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Emma Goldman's Tribute to Voltarine de Clyre

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stumbling, blind and deaf, only for the haunting vision of my shame and the rushing sound of fevered blood . . .”

I quoted at length because this sketch is symbolic of Voltairine’s emotional tragedies and singularly self-revealing of the struggles silently fought against the fates that gave her so little of what she craved most. Yet, Voltairine had her own peculiar charm which showed itself most pleasingly when she was roused over some wrong, or when her pale face lit up with the inner fire of her ideal.  But the men who came into her life rarely felt it; they were too overawed by her intellectual superiority, which held them for a time. But the famished should of Voltairine de Cleyre craved for more than mere admiration which the men had either not the capacity or the grace to give. Each in his own way “turned on her with a ruthless blow”. and left her desolate, solitary, heart-hungry.

Voltairine’s emotional defeat is not an exceptional case; it is the tragedy of many intellectual women. Physical attraction always has been and no doubt always will be a decisive factor in the love-life of two persons. Sex-relationship among modern peoples has certainly lost much of its former crudeness and vulgarity. Yet, it remains a fact today, as it has been for ages that men are chiefly attracted no by a woman’s brain or talents, but by her physical charm. That does no necessarily imply that they prefer women to be stupid. It does imply, however, most men prefer beauty to brains, perhaps because in true male fashion they flatter themselves that they have no need of the former in their own physical make-up and that they have sufficient of the latter no to seek for it in their wives. At any rate, therein has been the tragedy of many intellectual women.

There was one man in Voltairine’s life who cherished her for the beauty of her spirit and the quality of her mind, and who remained a vital force in her life until his own sad end. This man was Dyer D. Lum, the comrade of Albert Parsons and his co-editor on The Alarm; ---the Anarchist paper published in Chicago before the death of Parsons. How much their friendship meant to Voltairine we learn from her beautiful


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