Project Description

This project of mine started around July 4th, 2013 when I was browsing the Library of Congress Archive on Flickr. I saw this photo and felt an overwhelming urge to learn the back story:

Louise Berger, Becky Edelson

There was another picture of these two women that fascinated me. I wondered why woman on the left was glaring at towards the camera while the other women, especially the one on the right, were looking upset:
Lillian Rubel, Becky Edelson, Louise Berger, Alexander Berkman

It turned out that on the morning of July 4, 1914 the apartment the woman on the right, Louise Berger, lived in on Lexington Avenue in Harlem, exploded, killing her half-brother and some other people who were staying there. The above pictures were taken on the day of the memorial service. The people living in that apartment were anarchists who were building a dynamite bomb that they were hoping to use to harm John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

1629 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY, (left, July 1914), (right, May 2011, Google Maps)
I have found many newspaper articles from this time period, so I've been able to figure out what had happened. These women were associated with the Industrial Workers of the World and were close associates of Emma Goldman & Alexander Berkman. But there is a lot more to the story of these women. And fortunately the anarchists of the 1910s didn't shy away from getting their name in the papers. I think if they were alive now that they would be very active on Twitter. But because they weren't limited to only 140 characters, they were quite verbose.

Here are the women who are interesting me for this project:

Becky Edelson
Becky Edelson

Becky Edelson was often in the newspapers for her fiery rhetoric which often resulted in her getting arrested. I think the fact that she was young, attractive, and put on a good show encouraged the newspapers to give her as much coverage as they did. I know that she wrote for "Mother Earth," but I haven't found anything attributed to her yet. She is often referred to as being the first person to go on a hunger strike in jail for political reasons. However, in some articles I've read, that may not actually be the case. Becky did most of her activities before she was 25 years old. 


I still have a lot of research to do, but I cannot find references to her after around 1920. I do know that she got married a couple of times and died somewhere between 1971 & 1974 in California, but she didn't discuss her anarchist activities probably because she was not a citizen of the the United States. (She was born in Ukraine around 1892, but immigrated to the United States when she was around two. I did find that at some point her birth date changed from 10/31/1892 to 12/25/1892.) She moved in with Emma Goldman when she was around 13, but had been involved in the anarchy movement before she moved in.



I know that she and another anarchist, (her first husband) Charles Plunkett, had a son, Robert, in the 1920s. Years later, she married John Crawford (born 17 Oct 1894; died Feb 1978) and they had a daughter in 1928 named Mary Jane. I also know that she had also been known as Rebecca or Reba or Helen and that she used the last names Edelson, Edelsohn, Edwards, Chanfield, and Crawford. John Crawford & Helen Crawford’s daughter Mary Jane (born 9 Oct 1927) got married at some point and her last name was Kohl. She passed away 14 Jan 2001. She had one child.

I've read that Edelson worked in various sales jobs doing it by telephone. I have a theory that she may have been editing or working for a communist journal in the 1920s, but I'm waiting for confirmation.



Edelson passed away in Hollywood, CA on or around August 6, 1971.


Louise Berger

Louise Berger

I have less of a paper trail on Louise Berger. I haven't found any articles that feature her like they did Edelson. I don't think she gave speeches. She was born in Latvia and immigrated to the United States around 1905. I read in one article that Berger was 32 years old in 1914. I've read in non-newspaper sources that Berger moved to Russia around 1917. She may have spent time in Odessa, Ukraine robbing banks to help fund her causes in Russia. I've read that she died of typhus or was executed by the Russians in the 1920's.

According to the article linked above, as of July 4, 1914, Berger did not speak English very well.

However, I've found articles that reported that the U.S. federal investigators thought she was back in the States helping to bomb targets. The articles referred to her as "Dynamite Louise." I want to see if I can get any federal documents pertaining to her. If I can find evidences that she did in fact return to the United States and was active in anarchist activities, it would be a "big thing." I admit that the lack of documents makes it an exciting pursuit for me.




Marie Ganz

Marie Ganz
She was nicknamed "Sweet Marie" because of her foul mouth and speeches she was well know for making advocating violence.  In May 1914, she gave many speeches near John D. Rockefeller, Jr.'s home stating that she would kill him if she had the opportunity.

In February 1917, Ganz was active in the food riots in New York City.

Later in life, she gave up anarchy and became a patriotic American during World War I. She was in prison in 1919 and a reporter named Nat J. Ferber visited her for an interview. They fell in love, married, and they wrote a book about Ganz's life titled, Rebels: Into Anarchy--And Out Again. In her book, Ganz accused Emma Goldman of making money and being out of harm's way during the turbulent times.

I found a couple news articles that described Marie Ganz in different ways. One said, "Marie is a pink and white complexioned girl of 23. Her figure is of the voluptuous type and her eyes and mouth are extremely sensuous. If she did not follow too closely the habits of Emma Goldman in dressing she would make rather an attractive girl. Women critics might say that Marie's figure is sloppy or inclining to fat." The other described her as, having “the figure of a cloak model. Her eyes are sapphire blue, and her cheeks are the delicate pink of an Easter primrose. Briefly. ‘Sweet Marie’ Ganz is a luscious specimen of what the average man knows as a ‘peach.’"

I've seen varying information on whether Ganz was born in Ukraine or Austria in 1891. She passed away around 1968.



Jane Est
Jane Est

And then there is Jane Est. I have found nothing about her in any books about 1910s anarchy. But I started finding newspaper articles about her that we printed in March 1914. I don't know much about her personal life or background, but she stated during one arrest in 1914 that she was 35 years old. I found a 1915 census record for her which listed her as being 37 years old. It also said that she had a son named Louis who was 6. She got a lot of press coverage, although not as much as Becky Edelson did. I think a good word to describe Jane Est is agitator. She was big on causing scenes in churches. Sometimes it was for I.W.W. causes, but sometimes it was for other reasons. I found several articles about her speaking out against a minister who had been accused with (to use a modern term) sexually harassing several women of his congregation. Est had an issue with the fact that the allegations had been brought in front of a panel of his church rather than a public trial. She, apparently, had some success with getting the panel to not just cover up the allegations.

Jane Est was no stranger to getting arrested for her protests, and she may have actually been a political hunger strikers before Becky Edelson. Est was, however, described as being insane while Edelson was describes as sane. I don't have a real good sense of what her "deal" was. She was not always on the same side of the issues as the I.W.W., but apparently Alexander Berkman did consider her as one of "his." However, I think that he didn't completely support her because in one article, he was quoted as saying in a July 23, 1914 article about Edelson's hunger strike that "They are not dealing with a Jane Est when they have Reba Edelson on their hands. Miss Edelson is not a girl, but a determined woman."

The newspapers do, however, describe her as a being an International Worker of the World member.




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