Anarchist Essays

Essay #15: Lauren Golder, ‘Voltarine de Cleyre and the Stakes of Anarchist Free Love’

June 14, 2021

In this essay, Lauren Golder looks at gendered interpretations of free love and sex radicalism through the life of American anarchist-feminist Voltairine de Cleyre (1866-1912). During the Gilded Age, anarchist men often interpreted free love as a path to personal fulfillment and sexual liberation, while anarchist women saw it as a way to achieve reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy. De Cleyre believed that anarchist free love was women's best hope for freedom from patriarchal oppression, a position which was reinforced by her experience of unwanted pregnancy and encounters with misogyny both within and outside of the anarchist movement.

Lauren Golder teaches History and Gender Studies at Santa Monica College and Victor Valley College in California. Her research explores the intersections of American anarchism, gender, and intimate life, and she is working on a book tentatively titled Intimate Experiments: Free Love, Domesticity, and Feminism in the American Anarchist Movement, 1880-1920. For more information, see

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