Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 December 2018
This essay seeks to reinterpret both the gendered rhetoric of the First Red Scare as well as the reasons why many feminists came under attack in the years following World War I. It underscores the ways in which women's activist concerns were de-legitimized through accusations of Bolshevism, but also highlights the very real attractions that the Soviet system held for American women seeking peace, economic independence, voting rights, professional opportunity, and sexual freedom. Although a number of historians have demonstrated the ways in which a focus upon gender and women offers important insights into the First Red Scare, they have given only minimal attention to the Soviet Union's appeal, presumably wishing to avoid giving credence to inflammatory and exaggerated right-wing rhetoric. However, this tendency has the effect of distorting the historical record and, in particular, of eliding revolutionary Russia's role in fostering the American feminist imagination. Attention to several prominent targets of the First Red Scare, including Louise Bryant, Emma Goldman, and Rose Pastor Stokes, helps to clarify these dynamics.
The author wishes to acknowledge research assistance from Chloe Caswell and editorial suggestions from Adam J. Hodges.
1 The version of the story that I consulted was in typescript: “Fables for Proletarian Children: How the Revolution Began in America,” n.p. In Louise Bryant papers, Yale University Special Collections, box 12, folder 42. Also see “Fables for Proletarian Children: How the Revolution Began in America,” The Revolutionary Age 25 (Jan. 1919): 6+. Transcribed at marxists.org, https://www.marxists.org/archive/bryant/works/fables.htm (accessed July 12, 2018).
2 United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, The Trial of Scott Nearing and the American Socialist Society, New York City, Feb. 5 to 19, 1919 (New York: Rand School of Social Science, 1919)Google Scholar.
3 “Bolsheviki Meetings Arranged by Suffragists Arouse Senate to Investigate Radical Propaganda,” Woman Patriot 2:6 (1919): 1–3. Schmidt, Regin, Scare, Red: FBI and the Origins of Anticommunism in the United States 1919–1943 (Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2000)Google Scholar; “Five Days in Jail for 25 Militants,” New York Times, Feb. 11, 1919, 5
4 See, for example, “Women in Russia,” The Suffragist 5:95 (1917): 3; “The Dawn of Democracy in Russia,” The Suffragist 5:64 (1917): 3; “Woman Officials in Russia,” The Suffragist 5:72 (1917): 3; “Women Officials in Russia,” ibid. 5:72 (1917): 3; Basil Manly, “Woman in the New Russia,” ibid. 5:61 (1917): 9; Maria Moravsky, “A Challenge from Russia,” ibid. 5:99 (1917): 12; Black, Ruby A., “Women In Russia,” Equal Rights 11:50 (1925): 395Google Scholar; Anonymous, “Position of Women in the Soviet Union,” Equal Rights 14:39 (1927): 307Google Scholar.
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6 Ellen Carol DuBois points out that the demand for woman suffrage posed a radical challenge to the social organization of gender, undermining the idea of fundamental sex differences and implicitly making the case that women's individuality and women's rights were as basic as those of men. DuBois, Ellen Carol, “Woman Suffrage and the Left: An International Socialist Feminist Perspective,” New Left Review 186 (1991): 25Google Scholar.
9 Ryan, Erica J., Red War on the Family: Sex, Gender, and Americanism in the First Red Scare (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2015)Google Scholar.
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12 On the Soviet Union's appeal to Jewish Americans, I've found work by Daniel Soyer and Tony Michaels especially valuable. See Soyer, Daniel, “Back to the Future: American Jews Visit the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s,” Jewish Social Studies 6:3 (2000): 124–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Michaels, Tony, “The Russian Revolution in New York, 1917–1919,” Journal of Contemporary History 52:4 (Oct. 2017): 959–79Google Scholar. On ways the revolution impacted Jewish women reformers, there is useful discussion in Feld, Marjorie N., “An Actual Working Out of Internationalism: Russian Politics, Zionism, and Lillian Wald's Ethnic Progressivism,” Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 2:2 (2003): 119–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For further references, see Mickenberg, American Girls in Red Russia.
