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Emma Goldman's Tribute to Voltarine de Clyre

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11th of November 1887, Voltairine, always scrupulously honest with herself, publicly declared how deeply she regretted having joined the cry of “They to be hanged!” which, coming from one who at that time no longer believed in capital punishment, seemed doubly cruel.

“For that ignorant, outrageous, blood-thirsty sentence I shall never forgive myself,” she said, “though I know the dead men would have forgiven me. But my own voice, as it sounded that night, will sound so in my ears until I die, -- a bitter reproach and shame.”

Out of the heroic death in Chicago a heroic life emerged, a life consecrated to the ideas for which the men were put to death. From that day until her end, Voltairine de Cleyre used her powerful pen and her great mastery of speech on behalf of the idea which had come to mean to her the only raison d’etre of her life.

Voltairine de Cleyre was unusually gifted: as a poet, writer, lecturer, and linguist, she could have easily gained for herself a high position in her country and the renown it implies. But she was not one to market her talents for the flesh-pots of Egypt. She would not even accept the simplist comforts from her activities in the various social movements she has devoted herself to during her life. She insisted on arranging her life consistently with her ideas, on living among the people whom she sought to teach and inspire with human worth, with a passionate longing for freedom and a stregth to strive for it. This revolutionary vestal lived as the poorest of poor, among dreary and wretched surroundings, taxing her body to the utmost, ignoring externals, sustained only by the Dominant idea which led her on.

As a teacher of languages in the ghettos of Philadelphia, New York and Chicago, Voltairine ecked out a miserable existence, yet out of her meagre earnings she supported her mother, managed to buy a piano on the installment plan (she loved music passionately and was an artist of no small measure) and to help others more able physically than she was. How she ever did it not even her nearest friends could explain.. Neither could anyone fathom the miracle of energy


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