Hunger marchers demand relief from the Washington State Legislature on January 17, 1933.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 1/24/2003
  • Essay 5106

On January 17, 1933, during the Great Depression, approximately 1,000 hunger marchers demand relief from the Washington State Legislature. The march is organized by the Washington State Hunger March Committee, and Communist Party members are prominent in the leadership. In the capitol building, the protesters find doors and elevators locked and State Troopers patrolling the hallways. A delegation of 25 is admitted to meet with newly elected Governor Clarence D. Martin (1884-1955).

The march is a coalition of the Unemployed Citizens League, United Producers of Washington,, Unemployed Council, and the United Farmers' League, self help groups for the unemployed. They organized the march to Olympia to demand unemployment insurance, cash payments, free lunches for children, and free water, light, and gas.

When the marchers demonstrated that they were peaceful, Olympia businessmen opened a number of vacant stores for dormitories and rooms "in one of the cheaper hotels" (Newell, 369) for women and children. A volunteer group offered beans and coffee in a soup kitchen, but many of the marchers became ill. A sign was added to the march, "TO HELL WITH OLYMPIA BEANS!" (Newell, 369).

The march dissolved without incident and the legislature passed a relief bill using federal money.

Sources: Shanna B. Stevenson, Olympia, Tumwater, and Lacey: A Pictorial History (Virginia Beach, VA: The Donning Co., 1985, rev. 1996), 186, 191; Gordon Newell, Rogues, Buffoons & Statesmen (Seattle: Superior Publishing Co., 1975), 369.
Note: This essay was emended on January 25, 2012, to correct the birthdate of Clarence D. Martin.

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