Labor Lawyer

Eastman at home, c. 1914. Credit: Courtesy of Anne and Cordelia Fuller and Rebecca and Charles Young.

Feminist Leader

Eastman with Alice Paul and others sewing suffrage flag. Credit: Records of the National Woman’s Party, Library of Congress.

Anti-War Activist

Credit: Swarthmore College Peace Collection.

Civil Liberties Champion

ACLU collage. Credit:

Writer & Radical

Credit: Genthe photograph collection, Library of Congress.


Eastman left her mark on many of the great social justice movements of the twentieth century – labor, feminism, internationalism, free speech, peace. She drafted the nation’s first serious workers’ compensation law. She co-founded the National Woman’s Party and has been credited as a co-authored of the Equal Rights Amendment. She co-founded the Woman’s Peace Party – today, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) — and the trailblazing American Union Against Militarism. She co-published the radical Liberator magazine. And she engineered the founding of the ACLU.

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Today Eastman would be called an intersectional activist: she perceived the interlocking systems of inequality and strived to create a coalition identity and public actions to combat them in concert.


Eastman’s politics of private life included reproductive rights, paid family leave, wages for wives, feminist masculinity, single motherhood by choice, shared housework and childcare, work-family balance, and so much more.


Eastman’s institutional legacy, her letters, and her surviving phone book document the range of her involvement with many social justice giants and icons of her time.


Frank, fiery, and extroverted, Eastman was one of the most quotable activists of her era.

“When the dead bodies of girls are found piled up against locked doors leading to the exits after a factory fire…who wants to hear about a great relief fund? What we want is to start a revolution.”

–“Three Essentials for Accident Prevention,” July 1911

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“Seriously, does anyone suppose that love-making has gone out of fashion in California, or marriage fallen off in Wyoming, or the birth rate decreased in Colorado as a result of woman suffrage?”

–“The Political Recognition of Women,” July 1912

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“There is nothing new since Ezekiel’s time in their terror and declaration that the enemy is upon us… In the face of this, we say to Congress, ‘Gentlemen, wait; go slow. We are not afraid.’”

–“Limitation of Armaments,” Year Book of the Woman’s Peace Party, 1916

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“No self-respecting feminist would accept alimony…It is a relic of the past. Marriage is a link, not a handcuff, a link, not a chain.”

–Chicago Tribune, February 29, 1916; Gazette-Telegraph, March 12, 1916.

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“It takes an exceedingly large-minded liberal to fight for the right of another man to say exactly what he himself does not want said.”

–Minutes of the American Union Against Militarism, September 13, 1917

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“If the feminist program goes to pieces at the arrival of the first baby, it is false and useless.”

–“Birth Control in the Feminist Program,” Birth Control Review, January 1918

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“To live greatly – that is the thing.”

–Crystal Eastman to Annis Ford Eastman, January 21, 1907.

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Crystal Eastman by Amy Aronson

The social justice issues to which Eastman dedicated her life – gender equality and human rights, nationalism and globalization, political censorship and media control, worker benefits and family balance, and the monumental questions of war, sovereignty, force, and freedom – remain some of the most consequential questions of our own time. Available from Oxford University Press.

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