Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Ross Winn (August 25, 1871–August 8, 1912) was an anarchist writer and publisher who was best known for publishing several radical political journals and trying to promote anarchism within the historically conservative southern United States.
Prior to beginning his own publishing efforts, Winn frequently wrote articles for other radical papers. Winn's earliest known published writing appears in the January, 1894 issue of Twentieth Century. He was 23 when he wrote the piece, a plea for cooperation between socialists and anarchists. In a later piece, appearing in Free Society in December, 1900, Winn mentions becoming a "young convert" in realizing his own radical political notions twelve years earlier, when he was only 17 years old. It is likely that Winn, like many other anarchists of the time, became politicized by the execution of the Haymarket martyrs. Winn also wrote articles for The Firebrand, a short-lived, but renouned weekly out of Portland, Oregon, and The Rebel, an anarchist journal published in Boston.
Sometime in 1894, Winn began his first paper, known as Co-operative Commonwealth. He then edited and published Coming Era for a brief time in 1898 and then Winn's Freelance in 1899. In 1902, he announced a new paper called Winn's Firebrand. It's likely he fancied the name of the then-defunct weekly. His vision was for a paper that would appeal to people of all classes. According to Winn, it would be "just the kind of literature for missionary work among the masses". Winn considered the printed word as the most effective tool for social awakening, and saw the dissemination of anti-authoritarian ideals, especially in the conservative South, as his distinct calling. Tennessee became his base of operation: "In establishing the magazine (in Mount Juliet), as an independent publication, the flag of revolutionary thought is planted on Southern soil, and a residence of a lifetime in this section convinces me that it will be a fruitful field for libertarian ideas, if the right methods are used to present them".
In 1901, Winn met Emma Goldman in Chicago, and found in her a lasting ally. As she wrote in his obituary, Emma "was deeply impressed with his fervor and complete abandonment to the cause, so unlike most American revolutionists, who love their ease and comfort too well to risk them for their ideals". Winn kept up a correspondence with Goldman throughout his life, as he did with other prominent anarchist writers at the time. Joseph Labadie, a prominent writer and organizer in Michigan, was another friend to Ross, and contributed several pieces to Winn's Firebrand in its later years.
Sometime in 1909, Ross Winn contracted tuberculosis (then known as "consumption"), but continued his work on Firebrand despite his failing health. In 1910, he moved briefly to Texas with his wife, Gussie, in search of work. Unable to find work, and having gotten himself deeper into debt, Winn sold his printing setup and moved back to Mount Juliet.
In July of 1911, Gussie wrote a letter, in secret, to Emma Goldman asking for any possible financial assistance from their allies, knowing that her husband "would rather starve than beg." Word was sent out around the country and, all told, some $60 was raised, quite a sum for a small family at that time. Rather than spending the money on himself or his family, however, Ross spent the majority of the money on a new printing setup and began what was to be his last paper, known as The Advance. On August 8th of 1912, the degenerative infection of tuberculosis finally took Ross' life. He was still setting type on the August issue of The Advance the day before he died.
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