Crystal Eastman

American lawyer and feminist

Crystal Catherine Eastman (June 25, 1881 – July 28, 1928) was an American lawyer, antimilitarist, feminist, socialist, and journalist. She is best remembered as a leader in the fight for women's suffrage, as a co-founder and co-editor with her brother Max Eastman of the radical arts and politics magazine The Liberator, co-founder of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and co-founder in 1920 of the American Civil Liberties Union. In 2000 she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in [[Seneca Falls, New York.

Crystal Eastman (circa 1914)

Quotes edit

  • Please picture me now as one of these circus-chariot-ladies, with one hand driving an exciting tandem, — arts and law—and with the other hand holding aloft two streaming banners, —love and liberty.
    • Vassar Class of 1903 Fourth Annual Bulletin, May 1907
  • Everyone is out. Mothers and father and babies line the doorsteps. Girls with their beaux, standing in the shadows, or gathered in laughing groups on the corners. And children, thousands of them everywhere, little girls playing singing games in the middle of the street, and boys running in and out, chasing each other, throwing balls, building fires, fighting, laughing, shouting. Oh it is wonderful, – this human nature with its infinite capacity, and unending desire, for joy…
    • Letter to Annis Ford Eastman, June 25, 1907
  • If I had my way…we would tell the men of this country we were not going to work any more [sic], we were not going to contribute or to assist them with anything until they gave us a share in the government of the country…If this strike were possible I am willing to wager that women would be given the ballot within several hours.
    • Address to the New York Equal Franchise Association, December 1910
  • The current legal system is vicious when it comes to labor because it does not provide relief when it is most needed, because it lays too heavy a burden on the claimant and allows the corporation to escape liability by carrying the case from court to court, because it encourages dishonesty on the part of the claims agent and the ambulance chaser, and because…the greater portion of the damages paid by employers goes out in attorneys’ fees.
    • New York Tribune, February 5, 1910
  • The first thing brought home to me was that working people do not have the ‘luxury of grief.’ The daily tyranny of hard work in their lives leaves little time for pondering the unanswerable ‘Why’ of sorrow.
    • Industrial Accidents and the Law, September 1910
  • When the strong young body of a free man is caught up by a little projecting set-screw, whirled around a shaft and battered to death, when we know that a set-screw can be countersunk at a trivial cost, when we know that the law of the state has prohibited projecting set-screws for many years, then who wants to talk about ‘three years wages to the widow’ and ‘shall it be paid in installments, or in a lump sum?’ and ‘shall the workman contribute?’ What we want is to put somebody in jail. And when the dead bodies of girls are found piled up against locked doors leading to the exits after a factory fire, when we know that locking such doors is a prevailing custom in such factories, and one that has continued in New York City since those 146 lives were lost in the Triangle Waist Company fire, who wants to hear about a great relief fund? What we want is to start a revolution.
    • Speech at the American Academy of Political and Social Science, July 1911
  • Seriously, does anyone suppose that love-making has gone out of fashion in California, or marriage fallen off in Wyoming, or the birth rate decreased in Colorado as a result of woman suffrage?
    • Speech at the State Bar Association of Indiana, July 1912
  • If this Congress adjourns without taking action on the woman suffrage amendment…every woman voter will know this…and we have faith that the woman voter will stand by us. We are ready to go into this struggle if you force us to, but we are not eager for it. Gentlemen, why turn us into enemies. Why not keep us as friends?
    • Washington Herald, March 4, 1914
  • Women must have work of their own, first because no one who has to depend on another person for his living is really grown up; and second, because the only way to be happy is to have an absorbing interest in life which is not bound up with any particular person. Children can die or grow up, husbands can leave you. No woman who allows husband and children to absorb her whole time and interest is safe from disaster.
    • The Nation, March 16, 1927
  • The hardest part of the battle is yet to come; the battle with ourselves, with our inherited instincts, with our cultivated taste for leisure, with our wrong early training, with our present physical unfitness… God meant the whole rich world of work and play and adventure for women as well as men. It is high time for us to enter into our heritage – that is my feminist faith.
    • Speech at the First Feminist Mass Meeting in any country, New York City, February 1914
  • The highest hope I have…is the beginning of a kind of international enthusiasm based on a warm, real knowledge of other races and their contribution to the world’s values – a delight in the culture of other nations as well as our own – and eagerness to see it survive. Out of this must spring a wide tolerance which will make the needs, the grievances, the problems of one nation quite naturally a matter of world interest, the subject of a just and kindly deliberation of a world court.
    • New York Tribune, October 17, 1914
  • The question of woman suffrage is not one that should be cluttering up twentieth century affairs. It belongs back in the eighteenth century.
    • Speech before the Commission on Industrial Relations, May 18, 1915
