On this date in 1910, "girl philosopher" Queen Silver was born in Portland, Oregon, where her mother, Grace Verne Silver, 21, a Socialist lecturer, was stranded during a tour. At 10 days old, Queen took the first of countless railway journeys with her mother. The pair settled in Los Angeles. Starting in 1917, they and Queen's stepfather became extras in motion pictures to supplement income. Queen was taught at home and was expected at an early age to be independent, to pay her own board and even cook her own meals. "The precocious child is the normal child," Grace believed. Queen was reading Darwin and Haeckel at 7. At age 8 she delivered a series of lectures in Los Angeles, on topics including "From Star to Man." Queen delivered them extemporaneously from notes as her mother illustrated them with stereopticon views, an event noteworthy enough to be covered by the Los Angeles Record. At age 11, Queen publicly challenged William Jennings Bryan to a debate on evolution. Bryan declined. The Daily News in Inglewood carried a front-page article on June 29, 1925, reporting that "Inglewood's famous girl philosopher, talker and writer" might attend the Scopes trial and, which pictured Queen holding a chimpanzee. Queen was unable to afford the trip but 1,000 of her pamphlets were distributed during the trial. From 1923-1934, she published "Queen Silver's Magazine," a 16-page periodical with a freethought angle and a national subscription. During the Depression, Queen took seasonal office work. Starting in 1936, she became a junior typist clerk. Attending night school, she graduated from Los Angeles City College in the 1960s with an associate degree in arts. She stayed in state civil service, working as a court reporter, and retired in 1972. She helped to found the Los Angeles group that later became Atheists United, serving on its board, and lecturing occasionally. She was a member of many freethought and humanist organizations, including the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Wendy McElroy published a biography, Godless Girl, after Queen's death. D. 1998.
“The greatest contribution nonbelievers have made to the world has been the Constitution of the United States. Consider how very heretical to a religious world was the idea of a Constitution predicated on 'We, the People.' ”
—Queen Silver, "Humanity's Gain from Unbelief," a speech delivered in her 80s and whose title was borrowed from 19th century freethinker Charles Bradlaugh. See
Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor
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