13 Solomon, Mark I., The Cry Was Unity : Communists and African Americans, 1917–36 (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1998). 146Google Scholar. There is a significant body of scholarship of the Soviet Union's attractions to African Americans. Kate Baldwin's analyses are theoretically sophisticated and compelling, and Mark Solomon is especially attentive to the particulars of Soviet and CPUSA policy. Erik McDuffie has explored the Soviet Union's attraction to African American women in particular, and Glenda Gilmore has essentially rewritten the long history of the civil rights movement by including attention to the influence of American communists who were engaging directly with Soviet policies. Baldwin, Kate A., Beyond the Color Line and the Iron Curtain: Reading Encounters between Black and Red, 1922–1963 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Solomon, The Cry Was Unity. McDuffie, Erik S., Sojourning for Freedom: Black Women, American Communism, and the Making of Black Left Feminism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press 2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Gilmore, Glenda Elizabeth, Defying Dixie : the Radical Roots of Civil Rights, 1919–1950, 1st ed. (New York: W. W. Norton, 2008)Google Scholar.
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16 Stansell, Christine, American Moderns : Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century, 1st ed. (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2000), 321Google Scholar.
17 For Simmons's larger and very useful discussion, see Simmons, Christina, Making Marriage Modern: Women's Sexuality from the Progressive Era to World War II, Studies in the History of Sexuality (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See Chatterjee, Choi, “'Odds and Ends of the Russian Revolution,' 1917–1920: Gender and American Travel Narratives,” Journal of Women's History 20:4 (2008): 10–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Also see Chatterjee, Choi and Holmgren, Beth, eds., Americans Experience Russia: Encountering the Enigma, 1917 to the Present (New York: Routledge, 2013)Google Scholar.
18 Goldman, Emma, My Disillusionment in Russia (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1923)Google Scholar. For further discussion of anarchist women, see Marsh, Margaret S. and Paul Avrich Collection (Library of Congress), Anarchist Women, 1870–1920, American Civilization (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1981)Google Scholar.
19 Buhle, Mari Jo, Women and American Socialism, 1870–1920 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1981), 259, 317–27Google Scholar.
20 DuBois, “Woman Suffrage and the Left: An International Socialist Feminist Perspective,” 43.
21 Baldwin, Beyond the Color Line and the Iron Curtain, 8.
22 Mickenberg, “Suffragettes and Soviets: American Feminists and the Specter of Revolutionary Russia.”
23 Dumenil, Lynn, The Second Line of Defense : American Women and World War I (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Also see Gordon, Linda, Woman's Body, Woman's Right: Birth Control in America (New York: Penguin Books, 1990)Google Scholar; Stansell, American Moderns. The Kinsey report, “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female,” concluded that a dramatic change occurred in the sexual mores of women born after 1900, that is, women coming of age sexually during World War I. Kinsey, Alfred C. and Institute for Sex Research, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998), 244Google Scholar.
25 Kennedy devotes chapters to both Goldman and Stokes, and Ryan provides extensive discussion of Bryant.
28 Anna Strunsky Walling, “Woman and the Russian Revolutionary Movement,” California Woman's Magazine 12 (Aug. 1905): 1–2.
29 Goldman, Emma, Anarchism and Other Essays (New York: Mother Earth Publishing, 1911), 225–26Google Scholar.
30 Goldman, Emma, Living My Life (New York: Cosimo Classics, 2011), 36Google Scholar. On her desire to set up a cooperative like Vera's, see ibid., 26.
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32 “Marie Spiridonova,” The Woman Rebel 1:2 (Apr. 1914): 13.
33 Lillian Wald, letter to Alice Stone Blackwell, Mar. 1917. Lillian Wald papers, Columbia University, microfilm reel 2. Cleveland Gazette, Mar. 24, 1917, 4.
34 “Russia Ahead of United States,” St. Paul Appeal, Apr. 7, 1917, 2.
35 Alonso, Harriet Hyman, Peace as a Women's Issue: A History of the U.S. Movement for World Peace and Women's Rights (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1993), 8–9Google Scholar.
36 Vladimir Lenin, “Decree on Peace,” Oct. 26 (Nov. 8) 1917, Second All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/oct/25-26/26b.htm (accessed Aug. 1, 2018).
37 Kennedy, Disloyal Mothers and Scurrilous Citizens, xvi–xvii.
38 Ibid., xvi. “I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier” was a 1915 anti-war song that became popular in the United States among pacifists (and isolationists) before the United States entered the First World War.