  • The ingenuity and ability which the wife and mother has to exercise in order to buy food and clothing for the family and run the home efficiently should be recognized as productive work… Too many men have the notion that they support their wives.
    • Washington Herald, May 26, 1915
  • Certain learned gentlemen, well supported by gentlemen of great wealth, urged upon us the necessity of spending more of the people’s money for national defense. As I understand their line of reasoning, it is this: All Europe is at war…the only way to be safe is to be stronger than any one else, or stronger than all the rest put together, if possible. Now that seems to my poor feminine intellect like high school boy logic. All those men were grown men, however. Some of them were old men. They were old enough to know better…
    • New York Times, June 16, 1915
  • There is nothing new since Ezekiel’s time in their terror and declaration that the enemy is upon us. They are saying to Congress, ‘Never mind the death of democracy, nor our foreign policies, whether they be just or unjust, but prepare!’ In the face of this, we say to Congress, ‘Gentlemen, wait; go slow. We are not afraid.’
    • Speech at the first annual meeting of the Woman’s Peace Party, 1916
  • To start in just now on a great program of naval expansion, to spend millions on submarines and battleships, to increase the standing army, to start military training camps, to talk, think, and act ‘preparation for war,’ is, psychologically speaking, like pouring kerosene on the roofs instead of water. Sparks are bound to fall – if they fall on cool wet roofs there is a chance of their going out. If they fall on dry roofs prepared with kerosene, what chance is there?
    • The Survey, November 13, 1915
  • No narrow, nationalistic spirit made the [Russian] revolution…You held out your hands to every people, allied and enemy, and asked them to join you. And you will teach many things to America. You will teach America that there can be no real democracy with the women left out.
    • New York Times, July 10, 1917
  • It takes an exceedingly large-minded liberal to fight for the right of another man to say exactly what he himself does not want said.
    • AUAM minutes, September 13, 1917
  • I am perfectly sure I could never say I believe in the vigorous prosecution of the war. War offends my common sense and my regard for human life too much. I cannot feel any faith in good coming out of it, even now that we are in it; and besides that, even if I admit that good may come out of it, I could not encourage other people to die for a cause I am not ready to die for myself.
    • Letter to Oswald Garrison Villard, November 16, 1917
  • Feminists are not nuns, that first must be established. We want to love and be loved, and most of us want children, one or two at least. But we want our love to be joyous and free – not clouded with ignorance and fear.
    • Birth Control Review, January 1918
  • If the feminist program goes to pieces at the arrival of the first baby, it is false and useless.
    • Birth Control Review, January 1918
  • For two years the whole Western world has been talking about freedom and democracy. Now that the war is over and it is possible to think calmly once more, we must examine the popular abstractions, and consider (especially here in the America where the boasting has been the loudest) – how much freedom and democracy we actually have.
    • Speech at the First Feminist Congress in the United States, March 1919
  • After all these centuries of retirement women need more than an ‘equal opportunity’ to show what’s in them, they need a generous shove into positions of responsibility.
    • Liberator, January 1920
  • The fact that warring nations met and discussed the war problems sanely and in friendship while all their male relatives were out shooting each other is to my mind a great and significant event in history…
    • Letter to Alice Lewisohn, February 21, 1916
  • Feminists need a program that works not just for women judges and women lawyers alone…It is the great masses of women of this country who are still in slavery that we must rouse – the women who have to ask their husbands for a new hat, and cannot say whether they will have children or not, or when.
    • Statement at the National Woman’s Party Convention, February 1921
  • Indifference is harder to fight than hostility, and there is nothing that kills an agitation more than having everyone admit that it is fundamentally right.
    • Time and Tide, July 20, 1923
  • If two men went into a partnership on the understanding that John should run the factory and Bill should go out on the road and sell the goods, nobody would say that the profits belonged to Bill because he went out to work, and John was only entitled to a bare living because he stayed home and worked. They would share and share alike in the surplus. And that is how it must be with marriage.
    • “Are Wives Partners or Dependents?” Unpublished manuscript [1920s]
  • To blot out of every law book in the land, to sweep out of every dusty courtroom, to erase from every judge’s mind that centuries-old precedent as to woman’s inferiority and dependence and need for protection, to substitute for it at one blow the simple new precedent of equality, that is a fight worth making if it takes ten years.
    • The Nation, November 12, 1924
  • There is no doubt that I am the world's worst interviewer. I go with the sincere intention of sitting quietly, pencil in hand, and speaking only to "draw out" the famous man or the celebrated lady, as the case may be. But the affair always ends in a free-for-all discussion, a search for essential truth and justice, during which I become quite as much interested in what I say to the victim as in what he or she says to me.
    • Equal Rights (5 June 1926) in Crystal Eastman on Women and Revolution

