The Freewoman

Love, Poetry, and Feminism

At first, I planned on looking up the frequency of "love" in Poetry and BLAST, but I couldn't get BLAST to work. My second plan, then, was to look up love in Poetry and The Freewoman. I thought it would be interesting to see how love was discussed in these two magazines with two very different agendas. Originally, I had expected Poetry to mention love quite a bit. This is maybe a little stereotypical of poetry, but I certainly figured that it love would make an appearence frequently in the various selections of poetry. In contrast, I figrued that The Freewoman wouldn't discuss love too often during its discussion of more politically relevant topics.

I was quite surprised by what I found in both magazines. The frequency with which love appeared in the two magazines was quite similar. In Poetry, love really wasn't discussed as much as I was expecting. There was really only one magazine that had a very high useage of the word. Similarly, in The Freewoman, love was discussed an average amount across all the issues, but there was one issue in particular where love was discussed a lot more. What is really interesting is that the frequencies were very similar. In Poetry, the highest frequency was 40/10,000. In The Freewoman, the frequency was 32/10,000. This was much more similar than I would have guessed.

What this showed me is that universal themes really are universal. I know that if I had looked at specific topics between the two magazines, I would have had different results. For instance, any of the topics in The Freewoman's political agenda would much likely not appear too often in Poetry. However, it seems that a universal topic doesn't escape the clutches of a political magazine, but it also doesn't steal the show in a more artistic realm.

Editorial Appearance in The Freewoman and The Crisis

In an attempt to find less obvious trends within The Freewoman and The Crisis, and inspired by our discussion of editorial control, I decided to examine the recurrence of the names of the editors of The Crisis and The Freewoman in their respective publications. Both magazines featured consistent editors whose names were strongly linked to the magazine: Dora Marsden, in the case of The Freewoman, and W.E.B. DuBois heading up The Crisis. '

Below are the Voyant Tools graphs showing the relative frequency of appearance of each editor's name in his or her magazine:

The Crisis


The Freewoman

The differences between these graphs is fascinating, and combined with some knowledge of the magazines, illustrates the difference between the two in terms of their bibliographic coding. The number of recurrences of Marsden's name throughout the run of The Freewoman seems to be very low considering the amount of content she is known to have contributed to the magazine. However, when examining the magazine, many pieces are not directly credited, and it seems to be taken for granted that these pieces were authored by her. Moreover, many of the occurrences of her name within the magazine (particularly in the issues that show spikes in the graphs) appear within letters or articles written by others mentioning her. Thus, something that might be indicative of the number of pieces a person authors within a magazine, or at least a mark of a person's imprint or influence on a magazine, turns out to have little correlation with these concepts, due to that particular magazine's established style for attributing authorship. 

I am less sure as to the significance of the fluctuation of the appearance of DuBois' name in The Crisis. The much higher relative frequency I interpret to be indicative of the frequency with which DuBois appears within stories in the publication, as well as part of lists of officers of the NAACP and the recipient of reader letters, as illustrated by the Words in Context widget below:

The Crisis


Man, Woman, Men, Women: Comparing Mentions of Gender in The Freewoman and The Crisis

Both The Freewoman and The Crisis offer intriguing divergences from the common words of other magazines, particularly in regards to their usage of gendered language, such as the words "man," "men," "women," and "woman."

Here are my customized skins for the two magazines:

The Freewoman

The Crisis

Previous texts we have examined have listed "man" as one of the top words within the texts. The Crisis is no exception, with "men" and "man" coming in at 8th and 9th most recurring, respectively.

The Crisis



The number one word of The Freewoman, however, is "women."

The Freewoman



It is expected that a feminist publication would refer to women. More intriguing, however, is the fact that the most common is the plural, "women," and not the singular, "woman," in parallel with the "man" of other texts. This suggests a focus on women as a group, rather than some usage as a referent to an ideal or a monolithic "woman." This is similar to The Crisis, in which "men" squeaks by "man" in popularity, by a margin of about 1000 appearances.

The Crisis

A comparison of the word trends of the two publications illustrates these phenomena:

The Crisis

The Freewoman

The above graph of The Freewoman is actually a graph of the five most common words within the publication. Below is the graph of the five most common words of The Crisis, in which none of the four words in question make an appearance.

The Crisis

So, perhaps not the most revelatory discovery of the ages: that a feminist magazine talks about women a lot. But I did find interesting the ways in which both magazines speak of the collective more than the whole (except for the case of men in The Freewoman, intriguingly), emphasizing genders as a group more than a monolith or an ideal.

Women's Reproductive Rights in Early Twentieth Century Great Britain


The Freewoman was a periodical published weekly from 1911-1912, which served as a forum for the discussion of feminist- and gender-related issues in early twentieth-century Britain. About half of the periodical's contents from issue to issue was comprised of correspondence from readers who wished to voice their opinions on topics that included marriage and motherhood, and some of the periodical's contributors were male medical doctors. In the first two issues of The Freewoman, published in late November of 1911, the amount of content that advocates for the protection of unmarried women with children is surprising, specifically as it concerns marriage reform. Some of the contributions to these first two issues seem to be part of the early debate about the reproductive rights of both single and married women, and I would be interested in examining later issues of The Freewoman to see how the debate develops and to determine whether the rhetoric of contributors on the topic becomes less subtle.


