Originally published in the Summer 2005 issue of Impact Press.
Review of The Voltairine de Cleyre Reader edited by A.J. Brigati (AK Press)
Quick — name two 19th century female anarchists. If you got stuck after Emma Goldman, then it’s time for you to meet Voltairine de Cleyre. Born into poverty in Michigan in 1866, converted to anarchism by the 1887 execution of the Haymarket martyrs, and active as a popular speaker and writer from the 1890s until her premature death in 1912, Voltairine de Cleyre was called by Emma Goldman “the most gifted and brilliant anarchist woman America ever produced.”
Like Goldman, de Cleyre condemned the objectification and exploitation of women with the same urgency with which she challenged the legitimacy of governments. Speaking with more force and honesty than many self-proclaimed feminists manage to muster today, de Cleyre dared to denounce marriage laws that permit husbands to rape their wives as “sex slavery.”