Edwin Cox Walker

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Edwin Cox Walker (or E. C. Walker) was a nineteenth-century Kansas journalist and editor who contributed to the individualist Anarchist, freethought, and freelove movements. He was a frequent contributor to Benjamin Tucker's newspaper Liberty, and an editor of Lucifer, the Light Bearer. His attempt to enter into a free and equal marriage with fellow free-love activist Lillian Harman, for which both he and Harman were arrested and imprisoned, became a cause celebre among American anarchists and free-love activists.

Marriage to Lillian Harman

Walker married his fellow free-love activist Lillian Harman on September 19, 1886, in what they intended, and declared, to be an "autonomistic marriage." The wedding ceremony was performed without any religious or State officiant, and instead of taking traditional marriage vows, they read a declaration (later published in Lucifer), in which Lillian Harman retained her full maiden name, and refused to vow obedience; while Walker vowed that "Lillian is and will continue to be as free to repulse any and all advances of mine as she has been heretofore. In joining with me in this love and labor union, she has not alienated a single natural right. She remains sovereign of herself, as I of myself, and we ... repudiate all powers legally conferred upon husbands and wives." The couple were arrested shortly after they published a notice of their marriage and the vows, on the charge that they had violated the Kansas Marriage Act of 1867 by "living together as man and wife ... without being married." Walker was sentenced to 75 days in county jail, and Lillian Harman was sentenced to 45.<ref>McElroy, "Edwin Cox Walker and Lillian Harman: A Feminist Couple." Individualist Feminism of the Nineteenth Century. 125.</ref> They appealed the charges to the Kansas Supreme Court, in "State v. Walker and another;" in March 1887, the Court denied their appeal and required them to pay court costs as well as serving out their jail sentences. They remained in jail for refusing to pay court costs until April 1887.<ref>McElroy, "Edwin Cox Walker and Lillian Harman: A Feminist Couple." Individualist Feminism of the Nineteenth Century. 125.</ref> Judge Valentine, one of the panel hearing the appeal, insisted that the equal partnership "repudiated nearly everything essential to a valid marriage" and so Walker and Harman could not be counted as legally married.<ref>Roderick Long, "The Form of Sound Words" Austro-Athenian Empire (October 19, 2004)</ref> The case became a cause celebre for American anarchists and free-love activists, and was discussed frequently in Lucifer and Liberty.

Sources

From Free Society (1902)

From "The Letter-Box," in Free Society IX.4 (January 26, 1902). 8.

[In reply to] G. R., Jefferson City, Mo.—Tucker’s Liberty is dead. For Josiah Warren’s books write to E. C. Walker, 244 W. 143d St., New York City.—We think time is too valuable to study "Christian Science."

Wendy McElroy, "The Culture of Individualist Anarchism in Late Nineteenth-Century America" (1981)

From Wendy McElroy, "The Culture of Individualist Anarchism in Late Nineteenth-Century America," Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. V, No. 3 (Summer 1981).

Since Tucker and the majority of the writers for Liberty — including Victor Yarros, George Schumm, E. C. Walker, James L. Walker, Henry Appleton and A. P. Kelly — were professional journalists, its quality was consistently high.

—McElroy, "The Culture of Individualist Anarchism," Journal of Libertarian Studies V.3 (Summer 1981), 291.

American freethought was a basically anti-Christian, anti-clerical movement whose purpose was to make the individual politically and spiritually free to decide for himself on religious matters. A number of the contributors to Liberty were prominent figures in both freethought and anarchism. The individualist anarchist George MacDonald wasa co-editor of Freethought and, for a time, the Truth Seeker. E. C. Walker was co-editor of the excellent freethought/free-love periodical, Lucifer, the Light Bearer.

—McElroy, "The Culture of Individualist Anarchism," Journal of Libertarian Studies V.3 (Summer 1981), 295.

