Anna Strunsky and William English Walling.
By James Boylan.
Illustrated. 334 pp. Amherst:
University of Massachusetts Press. $34.95.
FEW people today can imagine, let alone recall, a time when Socialism
was widely considered a plausible ideology for governing the United
States. Yet before World War I, forging a society without disparities
of wealth and power tantalized millions of Americans. Untainted by
association with repression, Socialism was a cousin of progressive
liberalism -- debated rationally, taught in schools. Socialists were
taken seriously as political, even Presidential, candidates.
Socialism's promise appealed especially to what the historian John P.
Diggins calls the ''Lyrical Left.'' Reveling in Greenwich Village and
other bohemias, these journalists, poets and artists frequented
salons, contributed to literary magazines, agitated for female and
black equality, slept around and otherwise shattered Victorian norms.
Many -- Walter Lippmann, Lincoln Steffens, W. E. B. Du Bois, Max
Eastman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, to name a few -- helped transform
In ''Revolutionary Lives,'' James Boylan, an emeritus professor of
history and journalism at the University of Massachusetts, competently
tells the story of Anna Strunsky and William English Walling, who
became partners in writing, politics and marriage. Strunsky, a Jewish
immigrant who once wrote an epistolary novel with Jack London, and
Walling, a genteel WASP who helped found the N.A.A.C.P., fell in love
during the Russian Revolution of 1905 and promptly caught the fancy of
society pages across America. Like the intellectuals' romance with
Socialism, theirs burned brightly for a spell, only to be extinguished
in the devastation of World War I.
Boylan knows that his subjects' lives don't cry out for
memorialization. They lack, he notes, ''the skein of achievement,
career or power from which historical reputations are made.'' Yet they
merit a joint biography, he proposes, because recent scholarship has
allowed historians to ''explore more freely now the links between
domestic and public spheres'' of notable figures. Occasionally he does
establish such links, as in his account of Strunsky and Walling's 1905
trip to Russia as up-and-coming journalists. Boylan portrays their
headlong romance as inextricably tied to their heady adventures
covering the strikes, pogroms and gunplay in the streets of St.
Petersburg. Generally, however, ''Revolutionary Lives'' does not use
the pair to reveal larger truths about the era's passionate young
leftist literati -- nor indeed to reveal much beyond the facts of
Strunsky and Walling's only moderately interesting lives.
After marrying, Strunsky and Walling pursued writing careers, he with
some success, she with almost none. Strunsky found herself sidelined
by a seemingly endless succession of pregnancies, as well as by
psychological blocks in completing her own books and articles. Walling
took up a series of progressive causes, notably the crusade for racial
equality, and wrote several books about Socialism that were
overshadowed by those of Herbert Croly and Walter Weyl.
Disagreements over World War I split the Socialist movement; Walling
loudly joined the minority, including Lippmann and Samuel Gompers,
that vigorously supported American intervention, a stance that
alienated him not only from old friends but from his wife. Hungry for
the favor of President Woodrow Wilson, Walling scorned dissenters and
seemed unmoved when, after the war, a Federal crackdown left Socialism
Boylan's account effectively ends after the war. Justifiably so, since
Walling and Strunsky faded from the scene afterward. Like many
ex-radicals, Walling drifted rightward until he died in 1936, at 59.
Strunsky held on till 1964, never finishing her biography of Jack
London. History made just modest note of them, a judgment that
''Revolutionary Lives'' seems unlikely to change. Still, their voices,
if minor, were part of the important chorus of the Lyrical Left.
"Anna Strunsky was born in Babinotz, Russia, on March 21, 1878. With
her parents, radicals in old Russia, she came to San Francisco, where
she was educated. She was vitally interested in social problems,
literature, and the labor movement.
Anna and her family lived in the home of her brother, Dr. Max
Strunsky. She and her sister Rose were members of a radical group of
young Californian writers and artists that included Jack London, Jim
Whitaker, George Sterling, and others. The Strunsky sisters were
leaders of the intelligentsia that flourished in San Francisco at the
turn of the century.
Jack and Anna were regular participants in the activities of the Bay
Area socialists. They were very good friends, and at first did not
think of each other romantically. Theirs was an affair of two highly
intellectual minds with similar ideas and dreams. Anna Strunsky was a
powerful influence in the life of Jack London. Except for a short
period in 1902 when Jack fell in love with her, they were only very
close friends. Anna was never in love with Jack, but always had the
deepest respect for him.
By late 1900 their letters about the nature of love evolved into their
collaboration on The Kempton-Wace Letters. Jack, as Herbert Wace,
would discuss love from the biological point of view; and Anna, as
Dane Kempton, would take the idealistic and emotional viewpoint. The
Kempton-Wace Letters were published in 1903, and they constitute one
of the most interesting and curious books in the whole literature of
Source: Kingman, Russ. A Pictorial Life of Jack London (Crown, 1979).
