Free Society

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The Firebrand
Founder(s) Abraham Isaak, Mary Isaak
Relaunched Free Society
Country  United States

Free Society (1895-1897 as The Firebrand; 1897-1904 as Free Society) was a major anarchist newspaper in the United States at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries.[1] Most anarchist publications in the US were in Yiddish, German, or Russian, but Free Society was published in English, permitting the dissemination of anarchist thought to English-speaking populations in the US.[1]

The newspaper was established as The Firebrand in 1895 in Portland, Oregon by the Isaak family, Abraham Isaak, Mary Isaak, and their children, along with some associates; the organization served as "the headquarters of anarchist activity on the [West] Coast".[2] The paper was particularly known for its advocacy of free love and women's rights, bringing an anarchist critique to bear on social and gender relations.[3]

Deliberately defying the Comstock laws in an act of civil disobedience, The Firebrand published Walt Whitman's "A Woman Waits for Me" in 1897; A.J. Pope, Abe Isaak, and Henry Addis were quickly arrested and charged with publishing obscene information for the Whitman poem and a letter "It Depends on the Women", signed by A.E.K. The A.E.K. letter presented various hypotheticals of women refusing or assenting to sex with their husbands or lovers, and argued that true liberation required education of both sexes and particularly women.[3]

After Isaak was released, the Isaak family moved the publication to San Francisco, California, and resumed publication under the name Free Society. However, while Free Society continued to discuss free love and advocate for equality of the sexes, it did not openly defy the Comstock laws again.[3]

Notable contributors include[4] Kate Austin, Voltairine de Cleyre, Michael Cohn, Jay Fox, Emma Goldman,[5] Lizzie Holmes, William Holmes, C. L. James,[6] Harry Kelly, James Ferdinand Morton, Jr., and Ross Winn.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Free Society was the principal English-language forum for anarchist ideas in the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century." Emma Goldman: Making Speech Free, 1902-1909, p.551.
  2. ^ Emma Goldman, Living My Life (Volume 1), pp.224-225.
  3. ^ a b c Moran, Jessica (2004). "The Firebrand and the Forging of a New Anarchism: Anarchist Communism and Free Love"". Archived from the original on 2011-06-06. 
  4. ^ Emma Goldman: Making Speech Free, 1902-1909, p. 551
  5. ^ See particularly Goldman's "The Condition of the Workers in America" (published in 1895 Torch and then The Firebrand) and "Marriage" (July 18, 1897, Firebrand, Goldman's first publication about women and free love.
  6. ^ C. L. James at