Speech (1920) edit

Caption in Outspoken Women: "The following speech was delivered several times as a lecture in New York City in September and October, 1920. It later appeared in article form in The Liberator (December, 1920)."

  • Most women will agree that August 23, the day when the Tennessee legislature finally enacted the Federal suffrage amendment, is a day to begin with, not a day to end with. Men are saying perhaps "Thank God, this everlasting woman's fight is over!" But women, if I know them, are saying, "Now at last we can begin." In fighting for the right to vote most women have tried to be either non-committal or thoroughly respectable on every other subject. Now they can say what they are really after; and what they are after, in common with all the rest of the struggling world, freedom.
  • Many feminists are socialists, many are communists, not a few are active leaders in these movements. But the true feminist, no matter how far to the left she may be in the revolutionary movement, sees the woman's battle as distinct in its objects and different in its methods from the workers' battle for industrial freedom. She knows, of course, that the vast majority of women as well as men are without property, and are of necessity bread and butter slaves under a system of society which allows the very sources of life to be privately owned by a few, and she counts herself a loyal soldier in the working-class army that is marching to overthrow that system. But as a feminist she also knows that the whole of woman's slavery is not summed up in the profit system, nor her complete emancipation assured by the downfall of capitalism.
  • Women’s freedom, in the feminist sense, can be fought for and conceivably won before the gates open into industrial democracy. On the other hand, woman’s freedom, in the feminist sense, is not inherent in the communist ideal. All feminists are familiar with the revolutionary leader who ‘can’t see’ the woman’s movement…ʽMy wife’s all right,’ he says. And his wife, one usually finds, is raising his children in a Bronx flat or a dreary suburb, to which he returns occasionally for food and sleep when all possible excitement and stimulus have been wrung from the fight. If we should graduate into communism tomorrow this man’s attitude to his wife would not be changed.
  • What, then, is "the matter with women"? What is the problem of women's freedom? It seems to me to be this: how to arrange the world so that women can be human beings, with a chance to exercise their infinitely varied gifts in infinitely varied ways, instead of being destined by the accident of their sex to one field of activity-housework and child-raising. And second, if and when they choose housework and child-raising to have that occupation recognized by the world as work, requiring a definite economic reward and not merely entitling the performer to be dependent on some man. This is not the whole of feminism, of course, but it is enough to begin with.
  • we must institute a revolution in the early training and education of both boys and girls. It must be womanly as well as manly to earn your own living, to stand on your own feet. And it must be manly as well as womanly to know how to cook and sew and clean and take care of yourself in the ordinary exigencies of life.
  • fundamentally it is a problem of education, of early training-we must bring up feminist sons.
  • The immediate feminist program must include voluntary motherhood. Freedom of any kind for women is hardly worth considering unless it is assumed that they will know how to control the size of their families. "Birth control" is just as elementary an essential in our propaganda as "equal pay." Women are to have children when they want them, that's the first thing. That ensures some freedom of occupational choice; those who do not wish to be mothers will not have an undesired occupation thrust upon them by accident, and those who do wish to be mothers may choose in a general way how many years of their lives they will devote to the occupation of child-raising.
  • It seems that the only way we can keep mothers free, at least in a capitalist society, is by the establishment of a principle that the occupation of raising children is peculiarly and directly a service to society and the mother upon whom the necessity and privilege of performing this service naturally falls is entitled to an adequate economic reward from the political government. It is idle to talk of real economic independence for women unless this principle is accepted.

