Crystal Eastman

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Crystal Catherine Eastman (June 25, 1881 – July 8, 1928) was a lawyer, antimilitarist, feminist, socialist, and journalist. She is best remembered as a leader in the fight for women's right to vote, as a co-editor of the radical arts and politics magazine The Liberator, and as a co-founder of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.



Early years

Crystal Eastman was born in Marlborough, Massachusetts on June 25, 1881, the daughter of a Protestant minister. She graduated from Vassar College in 1903 and received an M.A. in sociology from Columbia University in 1904. She was second in the class of 1907 at New York University Law School. She was the sister of the socialist American writer Max Eastman. Speech Class For Seven Lakes

Social efforts

Social work pioneer and journal editor Paul Kellogg offered Eastman her first job, investigating labor conditions for The Pittsburgh Survey sponsored by the Russell Sage Foundation. Her report, Work Accidents and the Law (1910), became a classic and resulted in the first workers' compensation law, which she drafted while serving on a New York state commission. She continued to campaign for occupational safety and health while working as an investigating attorney for the U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations during Woodrow Wilson's presidency. She was at one time called the "most dangerous woman in America," due to her free-love idealism and outspoken nature.


During a brief marriage to Wallace J. Benedict which ended in divorce, Eastman lived in Milwaukee and managed the unsuccessful 1912 Wisconsin suffrage battle. When she returned east in 1913 she joined Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and others in founding the militant Congressional Union, which became the National Woman's Party. After the passage of the 19th Amendment gave women the vote in 1920, Eastman and three others wrote the Equal Rights Amendment, first introduced in 1923. One of the few socialists to endorse the ERA, she warned that protective legislation for women would mean only discrimination against women. Eastman claimed that one could assess the importance of the ERA by the intensity of the opposition to it, but she felt that it was still a struggle worth fighting.

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