The first item, "A Definition of Marriage," is the first contribution to the first issue of The Freewoman, published in November of 1911. Authored by Edmund B. D'auvergne, "A Definition of Marriage" defines marriage as not a legal right sanctified by a certificate of marriage, but rather by the union of two individuals joined together in parenthood (5). D'auvergne's authorship of "A Definition of Marriage" is interesting, first, because the D'auvergne is a male, and it is the first contribution to The Freewoman, following only the "Notes of the Week" section and the editors' explanation of what it means to be a freewoman versus a bondwoman. Second, D'auvergne advocates for the rights of mothers and children, but he maintains that a marriage without children is the equivalent of owning a gun license but no gun, likening the childless marriage to a sort of slave relationship between husband and wife (5). D'auvergne remarks that "[t]here are plenty of unmarried hussies who have children, and we do not rightly speak of them as fallen creatures and, with a fine disregard of biological fact, of their children as the children of nobody" (5). In other words, for D'auvergne, it is acceptable to have children without marriage, but it is not acceptable to have marriage without children. D'auvergne's argument against childless marriages seems to be an implicit argument for women's reproductive rights, as he also shames Great Britain's treatment of unwed mothers and of women who aim to have children outside of their marriages, due to their husbands' inabilities to reproduce (6).


D'auvergne's argument against marriages without children -- and, I think, for women's reproductive rights-- is directly followed by a contribution from Bessie Drysdale, entitled "Der Bund für Mutterschutz: A German League for the Protection of Mothers." Drysdale comments on Germany's "movement for [the] protection [of unmarried mothers]," comparing both the treatment of women and the "proportion of illegitimacy" between Britain and Germany; women are of a lower "position" in Germany, and the number of illegitimate children born to unwed German mothers exceeds the number of illegitimate children born to English mothers (6). The juxtaposition of Drysdale's contribution with D'auvergne's seems unlikely to be accidental. Drysdale comments on the political goals of the League, one of which is to lobby for marriage reform that might change the economic, political, and social wellbeing of unmarried mothers (6). Drysdale does not directly advocate for the founding of such a group in Great Britain, but she subtly suggests that a similar service be implemented, as she mentions how the League has spread to other countries, including Austria, Italy, and Sweden (5-6). She concludes the contribution by stating that "[t]he promoters [of the League for the Protection of Mothers] are most anxious to see a similar organisation in Great Britain" (6). Drysdale's contribution is structured like a report on Germany's League for the Protection of Mothers, but her rhetoric, at times, offers that she is of the opinion that a similar organization should be founded in Great Britain.


In the second issue of The Freewoman, published one week after the first, Dr. Thomas Allinson provides a brief preview of the chapters of his book, "A Book for Married Women." The book covers topics that extend from reproductive development to "the best ages for marriage" (39). Allinson seems to occupy a similar point-of-view to D'auvergne in terms of marriage, at least in that he links marriage to biology. His second chapter on marriage is stated to provide "useful information that one can ordinarily get only from an intelligent doctor," and his third chapter "condemns" marriages between blood relations (39). Since most of the book is concerned with educating women about their reproductive health, it seems to be an attempt at helping married women to obtain more control over their reproductive decisions, especially given that the preview of the book claims that the content of the book "ought to be known by every married woman" (39). Furthermore, although the book's title suggests an audience of strictly married women, Allinson's review notes that "it will not harm the unmarried to read" (39). Like D'auvergne and Drysdale, Allinson is an apparent proponent for the reproductive rights of both married and unmarried women. 

Dora Marsden, "The Freewoman", and radical feminism

            After reading the Scholes and Wulfman article that talked about Dora Marsden and “The Freewoman”, “The New Freewoman”, and “The Egoist”, I became interested in the marketing techniques both within the magazines as well as what else was done in order to promote the magazine specifically and the concept of feminism in general.

            Upon reading the first issue of “The Freewoman”, it became clear that the editors of this magazine were indeed completely committed to their cause. One of the first pieces begins with, “As we go to press we understand that a ‘militant’ demonstration is in progress. As women who are not fundamentally opposed to violence, who would resort to violence on grounds considered sufficient and just, and as belonging to those who have already taken prominent parts in such demonstrations as these, we enter our strongest protest against such a move at such a moment.” Clearly these are women willing to go to extreme measures in order to promote their cause. This bulletin prompts several questions. What demonstrations and causes were worthy of compelling the full support of Dora Marsden? What had been done before the first issue of “The Freewoman” was written, and what degree of notoriety had it attracted for those attached to the magazine?
            The magazine also begins in a similar manner to many of the little magazines we’ve looked at. The manifesto declares the purpose of the magazine , but it also defines the ideal reader. The “Freewoman” is defined against the negative, the “Bondswoman”, crafting the idea of what it takes to be a member of this society.
            Because “The Freewoman” has more of a focused goal than “The Egoist”, I plan to focus mainly on the former. I also plan on looking at biographies of Dora Marsden in order to gain an understanding of how else she was promoting her cause. The idea of violent and radical woman trying to lead a movement at that time is fascinating, and I’m interested in how she attracted supporters, as well as how her detractors saw her. 