Quotes about Crystal Eastman edit

  • Crystal Eastman loved life and was generally surrounded by friends. Protected and fortified by the support of women and men who shared her ideals and battled beside her, she was free and bold. Her close friend Jeannette Lowe said that "you wouldn't believe her freedom-she was entirely free, open, full of joy in life." Her brother Max wrote that "she poured magnetic streams of generous love around her all the time" and boldly plunged into new experiences. Roger Baldwin, who worked closely with her during World War I in the American Union Against Militarism and the Civil Liberties Bureau which they jointly created, remembered Crystal as "a natural leader: outspoken (often tactless), determined, charming, beautiful, courageous...." She spoke in a deep and musical voice and could be entirely captivating as she dashed about the country on behalf of suffrage or peace or to organize against an injustice. Her sincerity was absolute and she frequently grew red with anger. She was impulsive and passionate and, her brother tells us, she once consulted Dr. A. A. Brill, the first Freudian psychoanalyst to practice in America, to bring her intense "libido down."
    • Blanche Wiesen Cook, introduction to Crystal Eastman on Women and Revolution (2020)
  • Crystal Eastman is dead. And all over the world there are women and men who will feel touched with loss, who will look on a world that seems more sober, more subdued. In her short life Crystal Eastman brushed against many other lives, and wherever she moved she carried with her the breath of courage and a contagious belief in the coming triumph of freedom and decent human relations. These were her religion. She preached it in many places and in many forms. In the struggle for woman's suffrage and for equality between men and women; in her work for peace and the rule of reason among peoples; in the fight for social justice and human liberty-as feminist, pacifist, socialist-she fought for her faith. Her strength, her beauty, her vitality and enthusiasm, her rich and compelling personality-these she threw with reckless vigor into every cause that promised a finer life to the world. She spent herself wholly, and died-too young...As a feminist Crystal Eastman was more than an ardent, militant advocate of votes for her sex. She was to thousands of young women and young men a symbol of what the free woman might be. Unlike some of her contemporaries, embittered by the long and unreasoning struggle, she never lost her sense of balance or her friendly sympathy with men. She fought not for a sterile victory for her sex but for her religion-the triumph of freedom and decent human relations. Since they could be won only through the winning of equality and the vote-those must come first. But she was fair and steady and consistent... Her spirit and her steady faith in peace and freedom and justice lent strength to our own purpose, and they will remain with us.
    • Obituary by Freda Kirchwey, The Nation (8 August 1928). In Crystal Eastman on Women and Revolution
  • (in Hungary) "Miss Eastman ended her speech with the statement that the American movement, just as every other movement of the world, can only aid in the world revolution. The victory of the Russian proletariat which has come over to Hungary will spread to all the other countries of the word and likewise will lead to the liberation of the American proletariat. The speech was greeted with great applause. It was translated by one of the people's commissars. President Agostin begged the foreign guests (there were others besides Miss Eastman) in the name of the Soviet, to accept the thanks of the Hungarian Soviet and convey its greetings to the foreign workmen."
    • The Liberator, August 1919.
  • Crystal Eastman's immediacy to the emotional, social, economic, and political problems of contemporary women forms a bridge of feminist theory and support between her day and ours.
  • June Sochen, in her study of Greenwich Village feminism, singled out Crystal Eastman, Neith Boyce, Susan Glaspell, and Henrietta Rodman as representative of those newly liberated socialist women. As professional women, they identified with mainstream feminism by working for suffrage, while at the same time they attempted to prod organized feminists toward socialism. Crystal Eastman possessed a broad vision of a future egalitarian society which included civic and legal equality for women, an end to job discrimination, the right of access to birth-control information, and economic independence for all women based on the socialist principle of the responsibility of the society as a whole to provide for its individual members.
    • Margaret S Marsh, Anarchist Women, 1870-1920 (1981)
  • The antidomesticity of Charlotte Perkins Gilman influenced their views on social organization; both Henrietta Rodman and Crystal Eastman tried to encourage the construction of apartment houses based on the Gilmanesque model. Nevertheless, they did not share Gilman's pronounced antierotic biases.
    • Margaret S Marsh, Anarchist Women, 1870-1920 (1981)
  • Every serious feminist and everyone concerned with human rights will want to read this book. Its issues are burningly alive today, and the history it traces acutely relevant to our moment. Above all, Crystal Eastman is here restored to us, another 'lost' fore-sister whose noble and articulate spirit is a life-transfusion for our own struggles."
  • There were women who insisted on uniting the two aims of socialism and feminism, like Crystal Eastman, who imagined new ways of men and women living together and retaining their independence, different from traditional marriage. She was a socialist, but wrote once that a woman "knows that the whole of woman's slavery is not summed up in the profit system, nor her complete emancipation assured by the downfall of capitalism."

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