Artwork highlights a People’s History in Grand Rapids – Print #18: Anarchist and Feminist Voltairine De Cleyre

Last semester, art students in Brett Colley’s GVSU class on printmaking, invited me to come talk about the Grand Rapids People’s History Project. The intent of the class was to have students investigate their own part of a People’s History of Grand Rapids and then make a print based upon an individual social movement or a particular moment in Grand Rapids history.

This print is by TJ Mathieu, honors the legacy of Feminist and Anarchist writer, Voltairine De Cleyre. De Cleyre lived in Grand Rapids for several decades from the late 19th century through the early 20th century.

Her writings, both essays and poetry, focused heaving on anarchist themes and the 1886 Haymarket riot in Chicago. For at least 15 years, she would travel and give speeches on May 1st, the anniversary of the Haymarket Riot, throughout the country.

In the speech she delivered in 1906 in Chicago, De Cleyre shared these eloquent words:

Voltairine De Cleyre was an astute observer of the world. She wrote about anarchism and the particularly anarchism in America. She wrote about Direct Action, Crime & Punishment and the Paris Commune. In 1911, the year before she died, she also wrote about the Mexican Revolution.


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