Marguerite’s health fails; she’s transferred

Marguerite Harrison spent eight months in Lubyanka Prison while editors at the Baltimore Sun and Maryland Gov. Albert Ritchie worked frantically behind the scenes to exert pressure on the Russians to free her. Sun Managing Editor Frank Kent appealed to the Associated Press for help, and the wire agency asked the powerful London press baron Lord Beaverbrook to lobby Soviet trade minister Leonid Krasin for her freedom. Nothing seemed to work.

Meanwhile, the Russians forced Marguerite to write numerous letters to Ritchie declaring that she was not being mistreated and that she deserved the punishment she was given.

In one letter, Marguerite wrote: “Our prison can hardly be named one with such conditions. It is rebuilt from a hotel and only the windows have bars so the rooms can hardly be called a prison. My room is quite spacious and light with two big windows. My bed is located in a corner close to one. I had enough time during my arrest to take all necessary things with me. Every morning we are met by Red Army soldier with smile.” She went on to lie about the food: “Our breakfast contains hot coffee, good bread and sugar. . . . Our lunch contains a big piece of soup from fish, potatoes, vegetables, cabbage and for the second course kasha. . . . As you can see, we are not starving.”

In another, she asserted that the Soviet government was in control of the country and had implemented “strong and admirable” changes in Russian society.

Lord Beaverbrook, a London press baron, tried unsuccessfully to win Marguerite’s freedom.

But the months of confinement and the poor diet inevitably took their toll. She wrote to Ritchie that she was bothered by chronic bronchitis, but her condition was much more serious. She had contracted tuberculosis. Since winter she had been bothered by a persistent cough and fever, and despite daily exercise and some primitive remedies prescribed by the prison doctor, she grew weaker. With release seeming unlikely, she knew her only hope for survival was to transfer to a prison where she could get fresh air. She petitioned several times to be moved, and finally toward June 1921, Cheka agreed to send her to the Novinsky women’s prison.

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