general racket from the wing of the old jail. We kept it up until nearly dark, adding to the tumult of noise with tin cups and wooden stools. Head Jailer Davies was hooted out of the cell block when he threatened to have the fire department douse us with cold water. With this I.W.W.”battleship” we celebrated the birth of the New Society, the end of war, social injustice, and exploitation-the dawn of industrial democracy!