SOCIALIST-FEMINISM: MAX EASTMAN, FLOYD DELL AND CRYSTAL EASTMAN

CYNTHIA ANN BOLGER SCHMIDT, Marquette University

Abstract

The ideology of socialist-feminism was formulated and advanced as a challenge to the economic, political and social tenets of American capitalism in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Combining revolutionary socialism and radical feminism, Max Eastman, Floyd Dell and Crystal Eastman, the ideology's major proponents, maintained that there was a necessary correlation between socialism and feminism, and believed that the goals of one could not be attained without fulfillment of the other. Socialism and feminism, therefore, were considered joint components in the struggle for human freedom and equality. In contrast to the socialist-feminists, the majority of American socialists were interested primarily in the overthrow of economic capitalism, and paid little attention to the struggle for woman's rights. Similarly, most feminists ignored the demands of socialism and concentrated exclusively on woman's political enfranchisement. Socialist-feminists, however, argued that the question of woman's rights was a problem which needed to be resolved before a socialist victory could be assured, and firmly believed that that resolution required changes which went far beyond the granting of political rights to women. It was their firm conviction that the realization of radical feminism--which they defined as total freedom and equality for women--was as important for the future happiness of the American people as was the realization of revolutionary socialism. Without feminine equality, socialist-feminists argued, a truly socialistic society was impossible because an egalitarian social structure could not be constructed and maintained when one-half of its adult citizens were denied the basic rights and privileges of human personhood. Therefore, unless contemporary society dramatically changed its attitudes and beliefs about women, attitudes which usually considered them to be inferior beings, no socialist experiment would ever succeed. Likewise, true feminine freedom and equality could never be achieved within the confines of a capitalist structure because freedom and equality were incompatible with the very nature of that structure. Based on this premise, Max Eastman, Floyd Dell and Crystal Eastman utilized their journalistic skills in an attempt to combine these two usually separate "isms" into a convincing and workable social philosophy.

Recommended Citation

CYNTHIA ANN BOLGER SCHMIDT, "SOCIALIST-FEMINISM: MAX EASTMAN, FLOYD DELL AND CRYSTAL EASTMAN" (January 1, 1983). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI8317284.
http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI8317284

Share

COinS