There are significant differences between the anarchist participation in freethought and in free love. As with freethought, a number of the individualist anarchists — Ezra Heywood, E. C. Walker, Lillian Harman — were prominent in both movements. And, again, significant differences arose between Tucker and the major figures in the free-love movement. But here the similarity ends. The disagreements were not moral but strategic, and the individualist anarchists themselves were largely critical of Tucker's stand on these disagreements. This is one of the few areas in which Tucker's name is not a synonym for the movement as a whole.
An example of a disagreement over strategy occurred when Moses Harman, the editor of Lucifer, the Light Bearer, was sentenced under the Comstock laws. Moses Harman and Ezra Heywood set themselves up for prosecution by the State by mailing and printing material on birth control and the injustice caused by current sexual laws. Although Tucker was clear that both men had the right to publish and distribute whatever they wished, he loudly condemned them as "rash comrades who precipitate an irresistible onslaught upon our whole line which is liable to result in our annihilation." Tucker feared that they would spark further repression which would endanger the right to discuss anarchism.
Needless to say, many of the individualist anarchists severely criticized Tucker, declaring that this was a time to support the accused men, not to condemn them. These recurring conflicts over strategy caused an important, though temporary, rift in the movement, particularly between E. C. Walker and Tucker. The issue in question was the non-State, non-church marriage of Walker and Lillian Harman, which they insisted the State should recognize as a valid marriage. Tucker thought it was absurd and dangerous to appeal to the State and, as he saw it, extend its grasp even further into sexual matters. Walker and Harman believed that State recognition of their union would deal a severe blow to the laws and traditions of marriage. When Walker and Harman were imprisoned for their stand, Tucker continued to criticize them despite the indignation and sympathy expressed by the radical community. In fairness to Tucker, it should be pointed out that he printed both sides of the issue and advocated contributing money to their defense.

—McElroy, "The Culture of Individualist Anarchism," Journal of Libertarian Studies V.3 (Summer 1981), 297.

31. First published in 1880 under the title Valley Falls Liberal, Lucifer, the Light Bearer was one of the most important libertarian publications of its time. Its co-editor, E. C. Walker, was a prominent individualist anarchist. Lucifer, which changed its name to The American Journal of Eugenics in 1907, outlasted Liberty.

—McElroy, "The Culture of Individualist Anarchism," Journal of Libertarian Studies V.3 (Summer 1981), 303.

Wendy McElroy, "Edwin Cox Walker and Lillian Harman: A Feminist Couple" (2001)

From Wendy McElroy, "Edwin Cox Walker and Lillian Harman: A Feminist Couple," Individualist Feminism of the Ninteenth Century (2001).

On September 19, 1886, Edwin Cox Walker and Lillian Harman, the daughter of Moses Harman, entered into an "autonomistic" marriage. That is, through a secular and non-State ceremony, Edwin and Lillian openly declared themselves to be husband and wife. This act violated the Kansas Marriage Act of 1867 and resulted in their being taken into custody by a constable on the charge of feloniously presenting themselves as man and wife without having been married as demanded by statutory requirements.
The couple was jailed on September 21, 1886, in the Oskaloosa county jail, though Lillian was released to await trial in her family home. On October 6 she was imprisoned once more, then taken to Topeka for a trial that began eight days later. On October 19 the court rendered a verdict of guilty. Edwin was sentenced to seventy-five days in county jail, Lillian to forty-five. Part of the sentence, however, included a demand that they pay court costs before obtaining their release. The couple refused.
In January 1887 the Kansas Supreme Court considered an appeal of the case known as "State v. Walker and another." On March 4, the appeal was denied. The couple remained in jail, unwilling to pay court costs, until April, when the arrest of Moses and George Harman left no one at the helm of Lucifer, the Light Bearer.

—McElroy (2001), "Edwin Cox Walker and Lillian Harman: A Feminist Couple," Individualist Feminism of the Ninteenth Century: Collected Writings and Biographical Profiles. 125.

References

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