Credit: Courtesy of Ann and Cordelia Fuller and Rebecca and Charles Young.

Marriages and Children

When Eastman married her second husband, the English pacifist, publicist, and editor Walter Fuller, the man who became the father of her two children, the press peddled for shock value her taken-for-granted decision to continue using her own name. And when she became a mother in 1917 and again in 1921, she increasingly experimented with policy ideas and family practices designed to bring gender equality into marriage and family life.

Her 1923 confessional article, “Marriage Under Two Roofs,” caused a stir. In it, when disclosed the details of her unconventional two-residence domestic arrangement – and argued that two roofs were much better than one. By offering greater autonomy for women, she proclaimed, it created stronger, happier families as well as a more authentic experience of sexual desire and marital love.

Many of Eastman’s ideas about feminist family life and work-family balance were so advanced they speak to the unfinished equality agenda put forward in the 1970s: from reproductive rights to paid family leave; from wages for wives, to feminist masculinity, to single motherhood by choice; from to laws concerning sex work to the silenced longing of married mothers for substantive work beyond the home that almost exactly iterates Betty Friedan’s “problem that has no name” – nearly half a century before the breakthrough of The Feminine Mystique (1963).

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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