Publisher: AK Press
Released: May 15, 2018
“That Voltairine de Cleyre remains a favorite historical figure of anarchists is due in large part to Paul Avrich’s seminal biography which brought her to life at a time when many of us desperately needed such a role model for feminists, anarchists, and advocates of free love alike. Avrich reveals her courage, her frailties, and her humanity on every page.” —Julie Herrada, Curator, Joseph A. Labadie Collection
“An American Anarchist closes a major gap in our understanding of American anarchism and particularly a gap in our understanding of its deep roots in American radicalism. It makes the same contribution to our understanding of American feminism.” —Richard Drinnon, author of Rebel in Paradise: A Biography of Emma Goldman
When it was first published, An American Anarchist marked a trail historians of American anarchism are still following today. Narrative-driven like all of Paul Avrich’s works, it presents Voltairine de Cleyre and her fellow anarchists as complex human beings. De Cleyre (1866–1912) was the first prominent American-born anarchist. From her writings and speeches, through the illnesses that plagued her, the assassination attempt that left her clinging to life, to her early death at forty- five, she worked tirelessly for her ideal. Avrich places her squarely in her vibrant milieu, highlighting famous characters like Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman and the infamous, like Dyer D. Lum—Voltairine de Cleyre’s lover and the man who sneaked a dynamite cartridge into Louis Lingg’s cell so the accused Haymarket Martyr could die at his own hand and not the state’s. This edition includes a new introduction by historian Robert P. Helms.
"Paul Avrich's book is very well researched—it fascinated me as I am sure it will fascinate many other people who are interested in the anarchist personality." —George Woodcock
“An example of solid radical scholarship, making abundant use of archival records and first-person accounts to elucidate the life and work of Voltairine de Cleyre, her numerous recognizable associates, and the circles in which she was involved.... I highly recommend An American Anarchist to any reader who has an interest in nineteenth-century American and trans-Atlantic radicalism. In fact, I would also highly recommend ordering AK Press’s recent reprint of Selected Works of Voltairine de Cleyre as a companion volume. Both volumes together will leave an indelible mark on the intellectual and idealistic imaginations of their readers.” Michelle M. Campbell, Anarchist Studies Journal
Paul Avrich (1931–2006) was distinguished Professor of Russian History at Queens College (CUNY). He is the author of Sasha and Emma: The Anarchist Odyssey of Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman, among many other books.