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DE CLEYRE, Voltairine.

Anarchism and American Traditions.

Chicago: Free Society Group, 1932 Stock Code: 135133
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First edition thus, a posthumous printing of Voltairine de Cleyre's most often cited essay, with an additional hagiographic introduction. De Cleyre's influential essay was first published in fellow activist Emma Goldman's anarchist journal Mother Earth in 1909; de Cleyre was a regular contributor to the journal from its foundation in 1905. This reissue was published on behalf of the International Anarchist Publishing Committee of America by the Free Society Group, an organisation founded in 1923 focused on publishing anarchist propaganda.

De Cleyre (1866-1912) was described by fellow anarchist orator George Brown as "the greatest woman America ever produced" (Avrich, p. 101). She became involved in radical politics in 1886 through her role as editor of The Progressive Age, a free-thought journal based in Michigan. Her association with free-thought led her to anarchism in 1888, and she moved to Philadelphia in 1889 to increase her activism and teach English to Jewish immigrants. In Philadelphia de Cleyre was active as a political speaker, and worked to create spaces in which others, especially women, could also lecture. In 1892 she helped found the Ladies' Liberal League, a forum for debating issues such as prohibition, sex, crime, anarchism, and socialism. While the league primarily served Philadelphia it drew nationally recognised speakers. The league established a Radical Library in 1895 with an aim to "repair a deficit in the public libraries by furnishing radical works upon subjects at convenient hours for working men and accessible to all at only a slight expense" (Falk, Pateman, & Moran, p. 459). The library became a social and political centre for anarchists in the Philadelphia area and continued in various forms for the next 20 years. In 1897 de Cleyre travelled to Britain and France giving speeches, during which tour she met philosopher Pyotr Kropotkin, whose works are advertised on the rear cover of this pamphlet.

De Cleyre's interpretation of anarchism included a "feminism which was an early precursor to the radical critiques of women's status generated by the second wave of feminism" (DNB). In particular, de Cleyre argued for "sexuality separate from reproduction, critiqued the puritanism of the period, recognised rape in marriage, rejected motherhood as definitive of womanhood, and not only rejected marriage as an institution but rejected any 'permanent relation of a man and a woman, sexual and economical, whereby the present home and family life is maintained' (Mother Earth, Jan. 1908, p. 502)" (ibid.).

In this key essay de Cleyre sets out her argument for an "anarchism without adjectives, rooted in the individual potential of each human being" (ibid.). To do this she provides an anarchist view point on the constituent parts of American society, including the financial and judicial systems, and what she refers to as "that vilest creation of tyranny, the standing army and navy" (de Cleyre, p. 19). De Cleyre states that in order to achieve peace "all peaceful persons should withdraw their support from the army, and require that all who wish to make war do so at their own cost and risk; that neither pay nor pensions are to be provided for those who choose to make man-killing a trade" (ibid., p. 19).

This pamphlet is notably uncommon, with just five copies traced institutionally outside of North America. The first printing of the essay in Mother Earth is likewise uncommon, with just eight copies traced institutionally worldwide, three of which are outside the US.

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Octavo, pp. 20. Original printed paper wrappers, wire-stitched as issued, photographic portrait of de Cleyre to front cover.


Splits to head and foot of front panel joint, tiny closed tear to head of rear panel, covers just very faintly soiled; a well-preserved and bright copy of this notably ephemeral piece.


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