Florence Finch Kelly was the sister-in-law of Gertrude B. Kelly. Wrote two free love novels: Frances: A Story for Men and Women, and On the Inside.

Articles that follow:
"Not a Decree, But a Prophecy"
Tucker's Response
"The Economic Freedom of Women"
"The Sexual Freedom of Women"
"Why Newspapers Lie"
"Violence Breeds Violence"
"Use Them Instead of Abusing Them"

Article from #123p.5 Liberty V (April 28, 1888)

"Not a Decree, But a Prophecy"
by Florence Finch Kelly

Have I made a mistake in my Anarchism, or has the editor of Liberty himself tripped? At any rate, I must challenge the Anarchism of one sentence in his otherwise masterful paper upon 'State Socialism and Anarchism.' If I am wrong, I stand open to conviction. It is this. 'They [Anarchists] look forward to a time...when the children born of these relations shall belong exclusively to the mothers until old enough to belong to themselves.'

Now, that looks to me like an authoritarian statement that is in opposition to theoretical Anarchy and also to nature. What is the matter with leaving the question of the control of those children to their two parents, to be settled between them,--allowing them to decide whether both, or only one, and which one, shall have control?

I would like to know whether the editor of Liberty momentarily forgot his creed that we must follow our natural desires, or if I have misunderstood his statement, or misapplied my own Anarchy.

Parental love of offspring is, with a few exceptions, a comparatively late development in the evolution of the animal world, so late that there are tribes of the order of man, and individuals even among civilized nations, in whom it is not found.' But the fact that it is a later development shows that it is going to develop still more. And under the eased economical conditions which Anarchy hopes to bring about, it would burst forthwith still greater power. It is wise to attempt to stifle that feeling--as it would be stifled--by the sweeping statement that its object should belong to some one else? Maternal love of offspring beautifies the woman's character, broadens and enriches her intellect. And as far as I have observed, paternal feeling, if it is listened to, indulged and developed,has an equally good, though not just the same, effect upon the man's mind. Should he be deprived of all this good by having swept out of his hands all care for his children and out of his heart all feeling that they are his, by being made to feel that they 'belong exclusively to the mother'? It seems to me much more reasonable, must more natural, and very much more Anarchistic to say that the child off Anarchistic parents belongs to both of them, if they both wish to have united control of it, and, if they don't wish this, that they can settle between themselves as to which one should have it. The question is one, I think, that could usually be settle amiably. But is some unusual occasion were to arise when all efforts to settle it amicably were to fail, when both parents would strongly desire the child and be equally competent to rear it, possibly, the fact that the mother has suffered the pain of child-birth might give her a little the stronger right. But I do not feel perfectly sure that that principle is right and just.

I would like to know if Mr. Tucker, upon farther consideration, does not agree with me.

Tucker's Reply immediately thereafter

I accept F.F.K.'s challenge, and, in defence of the Anarchism of the sentence objected to, I offer to submit the language in which it is phrased to any generally recognized authority in English, for the discovery of any authoritarian meaning possibly therein constrained. F.F.K. seems to misunderstand the use of the word 'shall'. Now it may be ascertained from any decent dictionary or grammar that this auxiliary is employed, not alone in the language of commend, but also in the language of prophecy. Suppose I had said that the Anarchists look forward to a time when all men shall be honest. Would F.F.K. have suspected me of desiring or predicting a decree to that effect? I hardly think so. The conclusion would simply have been that I regarded honesty as destined to be accepted by mankind, at some future period, in the shaping of their lives. Why, then,should it be inferred from similar phraseology in regard to the control of children that I anticipate anything more than a general recognition, in the absence of contract, of the mother's superior claim, and a refusal on the part of defensive association to protect any other claim them hers in cases of dispute not guarded against by specific contract? That is all that I meant, and that is all that my language implies. The language of prophecy doubtless had its source in authority, but today the idea of authority is so far disconnected from the prophetic form that philosophers and scientists who, reasoning from accepted data, use this form in mapping out for a space the course of evolution are not therefore accused of designs to impose their sovereign wills upon the human race. The editor of Liberty respectfully submits that he too may sometimes resort to the oracular style which the best English writers not unfrequently employ in speaking of futurity, without having it imputed to him on that account that he professes to speak either from a throne or from a tripod.

As to the charge of departure from the Anarchistic principle, it may be preferred, I think, against F.F.K. with much more reason than against me. To vest the control of anything indivisible in more than one person seems to me decidedly communistic. I perfectly agree that parents must be allowed to 'decide whether both, or only one, and which one, shall have control.' One of the two will then control; or else there will be a compromise, in which case each will be controlled, just as the king who makes concessions governs and is governed, and as the members of a democracy govern and are governed. Liberty and individualism are lost sight of entirely.

I rejoice to know that the tendency of evolution is towards the increase of paternal love, it being no part of my intention to abolish, stifle, or ignore that highly commendable emotion. I expects its influence in the future upon both child and parent to be far greater and better than it ever has been in the past. Upon the love of both father and mother for the offspring I chiefly rely for that harmonious cooperation in the guidance of their children's lives which is so much to be desired. But the important question so far as Anarchy is concerned is to whom this guidance properly belongs when such cooperation has proved impossible. If that question is not settled in advance by contract, it will have to be settled by arbitration, and the board of arbitration will be expected to decide in accordance with some principle. In my judgment it will be recognized that the control of children is a species of property, and that the superior labor title of the mother will secure her right to the guardianship of her children unless she freely signs it away.With my present light, if I were on such a board of arbitration, my vote would be for the mother every time.

For this declaration many of the friends of woman's emancipation (F.F.K., however, not among them) are ready to abuse me roundly. I had expected their approval rather. For years in their conventions I have seen this "crowning outrage" that woman is denied the control and keeping of her children, reserved by them to be brought forward as a coup de grace for the annihilation of some especially obstinate opponent. Now this control and keeping I grant her unreservedly, and, lo! I am a cursed thing!

Article from #119p.4 Liberty (February 25, 1888) p.4.

"The Economic Freedom of Women"
by Florence Finch Kelly

"I cannot see that much advance toward individualism in the relations between men and women is possible until the economic freedom of women shall have become an established fact. Nor do I use economical freedom here in its large and true sense, but simply with a relative manner. I use it in the sense of the same economical plane that the other sex is on. That they should be on the same plane, wherever or whatever it may be, seems to me a thing so desirable that it is to be ranked alongside of free banks. Though the latter, I imagine, will be realized many decades before the former. It is not solely for the sake of its benefit to woman that this condition of relative economical freedom is desirable. it will have a wholesome effect upon man as well. For man is still a little bit tyrannical. Even the best of men and those most imbued with a desire for justice and equity and best able to apply individualist ideas to actual life,--even these still have something of the tyrant left in their feeling toward and their treatment of women. They are not to blame for it, I suppose, any more than they are for the fact that hair grows on their heads instead of on their feet. For so many many ages man has been superior to woman, has been accustomed to have her clinging dependently to his finger and begging to be taken care of, that it has become a part of his nature for him not only to feel, but also to use, his superiority. Vestiges of it still cling to him. Not until woman becomes a self-supporting independent creature who has ceased to beg alms of him and who can and does support herself as easily and with as much comfort as he does, will he respect her as his equal and lose the last remnants of that old spirit of tyranny which made him get everything under his thumb that he could. he will become a freer being by this one step in woman's emancipation.

For woman herself this condition would bring unnumbered goods. It is the only escape for her from the bondage of conventional marriage, which, according to the confessions of women themselves, is a condition which could have given Dante points for the Inferno. Until at least relative economical freedom for women is realized, the separate individual existence of the man and the woman is an impossibility. But I am afraid it will not be realized for many a long year. The author of that beautiful allegory, "Three Dreams in a Desert," anticipated the future. When the childless women who now sit around in boarding houses and think they have done a lot of work if they darn their husbands' stockings understand that their position is exactly the same as the prostitute whom they abhor, it will do to say, and not until then, "And slowly the creature staggered on to its knees."

Article from #121p.5 Liberty (March 31, 1888) p.5.

"The Sexual Freedom of Women"
by Florence Finch Kelly

"The subject of the liberty of woman and the state in which she now is, upon which there have been several interesting contributions in Liberty of late, is one of the most interesting and complicated in all the range of existing social conditions. To say that a woman has the same right to freedom that a man has and that she alone should decide whether or not she will enjoy that right is a truism to the ears of all who have learned the ABC of individualism. But it is the opening to a subject upon which there is more ignorance to the population and more talk to the area of ignorance than upon any other subject in which men and women interest themselves, except, perhaps, that of probation after death. I mean the subject of sexual relations, which is very much in need of investigation at the hands of men of science whose only aim would be to reach the truth. However, this is not what I started out to say. I was about to say, when the size of the subject interrupted me, that the average woman of any grade of society who really wishes this liberty, takes it. But having done so, she never fails to condemn, hunt down, and cast out any other woman who has done the same thing and has been found out. The conventional code of morals on the sexual question is in a queer state, but it has been so undermined and hollowed out by imprisoned nature that it is already "tottering to its fall."

It seems to me that the point to be attacked is not the question of a woman's right to sexual freedom. Her own nature can be trusted to settle that for her in the way that will be the most conducive to her own happiness. The weak point -- and at the same time the most important point -- in all the conventional morality is that prostitution, which Christianity and morality have been fighting for ages, and conventional marriage, the door to respectability, stand upon the same principle,--a principle that is essentially evil,--namely, the principle that a woman's sexual favor are rightfully a matter of commerce. The only important difference between the two conditions is that prostitution gets better pay than marriage. But the idea that a woman in entitled to support from the man to whom she grants herself is ingrained in the minds of both men and women.

It is this idea that must be knocked to pieces before women can be free, in any sense of the word.

And back of this is the still greater truth that women must learn to be self-supporting. Else, they will always be slaves.

Article from Liberty #115p.6

"Why Newspapers Lie"
by Florence Finch Kelly

"It seems to me that it is a waste of both time and nervous force to berate the press. Not that the newspapers do not deserve everything that has been said against them, and even more. But it is misdirected energy to pour out the phials of wrath upon them and their proprietors because they constantly and wilfully misrepresent everything connected with Anarchism. The papers, the proprietors, and, more than all, the poor fellows who do the actual work, are not entirely to blame. And the matter cannot be mended by heaping abusive adjectives upon them. It is the great populace that reads the papers, advertises in them, and makes them pay that is the cause of it all. The newspapers publish what their patrons want to read. The proprietors regard news matters and comment thereon as merchantable commodities to be fitted to the public wish just as any other commodity is. It won't do any good to discuss the ethical side of that question. The matter stands thus, and will continue to be thus for some time to come. The facts as they are must be faced and made the best of. And the one great fact in this newspaper matter is that a paper which would tell the truth frankly upon all matters and upon all occasions is not in demand. One that would tell the truth about Anarchistic matters is particularly not in demand. That is something about which the great people who support the papers do not want to know the truth. They want to be told what will accord with their preconceived ideas and their inherited prejudices. And they will support the newspaper that does this an put out of doors the newspaper that does not. With the publisher it is a question of profits or no profits. And as it is the profits that he published the paper for, what else can be expected of him? if the publisher of any great daily in the United States thought that he could materially and permanently increase his circulation by having all Socialistic matters truthfully reported and fairly commented on, the staff of his paper would receive new instructions at once. But they all know that such a course would have the opposite effect. And that is why they constantly and wilfully lie about these things.

