Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






World War -- 1914-1918 -- Conscientious objectors -- Oregon -- Portland, M. Louise Hunt, Library Association (Portland Or.), Conscientious objectors, Portland (Or.) -- History



Physical Description

1 online resource (66 leaves)


The Selective Service Act of 1917 made provision for the exemption of conscientious objectors belonging to certain religious bodies. It did not provide protection for the sincere individual objector against vilification from a public who labeled him disloyal, unpatriotic, and pro-Hun. This report is based on an incident which occurred in Portland, Oregon. It involves the assistant librarian of the Library Association of Portland who was a conscientious objector, and the repercussions which her stand had on the library board, the head librarian, and the public in general. In April of 1918, Portland had just completed a successful drive for contributions to the third Liberty Loan drive. Indeed, Oregon was the first state to complete its quota. On the day that this victory was confirmed, an afternoon paper broke the news that the assistant librarian of the public library, Miss M. Louise Hunt, had refused to buy bonds. This action touched off a heated controversy which affected not only Miss Hunt herself, but involved the governing body of the library. Before the incident was closed, civic and social organizations and individual citizens found an opportunity to express their views on the subject of conscientious objections. Miss Hunt refused to purchase bonds on the ground that she was a conscientious objector and could not support the war. Her opponents pointed out that she was a well paid county employee and therefore was under obligation to support the war bond drive. A committee from the bond drive headquarters, calling on Miss Hunt at the library, tried to persuade her to change her mind. Her statements, as quoted in the press, were ill-chosen and branded her in the public mind as pro-German. She was also interviewed by an agent of the United States District Attorney. Public indignation was so aroused that a special meeting of the library board was called to consider the matter. With one dissenting vote from the board itself and one from the chairman of the county commissioners who serve as ex-officio members of the library board, the board went on record as believing that Miss Hunt had never in any way obstructed, nor intended to obstruct, the activities of the Government. Although the board plainly stated that they did not share in any way Miss Hunt's opinions, they felt the right to one’s own conscientious opinion was the very foundation of human freedom. They were unwilling to compel anyone to , give up the very thing for which the war was being fought. This, in 1918, was a most unusual and courageous stand for any civic take in the face of accusations of disloyalty. Public disapproval of the board's action was so great that a second meeting was held to reconsider the decision. At this time, Miss Hunt presented her resignation from the library staff. By now, tempers were frayed and the dissenting board member protested the board's stand. Charges of disloyalty were hurled against the president of the board and the head librarian. Immediately, civic and social groups demanded the dismissal of the governing body. Wiser voices spoke up in defense of both board and librarian and the press turned from personal details of the squabbling to a more objective discussion of the principles involved in freedom of conscience. Miss Hunt returned to her home in Maine and, as far as Portland was concerned, the Hunt affair was over. In a larger sense, the Hunt case forced Portland to confront, if only briefly, its historical ideals and to consider to what degree it was willing to protest the right to dissent during a period of crisis.


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Portland State College. Dept. of History

Persistent Identifier