Gates of Freedom
Voltairine de Cleyre and the Revolution of the Mind
Publication Year: 2004
Published by: University of Michigan Press
Title Page, Copyright
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Part One: Revolution of the Mind
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Voltairine de Cleyre belongs to a group of writers in the United States—late-nineteenth-century freethinkers, anarchists, and sex radicals—who are excluded not only from the canon in general but even from the most progressive textbook anthologies. This exclusion renders their achievements invisible...
1. Freeing Thought
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“The history of intellectual progress is written in the lives of infidels,” freethinker Robert Ingersoll proclaimed in 1894 (“Voltaire” 177). In the hundreds of works Voltairine de Cleyre published from the 1880s until her death in 1912—poems, sketches, essays, lectures, pamphlets, translations...
2. Fated Fruit
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De Cleyre’s position on the means by which “the dream of social order without government” could be realized belongs to a late-nineteenth-century anarchist debate too complex to be rendered here in full, but its broad outlines are necessary to frame clearly her particular version...
3. Sex Slavery
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De Cleyre was not one of the great original theorists of anarchism at its most general level, although many of her lectures are brilliant and cogent syntheses of ideas drawn from her extensive reading of anarchist theory. She should be recognized, however, as a major—perhaps the major—theorist...
4. Refashioning the Mind
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To go free, “beyond the bounds of what fear and custom call the ‘possible,’” was de Cleyre’s lifelong project, and the project of inspiring such freedom in her readers animates all of her narrative and rhetorical strategies. Central to this project was the challenge of getting rid of...
Part Two: Selected Writings of Voltairine de Cleyre
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Section One: De Cleyre's Lifework: Hope, Despair, Solidarity
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De Cleyre was a voluminous letter writer, and her letters are a microcosm of the strengths that characterize her work in every other genre; in them, in fact, we see much of the literary potential that she herself felt she never fully developed. To supplement the biographical sketch in the...
The Burial of My Past Self
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New and Strange Ideas
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After six long weeks I received your most truly welcome note, which wasn’t cross as I feared it would be.
Well I’m glad you’re not angry at me, and I don’t intend, I assure you, to do any more harm than the ordinary individual. ...
Civilizing the World
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This is the last day of my vacation. I have been a “half-timer” now for ten weeks, but the worship of Mammon11 declares I must start in “full time” tomorrow. So I’m taking my last day to write you, for the Keeper of Mysteries only knows whether I’ll get another chance this year or not. ...
To Print the Force of My Will
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I’m like yourself, blue, these last weeks; due I presume mostly to the weather, which probably exerts on human beings the same sort of influence it does on everything else,—a repressive, deadening sort of one. ...
Do You Remember . . . ?
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Dear Old Girl:—
Your second letter came to-day. I was going to answer the first one any how today. . . . every day I thought to answer it, but some way I couldn’t make up my mind to write until I had settled whether to come back or not. ...
Possessed by Barren Doubts
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I am infinitely ashamed of myself for not having answered your letter of Dec. 12 before this; the trouble is I took the advice you gave literally; do you remember what you wrote? “The best thing it seems to me would be for you to drop letter writing and discuss the whole question”...
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Dearest Sister: Your letters just came this morning. . . .
Well, if things cannot be arranged for Detroit,—(or even for Mother to board even at $4.50) then I shall have to give up my western idea42 and go and stay with her for a year. ...
Report of the Work of the Chicago Mexican Defense League
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About the middle of May, 1911, a few comrades in Chicago, responding to the appeal of the Junta of the Mexican Liberal Party, took up the task of informing themselves as to the underlying causes of the great revolutionary struggle in Mexico, and of spreading that information among...
Section Two: Freedom, Justice, Anarchism
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As the letters in the preceding section show, from de Cleyre’s earliest days as a freethought agitator in Grand Rapids her attention was fixed on the inequality, desperation, and crime bred by the violence inherent in any so-called social “order” not founded on liberty. ...
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A Rocket of Iron
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It was one of those misty October nightfalls of the north, when the white fog creeps up from the river, and winds itself like a corpse-sheet around the black, ant-like mass of human insignificance, a cold menace from Nature to Man, till the foreboding of that irresistible fatality...
