Thesis

Against the red tide: Rena M. Vale and the long red scare in California

This thesis offers an analysis of the life of Rena Marie Vale (1898-1983), a professional anticommunist crusader who likely shaped the agenda if not the personality of the California Un-American Activities Committee (CUAC) in the 1960s. Topics explored herein include anticommunism through the lens of gender; the role of professional women in the anticommunist jihad; the use of science fiction to expose the mortal danger of communism to America; and the response of CUAC to those who defied the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), the anti-war peaceniks, the proponents of the Civil Rights Crusade, and the advocates of the Free Speech Movement. 
 A number of historians have addressed women as targets of anticommunist inquisitions, but few have ever mentioned those women who operated as the inquisitors themselves. Though generally unknown to scholars, Vale toiled behind the curtain as a Red hunter deluxe, framing the questions for the investigative committee as well as supplying the inculpatory evidence needed to indict individuals summoned to prove their Americanism. For instance, as the committee’s main conduit of information on the seismic events occurring in California in the 1960s, she likely influenced the views of Hugh Burns and Richard Coombs by giving them the fodder to brand the Free Speech Movement a communist plot.
 This thesis draws primarily from the Records of the California Un-American Activities Committee housed at the California State Archives, particularly the valuable Index Card File dating from 1954 to 1968; the Bay Area Reports and the Office Files, which explain why Vale created the aforementioned cards; and Vale’s own testimony before CUAC and HUAC. Insight into Vale’s mindset can best be gleaned from her memoir and her three science fiction novels. Other primary sources that undergird my essay include interviews, newspaper reports, and correspondence. Finally, secondary accounts have also informed my analysis; specifically, I have especially relied on the works of Edward Barrett, Jr., David Caute, John Haynes, Michael Heale, Richard Hofstadter, Lisa McGirr, Kathryn Olmsted, William Rorabaugh, Catherine Rymph, Ingrid Scobie, Ellen Shrecker, and Kate Weigand.
 The thesis concludes that Vale not only experienced professional success as a diligent pursuer of communists, but likely her vital role as a female Torquemada conferred enormous personal satisfaction after having been spurned by chauvinistic males in the studio system and even in the Communist Party. It also recognizes the success of Vale’s futuristic fiction both as an exemplar of Cold War hysteria and for her Cassandra-like efforts to fan chimerical fears of thermonuclear war and the Soviet subjugation of the United States.

Thesis (M.A., History) -- California State University, Sacramento, 2010.

This thesis offers an analysis of the life of Rena Marie Vale (1898-1983), a professional anticommunist crusader who likely shaped the agenda if not the personality of the California Un-American Activities Committee (CUAC) in the 1960s. Topics explored herein include anticommunism through the lens of gender; the role of professional women in the anticommunist jihad; the use of science fiction to expose the mortal danger of communism to America; and the response of CUAC to those who defied the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), the anti-war peaceniks, the proponents of the Civil Rights Crusade, and the advocates of the Free Speech Movement. A number of historians have addressed women as targets of anticommunist inquisitions, but few have ever mentioned those women who operated as the inquisitors themselves. Though generally unknown to scholars, Vale toiled behind the curtain as a Red hunter deluxe, framing the questions for the investigative committee as well as supplying the inculpatory evidence needed to indict individuals summoned to prove their Americanism. For instance, as the committee’s main conduit of information on the seismic events occurring in California in the 1960s, she likely influenced the views of Hugh Burns and Richard Coombs by giving them the fodder to brand the Free Speech Movement a communist plot. This thesis draws primarily from the Records of the California Un-American Activities Committee housed at the California State Archives, particularly the valuable Index Card File dating from 1954 to 1968; the Bay Area Reports and the Office Files, which explain why Vale created the aforementioned cards; and Vale’s own testimony before CUAC and HUAC. Insight into Vale’s mindset can best be gleaned from her memoir and her three science fiction novels. Other primary sources that undergird my essay include interviews, newspaper reports, and correspondence. Finally, secondary accounts have also informed my analysis; specifically, I have especially relied on the works of Edward Barrett, Jr., David Caute, John Haynes, Michael Heale, Richard Hofstadter, Lisa McGirr, Kathryn Olmsted, William Rorabaugh, Catherine Rymph, Ingrid Scobie, Ellen Shrecker, and Kate Weigand. The thesis concludes that Vale not only experienced professional success as a diligent pursuer of communists, but likely her vital role as a female Torquemada conferred enormous personal satisfaction after having been spurned by chauvinistic males in the studio system and even in the Communist Party. It also recognizes the success of Vale’s futuristic fiction both as an exemplar of Cold War hysteria and for her Cassandra-like efforts to fan chimerical fears of thermonuclear war and the Soviet subjugation of the United States.

Relationships

Items