Crystal Eastman : biography
Eastman graduated from Vassar College in 1903 and received an M.A. in sociology from Columbia University in 1904. Receiving her law degree from New York University Law School, she graduated second in the class of 1907.
Social work pioneer and journal editor Paul Kellogg offered Eastman her first job, investigating labor conditions for The Pittsburgh Survey sponsored by the Russell Sage Foundation.
Her report, Work Accidents and the Law (1910), became a classic and resulted in the first workers' compensation law, which she drafted while serving on a New York state commission.
She continued to campaign for occupational safety and health while working as an investigating attorney for the U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations during Woodrow Wilson’s presidency. She was at one time called the "most dangerous woman in America," due to her free-love idealism and outspoken nature.
During a brief marriage to Wallace J. Benedict which ended in divorce, Eastman lived in Milwaukee and managed the unsuccessful 1912 Wisconsin suffrage battle.
When she returned east in 1913, she joined Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and others in founding the militant Congressional Union, which became the National Woman’s Party. After the passage of the 19th Amendment gave women the vote in 1920, Eastman and three others wrote the Equal Rights Amendment, first introduced in 1923. One of the few socialists to endorse the ERA, she warned that protective legislation for women would mean only discrimination against women. Eastman claimed that one could assess the importance of the ERA by the intensity of the opposition to it, but she felt that it was still a struggle worth fighting.
During World War I, Eastman was one of the founders of the Woman’s Peace Party, soon joined by Jane Addams, Lillian D. Wald, and others.
She served as president of the New York branch. Renamed the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in 1921, it remains the oldest extant women's peace organization. Eastman also became executive director of the American Union Against Militarism, which lobbied against America's entrance into the European war and more successfully against war with Mexico in 1916, sought to remove profiteering from arms manufacturing, and campaigned against conscription and imperial adventures.
When the United States entered World War I, Eastman organized with Roger Baldwin and Norman Thomas the National Civil Liberties Bureau to protect conscientious objectors, or in her words: "To maintain something over here that will be worth coming back to when the weary war is over." The NCLB grew into the American Civil Liberties Union, with Baldwin at the head and Eastman functioning as attorney-in-charge. Eastman is credited as a founding member of the ACLU, but her role as founder of the NCLB may have been largely ignored by posterity due to her personal differences with Baldwin.
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