Ladies' Liberal League

From Notes from the Margins
Jump to: navigation, search

The Ladies' Liberal League was a liberal club that sponsored discussions and lectures in Philadelphia during 1890s and early 1900s. The club was founded and heavily influenced by Philadelphia anarchists, especially Voltairine de Cleyre and Natasha Notkin, and its lectures provided a frequent forum for such radicals as Emma Goldman and Harry Kelly. The League was founded in 1892 and disbanded in 1905.

The League also started the first Radical Library project in Philadelphia, and, when it disbanded, contributed its collection to the new Radical Library group then being started by Joseph J. Cohen.


From notes to Candace Falk (2008), Emma Goldman: A Documentary History of the American Years, Volume 2: Making Speech Free: 1902-1909, University of Illinois Press. 459n3.

3 The Radical Library was initially affiliated with the Ladies' Liberal League of Philadelphia, when the League joined the Radical Library around 1895. Guided by Voltairine de Cleyre and her friends, the Radical Library worked to "repair a deficit in the public libraries by furnishing radical works upon all subjects at convenient hours for working men and accessible to all at only a slight expense." In 1905, after the Ladies' Liberal League disbanded, Philadelphia anarchist Natasha Notkin, who had been the caretaker of the library, passed the books on to Joseph Cohen, a former student of de Cleyre's. Cohen started a new group, which settled at 424 Pine Street. The newly reconfigured Radical Library, led by Cohen, became an established center of Philadelphia anarchism. In 1906 the Radical Library and the Social Science Club sponsored a Paris Commune commemoration, at which Voltairine de Claire, George Brown, Frank Stephens, Chaim Weinberg as well as French and Italian anarchists spoke.

From Emma Goldman: A Documentary History of the American Years, Volume 2, p. 561:

Liberal clubs often provided EG [Emma Goldman] a sheltered venue for her lectures. In Philadelphia, the membership of the Ladies' Liberal League and the Friendship Liberal League included anarchists. The Friendship Liberal League, a freethought organization that sponsored lectures primarily on secularism, had among its members Voltairine de Cleyre, James B. Elliot, and others who successfully lobbied the group for discussion of a broad range of topics, including anarchism. The Ladies' Liberal League was an 1892 offshoot of the Friendship Liberal League of Philadelphia. Under the guidance of Voltairine de Cleyre and Natasha Notkin, it quickly outgrew its origins as a women's auxiliary and sponsored lectures on a wide variety of subjects, becoming an important forum for radical and feminist activity in Philadelphia. Anarchists, including Charles Mowbray, John Turner, Harry Kelly, and EG, spoke before the two groups during the late 1890s, and EG spoke before the groups again in 1901.