Lenin and the Political Theology of 'Mammon'

Work in Progress:

This paper will consider the pronounced political ambivalence demonstrated in several literary journals with respect to the consolidation of Soviet power following the Russian revolution and the weirdly consistent theological elements that accompany many attempts to express this ambivalence.

The September 12, 1912 issue of The Freewoman presents a comparison of Socialism and Syndicalism that seems to focus the difficulty many journal’s had articulating their position with respect to Socialist movements in Europe. This brief article “On Machines,” addresses questions raised by an article that appeared the week before concerning the magazine’s position on different Marxist political movements. The September 12th article in question is found in one of the few unattributed sections that often appear in the magazine’s opening section, in this issue titled “Topics of the Week.” Here The Freewoman clarifies the central conflict between Individualism and Communism that is presented by Socialism and Syndicalism. The editorial body argues that “it is clear-cut; Morality or the Machine. It is as definite an opposite as that between God and Mammon, Christ or Caesar” (324). The editors argue that Marx has firmly settled this question “in favour of the machine,” (324) and it is for this reason that the position of The Freewoman can not fall squarely in line with a Marxist position.

For The Freewoman, failure to acknowledge this antinomy directly and to attempt to resolve it without acknowledging its central contradiction, is already causing confusion in syndicalist theory. The editors remark that “Syndicalism is, in its nature, anarchist, insurrectionist, individualist; yet it is floundering about with theories of Communism. It is beginning to talk about the nationalisation of the means of production because it is being driven in that direction by its fallacies on Machines” (324). The Freewoman is not clear in what sense the concept of machines produces this contradiction, nor the strict sense in which machines is evoked. However, the comment should be recognized as politically prescient insofar is it very accurately forecasts the eventual development of national socialism as an attempt to resolve this antimony by both centralizing, nationalizing and simultaneously privatizing parts of its economy without feeling obliged to rationalize the necessarily contradictory aspects of this movement.

We see something similar in The New Age and its inability to fully form its position with respect to the new consolidation of powers in what would become the Soviet Union. The journal, having maintained a certain optimism leading up the the 1917 revolution, became more critical in the years that followed. An interesting example, that concentrates all of these themes is found in J.A.M. Alcock’s review of Aurel Kolnai’s book Psycho-analysis and Sociology. Here Alcock seems to be using his review of Kolnai’s book to suggest connections he himself is unwilling to make explicitly. For example, Alcock like many of the writers examined below is interested in the connection between religion and Marxism. Paraphrasing Kolnai, Alcock repeats the formulation that the “earliest religions were mother-religions, the next Judaism and early Christianity, were religions of the father, and now on the horizon is the religion of the son” (162). Alcock does not explain what he means by “religion of the son,” but he clearly identifies that the contemporary problem with Soviet power concerns, and here he borrows a conceptualization developed in Kolnai’s book, but not specifically related to the Soviet Union, “present expressions of father-revolt” (162). Alcock, while not specifically making a statement on behalf of The New Age, wants to make it clear that his position is in alignment with the goals of the journal. Using the book review to develop his critique of Soviet power, Alcock pauses to point out, “as was said in The New Age long ago, Bolshevism is Capitalism reversed . . . What then remains? As Kolnai indicates not only the death but the regeneration of the father. God is made of the values extracted from Mammon” (163). Here again, the word Mammon conjures simultaneously both a religious discourse and a pre-Marxian critique of the money-form. Of course this critique of Soviet power, while not specifically addressing its historical situation, appears just a year after Lenin’s implementation of the New Economic Policy, and refers both to Lenin’s centralized authority and the need to reinstall free market and capitalist elements in the Soviet economy through this policy.

Discuss The New Age "Notes of the Week: World Affairs" (2-10-1921) - Interesting contrast with Alcock: Here M. M. Cosmoi presents an extremely racist an antisemitic evaluation of the Russian revolution from the context of the larger spiritual development of “Aryandom.” Cosmoi’s article presents an extremely convoluted article that can neither reject nor embrace any aspect of a secular liberalism or Christianity. He ends by saying that the body of Albion (a term that both refers to Great Britain, and in its original Greek also refers to whiteness) will over come both Man and Christ.

Political Theology - God and Mammon
Look at the use of "Mammon" in other contexts and using Carl Schmidt’s concept of Political Theology as elaborated in contemporary considerations by Kenneth Reinhard and Slavoj Zizek speculate on the unassimilable religious concepts present in essays that express the ambiguity of political positions with respect to the Russian Revolution. Reformulate thesis on the basis of discoveries.


The Freewoman Now Available at the Modernist Journals Project

The Freewoman is now available at the Modernist Journals Project. Headed by Dora Marsden from 1911-1912, it featured content on issues such as gender equality, sexuality, politics, literature, and art. It was the magazine that gave rise to The New Freewoman and also The Egoist, which should be available soon.