Anarchist Ben Reitman Uncredited and Undated Photograph
“He arrived in the afternoon, an exotic, picturesque figure with a large black cowboy hat, flowing silk tie, and huge cane. “So this is the little lady, Emma Goldman,” he greeted me; “I have always wanted to know you.” His voice was deep, soft, and ingratiating. I replied that I also wanted to meet the curiosity who believed enough in free speech to help Emma Goldman. My visitor was a tall man with a finely shaped head, covered with a mass of black curly hair, which evidently had not been washed for some time. His eyes were brown, large, and dreamy. His lips, disclosing beautiful teeth when he smiled, were full and passionate. He looked a handsome brute. His hands, narrow and white, exerted a peculiar fascination. His finger-nails, like his hair, seemed to be on strike against soap and brush. I could not take my eyes off his hands. A strange charm seemed to emanate from them, caressing and stirring…” Emma Goldman, “Living My Life” 1931, writing of her first meeting with soon-to-be lover Ben Reitman.
Reitman was an IWW activist, a union organizer, and a trained physician. He was performing abortions for working class women and for immigrants as early as 1910, despite their illegality. Kidnapped by police and employer thugs during the san Diego, California Free Speech struggle of 1912-1913, Reitman was beaten, tarred and feathered and his body was branded with the letters “I.W.W.” Reitman was again arrested in 1916 and spent 6 months in jail for the heinous of advocating birth control.