Carl Winter (1906-1991) and Helen Winter (1908-2001) were Communist Party USA activists and officials. Beginning in 1936, Carl Winter held leading posts in the CPUSA in Ohio, Minnesota and California. From 1945 until the mid-1960s, he was Chairman and District Organizer, and Helen Winter was Secretary, of the Communist Party of Michigan. During the McCarthy era, their positions in the CPUSA led to their arrests and indictments, and Carl Winter’s imprisonment for three and a half years, under the Smith Act for conspiracy to overthrow the government of the U.S. After his release from prison in 1955, and the dismissal of charges against Helen Winter in 1958, they resumed leading roles in the Communist Party of Michigan and were both named to the National Committee of the CPUSA. In 1966, they moved to New York City where Carl Winter was editor-in-chief of The Worker, and co-editor of the Daily World . Helen Winter served as the International Affairs Secretary of the CPUSA, and was a founding member of the U.S. Peace Council. Both were members of the CPUSA’s Political Bureau. In 1980, Carl Winter left his editorial post and became Chairperson of the CPUSA’s Central Review Commission. That year the Winters returned to Detroit, where Carl Winter was active in developing the Midwest Labor Institute for Social Studies and Helen Winter operated Global Books.
Carl Winter was arrested on July 20, 1948 and tried and convicted with eleven other national leaders of the CPUSA under the Smith Act in what became known as The United States vs. Dennis. Winter was represented by George Crockett, an African-American attorney, leading member of the National Lawyer's Guild, and future Detroit circuit court judge and United States Congressman from Michigan. Helen Winter was arrested in 1952, and tried and convicted under the Smith Act with five other leading members of the Michigan Communist Party. The trial was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States, and charges were dismissed in 1957. Throughout her husband’s imprisonment and her own trial, Helen Winter helped organize campaigns on behalf of Smith Act defendants through the National Committee to Win Amnesty for the Smith Act Victims, Families of the Smith Act Victims, and the Civil Rights Congress of Michigan.
Hortense Allison and Alfred Wagenknecht (1881-1956) were leaders of the Socialist Party of America in Washington State in the early twentieth century. In 1913, the family moved to Cleveland, where Wagenknecht was State Secretary of the Ohio Socialist Party. As a result of his active opposition to World War I, he was arrested and imprisoned in 1917 with Charles Ruthenberg in Canton, Ohio. In 1919, Wagenknecht presided over the founding convention, and was named National Secretary, of the Communist Labor Party of America, one of two organizations that would eventually merge to create the CPUSA. In 1924 Wagenknecht managed the fundraising drive for the Daily Worker and helped lead the 1926 strike of textile workers in Passaic, New Jersey.
From the guide to the Alfred Wagenknecht and Hortense Allison and Helen and Carl Winter Family Papers, circa 1890-2002, (Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive)