Mary Heaton Vorse

The Life of an American Insurgent
Dee Garrison
With a Foreword by Katherine Turk

The life of Mary Heaton Vorse (1874-1966) reads like a chronology of American radicalism in the first half of the twentieth century. The foremost pioneer of labor journalism in the U.S. and a prominent participant in the women’s universal suffrage movement, Vorse spent her life actively struggling for libertarian socialism, feminism, and world peace. Her friends and colleagues were among the most famous writers, artists, and intellectuals of the time. Her sizeable FBI file was maintained until she was eighty-two years old. And yet this is the first full-length biography of Mary Heaton Vorse.

"I love my golden wings and I want to fly right into the sun until they are all draggled and battered,’ wrote Vorse in 1896. A rebel at a young age, she fled her wealthy New England family and settled in Greenwich Village in the early 1900s. As an editor for The Masses, a charter member of the Liberal Club, the Provincetown Players, and the Heterodoxy Club, Vorse was intimately involved with the political, cultural, and feminist leaders of the Left. Widowed twice, she wrote magazine stories to support her three children and became, for several decades, one of the most popular writers of women’s fiction in the U.S. As a labor journalist and war correspondent, she traveled to Lenin’s Moscow and Hitler’s Germany; she participated in the Lawrence Textile Strike, the Great Steel Strike of 1919, and the uprisings in Gastonia and Bloody Harlan County. She reported the early struggles and rise of the CIO in the 1930s. Her commitment to feminism led to her presence at women’s rallies in Europe and America; her unique contribution to the journalism of her time was to give consistent attention to the special concerns of women and their role in the labor movement. 

This compelling biography restores an important heroine to her place in American and feminist history.