Carolyn Lloyd Strobell

Carolyn Lloyd Strobell

1859 – 1940

Essay by Steven Lubar

Essay by Lexi Owen

Carol Lloyd Strobell on the right and her sister Madeleine Lloyd Goodrich on the right. Courtesy of Frannie Huntoon Hall.

Essay by Steven Lubar

Carolyn (Caro) Lloyd Strobell (1859-1940), author and activist, was a loyal member of both the Little Compton Garden Club[1] and the Communist Party, famous locally for her hydrangeas and notorious nationally as owner of the party’s Daily Worker.

Caro summered in Little Compton starting in the 1890s, staying at the home of her brother, Henry Demarest Lloyd, one of the leaders of the American Socialist movement. That house was a center of the movement, with many house guests from the Lloyd’s international circle of friends and reformers.[2] Caro built a small house on Sakonnet Point Road in about 1920.)

Born in 1859 in Pekin, Illinois, to Aaron Lloyd, a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church who had become a bookstore owner, and Maria Christie Demarest,[3] Caro attended Vassar College, graduating in 1881. She moved to Paris, where she attended the Sorbonne, taught school, and wrote articles for The Outlook on topics including “The organization of the Workingwomen of Paris,” encouraging their unionization, and “The club for American girls studying in Paris.“ She returned to the US in 1895. A visit to England 1898 led to an article on “Land Allotments in England.”[4] She was an editor of The Intercollegiate Socialist,  the magazine of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, writing many reviews and articles with titles like “War Collectivism in England,” “Concerning the German Revolution,” and “Karl Marx.”[5] Other work appeared in The Socialist Review and Leslie’s Weekly. Her essays, often a combination of personal observation and politics, were reprinted in many papers.

Strobell was a radical and a suffragist. An ardent supporter of William Jennings Bryan in the 1896 election, she wrote “I have wanted to vote so in this election, that I positively have had a feeling of humiliation that I couldn’t.”[6] In 1919 she ran for Justice of the New York Municipal Court on the Socialist party ticket.[7]

She married Lothrop Withington in Paris, a professional genealogist, in 1892, and divorced him in 1910. In 1915 Caro married George Strobell, a jeweler who became the manager of the Socialist Party of America’s Rand School of Social Sciences. He would die­­ in Russia in 1926, working on Soviet farm reconstruction.[8]

In 1912 Strobell published a biography of her brother, Henry Demarest Lloyd, 1847-1903; A Biography. She collected his papers, which are now at the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Strobell left the Socialist party in 1927 and joined the Communist party in 1935, contributing many articles to the party’s official newspaper, The Daily Worker. A family member recalled that “men in dark suits” came to visit her in Little Compton, bringing writing assignments and asking for money.[9] In 1940, at the age of 81, she bought the newspaper along with two friends, also elderly women, to protect it from government attacks on the Communist Party.

Frances Goodrich, a Hollywood writer and niece of Caro, described her during a visit to the Lloyd’s summer house in Little Compton: “always plainly dressed,” with “dark, almost fierce-looking eyes.” Her nephew the art historian Lloyd Goodrich ­­had similar recollections. “My Aunt Caro was a fiery person, with passionate beliefs… I can remember the heated arguments between her and my father: she was emotional about politics.”[10]

Strobell died in 1941 at her Little Compton home. Just weeks before her death she had written an article for The Daily Worker that combined her love and concern for Little Compton with her Communist politics. In it, she contrasted Newport and Little Compton, On the west side of the bay, there were the “summer palaces of kings and queens of industry.” (In the biography of her brother, she had called them “marble palaces, homes reared on the proceeds of tyranny.”) On the east, the water “laps the shell-trimmed backyards of fishermen’s huts, swishes the tin cans from the store and the clam house, batters the stout fishing boats.” In Newport, there is golf and tennis and fancy meals and cocktail parties; in Little Compton, the fishermen are “emptying lobster pots,” “pulling in nets” and worrying about the fish, being taken by “great trawlers with diesel engines owned by city monopolists.” The farmers are worried about their living, too: “their famous Rhode Island Reds and geese no longer pay… all along the east shore it is life’s bare necessities, which are being curtailed.”

