Excerpt from "Queen Silver: The Godless Girl" -- Biographical Section.
The Young Queen Silver in Freethought
Almost a full year after her article was published in the Truth Seeker, on March 11, 1923, Queen delivered the lecture, 'Evolution from Monkey to Bryan.' As soon as C.H. Betts, editor of the Lyons Republican of Lyons, New York, heard of the lecture, he wrote to the twelve year old evolutionist, requesting permission to publish the text in his newspaper. It appeared in five installments, and afterwards a thousand pamphlets were published. It received widespread acclaim, with Luther Burbank declaring it to be the best thing printed to date on the subject.(15)
Unfolding events on the American political scene were to make the pamphlet famous on a national and an international level. In the sweltering summer of 1925, a controversy called the Scopes Monkey Trial thrust the sleepy Bible-town of Dayton, Tennessee into the center of national attention. The Butler Law of 1925 prohibited the teaching of evolution in Tennessee classrooms and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) were determined to test the constitutionality of that Law. The ACLU did so through providing for the defense of twenty-four year old John Thomas Scopes, a high school biology teacher who was arrested for speaking out about evolution to his class in Rhea County High School.(16)
The defense attorney was the brilliant champion of the underdog, Clarence Darrow. The tent-revivalist, former Secretary of State and three-time candidate for President, William Jennings Bryan volunteered to head up the prosecution. In the acclaimed 1960 movie by Stanley Kramer, "Inherit the Wind", Spencer Tracy played Darrow to Frederic March's Bryan. Substantial passages of the script depicting the court trial came directly from the court dialogue, including the following exchange. Frustrated by having his expert witnesses barred from rendering testimony, Darrow finally put Bryan on the stand as an expert witness and now asked him when the Great Flood occurred:
"Bryan: I never made a calculation.
Darrow: What do you think?
Bryan: I do not think about things I don't think about.
Darrow: Do you think about the things you do think about?
Bryan: Well sometimes."(17)
One can only imagine the unrestrained glee with which the flood of hardened reporters who covered the trial listened to such exchanges, reporters such as rollickingly cynical H.L. Mencken who reputedly called Bryan the only man he'd ever seen who could strut while sitting down. The reporters were delighted by another item as well. Arthur St. Clair, a friend of Queen's and a member of the Los Angeles branch of the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism, Inc. (the '4As') attended the trial and wrote back from the scene. In a letter to Queen dated July 19, 1925 and signed, "Yours for Evolution," St. Clair enthused:
"Almost all of the newspaper reporters here are freethinkers at heart, though some have not the courage of their convictions. Many of them have read your pamphlet, 'Evolution from Monkey to Bryan,' which is being surreptitiously circulated here. The local bookstore will not sell it; they are probably afraid of being raided. They sell Bryan's works openly. The cartoons have caused much merriment at Bryan's expense. Some are very curious about you, and can not believe it is your work. But I tell them about how many years you have been lecturing, and the numerous lectures and debates on scientific subject you have given, and show them some of the clippings from the Los Angeles Examiner, Record, News, and other papers and magazines. It is curious to watch their reaction to the pamphlet and to the story of your career."(18)(19)