Windows were shot out and a burning cross appeared in the yard of this St. Louis house when the Wade family, pictured, moved in. LaRue Spiker and Louise Gillbert of Southwest Harbor were among the activists who volunteered to keep guard at the house. Carolyn Gage will tell the story March 12 at the Southwest Harbor Library. PHOTO COURTESY OF AL BLUNK

Southwest Harbor activists jailed in 1954 Kentucky

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Carolyn Gage will speak about “Quietside’s Unsung Civil Rights Heroines: LaRue Spiker and Louise Gillbert and the Wade House Bombing” Tuesday, March 12, from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Southwest Harbor Public Library. The event is part of the library’s Women’s History Month celebration.

LaRue Spiker is celebrated in Southwest Harbor as an activist, environmentalist, and editor of the Bar Harbor Times. There is even a bench dedicated to her memory in front of the Harbor House. But many people do not know that LaRue Spiker and her life partner Louise Gilbert put their lives and their freedom on the line in one of the most violent landmark incidents in the civil rights era: the Wade House bombing.

In 1954, an African American family, the Wades, moved into a home in a white neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky. Within days, a burning cross appeared near their yard, and the windows in the home were shot out. A small group of activists volunteered to keep guard in the home at night so that the family could sleep.

LaRue and Louise were among these guardians. One night the house was bombed, and five of the guardians, including Spiker and Gilbert, were indicted for sedition. Arrested and jailed for refusing to answer questions about their personal lives, the women faced the possibility of 21-year prison sentences.

“The Wade House bombing became a national turning point in the struggle for housing desegregation,” event organizers said. “Understanding the McCarthy era with its Communist and homosexual witch hunts, today we can appreciate and celebrate the stunning heroism of these lesbians who made Southwest Harbor their home for 25 years.”

Gage is the author of 75 plays, musicals, and one-woman shows. She specializes in writing about non-traditional roles for women, especially famous lesbians whose stories have been distorted or erased from history.

Retired now, she toured for 22 years in her award-winning play “The Second Coming of Joan of Arc,” teaching and giving lectures and workshops. She has taught at Bates College and the University of Southern Maine.

Contact the library at 244-7065.

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