I can see but two ways of bettering this state of things. One is to persuade the newspaper publishers to publish their papers in the interests of truth and justice instead of their pockets. The other is to enlighten the populace enough so that it will want to hear the truth instead of lies. The former is hopeless, and the latter is--well, it will take a long time.

But I do know, too, or, at least, I feel quite sure, that the same energy which is spent in berating the press will do more good if it is used in spreading the light.

Article from #113p.4 Liberty (December 3, 1887) p.4

"Violence Breeds Violence"
by Florence Finch Kelly

Every believer in Socialism, in Communism, in Anarchism, and in every other ism, who thinks, or who has the faintest idea, that any permanent good can be done in the world by the use of violence should stop and study well the passions raised in his own heart by the Chicago executions. He will find there, among other things, and in varying quantities, rage, contempt, a strengthened desire to annihilate the State, as firm as belief as ever in his principles, and a fierce determination to continue in his work. Then he should stop again and study equally well the fact that it is these same passions which he arouses in the hearts of the State's people every time he says anything about using violence. After he has considered how little effect the State's violence has upon him and upon his belief in his principles and his advocacy thereof, he can spend a little time profitably in thinking what an equally small effect his talk about violence is to going to have on the people who constitute the State, who believe that in its American form it is the perfection of human political wisdom, and that in its continuance lies the only hope, not only of their safety, but also of benefit to the race. he can terrify them, and in their terror they can only strike back and hug their beliefs all the closer. What ought to be, if it has in it any truth whatever, and what must, if it is to have any root whatever, a struggle of intellectual forces and the final supremacy of that which shows the stronger reason and the greater utility, can become, by the use of violence, nothing but a brute battle for physical supremacy with a rabid determination on each side to exterminate the other.

And it happens that the probabilities of extermination are all on the wrong side.

Article from Liberty #82p.7

"Use Them Instead of Abusing Them"
by Florence Finch Kelly

I know it is not polite, to say the least, to ask admittance into a house in order to throw stones at its members. But I will say frankly at the very threshold that that is what I want to come into the present number of Liberty for. I want to find fault with the great part of what has been said in recent numbers about the Knights of Labor. It seems to me that there is an error in all this, a fatal error, that lames most of the Anarchistic method. Far be it from me to criticize complainingly the methods of my brethren, older and wiser in Anarchy than I. Still it does seem to me--and I must tell them so--that they mistake in being so little disposed to take advantage of all those good impulses and right tendencies to be found in the present state of things. It is hard enough to get the world along in the right direction, the best that can be done,--so hard that I am convinced it is a great mistake not to make use of every possible opportunity of making people familiar with Anarchistic principles.

Therefore, I say, instead of berating the Knights of Labor, use them.

Of course, there is much in their methods and their intentions that is repulsive to an Anarchist. But it is a wonderful means, presented all ready for use, for the spread of Anarchistic ideas. Its leaders and its members are deeply in earnest, and they are pressing along according to the best lights they have. Undoubtedly, they are doing good,--as much good as could be done on so large a scale at the present time. But if their wonderful power could be given an impulse in the direction of less legislation, instead of going pell-mell toward more; if a little leaven of Anarchy could be put into that vast, fermenting mass,--what wonderful results might come of it a few years hence! And the time is the one time of a hundred years for the growth of Anarchy. It is the spring of labor's long, long year, and labor feels the wonderful new life in its veins, is stirring itself in a dumb, numb way preparatory to making such wonderful growth as never it made before, as never the world saw before. And Anarchy ought to have large share in all this. The great goddess, Liberty, might come to her own some centuries sooner, I think, were Anarchists to use rather than abuse the Knights of Labor.

How? If every Anarchist in the United States were a member of a Knights' assembly, participated in its discussions, and into them all threw the seed of his beliefs, lost no opportunity of spreading among its members a knowledge of the doctrines of Anarchy,--the plan is simple enough, but what great results might follow!

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