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Emma Goldman's Tribute to Voltarine de Clyre

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page 8

Her, but it must have been harrowing, because as a result of her monastic life her health broke down completely when she has hardly reached an age of sixteen. But she remained in the Convent school to finish her studies: rigid self-discipline and perseverance, which so strongly characterized her personality, were already dominant in Voltairine's girlhood. But when she finally graduated from her ghastly prison, she was changed not only physically, but spiritually as well. 'I struggled my way out at last.' She writes, 'and was a free-thinker when I left the institution, though I had never seen a book or heard a word to help me in my loneliness.'

Once out of her living tomb she buried her false god. In her fine poem, THE BURIAL OF MY DEAD PAST, she sings:

'And now, Humanity, I turn to you;
I consecrate my service to the world!
Perish the old lover welcome to the new ---
Broad as the space-aisles where the stars are whirled!'

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Hungrily she devoted herself to the free thought literature, her alert mind absorbing everything with ease. Presently she joined the secular movement and became one of its outstanding figures. Her lectures, always carefully prepared, (Voltairine scorned extemporaneous speaking) were richly studied with original thought and were brilliant in form and presentation. Her address on Thomas Paine, for instance, excelled similar efforts of Robert Ingersoll in all his flowery oratory.

During a Paine memorial convention, in some town in Pennsylvania, Voltairine de Cleyre chanced to hear Clarence Dorrow on Socialism. It was the first time the economic side of life and the socialist scheme of future society were presented to her. That there is injustice in the world she knew, of course, from her own experience. But here was one who could analyze in such masterly manner the causes of economic slavery, with all its degrading effects upon the masses: more over, one who could also clearly delineate a definite plan of reconstruction. Darrow's lecture was

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