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 breakout 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.|