Thursday, June 27, 2013

The New Freewoman, June 15 1913

This post is on the first issue of The New Freewoman, edited by Dora Marsden.

The New Freewoman, The New Age, and The Masses all share socialist philosophies, but interpret socialism very differently (so far).  The Masses seems most familiar, as it is about actual communist strikes, organization, and activism.  The New Age, as I've discussed before, is a really odd duck, perhaps too diverse to be defined politically--but it wants labor to organize into guilds.  The New Freewoman, on the other hand, is a reaction against (yes, against!) the Pankhurst-ian struggle for votes.  The thesis: that women need to free their minds first, and attend to political power later:

"The few individual women before mentioned maintain that their only fitting description is that of Individual: Ends-in-themselves.  They are Egoists.  They are Autocrats, and government in their autocracy is vested in the Self which holds the reins in the kingdom of various arts and desires, and which defines the resultant of these different forces as the Satisfaction of Itself.  The intensive satisfaction of Self is for the individual the one goal in life" (5).

That's still provocative--for me it refigures the connotations of "self-satisfied."  It has the radical appeal of self-reliance, while it runs the obvious risk of complacency. 

Emily Davison got run over by the king's horse earlier in June, 100 years ago.  She was killed, perhaps an intentional martyr, perhaps in an act protest gone wrong (see Wikipedia, it's pretty fascinating).  There's some discussion of her in The New Freewoman. 

The coolest thing in this issue, though, is the essay "Trees of Gold," by Rebecca West.  Check out this passage on the beauty of the Alps: "Rage shivered the mountains into peaks and deep distortions so beautiful that it strained the consciousness to perceive them: one could not fully grasp its beauty because of the limitations of this humanity.  To enter into it one would need to be a mountain.  It was exactly what I had always expected life to be like.  Until now I had always been a little disappointed with things."  I was especially glad to read Rebecca West because a good friend had recommended her to me a long time ago, but I hadn't followed up on the recommendation.  Her writing is beautiful, and at least West admits that she wants to be able to vote. 

Other things worth noting:

"Woman's New Era," by Francis Greirson, fuses individualist feminism with psychic research. 

There are two articles about marriage, including a lengthy and commonsense-based argument for "free love," which actually sounds a lot like American middle class dating conventions these days. 

That's all for now--more soon. 


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