Crystal Catherine Eastman

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Crystal Catherine Eastman

Birthdate: (47)
Birthplace: Marlborough, Middlesex County, Massachusetts
Death: July 28, 1928 (47)
Erie, Erie County, Pennsylvania, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Samuel Elijah Eastman and Annis Bertha Eastman
Wife of Walter Fuller
Ex-wife of <private> Benedict
Mother of Jeffrey Eastman Fuller
Sister of Anstice Ford Peter Eastman; Max Forrester Eastman and Morgan Stechley Eastman

Managed by: Gene Daniell
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Crystal Catherine Eastman


Crystal Catherine Eastman (June 25, 1881 – July 8, 1928) was a lawyer, antimilitarist, feminist, socialist, and journalist. She is best remembered as a leader in the fight for women's right to vote, as a co-editor of the radical arts and politics magazine The Liberator, and as a co-founder of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

Early years

Crystal Eastman was born in Marlborough, Massachusetts on June 25, 1881. Her parents, Samuel Elijah Eastman and Annis Bertha Ford, were both Congregational Church clergy, and together served as pastors at the church of Thomas K. Beecher near Elmira, New York. In 1889, her mother had become one of the first women ordained as a Protestant minister in America. This part of New York was in the so-called "Burnt Over District," which earlier in the 19th century had generated much religious excitement, including the formation of the Mormon movement, and social causes, such as abolitionism and support for the Underground Railroad. Her parents were friendly with the writer Mark Twain, and from this association young Crystal herself became acquainted with Twain.

She was the sister of the socialist activist Max Eastman, with whom she was quite close throughout her life.

Eastman graduated from Vassar College in 1903 and received an M.A. in sociology from Columbia University in 1904. Receiving her law degree from New York University Law School, she graduated second in the class of 1907.[

Social efforts

Social work pioneer and journal editor Paul Kellogg offered Eastman her first job, investigating labor conditions for The Pittsburgh Survey sponsored by the Russell Sage Foundation. Her report, Work Accidents and the Law (1910), became a classic and resulted in the first workers' compensation law, which she drafted while serving on a New York state commission.

She continued to campaign for occupational safety and health while working as an investigating attorney for the U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations during Woodrow Wilson's presidency. She was at one time called the "most dangerous woman in America," due to her free-love idealism and outspoken nature.


During a brief marriage to Wallace J. Benedict which ended in divorce, Eastman lived in Milwaukee and managed the unsuccessful 1912 Wisconsin suffrage battle.

When she returned east in 1913, she joined Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and others in founding the militant Congressional Union, which became the National Woman's Party. After the passage of the 19th Amendment gave women the vote in 1920, Eastman and three others wrote the Equal Rights Amendment, first introduced in 1923. One of the few socialists to endorse the ERA, she warned that protective legislation for women would mean only discrimination against women. Eastman claimed that one could assess the importance of the ERA by the intensity of the opposition to it, but she felt that it was still a struggle worth fighting.

Peace efforts


During World War I, Eastman was one of the founders of the Woman's Peace Party, soon joined by Jane Addams, Lillian D. Wald, and others. She served as president of the New York branch. Renamed the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in 1921, it remains the oldest extant women's peace organization. Eastman also became executive director of the American Union Against Militarism, which lobbied against America's entrance into the European war and more successfully against war with Mexico in 1916, sought to remove profiteering from arms manufacturing, and campaigned against conscription and imperial adventures.

When the United States entered World War I, Eastman organized with Roger Baldwin and Norman Thomas the National Civil Liberties Bureau to protect conscientious objectors, or in her words: "To maintain something over here that will be worth coming back to when the weary war is over." The NCLB grew into the American Civil Liberties Union, with Baldwin at the head and Eastman functioning as attorney-in-charge. Eastman is credited as a founding member of the ACLU, but her role as founder of the NCLB may have been largely ignored by posterity due to her personal differences with Baldwin.

