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Crystal Eastman: Topics in Chronicling America

Crystal Eastman was a leading suffragette, lawyer, activist, and formed the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920. This guide provides access to material related to "Crystal Eastman" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


Sketch of Crystal Eastman. October 9, 1910. Los Angeles Herald (Los Angeles, CA), Image 34. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

Suffragist, pacifist, lawyer, and all-around radical Crystal Eastman (1881-1928) made headlines as a woman knee deep in the most divisive issues of the 1910s. Using her law degree, Eastman investigated labor conditions and was the first woman to serve on many labor commissions early in her career. Never one to be average, Eastman had one of the most radical voices in the suffrage movement and called for housewives’ to receive living wages for their contributions and for access to birth control. At the outbreak of the War, she along with other activists like Jane Addams advocated for pacifism. Facing increasing threats from the U.S. government over her anti-war and pro-Bolshevik sympathies, Eastman increasingly devoted herself to the protection of civil liberties, eventually forming the American Civil Liberties Union with others in 1920. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


1909 Eastman gains fame for her investigative work, on behalf of the Russell Sage Foundation, in the Pittsburg Survey which exposed working conditions and injuries among workers in the city. Her work prompts the Governor of New York to appoint her to a statewide commission studying the causes of unemployment.
1913 Eastman joins the newly founded Congressional Union, an organization devoted to women’s suffrage. President Wilson also appoints her to the Commission on Industrial Relations.
1914 Maxwell Motor Company makes her a saleswoman as part of a strategy to boost interest among women.
1915 Eastman urges rights for women, including financial benefits for contributions to the home and birth control. The Woman’s Peace Party, led by Jane Addams, also forms, and Eastman becomes a prominent member as the war wages on.
1916 Eastman’s involvement with the Woman’s Peace Party increases. Eastman also divorces her husband Wallace Benedict and refuses alimony on feminist grounds.
1917 Wartime restrictions on civil liberties agitate Eastman and other activists, including Roger Baldwin, who could not express their anti-war platform. They form the National Civil Liberties Bureau to defend their rights.
1918 Eastman calls for the U.S. to recognize the Bolshevik government and becomes the managing editor of her brother’s new publication, “The Liberator,” after his old magazine was shut down under the Espionage Act.
1919 Eastman expresses wish that United States will follow Russia in becoming a socialist republic and calling her passport into question.
1920 The National Civil Liberties Bureau reorganizes into the American Civil Liberties Union with Eastman on the national committee.