August 9, 2006
By Jerry Kopel
Recent reports of a Ku Klux Klan chapter in Olathe, Montrose County led me to review the book "Hooded Empire, The Ku Klux Klan in Colorado" by Professors Robert Alan Goldberg (1981). West Slope Klan counties were quite immune from the East Slope in-fighting, so the Klan still remained around for a while in Montrose County "fraternally" after the debacle of the 1926 statewide election.
One name caught my attention in Goldberg's book, a woman who turned out to be a mixture of good and bad. "In the Shadow of the Klan: When the KKK Ruled Denver, 1920-1926" a well researched book by Phil Goodstein went into even greater detail.
Suffragette, Klanswoman, eugenics supporter, and fighting for birth control options. Who was this? Dr. and Surgeon Minnie C.T. Love of Denver.
According to Suffragette documents, and a book by Joseph G. Brown, the Colorado Equal Suffrage Association was formed in 1890. Dr. Love became active in the state campaign at age 36. For the campaign of 1893, Dr. Love served without pay as Corresponding Secretary, keeping in touch with suffragists throughout the state. At the same time, the association held its meetings at Dr. Love's residence for a number of months.
In the last three months of the campaign, a paid correspondent was hired and headquarters were free of charge in the Tabor Opera House block. The Suffragettes won the election in 1893 for the right of women to vote 35,698 to 29,461 against.
Dr. Love had a long history of involvement with the Eugenics movement including, according to Denver educator Rob Prince, an unsuccessful attempt with others in 1913, to form a national eugenics organizational headquarters in Denver. Eugenics is the movement to legalize sterilization of mentally handicapped persons.
A 1925 measure was introduced in the legislature by Dr. Love, who had earlier served in the House in 1921 and re-elected in 1924 as a Ku Klux Klan woman at age 69, both times serving as a Denver Republican..
According to Prof. Goldberg, Dr. Love's bill in 1925, when the Klan had many members of the House "authorized sterilization of epileptics, the retarded, and the insane if procreation might result in defective or feeble-minded children with criminal tendencies."
Dr. Love was no longer in the legislature when three House sponsors (including one who later became my DU law professor in Wills and Trusts) introduced HB 509 in 1927. It authorized "sterilization of certain persons" and dealt only with inmates of institutions established and maintained by the state (which inmates were wards of the state).
Democratic Gov. Billy Adams (who earlier played a prominent role as a Senate leader of the anti-Klan movement) vetoed the bill as harboring "perhaps unconstitutional provisions" and "it seems to me that any compulsory violation of the person of an individual is undesirable."
Sterilization of the developmentally disabled is now provided for in Colorado statutes CRS 27-10.5-128 through 135.
According to Goldberg, Love introduced a bill to abolish sectarian and institutional schools maintained wholly or in part by "public moneys". While private self-sustaining schools were exempted from the bill's provisions, "public moneys" were broadly described as funds raised by "public taxation, community chests, charity organizations, or public drives."
Goldberg states "Love sponsored (in 1925) a bill advocating the distribution of birth control information and the manufacture and distribution of contraceptives." Goodstein adds "a state prison for women, health examinations for marriage license applicants, and unwed mothers to breast feed their babies, and strong state supervision of maternity homes."
The Klan Fiasco
It's easier to kill a bill than to pass one.
Both Goldberg and Goodstein considered the "Klan-controlled" legislature of 1925 as inept thanks to the state Senate.
Republicans held the House 52 to 13 and the Senate 21 to 14, but nine Republicans were Senate holdovers, so the Klan did NOT have a majority "and was forced to ally with non-Klansmen who were loyal to the Republican party..."
In the Senate "Anti-Klan Republicans ... refused to attend their party caucus because the vote of the majority was binding upon all. Instead they joined with the Democrats to form a bi-partisan majority against the administration."
Leading the 14 Senate Dems was street-smart Minority Leader Billy Adams, who later became governor in 1927. Three Democratic senators voted with the Klan. Goodstein calls Adams "master of parliamentary tactics who had complete mastery of the legislative process."
The coalition strategy was to kill as many bills in committee as possible, using "the weight of procedural motions to delay passage."
Goldberg claims "The anti-Klan forces ... controlled the senate State Affairs Committee which received almost half of the House bills" and controlled enough votes in Senate Finance Committee to postpone considering a third of Klan Gov. Clarence Morely's measures.
According to Goodstein, Gov. Morely had 35 specific Klan bills introduced. Only 19 made it to the Senate, and only one passed, to eliminate a defunct Board of Horseshoe Examiners."
Goldberg states "The House applied pressure by refusing to act upon any Senate measure until House bills were reported out of committee..." Goodstein added Adams then held up appropriations sought by Klan members until the House backed down, which they did.
The anti-Klan forces took control of the Senate Calendar Committee which could kill any bill simply by refusing to place it on the agenda. All five members (three Republicans and two Democrats) were anti-Klansmen."
According to Goldberg "Among the most noteworthy pieces of legislation passed were bills which forbade picking the blue columbine, allowed counties to exterminate prairie dogs, and authorized convicts to manufacture license plates."
Goodstein adds: Ratifying the Colorado River Compact and allowing lawyers to challenge for cause jurors who did not understand English and heard testimony through interpreters.
In the 1926 election, Democrats added two seats in the Senate and six seats in the House. While there were still Klan members in the legislature, their influence was considerably lessened, especially with Billy Adams as governor.
Minnie Love's defeat
The Klan, on the Eastern Slope was in disarray, and a new organization called the "Minute Men of America" took away large numbers of Klan members in late 1925 and in 1926.
According to Goldberg "After a march of 10,000 women Klan members, Minnie Love, who was an "Excellent Commander" (a Klan title) was also a lieutenant in the Minute Women. She convinced a majority of Denver's 1,000 Klanswomen to shed their hoods for Betsy Ross outfits. (Klan) Imperial Commander Lauena Senter suspended Love, revoked the Denver Klan's charter, and seized its assets before their disappearance into Minute Women's coffers."
In the Republic primary election of 1926, Minnie Love was unable to obtain a position on the Republican ballot. But her time in politics was not over. In 1925, according to Goodstein, she won a six year term on the Denver Board of Education. She died in 1942 at age 87.
(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)
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