Posts Tagged ‘Emma Goldman’

The “birth control agitators” of Union Square

March 13, 2010

Talking about birth control in public was pretty radical stuff in 1916.

But that’s what anarchist, free love advocate, and all-around rule-breaker Emma Goldman (in photo below) and a handful of other “birth control agitators,” as a next-day New York Times article called them, did on May 20 of that year in Union Square. 

A crowd of about 500 came to hear them speak.

In the years following this rally, Margaret Sanger became the marquee name associated with the birth control movement. But it was Goldman, who lived on East 13th Street, who was an early pioneer.

She’d already been arrested for violating the 1873 Comstock Law, which prohibited distributing information on contraception. 

After an outcry that prompted the Manhattan DA at the time to promise he wouldn’t arrest activists who spoke in a “properly regulated forum,” Goldman and her cohorts set up the Union Square rally.

Mabel Dodge’s bohemian salons in the Village

October 10, 2009

Greenwich Village in the teens was a forward-thinking place, populated by artists and writers, anarchists and free-love practitioners, labor leaders and birth-control proponents. Bringing them together each week in her apartment at 23 Fifth Avenue was 33-year-old Mabel Dodge.

Was she really interested in new ideas, or just a celebrity hound? It’s hard to say; she simply proclaimed that she “wanted to know everybody.”

MabeldodgeBorn rich in Buffalo, she found herself in the Village in 1912 after spending years in Italy with her second husband, where she mixed with the European culturati.

In New York, now divorced, Mabel decided to gather the city’s “movers and shakers” together during weekly salons, where ideas could be presented and debated. 

Mabel’s salons were legendary. Anarchist Emma Goldman talked to poet Edward Arlington Robinson, while Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger chatted up artist Alfred Stieglitz.

Writer John Reed, who later became her lover, also was a regular. She held nights devoted to  “dangerous characters,” “sex antagonism,” and “evenings of art and unrest.”  

The salons came to and end after a few years. Mabel wrote for various publications and put out her memoirs in the 1930s. By then she was living in Taos, New Mexico, with her fourth husband. She died there in 1962.