39 Mickenberg, “Suffragettes and Soviets,” 1036.
40 People's Council of America for Democracy and Peace, “Resolutions of the First American Conference for Democracy and Terms of Peace.” New York, May 30 and 31, 1917. Roger Baldwin papers, Princeton University Library, box 18, folder 20.
41 Marchand, Roland, The American Peace Movement and Social Reform, 1898–1918 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1973), 307Google Scholar.
43 “Bolsheviks’ Peace Plan Urged on Senate,” New York Evening Call, Dec. 3, 1917, quoted in Foner, Philip, The Bolshevik Revolution: Its Impact on American Radicals, Liberals, and Labor: A Documentary Study (New York: International, 1967), 56–57Google Scholar.
44 For further discussion of the Lusk committee see Pfannestiel, Todd J., Rethinking the Red Scare: The Lusk Committee and New York's Crusade Against Radicalism, 1919–1923, Studies in American Popular History and Culture (New York: Routledge, 2003)Google Scholar.
45 Stevenson, Archibald E., ed., Revolutionary Radicalism: Its History, Purpose and Tactics with an Exposition and Discussion of the Steps Being Taken and Required to Curb It: Filed April 24, 1920, in the Senate of the State of New York, 4 vols. (Albany, NY: Lyon, 1920)Google Scholar. Part I (vols. I–II), “Revolutionary and Subversive Movements Abroad and at Home,” 1001.
46 Lucia Maxwell, “Spider Web Chart: The Socialist-Pacifist Movement in America Is an Absolutely Fundamental and Integral Part of International Socialism,” The Dearborn Independent, XXIV (Mar. 22, 1924): 11. In “How Did Women Peace Activists Respond to “Red Scare” Attacks during the 1920s?” Women and Social Movements, http://womhist.alexanderstreet.com/wilpf/doclist.htm (accessed June 4, 2018). Fischer, Nick, Spider Web: The Birth of American Anticommunism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2016), 77CrossRefGoogle Scholar. An American Citizen, “Are Women's Clubs ‘Used’ by Bolshevists?,” The Dearborn Independent, Mar. 15, 1924, 2–5, reprinted in Swanson, Gillian, ed. Antifeminism in America: A Historical Reader (New York: Routledge, 2013), 146CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For further discussion of the chart's origins in conservative women's activism, see Delegard, Battling Miss Bolsheviki, chap. 2.
47 See, for instance, Anonymous, “Kollontay and Our Children's Bureau,” Woman Patriot 9:9 (1925): 66Google Scholar. The article makes much of the fact that a U.S. Children's Bureau report praised child welfare efforts in Russia under Kollontai's direction. For a portrait of Kollontay by Louise Bryant, see https://www.marxists.org/archive/bryant/works/1923-mom/kollontai.htm (accessed June 4, 2018).
48 Goodier, Susan, “The Price of Pacifism: Rebecca Shelley and Her Struggle for Citizenship,” Michigan Historical Review 36:1 (2010): 82Google Scholar. (As Goodier notes, the $10,000 actually came from Henry Ford's wife, Clara.)
49 Rose Pastor Stokes, letter to Henry Ford, Nov. 29, 1915. Rose Pastor Stokes papers, Beineke Library, Yale University, box 2, folder 36.
50 Brief for Plaintiff in Error, Rose Pastor Stokes vs. United States of America. United States Court of Appeal, Eight Circuit, 1918, 2–3.
53 Zipser, Arthur and Zipser, Pearl, Fire and Grace: The Life of Rose Pastor Stokes (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1989), 217Google Scholar.
54 Rose Pastor Stokes papers, Yale University, box 6, folder 20.
55 Emma Goldman, Address to the Jury, United States vs. Emma Goldman, July 9, 1917. http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/goldman/Features/unitedstatesvsemmagoldman.html (accessed Feb. 1, 2018).
56 E. J. Bamberger, Report on speech in Chicago by Emma Goldman on “The Bolsheviki: Their True Nature and Aim,” Jan 5, 1918; Agent report dated Jan. 8, American Protective League, National Archives RG 165. In Emma Goldman Papers (microfilm). Alexandria, Virginia: Chadwyck-Healey, 1990, reel 60. For further discussion of the APL, see Jensen, Joan M., The Price of Vigilance (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1969)Google Scholar.