“Some day,” Strobell concludes, “the blue waters will wash happier shores where those who play will also work and those who work will also play.”[11]

Steven Lubar

March 2020

Essay by Lexi Owen

Carolyn Lloyd Strobell was born in 1859 in Perkins, Illinois. She was an amazing Little Compton Woman.  For example, she was an author, activist and was a loyal member of the Little Compton Garden Club. Not only was she a part of the American Socialist Party, she also wrote a biography of her brother Henry Demarst Lloyd.

Carolyn had a busy, complicated life. She was very smart and attended Vassar College and graduated in 1881. Soon after that, she moved to Paris to start her career. She wrote articles for “The Outlook” on topics including “The organization of the working women in Paris” and encouraging their unionization and, “ The Club for American girls studying in Paris”. She returned to the US and visited England while writing many articles and essays about politics. They were published in many journals and papers and reprinted in many papers for years.

While she was in Paris, she met her husband Lothrop Withington and married him in 1892.  He was a professional geologist but it didn’t work out and Carolyn divorced him in 1910. Carolyn finally returned to the U.S in 1895 and became a radical and suffragist. In 1915, Carolyn met someone new and married him in the same year. She married George Strobell who later became the manager of the Socialist Party of America’s Rand School of Social Sciences. Unfortunately, he died in Russia 1926 working on a farm reconstruction..          

Carolyn soon left the Socialist party in 1927 and joined the Communist party in 1935, contributing many articles to the party’s official newspaper, The Daily Worker. A family member recalled that “men in dark suits” came to visit her in Little Compton, bringing writing assignments and asking for money”. Her nephew said she was always plainly dressed and she had dark almost fierce looking eyes. Weeks before Carolyn died she had written an article for the Daily worker about her love and concern for Little Compton and the community politics.  In this article, she compared Little Compton to Newport. She stated that Newport was lavish with marble houses and tennis courts and Little Compton has huts and fishing boats. She was concerned that the rich Newport people would take things from the Little Compton people.

Carolyn Strobell was well known for being an activist and political writer. She was very involved in the Socialist and then the Communist party. She was well educated and her views were published in several journals and papers. Carolyn died in her home in Little Compton.

Written by: Lexi Owen ,Grade 5 -Wilbur & McMahon School

April 2020

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[1] David L. Goodrich, The Real Nick and Nora: Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, Writers of Stage and Screen Classics, p. 56

[2] From descripn of HDL papers at Wisconsin: http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi/f/findaid/findaid-idx?c=wiarchives;view=reslist;subview=standard;didno=uw-whs-ill00e;focusrgn=bioghist;cc=wiarchives;byte=119928791

[3] https://www.newenglandballproject.com/g1/p1655.htm#i41374 and Lloyd biography p. 1

[4] Outlook, v. 59 430-31, June 18, 1898 https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Outlook/_GEcAQAAIAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=%22caro+lloyd%22+-demarest&pg=PA430&printsec=frontcover

[5] Dec-Jan 1915-16, vol 4 no. 2 pp. 8-9

[6] Caro L. Withington to Lloyd, November 1, 1896, in Lloyd MSS; quoted in  Robert F. Durden, The Climax of Populism: The Election of 1896 (2015)  p. 83

[7] The sun. [volume], October 28, 1919, Image 21. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030431/1919-10-28/ed-1/seq-21/#date1=1789&index=0&rows=20&words=Caroline+Strobel&searchType=basic&sequence=0&state=&date2=1963&proxtext=%22caroline+strobell%22&y=0&x=0&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=2

[8] New York Times obituary, 9/19/1940

[9] David L. Goodrich, The Real Nick and Nora: Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, Writers of Stage and Screen Classics

[10] “Lloyd Goodrich Reminisces, Part I,” in L Goodrich, G McCoy – Archives of American Art Journal, 1980 – p. 4

[11] Strobell, “This side – and that” The Daily Worker, Aug. 18 sect 2 p. 4.

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