1928 July 8

Crystal Eastman, Civil Liberties Pioneer, Dies


Crystal Eastman was the founder and leader of the American Union Against Militarism (AUAM). which was founded on November 15, 1915, and  was dedicated to keeping the U.S. out of the European war. After the U.S. entered the war, on April 6, 1917, she and Roger Baldwin established the Civil Liberties Bureau (CLB) as a committee within the AUAM to assist young men seeking conscientious objector status and to fight the growing suppression of dissent. When some other leaders of the AUAM objected to their activities, the CLB became the independent National Civil Liberties Bureau (NCLB; see July 2, 1917, July 4, 1917).

Because of health problems, however, Eastman became largely inactive by late 1917. Eastman’s health recovered, and in the 1920s she was active in a wide range of feminist, suffragist, birth control, pacifist, and civil libertarian causes.

After the war, the NCLB evolved into the ACLU on January 19, 1920.

Crystal Eastman’s brother, Max Eastman, was editor of The Masses, a leading pre-war radical magazine and vigorous anti-war magazine during the war. The government banned The Masses from the mails (see July 24, 1917), and on two occasions unsuccessfully tried to prosecute him and other Masses editors for violating the Espionage Act (see April 27, 1918).

Read Eastman’s Writings: Blanche Wiesen Cook, ed., Crystal Eastman on Women and Revolution (1978)

Watch a documentary on Crystal Eastman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvxgeijRkLw

Learn more about Crystal Eastman’s brother Max Eastman (and some things about Crystal): Christopher Irmscher, Max Eastman:  A Life (2017)

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