#WCW Voltairine de Cleyre
An original rebel girl from the start, Voltairine de Cleyre, 1866-1912, became an atheist after having been forced to attend a Catholic convent school. She turned to full anarchism after the 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago when police and labor workers clashed violently amidst a workers strike. She became a prolific and gifted writer and speaker on themes of individual freedom and liberty for the common man. Unlike another famous female anarchist, Emma Goldman, de Cleyre never turned to communism and falls more in the libertarian political spectrum.
She was especially focused on the freedom of women in a society that often treated them as property, especially after marriage. She valued romantic love, and had several romances, but felt marriage was just another societal trap of male domination. The titles of some of her lectures such as “Sex Slavery,” “Love in Freedom,” “The Case of Woman vs. Orthodoxy,” and “Those Who Marry Do Ill” were intentionally provocative and put the idea of women’s sexual equality and overall value in society at the forefront of the conversation.
“Let every woman ask herself,” cried Voltairine, “Why am I the slave of Man? Why is my brain said not to be the equal of his brain? Why is my work not paid equally with his?”
She did love Dyer Lum, a man who treated her as an equal, but he committed suicide in 1893. De Cleyre was also prone to bouts of suicidal tendencies; however, her premature death at age 45 was do to an infection from a perforated eardrum.