She Was the Steve Bannon of the Great Depression
When she smiled her face could look cherubic, with wide eyes and chubby cheeks conveying a calm she rarely felt. In fact, she became famous by twisting her face with such disgust and issuing such cutting remarks she could have been the Gold Medalist in demonization as America’s Animosity Olympics—1930s and 1940s edition—peaked.
She joined the chorus screeching “AMERICA FIRST!”—putting American values of tolerance, decency, and equality last. She hated blacks. She hated Communists. She hated the Roosevelts. But most of all she hated Jews. Indeed, Elizabeth Dilling earned the nickname a Nazi newspaper gave her: “the female Fuhrer.”
In a twisted salute to womanpower, this Chicagoland matron competed with the populist demagogues Father Charles Coughlin and Gerald L.K. Smith in denouncing what they called Franklin Roosevelt’s “Jew Deal” and Communism as an international Jewish conspiracy. Born in Chicago as Elizabeth Kirkpatrick in 1894, married to a wealthy lawyer Albert Dilling in 1918, this anxious, frustrated woman exploited the era’s anxieties, trying to make everyone else as miserable as she was...
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