February 20, 2005

Voltairine de Cleyre

Voltairine de Cleyre was, according to Emma Goldman, "the most gifted and brilliant anarchist woman America ever produced"; yet, even among most anarchists, she is today almost completely unknown.

Born on November 17, 1866, in the small town of Leslie, Michigan, as a teenager she was forced into a Catholic convent, an experience that had the effect of pushing her towards atheism rather than Christianity.

Family ties to the Abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad, along with the harsh and unrelenting poverty that she grew up in, and being named after a philosopher (Voltaire), most definitely attributed to her radical rhetoric that she developed shortly after adolescence. After the hanging of the Haymarket martyrs in 1887, however, she became an anarchist.


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