Haskell, Anna Fader (1858–1942)

Anna Fader Haskell worked as a labor activist, socialist reformer, suffragist, and educator throughout central and northern California during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Haskell was associated with the radical, labor-oriented Truth newspaper, the Nationalist Club of San Francisco, the Kaweah Co-Operative Commonwealth colony, the Woman's Rights Club of San Francisco, and the Woman's Congress of 1894. She also amassed 30 years of teaching experience in California schools before her death in 1942.

Born in Trinity County, California, in 1858 to gold rush–era pioneers, Anna Fader completed high school in Salinas. She then resided with her family in Sonoma County until 1881. In the fall of that year, the independent-minded Anna struck out for San Francisco without accompaniment in hope of securing employment. After finding work as a waitress in a local diner, she moved in with the family of a recent acquaintance, Helen Haskell. Anna soon fell in love with Helen's brother Burnette, whom she wed on July 21, 1882.

Beyond headquartering the Nationalist Club at her home, financial needs required Anna to open her home to boarders. Labor Unionists, anarchists, Farmers’ Alliance lecturers, and a variety of activists from around the country made use of the Haskell boarding house. From time to time, Anna was also known to stage boxing matches at the house and, on occasion, to participate in the matches. By this time, she had also developed a reputation as a skilled and energetic labor organizer for her work among the unemployed in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

While Anna found purpose in the causes of labor and social reform, Burnette's obsessive devotion to the same strained their marriage. Increasingly, his activities as head of the International Workingman's Association and, after 1886, as founder of the Kaweah Co-Operative Commonwealth colony resulted in him assuming the role of absentee husband. As an avowed atheist, Anna also found Burnette's interest in spirituality troubling.

In 1890, Anna moved with Burnette and their young son Aseroth—whom Burnette had named after an ancient Phoenician god—to the Kaweah colony. She remained at Kaweah until 1892, all the while prone to episodes of depression and experiencing the deprivations and hardships that accompanied pioneer life. As a means of employment, she taught school while at the colony. She despised this task, finding the children undisciplined and the facilities lacking. More than anything, however, she detested the drudgery of household chores associated with life at Kaweah.

Upon returning to San Francisco, Anna became active in the suffragist movement for a brief period. Between 1892 and 1894, she participated in the city's Woman's Rights Club and attended the Woman's Congress of 1894. Yet her and her husband's peak days of social activism had come to an end. Disillusioned by the failure of the Kaweah colony and his other ventures, an emotionally distant Burnette turned increasingly to alcohol. Anna subsequently left him in April 1896 and obtained a divorce the following year.

Free from Burnette, Anna found contentment in her son, the religion she had previously eschewed, and the occupation she had despised while at Kaweah. Beginning in 1898, she taught school at various locations across northern California. After retiring in 1928, she survived on her teacher's pension until her death in 1942.

Jonathan Lavon Foster

See also: Bellamy, Edward (1850–1898) ; Haskell, Burnette G. (1857–1907) ; Gilded Age ; Kaweah Colony


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