Miller Center

Reform and Revenge: The Ford-Newberry Senate Election Contest and the Trajectory of Progressivism

Paula  Baker Paula Baker

Speaker: Paula Baker
Date: December 8, 2006
Time: 12:30 PM

Paula Baker, Associate Professor of History, Ohio State University

Baker argues that there has never been an election quite like the 1918 Senate race in Michigan. The race pitted two wealthy individuals from Michigan against each other: Henry Ford, famous carmaker and favorite of President Woodrow Wilson, versus Truman Newberry, an elite Detroit businessman and former naval officer. Newberry's marginal win over Ford resulted in years of legal disputes over Newberry's campaign financing practices. Besides campaign finance concerns, supporters of Ford turned the post-election legal battles into a test of President Wilson's ability to influence foreign policy by helping favored Congressmen win elections. The legal disputes were also a proxy battle for dueling parties seeking control over the Senate. Consequently, the race represented "both the modernization of campaign organization and what happened to Progressivism in the 1920s."

Baker received her Ph.D. from Rutgers University, where she studied U.S. political and women's history. She has written on women, gender, and politics, notably in The Moral Frameworks of Public Life (Oxford, 1991) and "The Domestication of Politics: Women and American Political Society, 1780-1920" (American Historical Review, 1984). Currently, she is completing a history of campaign finance, The American Political Industry, which tells the story of party finance and organization from the beginning of mass political parties through 2004. Before coming to Columbus in 2002, Baker served as a Special Assistant and contractor with the Employment and Training Administration at the Department of Labor in Washington, DC. She has also taught at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Massachusetts.


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