57 Goldman, My Disillusionment in Russia. The book was based on a series of articles that Goldman published in the New York World and led to a break with many of her former friends, including Rose Pastor Stokes.
58 Emma Goldman, letter to Havelock Ellis, Dec. 27, 1924. Emma Goldman papers, Tamiment Library, NYU. Series 2, box 4, folder 1.
59 On the United States government's refusal to grant passports to African Americans, including prominent women such as journalist Ida B. Wells and entrepreneur Madame C. J. Walker, wishing to travel to Paris for the conference at which the final terms of the peace treaty would be negotiated, see Hagedorn, Ann, Savage Peace: Hope and Fear in America, 1919 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007)Google Scholar. Many of these same individuals had also planned to attend the Pan-African conference in Paris the same year, and for this reason also were denied passports. Lentz-Smith, Adriane, Freedom Struggles: African Americans and World War I (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011), 162Google Scholar. The term 100% Americanism is part of the founding charter of the American Legion, but the term originated earlier, in reaction to anti-German sentiment. See Capozzola, Christopher Joseph Nicodemus, Uncle Sam Wants You: World War I and the Making of the Modern American Citizen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 211, 1–2CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For further discussion, see Higham, John, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860–1925 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1955), 204–5Google Scholar.
60 Bryant testimony before the Overman Committee, quoted in Gardner, Virginia, “Friend and Lover” : The Life of Louise Bryant (New York: Horizon, 1982), 150Google Scholar.
61 Congressional Record, Feb. 3, 1919, quoted in “Bolsheviki Meetings Arranged by Suffragists,” 3.
62 Ryan, Red War on the Family, chap. 2.
63 Storrs, Landon R. Y., “Attacking the Washington ‘Femmocracy’: Antifeminism in the Cold War Campaign against ‘Communists in Government,’” Feminist Studies 33:1 (2007): 129Google Scholar.
64 “Red Law on Women Fiercely Resisted,” New York Times, Ap. 23, 1919, 3.
65 Bush, W. S. (1919, May 17). FILMS REVIEWED: THE NEW MOON.
The Billboard (Archive: 1894–1960), 31, 81. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search-proquestcom.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/docview/1031573352?accountid=7118 (accessed Dec. 20, 2017). Ryan cites a number of films that perpetuated the nationalization rumor. See Ryan, Red War on the Family, 56.
66 See, for instance, Frank Comerford, “Problems Facing Stricken World: Why Bolshevism Is Menace,” Washburn Leader (North Dakota), Aug. 20, 1920, 6 (https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85000631/1920-08-20/ed-1/seq-6/#date1=1917&index=2&rows=20&words=nationalization+women&searchType=basic&sequence=0&state=&date2=1932&proxtext=%22nationalization+of+women%22+&y=13&x=10&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1 (accessed Dec. 22, 2017), and printed in other newspapers as well.
67 Clements, Barbara Evans, “The Effects of the Civil War on Women and Family Relations” in Party, State and Society in the Russian Civil War: Explorations in Social History (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989), 105Google Scholar. For debates about how to interpret Marx and Engels’ “community of women” comment in The Communist Manifesto, see, for instance, Holt, Matthew, “Capital as Fiction: The Communist Manifesto” in Literature and Politics: Pushing the World in Certain Directions, ed. Marks, Peter (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2012), 11–22Google Scholar; Gasper, Phil, The Communist Manifesto: A Roadmap to History's Most Important Document (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2005), 66Google Scholar. Beyond the Manifesto, Marxist ideas about women, marriage, and the family were further explored in German socialist August Bebel's Woman under Socialism (1879), which argued that socialism aimed to eliminate all forms of dependency, starting with women's economic dependence on men, and in Engels's The Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884), which pointed to the bourgeois family's basis for the capitalist mode of production.
68 See “The Nationalization of Women,” The Woman Patriot 3:11 (June 28, 1919): 4.
69 The richest source for this discourse is The Woman Patriot. See, for instance, “The Fallacy of Federal Suffrage,” Woman Patriot 1:21 (Sept. 14, 1918): 7–8; M.C.R., “Shall We ‘Catch up’ with Russia!,” ibid., 1:15 (Aug. 3, 1918): 7; “Woman Suffrage Russia Instituting Female Slave Markets!,” ibid., 1:10 (June 29, 1918): 7; Anonymous, “Bureaus of Free Love Established by Feminist and Socialists in Russia,” ibid., 1:28 (Nov. 2, 1918): 2–3.