Marriage and family

In 1916 Eastman married the British editor and antiwar activist Walter Fuller. They had two children, Jeffrey and Annis. They worked together until the end of the war, when he returned to England to find work.


In 1917, Eastman co-founded a radical journal of politics, art, and literature, The Liberator, with her brother Max. She served as managing editor from 1917 to 1921.

After the war, Eastman organized the First Feminist Congress in 1919.

She commuted between London to be with her husband, and New York, where she was blacklisted and thus rendered unemployable during the Red Scare of 1919-1920.

During the 1920s her only paid work was as a columnist for feminist journals, notably Equal Rights and Time and Tide. Eastman claimed that "life was a big battle for the complete feminist," but she was convinced that the complete feminist would someday achieve total victory.


Crystal Eastman died on July 8, 1928, of nephritis.


Eastman has been called one of the United States' most neglected leaders, because, although she wrote pioneering legislation and created long-lasting political organizations, she disappeared from history for fifty years. Freda Kirchwey, then editor of The Nation, wrote at the time of her death: "When she spoke to people—whether it was to a small committee or a swarming crowd—hearts beat faster. She was for thousands a symbol of what the free woman might be." In 2000 Eastman was inducted in the (American) National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York.



Eastman's papers are housed at Harvard University.


The Library of Congress has the following publications by Eastman in its collection, much of it published posthumously:

'Employers' Liability,' a Criticism Based on Facts (1909)
Work-accidents and the Law (1910)
Mexican-American Peace Committee (Mexican-American league) (1916)
Work accidents and the Law (1969)
Toward the Great Change: Crystal and Max Eastman on Feminism, Antimilitarism, and Revolution, edited by Blanche Wiesen Cook (1976)
Crystal Eastman on Women and Revolution, edited by Blanche Wiesen Cook (1978)


Crystal Eastman, co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union, struggled throughout her life for equal rights and civil liberties for all. Acquiring her law degree from New York University in 1907, Eastman was one of only a few hundred women lawyers in the early twentieth century. Her first job as an attorney was to investigate labor conditions for the Russell Sage Foundation. Her pioneering report, Work Accidents and the Law (1910), led New York Governor Charles Evans Hughes to appoint her the first woman on New York State's Commission on Employers' Liability and Causes of Industrial Accidents, Unemployment and Lack of Farm Labor. As a member of that commission, Eastman drafted the country's first workers' compensation law. That legislation became the model for workers' compensation throughout the nation. Then, during Woodrow Wilson's administration, Eastman became investigating attorney for the United States Commission on Industrial Relations.

Meanwhile, Eastman also struggled to further women's rights - first suffrage and later equal rights - as co-author of the first Equal Rights Amendment. During World War I, she was a leader of the peace movement, working with Carrie Chapman Catt to organize the Carnegie Hall meeting that led to the founding of the Woman's Peace Party of New York -later renamed the Women's International League of Peace and Freedom - the oldest women's peace organization. Eastman became Executive Secretary of the Women's Peace Party.

A leading advocate for civil liberties and the rights of conscientious objectors during World War I, she joined Norman Thomas and Roger Baldwin in founding the American Civil Liberties Union as the "watch dog" organization protecting Americans' rights under the Bill of Rights and providing legal assistance to those whose rights may have been violated, regardless of partisan persuasion.

A brilliant orator and effective writer, Eastman campaigned throughout her life for peace, equal rights, and civil liberties. In a eulogy written for The Nation, Freda Kirchney remembered Eastman's sincerity and enthusiasm. "When she spoke to people - whether it was to a small committee or a swarming crowd - hearts beat faster . . . . She was for thousands a symbol of what the free woman might be."

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Crystal Catherine Eastman's Timeline

June 25, 1881
Marlborough, Middlesex County, Massachusetts
Age 21
Age 22
M.A. in sociology, Columbia University
Age 22
Masters at Columbia University
Age 25
second in her class, N.Y.U. Law School
Age 35
July 28, 1928
Age 47
Erie, Erie County, Pennsylvania, United States