Eleanor Fitzgerald

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Mary Eleanor Fitzgerald (March 16, 1877 – March 30, 1955) was an American editor and theatre professional, best known for her association with Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, and with the Provincetown Players.

Early life and education[edit]

Mary Eleanor "Fitzi" Fitzgerald was born in Deerfield, Wisconsin and raised in Hancock, Wisconsin, the daughter of James and Ada Fitzgerald.[1] She became a teacher at age 16, and planned to be a missionary before leaving the Seventh-day Adventist Church. She worked as a bookkeeper and as a booker and publicist at a speaker agency in Kansas City, Missouri in her twenties.[2]


Fitzgerald moved from Chicago to New York City with Ben Reitman in 1913; the two lived with Emma Goldman. Fitzgerald became assistant editor of Mother Earth alongside Goldman. In 1914 she was part of the Union Square rallies against unemployment. She was also a member of Heterodoxy during this time. In 1915 she moved to San Francisco with Alexander Berkman, and edited The Blast with him. When Goldman and Berkman were arrested in 1917, it was Fitzgerald who raised their bail.[3] She helped to found the Political Prisoners Amnesty League, and was briefly charged with conspiracy in the events surrounding the Mooney-Billings convictions.[4][5]

She moved into theatrical work in 1918, through her acquaintance with Emma Goldman's niece and fellow Heterodoxy member Stella Cominsky Ballantine. During the 1920s she served in various roles with the Provincetown Players, including as executive director.[6] Agnes Boulton recalled, "[Fitzgerald] stayed with the Provincetown Players, giving them everything she had--her health, her time, her warm devotion, her life--up to the very end."[7] Theatre historian Stella Hanau remarked, "They were so closely bound together that Fitzi without the Provincetown would have been a different person, and the Provincetown without Fitzi cannot be imagined."[8]

Later Fitzgerald worked with the Dramatic Workshop at the New School for Social Research, and with other productions in New York City.[9][10][11]

Personal life[edit]

Fitzgerald was a tall woman, with striking red hair.[12] She had romantic relationships with Ben Reitman and Alexander Berkman during her decade of political activism, and had a passionate but brief relationship with opera singer Mischa-Leon before his sudden death in 1924.[13] She lived with fellow activist Pauline Turkel for many years, in Greenwich Village and later in Sherman, Connecticut, where Turkel and Fitzgerald hosted Hart Crane and Djuna Barnes among their many guests.[14][15]

Eleanor Fitzgerald died from cancer in spring 1955, in Hancock, Wisconsin, at the age of 78.[16][17] Her papers are at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.[18]


  1. ^ Finding aid, M. Eleanor Fitzgerald Papers, 1915-1974, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, UWM Libraries.
  2. ^ Jeff Kennedy, "Mary Eleanor Fitzgerald," Provincetown Playhouse.
  3. ^ The Margaret Sanger Papers Electronic Edition: Margaret Sanger and The Woman Rebel, 1914-1916, eds. Esther Katz, Cathy Moran Hajo and Peter Engelman (Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 1999).
  4. ^ Emma Goldman, Living My Life Volume 2 (Courier Dover Publications 2013): 674-675. ISBN 0486225445
  5. ^ "Charges Anarchist Plot: Prosecutor in Bomb Explosion Case Seems National Conspiracy," Washington Post (January 21, 1917): F02.
  6. ^ William Warren Vilhauer, "A History and Evaluation of the Provincetown Players" (PhD diss., University of Iowa, 1965).
  7. ^ Jeff Kennedy, "Mary Eleanor Fitzgerald," Provincetown Playhouse.
  8. ^ Stella Hanau, "Three Tributes to the Memory of M. Eleanor Fitzgerald," New York Times (April 10, 1955): X3.
  9. ^ Robert Károly Sarlós, Jig Cook and the Provincetown Players: Theater in Ferment (University of Massachusetts Press 1982): 187. ISBN 0870233491
  10. ^ Cheryl Black, "After the Emperor: Interracial Collaborations between Provincetown Alumni and Black Theatre Artists, c1924-1946," The Journal of American Drama and Theatre 20(1)(Winter 2008): 5-26.
  11. ^ "Negro Folk Drama," Brooklyn Daily Eagle (February 19, 1933): 54. via Newspapers.com open access publication – free to read
  12. ^ Barbara Ozieblo, Susan Glaspell: A Critical Biography (UNC Press 2000): 129. ISBN 0807848689
  13. ^ Ross Wetzsteon, Republic of Dreams: Greenwich Village: The American Bohemia, 1910-1960 (Simon & Schuster 2002): 211-212. ISBN 0684869950
  14. ^ Pauline H. Turkel, in Paul Avrich and Barry Pateman, eds., Anarchist Voices: An Oral History of Anarchism in America (AK Press 2005): 58-59. ISBN 1904859275
  15. ^ Paul Mariani, The Broken Tower: A Life of Hart Crane (WW Norton & Co. 2000): 305. ISBN 0393320413
  16. ^ "Miss Fitzgerald, Theatre Figure; Director of the Provincetown Players Her Dies--Active as Radical Years Ago," New York Times (March 31, 1955): 27.
  17. ^ "Obituaries," Variety 198(5)(April 6, 1955): 63.
  18. ^ M. Eleanor Fitzgerald Papers, 1915-1974, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, UWM Libraries.