cover image To Be Young Was Very Heaven

To Be Young Was Very Heaven

Sandra Adickes. Palgrave MacMillan, $85 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-312-16249-8

The years before WWI saw the rise of women's movements favoring the vote, feminism, birth control, organized labor, better working conditions and even so-called free love, spearheaded by a network of exuberant New York City activists, most based in Greenwich Village. Adickes, English professor at Winona State University in Minnesota, profiles several dozen of these pro-suffrage progressives, from economic theorist Charlotte Perkins Gilman and anarchist Emma Goldman to birth-control advocate Margaret Sanger and arts salonist Mabel Dodge Luhan. Portrayed as well are these women's male friends and counterparts, including journalist John Reed, Bill Haywood of the Wobblies and Max Eastman, editor of The Masses, the radical journal for which many of the women wrote. Once suffrage was achieved in 1920, the alliances crumbled, in part because of the ""red scare"" that targeted American radicals after the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. The book becomes somewhat repetitive as it tracks its intertwined subjects through the era's political and cultural twists, but the intriguing biographical details, plus the footnotes and bibliography, provide an introductory overview for those interested in feminism's ""first wave."" (Nov.)