Socialist leader, orator, and lawyer Morris Hillquit (Hillkowitz) was born in Riga, Latvia on this date in 1869. He moved with his family to New York at 17 and became a shirtmaker, although he never advanced beyond entry-level work. At 18 he joined the Socialist Labor Party of America and became involved in the internal factionalism and reorganizing that led by 1901 to the formation of the Socialist Party of America. Hillquit helped to lead the SP, alongside Eugene Victor Debs and Victor Berger, until his death from tuberculosis in 1933. He campaigned against anarchism and syndicalism, represented by the Wobblies (IWW), and also against U.S. entry into World War I. When the administration of Woodrow Wilson denied mailing rights to radical newspapers for their opposition to American entry into the war, Hillquit, as an attorney, argued cases on behalf of The Masses, the New York Call, the Milwaukee Leader, The American Socialist (the party’s official organ), Pearson’s Magazine, and the Yiddish-language Jewish Daily Forward. He was also an historian of the socialist movement, author of several books as well as a memoir, Loose Leaves from a Busy Life, published posthumously.
“Social insurance can be achieved, directly or indirectly, only through the presence of an aggressive and well-defined socialist movement.” —Morris Hillquit