American anarchist writer, lecturer and activist
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  • Voltairine de Cleyre

    Voltairine de Cleyre (17 November 1866 - 20 June 1912) was an American anarchist writer and feminist. She was a prolific writer and speaker, opposing the state, marriage, and the domination of religion over sexuality and women's lives. She began her activist career in the freethought movement. De Cleyre was initially drawn to individualist anarchism but evolved through mutualism to an "anarchism without adjectives". She believed that any system was acceptable as long as it did not involve force. She was a colleague of Emma Goldman, with whom she maintained a relationship of respectful disagreement on many issues. Many of her essays were in the Selected Works of Voltairine de Cleyre, published posthumously by Mother Earth in 1914.

    Born

    17 Nov 1866, Voltairine de Claire, in Leslie, Michigan

    Died

    20 Jun 1912, in Chicago

    Web Sites

    Voltairine de Cleyre: Exquisite Rebel, by Sharon Presley
    Includes biography page, text of many of her essays and links to other web resources

    Articles

    Charles Johnson on his Many Publications, Libertarian Feminism and Anarchic Individualism, by Charles W. Johnson, Anthony Wile, The Daily Bell, 29 Apr 2012
    Topics include the Markets Not Capitalism anthology, some of his essays, his family, his work with Alliance of the Libertarian Left, war, constitutions, feminism, unions, the United States, Murray Rothbard, Austrian economics and the future
    "Voltairine de Cleyre is one of the most brilliant writers in the 19th/early 20th century libertarian tradition – a really provocative and constantly experimental thinker about the nature of freedom, and the author of some really important essays on libertarian feminism. There are some excellent recent collections of her writing, in particular The Voltairine de Cleyre Reader (from AK Press, ed. A. J. Brigati) and Exquisite Rebel: The Essays of Voltairine de Cleyre – Anarchist, Feminist, Genius (from SUNY Press, eds. Crispin Sartwell and Sharon Presley)."
    Related Topics: Mary J. Ruwart, War
    Gertrude B. Kelly: A Forgotten Feminist, by Wendy McElroy, The Freeman, Oct 1998
    Lengthy profile of Dr. Gertrude B. Kelly (1862–1934), Irish immigrant, individualist feminist and contributor to the Liberty periodical
    "... on reading [about] the Haymarket protesters ... the teenaged individualist-feminist Voltairine de Cleyre had exclaimed aloud, 'They ought to be hanged!' She keenly and instantly regretted the words, and assumed the opposite position with equal vehemence. Fourteen years later, de Cleyre remained sorely haunted by her words ... Much of de Cleyre's political activity in the ensuing years can be seen as an attempt to expiate her sin. Her most passionate addresses were delivered as lectures at the yearly memorials to the Haymarket martyrs that she attended."
    Introducing Revisionism: An interview with James J. Martin, by Steven Springer, Michael Hardesty, Peter Kuetzing, John McCarthy, Reason, Jan 1976
    Topics discussed include: World War II vs. Vietnam War revisionism, genocide, the definition of "aggression" between nations, the Cold War, Lysander Spooner vs. Benjamin Tucker on natural rights, the Columbus complex and individualist anarchism
    "... the writings of the woman radical named Voltairine de Cleyre ... a very much neglected and overlooked lady revolutionist and thinker of great importance in this country. ... [she] advanced the notion that at bottom, if you kept going down to the bottom, in an attempt to search out the reason for the existence of this or that individual attitude towards ethical, philosophical and related questions, you got back down to a biological basis—what she called temperament—which was not capable of being understood or measured by any kind of rational approach; and that it was a genetic factor."
    Libertarian Feminism: An Honorable Tradition, by Sharon Presley, 2 Dec 2014
    Traces the feminist tradition from individualist anarchists in the 18th, 19th and early 20th century, to the creation in 1973 of the Association of Libertarian Feminists and on to present activism
    "However the most famous of the individualist anarchist feminists was Voltairine de Cleyre (1866 –1912). Though she later declared herself an 'anarchist without adjectives,' her individualist spirit continued. Her essay 'Sex Slavery' was the most systematic statement of the social construction of gender (before such a term even existed) since Sarah Grimke's essays ... Though she was not alone in this belief, many mainstream feminists and most male anarchists bought into the traditional stereotypes of women as weaker and softer and whose primary role was in the home. This radical aspect of her ideas has been insufficiently appreciated, even by people who are familiar with her."
    Voltairine de Cleyre: Penitent Priestess of Anarchism, by Jeff Riggenbach, 17 Jun 2010
    Biographical essay, transcript of "The Libertarian Tradition" podcast of 8 June 2010
    "Voltairine de Cleyre was born November 17, 1866, just after the end of the American Civil War, in a town called Leslie, in rural Central Michigan, about 20 miles south of Lansing. ... Voltairine never wrote a book, but certain of her essays are really neglected classics. Her essay 'Anarchism and American Traditions,' for example, appeared originally in 1908 and 1909 in the pages of Mother Earth, Emma Goldman's anarchist magazine. It is a true gem."
    Related Topics: Anarchism, Atheism, Libertarianism
    Voltairine de Cleyre | Libertarianism.org, by Sharon Presley, Libertarian Review, Mar 1979
    Biographical essay, discussing Cleyre's life, views on anarchism and marriage, and contrasting her to Emma Goldman
    "In An American Anarchist: the Life of Voltairine de Cleyre (Princeton University Press, 1978), Avrich makes that legend come alive, revealing not only Voltairine de Cleyre the anarchist but Voltairine de Cleyre the person as well. ... Born in a small village in Michigan in 1866, Voltairine, plagued all her life by poverty, pain and ill health, died prematurely at the age of 45 in 1912. The short span of her life, ending before the great events of the 20th century, is, in Avrich's opinion, the major reason why Voltairine de Cleyre has been overlooked, unlike the longer-lived Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman."
    Related Topics: Anarchism, Marriage

    Writings

    Anarchism, Free Society, 13 Oct 1901
    Examines various economic propositions for anarchism (socialist, communist, individualist and mutualist) and opines that all could be tried out
    "It no longer seems necessary to me, therefore, that one should base his Anarchism on any particular world conception; it is a theory of the relations due to man and comes as an offered solution to the societary problems arising from the existence of these two tendencies of which I have spoken. ... Anarchism, alone, apart from any proposed economic reform, is just the latest reply out of many the past has given, to that daring, breakaway, volatile, changeful spirit which is never content."

    Videos


    Who Is Voltairine de Cleyre?, by The Conscious Resistance, 2 Jan 2017
    Discusses the life of and concepts espoused by Voltairine de Cleyre

    The introductory paragraph uses material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.