Appeal for Herman Helcher
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I write to appeal to you on behalf of the unfortunate child (for in intellect he has never been more than a child) who made the assault upon me. He is friendless, he is in prison, he is sick;—had he not been sick in brain he would never have done this thing. ...
The Chain Gang
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It is far, far down in the southland, and I am back again, thanks be, in the land of wind and snow, where life lives. But that was in the days when I was a wretched thing, that crept and crawled, and shrunk when the wind blew, and feared the snow. So they sent me away down there to the...
The Commune Is Risen
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Never since those lines were sung by the great unknown poet, whose heart shone red through his words, has the pulse of the world beat so true a response as it is beating now. We do not stand to-day as mourners at the bier of a Dead Cause, but with the joy of those who behold it living in the Resurrection. ...
Section Three: On Women, Sexuality, and the Body
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“The questions of souls is old; we demand our bodies, now.” De Cleyre wrote these words in 1890; they could just as easily have been written in 1970, in any manifesto associated with the second wave of feminism. Although the anarchist feminism of Emma Goldman had a significant...
Selling Their Bodies
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My Dearest Little Sis,
I’m so ashamed of myself to think I haven’t answered your New Year’s letter. It was such a nice letter too; so full of good things. But do you know I have on the average two letters every day and one’s postage bill gets to be quite an item. . . .
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Night in a prison cell! A chair, a bed, a small washstand, four blank walls, ghastly in the dim light from the corridor without, a narrow window, barred and sunken in the stone, a grated door! Beyond its hideous iron latticework, within the ghastly walls,—a man! ...
The Gates of Freedom
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“They have rights who dare maintain them.” This is my text.
And the purpose of my lecture is threefold. First to state the facts concerning the actual of [sic] status of woman in relation to society as a whole—what position she really holds in human economy. ...
The White Room
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It was an artist’s masterpiece. He had wrought it all with his own hands, after his idea, which grew as he wrought. It was not square nor long nor round, nor any regular shape, such as we are used to thinking of rooms; it was wider here and narrower there, and had strange turns and...
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If I Had Married Him
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Yes, I did forget to enclose the Bentley letter last time—or rather I looked in the envelope and tho’t I saw it inside and let it go without further examination. It’s in this time sure. ...
The Past and Future of the Ladies' Liberal League
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I have assumed a serious and severe office that of historian and prophet. But, pardon me, I intend to be neither serious nor severe; for this is an occasion rather for exchanging greetings and putting ourselves in good humor than being serious, and my talk will be somewhat governed thereby. ...
The Case of Woman vs. Orthodoxy
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“I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children, and thy desire shall be unto thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”90 Thus descended the anathema from the voice which thundered upon Sinai; and thus has the curse gone echoing...
The Woman Question
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“A section of Anarchists say there is no ‘Women Question,’ apart from our present industrial situation. But the assertion is mostly made by men, and men are not the fittest to feel the slaveries of women. Scientists argue that the nutritive functions of society are best performed by...
The Heart of Angiolillo
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Some women are born to love stories as the sparks ›y upward. You see it every time they glance at you, and you feel it every time they lay a finger on your sleeve. There was a party the other night, and a four-year old baby who couldn’t sleep for the noise crept down into the parlor half...
The Death of Love
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A very miscellaneous set of reasons, those which Lucifer has received as to why love dies. May I add one more to the assortment? And may I preface that it seems to me all the answers I have read are open to the same criticism, viz: that of hunting with a telescope for reasons of all sorts of doubtful probability...
The Hopelessly Fallen
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I generally like what Kate Austin says and always admire the spirited way she says it; but I feel moved to write a word of disagreement with her and others concerning this attitude towards “fallen women.”129 I do not know just what class of persons are included in that category...
They Who Marry Do Ill
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Let me make myself understood on two points, now, so that when discussion arises later, words may not be wasted in considering things not in question:
First—How shall we measure doing well or doing ill; Second—What I mean by marriage. ...
Notes to Part 1
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Selected Index of Names
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Page Count: 348
Illustrations: 3 B&W photographs and 2 illustrations
Publication Year: 2004