Among the most interesting people I met in San Francisco were two
girls, the Strunsky sisters. Anna, the elder, had attended my lecture
on Political Action. She had been indignant, I afterwards learned,
because of my "unfairness to the socialists." The next day she came to
visit me "for a little while," as she said. She remained all
afternoon, and then invited me to her home. There I met a group of
students among them Jack London, and the younger Strunsky girl, Rose,
who was ill. Anna and I became great friends. She had been suspended
from Leland Stanford University because she had received a male
visitor in her room instead of in the parlour. I told Anna of my life
in Vienna and of the men students with whom we used to drink tea,
smoke, and discuss all through the night. Anna thought that the
American woman would establish her right to liberty and privacy, once
she secured the vote. I did not agree with her. I argued that the
Russian woman had long ago established, even without the vote, her
social and moral independence. Out of it had developed a beautiful
camaraderie, which makes the relations of the sexes so fine and
wholesome among advanced Russians.....
From; Living My Life
by Emma Goldman
Published: June 4, 2003
STRUNSKY, , W. ENGLISH
STRUNSKY--W. English. Age 94. Died June 2, 2003 in San Francisco, CA.
Long-time resident of New York City and husband of Lucy Stampleman,
who passed away July 22, 2002. Brother-in-law of Ira Gershwin and
Co-Trustee of his musical estate. Father of Michael. Father-inlaw of
Jean Zimmerman and grandfather of Burke and Lara-Joelle. Memorials are
being planned. Contributions may be made to the San Francisco Jewish
Family and Childrens Services, 2150 Post St., San Francisco, CA 94115.
STRUNSKY--W. English. We mourn the loss of English Strunsky. At 94
years old, the end of an era. He will be greatly missed. Our
sympathies to Michael, Jean, Lara and Burke. Sheryl, Jim, Aaron, Eric
and Caroline Reuben
"McGinity reminds us too of Rose Pastor Stokes (1879-1933), and Anna
Strunsky (1877-1964), also immigrant Jewish women who intermarried in
the early 1900s. Stokes was a socialist and anti-war activist;
Strunsky, a writer. "They for the most part moved into their husbands'
and mainstream social circles," McGinity reports. "They left the
Jewish fold, more than not.""
1899 Jack London Meets Anna Strunsky, a brilliant and charming
Stanford University student of Russian Jewish descent. Their
challenging relationship, stimulated by differing opinions, led to
".....Gershwin heir Michael Strunsky, whose aunt married Ira, attended
the Carnegie Hall tribute as well as performances held all over the
world in George Gershwin's honor. Managing the Ira and Leonore S.
Gershwin Philanthropic Fund as its sole trustee has become a full-time
job for Strunsky, who was formerly in the construction business. He
has committed himself to the family legacy by promoting George's and
Ira's works with theater companies.
Though George died when Strunsky was but a toddler, he was raised on
Gershwin tales by Aunt Leonore and Uncle Ira. The enchanted nephew
recalled that the Gershwins were not particularly religious but both
Ira and George were raised with plenty of Yiddishkeit.
"Yiddish was spoken in the family," he said. "It was not the principal
language. Like so many immigrant families, they immediately changed
the primary language of the family to English."
Later, Ira and Leonore were known to give generously to Jewish causes.
The couple's philanthropic fund is supervised by the S.F.-based Jewish
Perhaps no one was more fascinated by Gershwin history than Haran.
"He was such a dashing figure of the day kind of like the Beatles,"
she said, conceding a soft spot for male Jewish musicians (she later
STRUNSKY, SIMEON,. author, editor; b. Russia, 1879; r. New York City.
-Lending pursued his political goals through journalism and public
speaking, meanwhile making his living in sales and advertising in New
York City. He married Jean Strunsky in 1949 and lived in Mexico City
between 1950 and 1952. In 1960 he married Florence Davis. Their only
child together died of Tay-Sachs Disease at age three.
Wilk, Gerard H.
"HATIKVAH" .........year 1897 found him in California, the frequent
guest of a family of literary distinction and of Russian Jewish
origin, Strunsky by name, whose young daughters were deeply impressed
by his wit and his consumption of whisky: at dinner, having emptied
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Simeon Strunsky, A.B. (July 23, 1879–February 5, 1948) was an American
essayist, born at Vitebsk, Russia. He graduated from Columbia
University in 1900. He was a department editor of the New
International Encyclopedia from 1900 to 1906, editorial writer on the
New York Evening Post from 1906 to 1913, and subsequently was literary
editor of that paper until 1920. His columns also appeared in Atlantic
Monthly, Bookman, Collier's, and Harper's Weekly. He wrote:
Through the Outlooking Glass with Theodore Roosevelt (1912)
The Patient Observer (1911)
Belshazzar Court, or Village Life in New York City (1914)
He joined the New York Times in 1924 and was on staff until his death
in Princeton, New Jersey, where he was hospitalized for three months.
He was married to Socialist and former Kerensky associate Catherine
Breshkovskaya (d. 1945); they had a son and a daughter. He had a son
by his first wife, Rebecca Slobodkin (d. 1906).