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November 02 , 2010

Gates of Freedom: Voltairine de Cleyre and the Revolution of the Mind


The question of souls is old; we demand our bodies, now. These words are not from a feminist manifesto of the late twentieth century, but from a fiery speech given a hundred years earlier by Voltairine de Cleyre, a leading anarchist and radical thinker. A contemporary of Emma Goldman – -who called her "the most gifted and brilliant anarchist woman America ever produced" – -de Cleyre was a significant force in a major social movement that sought to transform American society and culture at its root. But she belongs to a group of late-nineteenth-century freethinkers, anarchists, and sex-radicals whose writing continues to be excluded from the U.S. literary and historical canon. Gates of Freedom considers de Cleyre's speeches, letters, and essays, including her most well known essay, "Sex Slavery." Part I brings current critical concerns to bear on de Cleyre's writings, exploring her contributions to the anarchist movement, her analyses of justice and violence, and her views on women, sexuality, and the body. Eugenia DeLamotte demonstrates both de Cleyre's literary significance and the importance of her work to feminist theory, women's studies, literary and cultural studies, U.S. history, and contemporary social and cultural analysis. Part II presents a thematically organized selection of de Cleyre's stirring writings, making Gates of Freedom appealing to scholars, students, and anyone interested in Voltairine de Cleyre's fascinating life and rousing work. Eugenia C. DeLamotte is Associate Professor of English, Arizona State University.
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