70 United States Senate, Committee on the Judiciary, Brewing and liquor interests and German and Bolshevik propaganda. Report of the Subcommittee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, pursuant to S. res. 307 and 436, Sixty-Fifth Congress, relating to charges made against the United States Brewers' Association and Allied interests, 1919, 36–37, quoted in “Nationalization of Children” in Woman Patriot 6:17 (1922): 4–5, emphasis in Woman Patriot.
71 Quoted in ibid., emphasis in Woman Patriot.
72 Louise Bryant testimony. United States Congress, Senate. Committee on the Judiciary. “Bolshevik Propaganda: Hearing Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on the Judiciary,” 65th Congress, 3rd session and thereafter, pursuant to S. Res 439 and 469, Feb. 11, 1919 to Mar. 10, 1919, https://archive.org/stream/cu31924030480051/cu31924030480051_djvu.txt (accessed Jan. 29, 2018). Hereafter cited as Overman committee hearing.
73 Ryan, Red War on the Family, 51. Ryan primarily gives attention to the ways that Bryant's Soviet connection made her appear threatening, rather than appealing.
74 Louise Bryant, Overman committee hearing.
75 On Bryant's asking for the opportunity to testify, see Gardner, “Friend and Lover”: The Life of Louise Bryant, 148. Quotation from Louise Bryant, Overman committee hearing.
76 See Alice Stone Blackwell letter to Lazarev Feb. 22, 1920 and May 28, 1922, f. 5824, op. 1, d. 190, State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF), Moscow, Russia; Lillian Wald to Catherine Breshkovsky, Feb. 27, 1919, box 93, folder 1.1, Lillian Wald papers, Columbia University Special Collections. Louise Bryant testimony before Overman committee.
77 Louise Bryant, Overman committee hearing.
78 Vincent Sheehan, letter to Virginia Gardner, Sept. 8, 1971, quoted in Gardner, “Friend and Lover”: The Life of Louise Bryant, 225.
79 The Liberator 2:4 (Apr. 1919): 27. http://www.marxists.org/history/usa/culture/pubs/liberator/1919/04/v2n04-apr-1919-liberator.pdf (accessed Nov. 27, 2018).
80 Louise Bryant, letter to Frank Harris (n.d., 1919), Louise Bryant papers, Yale University, box 13, folder 63.
82 Louise Bryant, “Woman's Place in Russia” (typescript), Louise Bryant papers, box 13, folder 64.
84 Catherine Breshkovskaya, Overman committee hearing.
85 Louise Bryant, “Katherine Breshkovsky,” Six Red Months in Russia, https://www.marxists.org/archive/bryant/works/russia/ch10.htm (accessed Jan. 29, 2018).
86 Overman committee testimony.
87 Emma Goldman, letter to Catherine Breshkovsky, Mar. 19, 1919, quoted in “A Lost Leader” in “[Open Forum?, Los Angeles]. [(April? 1930?)].” Emma Goldman papers, https://archive.org/stream/goldmanwritings9101emma_4#page/n155/mode/2up/search/Babushka (accessed Jan. 29, 2018).
88 Emma Goldman, letter to Alice Stone Blackwell, Mar. 5, 1922. Emma Goldman papers, https://archive.org/stream/correspondence9101emma_10#page/n505/mode/2up/search/Babushka (accessed Jan. 29, 2018).
89 Matthew C. Smith letter to J. Edgar Hoover, June 10, 1921. United States, Department of the Army, General Staff, Military Intelligence Division, U.S. Military Intelligence Reports: Surveillance of Radicals in the United States. Microfilm. Frederick, MD: University Publications of America, 1984, reel 33.
90 May 17, 1921, surveillance report from Riga, report number 1424, United States. Department of the Army, General Staff, Military Intelligence Division, U.S. Military Intelligence Reports: Surveillance of Radicals in the United States. Microfilm, reel 33.
92 Goldman, Emma, “Woman Suffrage,” in Anarchism and Other Essays, 2nd revised edition (New York: Mother Earth Publishing, 1911_Google Scholar. Reprinted by Marxist Internet Archive, https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/goldman/works/1911/woman-suffrage.htm (accessed Jan. 29, 2018).