History Faculty Publications


Anarchist Motherhood: Toward the Making of a Revolutionary Proletariat in Illinois’ Coal Towns

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Publication Source

Women, Gender, and Transnational Lives: Italian Workers of the World


In the winter of 1900, several months before Leon Czolgosz assassinated U.S. President William McKinley for the cause of anarchy and for the love of Emma Goldman, a group of French-speaking and Italian women residing in northern Illinois’s coal-mining communities formed a club, Il Gruppo Femminile Luisa Michel, and began to put egalitarian theory into practice.

One of the women’s first acts of rebellion was a challenge to the all-male Prosperity Club – an anarchist saloon and a key venue of radical culture and activism in the region. With the help of some sympathetic members, Luisa Michel planned an assault on the Prosperity Club to demand that the rules of membership be changed. Unable to enter the saloon themselves, the women had male comrades serve as their proxy voices. Attending a Sunday meeting that was designated as a time to discuss club regulations, one of the Luisa Michel allies suggested that the club rule stating the 'anyone can be a member' be changed because it was unclear regarding "the sex of those who are allowed to apply." Why not clarify the wording and state that "anyone, man or woman, may become a member?" After all, the ally argued, it was "necessary and even urgent to focus first of all on the emancipation of women in order to achieve the emancipation of all workers."

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The volume in which this chapter appeared can be found here.


University of Toronto Press

Place of Publication

Toronto, Canada

Peer Reviewed


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